Assessment of heavy metal pollution risks in Yonki Reservoir environmental matrices affected by gold mining activity

  • Samuel Kapia
  • B. K. Rajashekhar Rao
  • Harry Sakulas


This study reports the heavy metal (Hg, Cd, Cr, Cu, and Pb) contamination risks to and safety of two species of fresh water fish (tilapia, Oreochromis mossambicus and carp, Cyprinus carpio) that are farmed in the Yonki Reservoir in the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea (PNG). The upper reaches of the reservoir are affected by alluvial and large-scale gold mining activities. We also assessed heavy metal levels in the surface waters and sediments and in selected aquatic plant species from the reservoir and streams that intersect the gold mining areas. The water quality was acceptable, except for the Cr concentration, which exceeded the World Health Organization (WHO) standard for water contamination. The sediments were contaminated with Cd and Cu in most of the sampling stations along the upstream waters and the reservoir. The Cd concentration in the sediments exceeded the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Sediment Quality Guideline (SQG) values, and the geoaccumulation index (Igeo) values indicated heavy to extreme pollution. In addition, the Cd, Cu, and Pb concentrations in aquatic plants exceeded the WHO guidelines for these contaminants. Between the fish species, tilapia accumulated significantly higher (P < 0.05) Cu in their organ tissues than carp, confirming the bioaccumulation of some metals in the aquatic fauna. The edible muscles of the fish specimens had metal concentrations below the maximum permissible levels established by statutory guidelines. In addition, a human health risk assessment, performed using the estimated weekly intake (EWI) values, indicated that farmed fish from the Yonki Reservoir are safe for human consumption.


Bioaccumulation Farmed fish Gold mining Heavy metals Sediments 



The authors are grateful for the funding support from the University of Technology from the Research Committee and Environmental Research and Management Centre that was used to perform this work. We are thankful to Dr. Sailesh Samanta, Department of Surveying and Land Studies for his assistence in the prepartion of map.


