Trace metal distributions in the sediments of the Little Akaki River, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

  • M. L. Akele
  • P. Kelderman
  • C. W. Koning
  • K. Irvine


The levels and distribution of trace metals (Cr, Mn, Co, Ni, Cu, Zn, Cd and Pb) at eleven water and sediment stations on the Little Akaki River (LAR) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, were determined. The binding forms of the metals in various geochemical fractions of the sediments were also quantified. The molar ratio of the sum of the simultaneously extractable metals (∑SEM) and acid-volatile sulphide (AVS)—as a measure for predicting metal-induced toxicity—was estimated. LAR trace levels in water for Cu, Zn, and, particularly Mn were, in most instances, higher than the recommended guidelines for healthy aquatic ecosystems. Total trace metal (TTM) contents in the LAR sediments at certain stations exceeded “threshold effect concentrations” and even “probable effect concentrations”, especially in the cases of Zn, Cu, Ni, Pb, and at all stations for Mn. This became more apparent after applying “normalizations” to the relatively lower TTM adsorption capacities of coarse-grained, organic-poor sediments. Sequential extraction of the sediments showed that trace metals generally have a higher affinity for Fe-Mn oxide and organic matter/sulphidic fractions, followed by the residual fraction. Mn was relatively strongly bound to the exchangeable, carbonate bound fractions, whereas a large proportion of Cr was found in the residual fraction. The Σ[SEM]/[AVS] ratio pointed to potential metal-induced toxicity of sediments collected from seven out of the eleven stations. The results indicate that trace metal pollution pose risks to the health of ecosystems, and to human communities that use the river for a range of different purposes.


Acid-volatile sulphide Binding forms Ethiopia Sequential extraction Trace metals 



The authors acknowledge Don van Galen and Lyzette Robbemont, UNESCO-IHE, for their invaluable laboratory assistance. This research was financially supported by the Netherlands Fellowship Program (NFP).


