Environmental Geology

, Volume 51, Issue 3, pp 421–431 | Cite as

Soil and groundwater pollution of an urban catchment by trace metals: case study of the Addis Ababa region, central Ethiopia

  • Molla Demlie
  • Stefan Wohnlich
Original Article


Analysis of the total heavy metal (Cr, Cd, Pb, As, Cu, Ni, Zn, Co) concentration was performed on 33 soil samples taken from different profiles and soil types in a highly urbanized and industrial sector of Addis Ababa, central Ethiopia. They were analyzed using aqua regia extraction coupled with a four-stage sequential extraction (SE) procedure. The objectives of the analysis were to investigate the degree of soil heavy metal contamination, its binding forms, mobility and the implications for the groundwater resource. The results show a relatively high content of the analyzed trace metals in the soil attributed to anthropogenic and geogenic sources. Although most of the trace metals are found in the upper few centimeters of the residual soils, because of churning processes within the black cotton soils, vertical distribution of the trace metals is complex. According to the heavy metal SE analysis, the major heavy metal contribution is from the residual followed by the hydroxide phases. Groundwater heavy metal contamination is present with more than 90 and 50% of the analyzed groundwater samples exceeding WHO guidelines for Cr and Cd, respectively. Since the degree of soil heavy metal contamination has apparently not surpassed the soil’s buffering capacity, it appears that the transport path of these toxic metals to the groundwater is through fractures, joints, and related preferential flow paths.


Heavy metals Pollution Aqua regia Sequential extraction Ethiopia 



The authors are grateful to the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) for the partial financial support of the field research work and a Ph.D. grant to the first author. Thanks to Dr. F. Wisotzky, Mr. O. Schuebbe, Mr. D. Barnke, Dr. S. Bender (Department of Applied Geology, Ruhr University of Bochum) for the assistance received in analyzing soil and water samples in the laboratory. Thanks to Dr. R. Bussert (Institute of Applied Geosciences, TU-Berlin) for XRD analysis of some of the soil samples and to Dr. T. Fockenberg (Institute of Geology, Mineralogy and Geophysics, Ruhr University of Bochum) for XRF analysis of the rock samples. Lastly the authors would like to thank Mr. E. Parks and the anonymous reviewer for improving the quality of the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Applied GeologyRuhr University of BochumBochumGermany
  2. 2.Department of Applied GeologyMekelle UniversityMekelleEthiopia

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