A note on the concentrations and bioavailability of selected metals in sediments of Richards Bay Harbour, South Africa

  • V Wepener Department of Zoology, University of Johannesburg, PO Box 524, Auckland Park 2006, South Africa
  • LA Vermeulen Coastal Research Unit of Zululand, University of Zululand, Private Bag X1001, Kwadlangezwa 3886, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa


Sediments are considered to be the ultimate sink for most contaminants and therefore pose the highest risk to these aquatic environments. This paper presents the levels of metals in sediments from Richards Bay Harbour, 20 years after the construction of the harbour and studied spatial and temporal, as well as the proportion of the bioavailable metal fraction. Sediment samples were collected from nine sites in Richards Bay Harbour. Sequential extractions of metals were carried out and samples were analysed for aluminium, chromium, copper, iron, manganese and zinc. Metal concentrations in sediment samples varied only slightly between seasons but showed significant spatial variation, which was significantly correlated to sediment particle size composition. Highest metal concentrations were found in sites with substrata dominated by fine mud. Manganese and Zn had more than 50% of this concentrated in the easily reducible fractions. Zinc concentrations were not elevated when compared to historic data. More than 70% of Cr was concentrated in the inert fractions nevertheless concentrations recorded at some sites were still above action levels when considering only the bioavailable fractions.

Keywords: sediments, metals, bioavailability, sediment composition, Richards Bay Harbour

Water SA Vol. 31(4) 2005: 589-596

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 0378-4738