• Utami Irawati Purdue University
Keywords: metals, distribution, concentration, lead, mercury


A high level of metal in an aquatic ecosystem, such as river, can jeopardize the livelihood
of the organisms in the ecosystem. On one hand, some type of metals are needed for
metabolic processes, but a number of metals are toxic that when they are being
accumulated to an abnormal level in the human body, it can be fatal. As bioavailability of
a certain kind of metal is also controlled by its concentration, the distribution of metal
between water and sediment in an aquatic environment also has an impact of its
bioavailability and exposure to organism. A study on how metals are being distributed
between water and sediment will give a better understanding about the fate of metals in
the natural environment. In this study, the data is collected from various research on the
concentration of mercury and lead in the river. Most of the paper report the
concentration of metal in the sediment in the unit of ng/g (mercury) or µg/g (lead).
However, considering that the concentration of the metal in water is mostly reported in
the unit of ng/L (mercury) or µg/L (lead), metal concentrations in the sediment are
converted into ng/kg (mercury) and µg/kg (lead). Assuming that the density of water is 1
g/mL, this conversion is expected to give a better rationalization in comparing metal
concentration between those two different phases. The ratio of metal in water to its
concentration in sediment is compared between lead and sediment, lead has a higher
ratio compared to mercury. This is because dissolution of lead in water is also facilitated
by suspended particle materials in the water. The content of both lead and mercury in
river also comes from atmospheric deposition. Historically, lead has been widely used as
one of the additives in gasoline. Thus, there is a correlation between the level of lead
found in a river with the usage of gasoline.


Download data is not yet available.


