Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 25, Issue 28, pp 28713–28724 | Cite as

Mercury contamination in the sludge of drinking water treatment plants dumping into a reservoir in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

  • Julio Cesar WassermanEmail author
  • Letícia de Oliveira Silva
  • Gabriela Cugler de Pontes
  • Evaldo de Paiva Lima
Research Article


Although sludge piles from drinking water treatment plants can contain harmful substances, in many countries, their disposal methods are still unregulated. Besides aluminum, which is a major constituent in these residues, many other contaminants—like trace metals—can be present and may result from the quality of the raw materials used for water treatment. The application of these chemicals for the treatment of drinking water can generate toxic sludge and contaminate the produced water. In the present work, mercury contamination in the sludge piles of two drinking water treatment plants located along the margins of the Juturnaíba Reservoir, Southeast Brazil, was evaluated to verify whether contaminants are incorporated during water treatment. In the summer 2012, five cores were collected from the piles, and were analyzed for Eh, granulometry, total carbon, total nitrogen, and total mercury. The results indicated an anoxic environment, reflecting composition of the suspended matter. Carbon and nitrogen presented elevated concentrations, but also seemed to reproduce the characteristics of the suspended matter in the raw water. The concentrations of mercury were extremely variable but presented unexpectedly high values in some of the layers, reaching 18,484 ng g−1. On the other hand, concentrations ten times lower than those observed in the natural system (8 ng g−1) could be observed. It was concluded that the only possible source for the contamination of the sludge was the chemicals used for water treatment.


Sludge piles Flocculation Suspended matter Hg Environmental threat Drinking water treatment plant Juturnaíba Reservoir 


Funding information

The authors are grateful to FAPERJ for the financial support through the program Pensa-Rio (grant no. E-26/110.694/2012). JCW is also thankful to the Brazilian Council of Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq) for a research grant (grant no. 306714/2013-2).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Programa de Pós-Graduação em Geociências (Geoquímica), and Pós-Graduação em Sistemas de Gestão SustentáveisUniversidade Federal FluminenseNiteróiBrazil
  2. 2.Pós-Graduation Program in Biosystems EngineeringNiteróiBrazil
  3. 3.Department of Geoenvironmental AnalysisUniversidade Federal FluminenseNiteróiBrazil
  4. 4.EMBRAPA-SolosRio de JaneiroBrazil

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