Heavy Metals in the Environment - Using Wetlands for Their Removal

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These metals pollutants in the aquatic environment can come from natural or anthropogenic sources. Some are highly toxic and persistent, and have a strong tendency to become concentrated in marine food webs. Excess of these metal levels in aquatic environment may pose a health risk to humans and to the environment.

Bioaccumulation process of metals concentration in fish. Organisms require certain trace amounts of some metals, including cobalt, copper, iron, manganese, and zinc in their growth process. Excessive levels of essential metals in the environment, however, can be detrimental to the organism itself. Besides that, nonessential metals of particular concern to surface water systems are cadmium, chromium, mercury, lead, and arsenic, and these metals have no biological function. Distribution of metals in surficial sediments from industrial effluents and urban sewage discharged into the wetlands ecosystem and aquatic environment without proper cleaning can easily be identified through metals spatial variations in sediments.

Geochemical mapping can be used as a tool for visualization, which enhanced by computer-aided modeling using geographical information system GIS to make it easier to identify the possible locations of contaminated area. Nowadays, due to the rapid developments of computer technology, GIS applications are receiving increasing interest in environmental geochemistry study [ 4 , 5 ].

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It is becoming increasingly popular to incorporate digitized and computerized technologies in studies of marine environmental pollution. Example of geographical information system GIS mapping in environmental studies. GIS is a tool for decision making, using information stored in a geographical form.

Some researchers defined major requirements and functions of GIS and mentioned spatial data handling tool for solving complex geographical problems [ 7 , 8 , 9 ]. Besides, GIS is increasingly used in environmental pollution studies because of its ability in spatial analysis and interpolation, and spatial interpolation utilizes measured points with known values to estimate an unknown value and to visualize the spatial patterns [ 10 , 11 ]. Sediments can serve as a metal pool that can release metals to the overlying water via natural or anthropogenic processes, causing potential adverse health effects to the ecosystems.

Metal accumulation rates in sediment cores can reflect variations in metal inputs in a given system over long periods of time. Hence, the study of sediments core provides historical record of various influences on the aquatic system by indicating both natural background levels and the man-induced accumulation of metals over an extended period of time.


Core sample collected from mangrove environment used for metals proxy study. Photo by Ong Meng Chuan. To evaluate the metals contamination in sediment, determined element concentrations were compared with background concentrations. Literature data on average world shale or sediment cores or sediments from pristine such as undisturbed wetlands, non-industrialized regions were analyzed to establish the background values.

Heavy metals in the environment: using wetlands for their removal [2000]

However, to reduce the metals variability caused by the grain sizes and mineralogy of the sediments, and to identify anomalous metals contribution, geochemical normalization has been used with various degrees of success by employing conservative elements [ 12 , 13 ]. Various elements have been proposed in the literatures to be clay mineral indicators and hence to have the potential for the environmental studies. Some of them are lithium, Li [ 14 , 15 , 16 ]; aluminum, Al [ 17 , 18 ]; scandium, Sc [ 19 ]; cesium, Cs [ 20 , 21 ]; cobalt, Co [ 22 ]; and thorium, Th [ 23 , 24 ].

Among above conservative elements, Li and Al have been widely applied in wetlands and mangroves study [ 25 , 26 , 27 ]. Li also has been proposed by Loring [ 14 ] as an alternative for Al in high latitude areas in Western Europe and North America. Alternatively, Li meets the basic criteria for use as a normalizing element for metals pollution [ 14 ] because of several factors, namely, it is a lattice component of fine-grained major trace-metal-bearing minerals such as the phyllosilicates and clay minerals; it reflects the granular variability of its host mineral component, and it is a conservative element.

The absolute concentration of metals in marine sediments never indicates the degree of contamination coming from either natural or anthropogenic sources because of grain-sizes distribution and mineralogy [ 26 , 28 , 29 ]. Normalization of metals concentrations to grain sizes, specific surface area and reactive surface phases such as Li and Al is a common technique to remove artifacts in the data due to differences in depositional environments [ 30 , 31 , 32 , 33 , 34 ]. This allows for a direct comparison to be made between contaminant levels of samples taken from different locations.

One of the most common normalization techniques is converting trace metal concentrations to enrichment factors EF by normalizing metals concentrations to a common element usually Al or Fe [ 35 , 36 , 37 ]. The EF value can be calculated according to the following formula:. Based on the researches by several geochemists [ 38 , 39 , 40 , 41 ], if an EF value is between 0 and 1.

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If an EF is greater than 1. Another commonly used criterion to evaluate the heavy metals pollution in sediments is the index of geoaccumulation I geo originally introduced by Muller [ 43 ] in order to determine and define heavy metals contamination in sediments by comparing current concentrations with the background levels. Similar to metal enrichment factor, I geo can be used as a reference to estimate the extent of metal pollution in sediments.

Floating Wetland Treatment of Acid Mine Drainage using Eichhornia crassipes (Water Hyacinth)

The I geo is defined by the following equation:. Factor 1. The upper continental crust values of the metals of interest are the same as those used in the aforementioned enrichment factor calculation [ 44 ]. Muller [ 43 ] has distinguished seven classes of the I geo from Class 0 to Class 6.

This assessment is a quick tool in order to compare the pollution status of different places [ 46 ]. PLI represents the number of times by which the metal concentrations in the sediment exceed the background concentration, and give a summative indication of the overall level of metals toxicity in a particular sample or location [ 47 , 48 ]. The PLI can provide some understanding to the public of the surrounding area about the quality of a component of their environment, and indicates the trend spatially and temporarily [ 49 ]. In addition, it also provides valuable information to the decision makers toward a better management on the pollution level in the studied region.

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PLI is obtained as contamination factors CFs. This CF is the quotient obtained by dividing the concentration of each metal with the background value of the metal.

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  • The PLI can be expressed from the following relation:. The CF can be calculated from:. The PLI value more than 1 can be categorized as polluted whereas less than 1 indicates no pollution at the study area [ 50 , 51 ]. Lying in the second trophic level in the aquatic ecosystem, shellfish species have long been known to accumulate both essential and nonessential metals. Beside as a bio-marker for marine pollution studies, mollusks species also been used in ecotoxicology and toxicity studies. Individual bio-monitors respond differently to different sources of bioavailable chemical elements for example, in the solution, in sediments, or in foods.

    To gain a complete picture of total metals bioavailability in a marine habitat, it is necessary, therefore, to use a correct bio-monitor that can reflect the element bioavailability in all available sources [ 52 ]. Such comparative use of different bio-monitors should allow the identification of the particular source of the contaminant elements [ 53 ]. Some examples of organism commonly used for environmental biomonitoring study. A removal efficiency of While removal efficiency of The plants uptake of Pb and Cu were also analyzed.

    The results show that uptake on roots for both heavy metals were high comparing the uptake on leaves and stems. The ability of soil to accumulate Pb and Cu was analyzed. Soil samples were taken from the inlet, middle and outlet of control and planted system. The result shows that accumulation of Pb was highest on inlet part of both systems while accumulation of Cu was highest on the outlet part of both systems. This study concludes that HSSF constructed wetland with Phragmite australis plant and red ash gravel can remove heavy metals from leachate.

    Keywords: Landfill leachate, Constructed wetland, heavy metals removal, Plant uptake, Soil media.


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