S. Froehner, M. Maceno, Raquel Fernandes Martins
Nov 1, 2010
Environmental Monitoring and Assessment
Sediments constitute a pollutant trap and have proven to be an efficient tool to identify environmental impacts. Sediments are considered a very important means to assess the level of contamination of water bodies because of their ability to accumulate metals and organic. The anthropogenic inputs of sewage, with or without prior treatment, in aquatic environments, affect the geochemical composition of sediment. In addition, the sediment adsorbs hydrophobic compounds found in feces, such as the fecal sterols. The granulometric and geochemical composition of the sediment of Barigüi River-Brazil was investigated. The results show that silt and clay dominate the granulometric composition of the sediments. The geochemical composition of sediments showed high concentrations of phosphorus and nitrogen. The Redfield ratios confirm the inputs of phosphorus and nitrogen. The TOC/N ratio was used to identify the source of pollution. N/TP ratios were found between 1.0 and 3.5. Clearly, an input of phosphorus, sewage is the most acceptable source, following the historic profile of the Barigüi River. High concentration of nitrogen phosphorus labels the area to be polluted by sewage. To confirm the sewage pollution, adsorbed fecal sterols in sediments were investigated. The concentration of total sterols was found between 0.86 and 304.58 μg g − 1. Two distinguished scenario was found, one severely polluted and another slightly polluted. The highest concentrations of total fecal sterols were associated with sediment whose geochemical composition showed higher levels of TOC, as well as higher proportions of silt and clay. Also, epicoprostanol, a coprostanol isomer, was used as an indicator of the level of treatment or age of the fecal matter because it is formed during the treatment of wastewater and sludge digestion. If the treatment of sludge takes a long time, epicoprostanol can form from cholesterol, and relative proportions of those compounds may be used as an indicator of the presence of untreated sewage in the sediments. The epicoprostanol was found in the range between 0.02 and 9.71 μg g − 1; concentration of up to 0.015 μg g − 1 represents situations where there is strong contamination by sewage. All sites investigated showed a concentration of epicoprostanol higher than the value adopted as threshold. The lower concentration of epicoprostanol found for all sites is consistent with the high concentration found for coprostanol, and this is typical for untreated sewage.