  1. Akele, M. L. (2012). MSc thesis WM. In Assessment of trace metals distibution in sediments of the Little Akaki River (pp. 12–16). Addis Ababa, Ethiopia: UNESCO-IHE.Google Scholar
  2. Alemayehu, T. (2006). Heavy metal concentration in the urban environment of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Journal of Soil and Sediment Contamination, 15(6), 591–602.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Alemayehu Abiye, T., Sulaiman, H., & Hailu, A. (2011). Metal concentration in vegetables grown in the hydrothermally affected area in Ethiopia. Journal of Geography and Geology, 3(1), 86–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Anonymous (2016). Ministry of housing, spatial planning and the environment:; accessed on April 10, 2016.Google Scholar
  5. Argese, E., & Bettiol, C. (2001). Heavy metal partitioning in sediments from the lagoon of Venive (Italy). Toxicological and Environmental Chemistry, 78(3–4), 157–170.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. AWDR. (2006). Protecting ecosystems in Africa. African Water Development Report, 2006.Google Scholar
  7. Baruah, N. K., Kotoky, P., Bhattacharyya, K. G., & Borah, G. C. (1996). Metal speciation in Jhanji River sediments. Science of the Total Environment, 193(1), 1–12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Chapman, D. (1996). Water quality assessments: a guide to use of biota, sediments and water in environmental monitoring (2nd ed.). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. DaSilva, I. S., Abate, G., Lihtig, J., & Masini, J. C. (2002). Heavy metal distribution in recent sediments of the Tietê-Pinheiros system in São Paulo State, Brazil. Applied Geochemistry, 17(2), 105–116.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Donze, M. (1990). Shaping the Environment: aquatic pollution and dredging in the European community. The Hague, the Netherlands: Delwel.Google Scholar
  11. Duke, L. D., Buffleben, M., & Bauersachs, L. A. (1998). Pollutants in storm water runoff from metal plating facilities, Los Angeles, California. Waste Management, 18(1), 25–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. ESRD. (2014). Environmental quality guidelines for Alberta surface waters. Edmonton, Canada: Water Policy Branch, Policy Division.Google Scholar
  13. Fang, T., Li, X., & Zhang, G. (2005). Acid volatile sulfide and simultaneously extracted metals in the sediment cores of the Pearl River Estuary, South China. Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety, 61(3), 420–431.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Förstner, U., & Wittmann, G. T. W. (1983). Metal pollution in the aquatic environment. Berlin, Germany: Springer Verlag.Google Scholar
  15. Håkanson, L., & Jansson, M. (1983). Lake sedimentolog. Berlin, Germany: Springer Verlag.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Houba, V. J. G., Van der Lee, J. J., & Novozamsky, J. (1995). Soil analysis procedures. Lecture notes #6175208. Wageningen, the Netherlands: Wageningen University and Research.Google Scholar
  17. Jaagumagi, R. (1992). Development of the Ontario Provincial Sediment Quality Guidelines for Arsenic, Cadmium, Chromium, Copper, Iron, Lead, Manganese, Mercury, Nickel, and Zinc. Ministry of the Environment.; accessed July 7, 2014.Google Scholar
  18. Kelderman, P. (2012). Sediment pollution, transport, and abatement measures in the city canals of Delft, the Netherlands. Water, Air, & Soil Pollution, 223(7), 4627–4645.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Kelderman, P., & Osman, A. A. (2007). Effect of redox potential on heavy metal binding forms in polluted canal sediments in Delft (The Netherlands). Water Research, 41(18), 4251–4261.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Kiratli, N., & Ergin, M. (1996). Partitioning of heavy metals in surface Black Sea sediments. Applied Geochemistry, 11(6), 775–788.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Li, P., Qian, H., Howard, K. F., Wu, J., & Lyu, X. (2014). Anthropogenic pollution and variability of manganese in alluvial sediments of the Yellow River, Ningxia, northwest China. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment, 186(3), 1385–1398.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Lin, J., Chen, S., & Su, C. (2003). Assessment of sediment toxicity by metal speciation in different particle-size fractions of river sediment. Water Science and Technology, 47(7–8), 233–241.Google Scholar
  23. MacDonald, D. D., Ingersoll, C., & Berger, T. (2000). Development and evaluation of consensus-based sediment quality guidelines for freshwater ecosystems. Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, 39(1), 20–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Malaj, E., Rousseau, D., Du Laing, G., & Lens, P. (2012). Near-shore distribution of heavy metals in the Albanian part of Lake Ohrid. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment, 184, 1823–1839.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Mekkonen, K. N., Ambushe, A. A., Chandravanshi, B. S., Abshiro, M. R., & McCrindle, R. I. (2013). Assessment of the concentration of Cr, Mn and Fe in sediment using laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy. Bulletin of the Chemical Society of Ethiopia, 27(1), 1–13.Google Scholar
  26. Melaku, S., Wondimu, T., & Dams, R. L. M. (2005). Multi-element analysis of Tinishu Akaki River Sediment, Ethiopia, by ICP-MS after microwave assisted digestion. Canadian Journal of Analytical Sciences and Spectroscopy, 50(1), 31–40.Google Scholar
