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Water SA

On-line version ISSN 0378-4738


NEKHAVHAMBE, Takalani Joyce; VAN REE, Teunis  and  FATOKI, Olalekan Siyanbola. Determination and distribution of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in rivers, surface runoff, and sediments in and around Thohoyandou, Limpopo Province, South Africa. Water SA [online]. 2014, vol.40, n.3, pp. 415-424. ISSN 0378-4738.

Water quality in rural areas is affected adversely by build-up of traffic-generated organic compounds on road surfaces, leading to their presence in water runoff and sediments. Characterising these compounds is a first step in developing measures for the removal of such pollutants from water courses. In this study, liquid-liquid extraction of water samples from several rivers and surface run-off enabled quantification of major PAHs. Soxhlet extraction of sediment samples was followed by clean-up of samples using column chromatography. The PAHs were quantified by gas chromatography. In water and sediment samples, 6 PAHs were identified and quantified. In river water samples, individual PAH levels ranged between 0.1 µg/ℓ and 137 µg/ℓ, while in sediment samples levels ranged between 17.9 µg/kg and 9870 µg/kg. For surface run-off, levels ranged between 0.6 µg/ℓ and 2 500 µg/ℓ for water samples and between 112 µg/kg and 34 400 µg/kg for sediment samples. Total levels of PAHs in sediment samples were relatively high (111.6 to 61 764 µg/kg) compared to those in water from both river and surface run-off (29.2 to 3 064.8 µg/ℓ), and PAH levels in surface runoff were much higher than in river waters, implicating tarred roads and parking lots as main point sources of PAHs. PAH ratios also indicate that the PAH content of runoff and sediment is more likely due to pyrogenic sources, i.e. vehicle emissions, although petrogenic sources (mainly oil spills) also play an important role. Toxic Equivalence Quotient (TEQ) values in river and runoff waters ranged from 0.10 to 4.03 µg/ℓ and for sediments the TEQ ranged from 0.50 to 272.23 µg/kg. These results are of concern, as the calculated TEQ is likely to be an underestimate of the actual TEQ, since only 6 PAHs with relatively low toxicities were analysed. Long droughts and low rainfall, and washing of automobiles in and near the rivers are important factors which may have contributed to the observed levels of PAHs in both river water and sediments.

Keywords : Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon; river water; runoff; sediment.

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