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Assessment of heavy metal pollution in water and surface sediment and evaluation of ecological risks associated with sediment contamination in the Ganga River: a basin-scale study

Siddiqui, Ekabal, Pandey, Jitendra
Environmental science and pollution research international 2019 v.26 no.11 pp. 10926-10940
aquatic organisms, cadmium, chromium, copper, databases, drinking, fisheries, guidelines, habitats, heavy metals, human health, iron, irrigation, lead, manganese, nickel, principal component analysis, risk, rivers, sediment contamination, sediments, zinc
We investigated eight heavy metals (Cr, Cd, Cu, Ni, Pb, Zn, Mn, and Fe) in water and bed sediment at 9 study sites along with 2320 km stretch of the Ganga River. Principal component analysis (PCA) and indices such as geo-accumulation index (Igₑₒ), contamination factor (CF), enrichment factor (EF), pollution indices, and sediment quality guidelines were used to assess source apportionment and magnitude of contamination. Concentrations of Cr, Cd, Pb, Ni, Cu, and Fe in water have exceeded their respective standards in the middle and lower reaches of the river. Sediment Cr and Ni have reached probable effective concentration (PEC) at Kannauj, imposing likely threats to sediment dwellers. Highest Igₑₒ values were recorded for Cr, Cd, and Pb at Kannauj, Rajghat, and Howrah. We further tested ecological risks (Eᵣ) and potential ecological risks (PERI) to assess individual and cumulative effects and found the Kannauj, Rajghat, and Howrah sites under the high-risk category. The modified pollution index (MPI) and the modified degree of contamination (mCd) also revealed the middle and lower river reaches under moderately to the heavily polluted category. Our study provides the first detailed watershed-scale database on heavy metal concentration in water and bed sediment, the magnitude of contamination, and likely ecological risks to aquatic organisms in the Ganga River. Given that the Ganga water is used for drinking and irrigation and the river harbors a diversity of habitats for fisheries, the study merits attention from a human health perspective as well.