African Journal of Biotechnology

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Variation in levels and removal efficiency of heavy and trace metals from wastewater treatment plant effluents in Cape Town and Stellenbosch, South Africa

OO Olujimi, OS Fatoki, JP Odendaal, AP Daso, OU Oputu


This study focused on one year monitoring campaign to monitor the occurrence and removal of Endocrine Disruptive Metals (EDMs) and trace metals from selected wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) in Stellenbosch and Cape Town. Composite water samples were collected from the WWTPs from January 2010 to December 2010 on a quarterly basis and concentrations determined using inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) after open beaker digestion. A total of 432 water samples consisting of raw, primary effluent, secondary effluent and final effluents were collected and analyzed. The general abundance distribution pattern for metals was Zn > Cu > Pb > Cr > Ni > As > Co > Cd > Hg. The removal efficiency ranged from 1.5% for Hg at Zandvliet WWTP plant during winter to 98.27% for Cu at Athlone WWTP treatment plant during summer. The final effluent concentration for most of the metals were within South African water quality guidelines while As, Hg, Cd and Pb concentration were higher than maximum limits set by the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment. Potsdam WWTP showed to be the most effective at heavy metals removal as compared with the other five treatment plants investigated in this study. The effluent metal concentration over time could pose health risk if used for agricultural irrigation.

Keywords: Seasonal variation, endocrine disrupting metals, wastewater treatment plants, effluents, coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (ICP-MS), Cape Town

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