Completed projects

Mercury threat in industrially impacted surface water bodies in Romania – integrated approach (MERCURO)


Mercury (Hg) is a persistent micropollutant presenting a substantial risk to the environment and an important threat to the human health. Past and present Hg contaminations of surface waters are thus of major concern due to the potential of Hg to accumulate in biota and magnify in the food chain. Therefore, the improved understanding of the relationship between Hg dispersion, distribution among sediments, particles, colloids and dissolved fractions, as well as accumulation and impact to biota is a prerequisite to fully assess the Hg threat to the aquatic systems and human health. By applying an integrated approach including a combination of field studies, laboratory analyses and numerical simulations, the present proposal aims to assess the impact of the Hg in the industrially impacted surface water bodies in Romania and to identify the possible threat on these resources The project focuses on River Olt basin, as one of the most impacted surface water body in Romania, altered by the cascade dam construction and under extensive past and present industrial activity.The Rm Valcea region comprises a high number of industrial companies including a large chlor-alkali plant (Oltchim), which is recognized as important point sources of Hg. A large array of hydro(geo)logical, physical, chemical, and ecotoxicological tools will be used to address the following key issues:

  • Performance of Hg survey and estimation the pollution extent in water and sediments;
  • Determination of the transport and dispersion of Hg in water column and sediments;
  • Improvement of the understanding on the behavior of Hg associated to colloids, inorganic particles and organic matter;
  • Assessment of the bioaccumulation and effect of Hg to different organisms with emphasis on the primary producers in particular microalgae and macrophytes;
  • Evaluation of the food chain transfer and possible risks for the human health.

The project will largely contribute to the understanding of mercury fate and impact in the contaminated systems and improved knowledge on complex processes governing the transfer and impact of Hg from the contaminated surface waters to humans.


University of Geneva: Prof. V. Slaveykova, Dr. J.L. Loizeau, Dr. S. Le Faucheur, Dr. C. Cosio, Mlle Perrine Dranguet.

GEOECOMAR: Dr. Gheorghe Oaie, Prof. Viorel Gheorghe Ungureanu, Dr. Adrien Stanica, Mariana Zazu, Dan Vasiliu, Irina Catianis, and late Constantin Ungureanu.

The project is co-financed by a grant from Switzerland through the Swiss contribution to the enlarged European Union. The funding agencies are SNF and the Romanian Executive Agency for Higher Education, Research, Development and Innovation Funding(UEFISCDI).

News :

Joint field campaign 2014: from September 9th to 20th, 3 scientists from Geoecomar and 4 from Institut Forel took part of the second joint field campaign on five Olt river reservoirs. Sampling focused on coring sediments, sampling water, and exposing algae to Hg contaminated waters.