  1. Ariyaee, M., Azadi, N., Majnoni, F., & Mansouri, B. (2015). Comparison of metal concentrations in the organs of two fish species from the Zabol Chahnimeh Reservoirs, Iran. Bulletin of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, 94, 715–721.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Arslan, S., & Celik, M. (2015). Assessment of the pollutants in soils and surface waters around Gumuskoy silver mine (Kutahya, Turkey). Bulletin of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, 95, 499–506.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bowles, K. C., Apte, S. C., Maher, W. A., Kawei, M., & Smith, R. (2001). Bioaccumulation and biomagnification of mercury in Lake Murray, Papua New Guinea. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, 58, 888–897.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Crispin, G. (2003). Environmental management in small scale mining in Papua New Guinea. Journal of Cleaner Production, 11, 175–183.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Dodds, W. K., & Whiles, M. R. (2010). Freshwater ecology: concepts and environmental applications of limnology (p. 829). San Diego: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  6. Dsikowitzky, L., Mengesha, M., Dadebo, E., de Carvalho, C. V., & Sindern, S. (2012). Assessment of heavy metals in water samples and tissues of edible fish species from Awassa and Koka Rift Valley Lakes, Ethiopia. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment, 185, 2777–2785.Google Scholar
  7. FAO (2010). FISHSTAT Plus global aquaculture production 1950–2008, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome, Italy.Google Scholar
  8. Frei, M., Razzak, M. A., Hossain, M. M., Oehme, M., Dewan, S., & Becker, K. (2007). Performance of common carp, Cyprinus carpio L. and Nile tilapia, Oreochromis niloticus (L.) in integrated rice-fish culture in Bangladesh. Aquaculture, 262, 250–259.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Gangnon, C., Turcotte, P., & Vigneault, B. (2009). Comparative study of the fate and mobility of metals discharged in mining and urban effluents using sequential extractions on suspended solids. Environmental Geochemistry and Health, 31, 657–671.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Gaudet, C., Lingard, S., Cureton, P., Keenleyside, K., Smith, S., & Raju, G. (1995). Canadian environmental quality guidelines for mercury. Water, Air, and Soil Pollution, 80, 1149–1159.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Gehrke, P. C., Sheave, M. J., Boseto, D., Figa, B. S., & Wani, J. (2011). Vulnerability of freshwater and estuarine fisheries in the tropical Pacific to climate change. In J. D. Bell, J. E. Johnson, & A. J. Hobday (Eds.), Vulnerability of tropical Pacific fisheries and aquaculture to climate change (pp. 577–647). Noumea: Secretariat of the Pacific Community.Google Scholar
  12. JECFA (2011). Food standards programme codex committee on contaminants in foods. Joint Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of United Nations/World Health Organization (WHO). Fifth session.Google Scholar
  13. Kapia, S., & Danbaro, G. (2013). Evaluating phenotypic trait of GIFT tilapia on small holder farm at Potsy, Lae. Environment Papua New Guinea Journal, 3(3), 35–40.Google Scholar
  14. Komjarova, I., & Blust, R. (2009). Multimetal interactions between Cd, Cu, Ni, Pb, and Zn uptake from water in the zebra fish Danio rerio. Environmental Science and Technology, 43, 7225–7229.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Latimer, G. J. (2012). Offical methods of analysis of AOAC international (19th ed.). Maryland: Association of Offical Analytical Chemists International.Google Scholar
  16. Liu, F., Ni, H., Chen, F., Luo, Z., Shen, H., Liu, L., & Wu, P. (2012). Metal accumulation in the tissues of grass carps (Ctenopharyngodon idellus) from fresh water around a copper mine in Southeast China. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment, 184, 4289–4299.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Long, E. R., & MacDonald, D. D. (1998). Recommended uses of empirically derived, sediment quality guidelines for marine and estuarine ecosystems. Human and Ecological Risk Assessment: An International Journal, 4(5), 1019–1039.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Loska, K., Wiechula, D., & Korus, I. (2004). Metal contamination of farming soils affected by industry. Environment International, 30, 159–165.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Muller, G. (1981). Die Schwermetallbelastung der sedimenten des necker und seiner nebefluse. Chemiker Zeitung, 6, 175–164.Google Scholar
  20. Naji, A., Ismail, A., Kamrani, E., & Sohrabi, T. (2014). Correlation of MT levels in livers and gills with heavy metals in wild tilapia (Oreochromis mossambicus) from the Klang River, Malaysia. Bulletin of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, 92, 1243–1247.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Nartey, V. K., Klake, R. K., Doamekpor, L. K., & Sarpong-Kumankomah, S. (2012). Speciation of mercury in mine waste: case study of abandoned and active gold mine sites at the Bibiani–Anwiaso–Bekwai area of South Western Ghana. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment, 184, 7623–7634.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Polhemus, D.A., England, R. A. & Allen, G.A. (2004). Freshwater Biotas of New Guinea and Nearby Islands: Analysis of Endemism, Richness, and Threats. Washington, D.C.: Bishop Museum Technical Report 31.Google Scholar
  23. Rai, P. K., & Tripathi, B. D. (2009). Comparative assessment of Azolla pinnata and Vallisneria spiralis in Hg removal from G. B. Pant Sagar of Singrauli industrial region, India. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment, 148, 75–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Ruelas-Inzunza, J., Rojas-Ruiz, E., Spanopoulos-Hernandez, M., & Barba-Quintero, G. (2015). Mercury in the blue tilapia Oreochromis aureus from a dam located in a mining region of NW Mexico:seasonal variation and percentage weekly intake (PWI). Environmental Monitoring and Assessment. doi: 10.1007/s10661-015-4439-0.Google Scholar
  25. Shah, A. B., & Singh, R. P. (2016). Monitoring of hazardous inorganic pollutants and heavy metals in potable water at the source of supply and consumers end of a tropical urban municipality. International Journal of Environmental Research, 10(1), 149–158.Google Scholar
  26. Spiridonov, E., & Yanakieva, D. (2009). Modern mineralogy of gold: overview and new data. Archeosciences, 33, 67–73.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. USEPA (United States Environmental protection Agency) (2009). National primary and secondary drinking water regulations. Washington, D.C.: EPA.Google Scholar
  28. Wang, X., Liu, X., He, Y., Hu, X., Zha, F., Liu, G., Li, H., Zheng, L. & Dong, Z. (2016). Seasonal variations and health risk of heavy metals in the muscle of Crucian carp (Carassius auratus) cultured in subsistence ponds near Suzhou, East-central China. Expo Health, 8, 79.Google Scholar
  29. WHO (World Health Organisation) (2000). Health criteria other supporting information. In Guidelines for Drinking Water Quality, vol. 2, 2nd ed., (pp. 31–388). Geneva, Switzerland: WHO Press.Google Scholar
  30. Yanqun, Z., Yuan, L., Schvartz, C., Langlade, L., & Fan, L. (2004). Accumulation of Pb, Cd, Cu and Zn in plants and hyperaccumulator choice in lead-zinc mine area, China. Environment International, 30, 567–576.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Zhu, X., Ji, H., Chen, Y., Qiao, M., & Tang, L. (2013). Assessment and sources of heavy metals in surface sediments of Miyun Reservoir, Beijing. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment, 185, 6049–6062.Google Scholar
  32. Zhu, F., Qu, L., Fan, W., Wang, A., Hao, H., Li, X., & Yao, S. (2015). Study on heavy metal levels and its health risk assessment in some edible fishes from Nansi Lake, China. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment. doi: 10.1007/s10661-015-4355-3.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Samuel Kapia
    • 1
  • B. K. Rajashekhar Rao
    • 1
  • Harry Sakulas
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of AgriculturePNG University of TechnologyLaePapua New Guinea
  2. 2.Environmental Research and Management CenterPNG University of TechnologyLaePapua New Guinea

Personalised recommendations