Alexander, R.B.; Smith, R.A.; Trends in lead concentrations in major U.S. Rivers
and their relation to historical changes in gasoline-lead consumption.
Water Resources Bulletin. 1988, 24(3), 557-569.
Alpers, C.N.; Hunerlach, M.P.; May J.T.;. Hothem, R.L. Mercury Contamination
from Historical Gold Mining in California. U.S. Geological Survey, Fact
Sheet 2005-3014 Version 1.1, October 2005.
Andrews, W.J.; Becker, M.F.; Mashburn, S.L.; Smith, S.J.; Selected Metals in
Sediments and Streams in the Oklahoma Part of the Tri-State Mining
District, 2000–2006. Scientific Investigations Report 2009–5032 for U.S.
Geological Survey, Reston, Virginia, 2009.
Armstrong, T.N.; Iannuzzi, T.J; Thelen, J.B; Ludwig, D.F; Firstenberg, C.E.
Characterization of chemical contamination in shallow-water estuarine
habitats of an industrialized river. Part 1: Organic compounds. Soil &
Sediment Contamination. 2005, 14(1), 13-33.
Batley, G.; Birch, G.; Elder, J.F.; Fearon, R.; harle, K. Metal Contaminants.
http://www.ozcoasts.gov.au/indicators/metal_contaminants.jsp (Accessed
April 1, 2014).
Bentivegna, C.S.; Alfano, J.; Bugel, S.M.; Czechowicz, K. Influence of Sediment
Characteristics on Heavy Metal Toxicity in an Urban Marsh. Urban
Habitats, 2004. 2(1), 91-111
Besser, J.M; Brumbaugh, W.G; Ivey, C.D; Ingersoll, C.G; Moran, P.W.
Biological and chemical characterization of metal bioavailability in
sediments from Lake Roosevelt, Columbia River, Washington, USA.
Archives Of Environmental Contamination And Toxicology. 2008, 54(4),
Bradley, P.M.; Burns, D.A.; Riva-Murray, K; Brigham, M.E.; Button, D.T.;
Chasar, LC; Marvin-DiPasquale, M; Lowery, M.A. ; Journey, C.A.
Spatial and Seasonal Variability of Dissolved Methylmercury in Two
Stream Basins in the Eastern United States. Environmental Science &
Technology, 2011, 45(6), 2048-2055.
Chalmers, A.T.; Marvin-DiPasquale, M.C., Degnan, J.R., Coles, J.F., Agee, J.L.;
Luce, D. Characterization of mercury contamination in the Androscoggin
River, Coos County, New Hampshire. U.S. Geological Survey Open-File
Report 2013–1076, 2013.
Domagalski, J. Mercury and methylmercury in water and sediment of the
Sacramento River Basin, California. Applied Geochemistry. 2001,
16(15), 1677-1691.
Duruibe, J.O., Ogwuegbu, M.O.C., Egwurugwu, J. N. Heavy metal pollution and
human biotoxic effects. International Journal of Physical Sciences. 2007,
2 (5), 112-118.
Eggleton, J.; Thomas, K.V. A review of factors affecting the release and
bioavailability of contaminants during sediment disturbance events.
Environment International. 2004, 30(7), 973-980
Garbarino, J.R.; Hayes, H.C.; Roth, D.A.; Antweiler, R.C.; Brinton, T.I.; Taylor,
H.E.. Heavy Metals in the Mississippi River. 1995.
http://pubs.usgs.gov/circ/circ1133/heavy-metals.html. (accessed April 10,
Giddings, E.M.; Hornberger, M.I.; Hadley, H.K. Trace-metal concentrations in
sediment and water and health of aquatic macroinvertebrate
communities of streams near Park City, Summit County, Utah. U.S.
Geological Survey Water-Resources Investigations Report 01-4213,
Goyer, R.A. Toxic and essential metal interactions. Annual Review of Nutrition.
1997, 17, 37-50.
Gray, J.E.; Theodorakosa, P.M.; Bailey, E.A.; Turner, R.R. Distribution,
speciation, and transport of mercury in stream-sediment, stream-water,
and fish collected near abandoned mercury mines in southwestern
Alaska, USA. The Science of the Total Environment. 2000, 260, 21-33.
Jara-Marini M.E.; Tapia-Alcaraz J.N.; Dumer-Gutiérrez J.A.; García-Rico L.;
García-Hernández J.; Páez-Osuna F. Distribution and accumulation of
Cd, Cu, Hg, Pb and Zn in the surface sediments of El Tobari Lagoon,
central-East Gulf of California: An ecosystem associated with
agriculture and aquaculture activities. Journal Of Environmental
Science And Health. Part A, Toxic/Hazardous Substances &
Environmental Engineering, 2013, 48 (14), 1842-1851
Journey,C. A.; Burns, D.A.; Riva-Murray, K.; Brigham, M.E.; Button, D.T.;
Feaster, T.D.; Petkewich, M.D.;. Bradley, P.M. Fluvial Transport of
Mercury, Dissolved Organic Carbon, Suspended Sediment, and Selected
Major Ions in Contrasting Stream Basins in South Carolina and New
York, October 2004 to September 2009. U.S. Geological Survey
Scientific Investigations Report 2012–5173, Reston, Virginia, 2012.
Kyle, J.H.; Breuer, P.L.; Bunney, K.G.; Pleysier, R. Review of trace toxic
elements (Pb, Cd, Hg, As, Sb, Bi, Se, Te) and their deportment in gold
processing: Part II: Deportment in gold ore processing by cyanidation.
Hydrometallurgy. 2012, 111-112(1), 10-21
Nagorski, S.A.; Neal, E.G.; Brabets, T.P. Mercury and Water-Quality Data from
Rink Creek, Salmon Creek, and Good River, Glacier Bay National Park
and Preserve, Alaska, November 2009–October 2011. U.S Geological
Survey Open-File Report. 2013. Nriagu, J. O., Pacyna, J.M. Quantitative
assessment of worldwide contamination of air, water and soils by trace
metals. Nature . 1988, 333, 134 – 139
Nordstrom, D.K. Hydrogeochemical processes governing the origin, transport
and fate of major and trace elements from mine wastes and mineralized
rock to surface waters. Applied Geochemistry, 2011, 26, 1777-1791.
Prica, M.; Dalmacija, B.; Dalmacija, M.; Agbaba, J.; Krcmar, D.; Trickovic, J.;
Karlovic, E. Changes in metal availability during sediment oxidation and
the correlation with the immobilization potential. Ecotoxicology &
Environmental Safety, 2010, 73 (6), 1370-1378
Schelker, J; Burns, D.A; Weiler, M; Laudon, H. Hydrological mobilization of
mercury and dissolved organic carbon in a snow-dominated, forested
watershed: Conceptualization and modeling. Journal Of Geophysical
Research, 2011, 116, G01002
Scudder, B.C., Chasar, L.C., Wentz, D.A., Bauch, N.J., Brigham, M.E., Moran,
P.W.; Krabbenhoft, D.P. Mercury in fish, bed sediment, and water from
streams across the United States, 1998–2005. U.S. Geological Survey
Scientific Investigations Report 2009–5109, 2009.
Seidel, H.; Mattusch, J.; Wennrich, R.; Morgenstern, P.; Ondruschka, J.
Mobilization of arsenic and heavy metals from contaminated sediments
by changing the environmental conditions. Acta Biotechnologica. 2002,
22(1-2), 153-160.
Sherrell, R.M.; Ross, J.M. Temporal variability of trace metals in New Jersey
Pinelands streams: Relationships to discharge and pH. Geochimica Et
Cosmochimica Acta. 1999, 63(19-20), 3321-3336.
Sidle, W.C.; Roose, D.L.; Barndt, P. Isotopic Evaluation of Pb Occurrences in the
Rwerine Ecosystems of The Kankakee Watershed, Illinois-Indiana.
Journal of The American Water Resources Association. 2001,37(2), 379-
Ugwu A.I. ; Wakawa R.J. ; La’ah E. ; Olotu A. Spatial Distribution of Heavy
Metals in River Usuma Sediments and Study of Factors Impacting the
Concentration. International Journal of Research and Reviews in
Applied Sciences. 2012,12(2), 294-303.
Velimirović M.; Prica M.; Dalmacija B.; Rončević S.; Dalmacija M.;Bečelić M.;
J. Tričković Characterisation, Availability, and Risk Assessment of the
Metals in Sediment after Aging. Water Air Soil Pollution, 2011, 214,