  27. Melaku, S., Wondimu, T., Dams, R., & Moens, L. (2007). Pollution status of Tinishu Akaki River and its tributaries (Ethiopia) evaluated using physico-chemical parameters, major ions, and nutrients. Bulletin of the Chemical Society of Ethiopia, 21(1), 13–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Miller, J. R., & Orbock Miller, S. M. (2007). Contaminated rivers: a geomorphological-geochemical approach to site assessment and remediation. Dordrecht, the Netherlands: Springer.Google Scholar
  29. Nemerow, N. L. (1978). Industrial water pollution. Reading, UK: Addison-Wesley.Google Scholar
  30. Okonkwo, J. O., & Mothiba, M. (2005). Physico-chemical characteristics and pollution levels of heavy metals in the rivers in Thohoyandou, South Africa. Journal of Hydrology, 308(1–4), 122–127.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Pardo, R., Barrado, E., Lourdes, P., & Vega, M. (1990). Determination and speciation of heavy metals in sediments of the Pisuerga river. Water Research, 24(3), 373–379.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Prabu, P. (2009). Impact of heavy metal contamination of Akaki River of Ethiopia on soil and metal toxicity on cultivated vegetable crops. Electronic Journal of Environmental, Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 8(9), 818–827.Google Scholar
  33. Prica, M., Dalmacija, B., Rončević, S., Krčmar, D., & Bečelić, M. (2008). A comparison of sediment quality results with acid volatile sulfide (AVS) and simultaneously extracted metals (SEM) ratio in Vojvodina (Serbia) sediments. Science of the Total Environment, 389(2–3), 235–244.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Ramos, L., Gonzalez, M., & Hernandez, L. (1999). Sequential extraction of copper, lead, cadmium, and zinc in sediments from Ebro river (Spain): relationship with levels detected in earthworms. Bulletin of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, 62(3), 301–308.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Standard methods for the examination of water and wastewater (2005). 21st edn, American Public Health Association/ American Water Works Association/Water Environment Federation, Washington DC, USA.Google Scholar
  36. Stumm, W., & Morgan, J. (1981). Aquatic chemistry. New York, USA: J Wiley and Sons.Google Scholar
  37. Teixeira, E. T., Ortiz, L. O., Alves, M. A., & Sanchez, J. S. (2001). Distribution of selected heavy metals in fluvial sediments of the coal mining region of Baixo Jacuí, RS, Brazil. Environmental Geology, 41(1), 145–154.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Tessier, A., Campbell, P. G. C., & Bisson, M. (1979). Sequential extraction procedure for the speciation of particulate trace metals. Analytical Chemistry, 51(7), 844–851.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Thomann, R. V., & Müller, J. A. (1987). Principles of water quality and control. New York, USA: Harper and Row.Google Scholar
  40. Tokalioğlu, Ş., Kartal, Ş., & Elçi, L. (2000). Determination of heavy metals and their speciation in lake sediments by flame atomic absorption spectrometry after a four-stage sequential extraction procedure. Analytica Chimica Acta, 413(1–2), 33–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Tsai, L. J., Yu, K. C., Chang, J. S., & Ho, S. T. (1998). Fractionation of heavy metals in sediment cores from the Ell-Ren river, Taiwan. Water Science and Technology, 37(6–7), 217–224.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. USEPA. (2004). The incidence and severity of sediment contamination in surface waters of the United States (2nd edn). Washington DC, USA: National Sediment Quality Survey.EPA 823-R-04-007.Google Scholar
  43. Van den Hoop, M. A. G. T., Den Hollander, H. A., & Kerdijk, H. N. (1997). Spatial and seasonal variations of acid volatile sulphide (AVS) and simultaneously extracted metals (SEM) in Dutch marine and freshwater sediments. Chemosphere, 35(10), 2307–2316.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Van Rooijen, D., Biggs, T., Smout, I., & Drechsel, P. (2010). Urban growth, wastewater production and use in irrigated agriculture: a comparative study of Accra, Addis Ababa and Hyderabad. Irrigation and Drainage Systems, 24(1), 53–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. WHO. (2011). Guidelines for drinking water quality (4th ed.). Geneva, Switzerland: WHO.Google Scholar
  46. Yin, H. B., Fan, C. X., Ding, S. M., Zhang, L., & Zhong, J. C. (2008). Geochemistry of iron, sulfur and related heavy metals in metal-polluted Taihu Lake sediments. Pedosphere, 18(5), 564–573.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Yu, K. C., Tsai, L. J., Chen, S. H., & Ho, S. T. (2001). Chemical binding of heavy metals in anoxic river sediments. Water Research, 35(17), 4086–4094.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. L. Akele
    • 1
    • 2
  • P. Kelderman
    • 1
  • C. W. Koning
    • 3
  • K. Irvine
    • 1
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Water Science and Engineering, UNESCO-IHEInstitute for Water EducationDelftThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Department of Chemistry, College of Natural and Computational SciencesUniversity of GondarGondarEthiopia
  3. 3.Ministry of the Environment and ParksCalgaryCanada
  4. 4.Aquatic Ecology and Water Quality ManagementUniversity of WageningenWageningenThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations