Trace-metal contamination in the glacierized Rio Santa watershed, Peru

  • Alexandre GuittardEmail author
  • Michel Baraer
  • Jeffrey M. McKenzie
  • Bryan G. Mark
  • Oliver Wigmore
  • Alfonso Fernandez
  • Alejo C. Rapre
  • Elizabeth Walsh
  • Jeffrey Bury
  • Mark Carey
  • Adam French
  • Kenneth R. Young


The objective of this research is to characterize the variability of trace metals in the Rio Santa watershed based on synoptic sampling applied at a large scale. To that end, we propose a combination of methods based on the collection of water, suspended sediments, and riverbed sediments at different points of the watershed within a very limited period. Forty points within the Rio Santa watershed were sampled between June 21 and July 8, 2013. Forty water samples, 36 suspended sediments, and 34 riverbed sediments were analyzed for seven trace metals. The results, which were normalized using the USEPA guideline for water and sediments, show that the Rio Santa water exhibits Mn concentrations higher than the guideline at more than 50% of the sampling points. As is the second highest contaminating element in the water, with approximately 10% of the samples containing concentrations above the guideline. Sediments collected in the Rio Santa riverbed were heavily contaminated by at least four of the tested elements at nearly 85% of the sample points, with As presenting the highest normalized concentration, at more than ten times the guideline. As, Cd, Fe, Pb, and Zn present similar concentration trends in the sediment all along the Rio Santa.

The findings indicate that care should be taken in using the Rio Santa water and sediments for purposes that could affect the health of humans or the ecosystem. The situation is worse in some tributaries in the southern part of the watershed that host both active and abandoned mines and ore-processing plants.


Water quality Peru Trace metals Sediments Rio Santa 



The authors would like to thank École de technologie supérieure in Canada for its support in carrying out the research under the best possible conditions.

Funding information

We are grateful for the funding provided by the National Science Foundation (BCS-0752175), the Geochemistry and Geodynamics Research Centre of Québec (GEOTOP), the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), McGill University, and the Climate, Water and Carbon Program at The Ohio State University.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alexandre Guittard
    • 1
    Email author
  • Michel Baraer
    • 1
  • Jeffrey M. McKenzie
    • 2
  • Bryan G. Mark
    • 3
  • Oliver Wigmore
    • 3
    • 4
  • Alfonso Fernandez
    • 5
  • Alejo C. Rapre
    • 6
  • Elizabeth Walsh
    • 2
  • Jeffrey Bury
    • 7
  • Mark Carey
    • 8
  • Adam French
    • 9
  • Kenneth R. Young
    • 10
  1. 1.École de Technologie SupérieureUniversité du QuébecMontréalCanada
  2. 2.Department of Earth and Planetary SciencesMcGill UniversityMontréalCanada
  3. 3.Department of Geography, Byrd Polar and Climate Research CenterThe Ohio State UniversityColumbusUSA
  4. 4.Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research/Earth LabUniversity of Colorado BoulderBoulderUSA
  5. 5.Department of GeographyUniversidad de ConcepciónConcepciónChile
  6. 6.Unidad de Glaciología y Recursos Hídricos, Autoridad Nacional del AguaHuarazPeru
  7. 7.Department of Environmental StudiesUniversity of CaliforniaSanta CruzUSA
  8. 8.Robert D. Clark Honors College and Department of Environmental StudiesUniversity of OregonEugeneUSA
  9. 9.International Institute for Applied Systems AnalysisLaxenburgAustria
  10. 10.Department of Geography and EnvironmentUniversity of Texas at AustinAustinUSA

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