Environmental assessment of heavy metal pollutants in soils and water from Ortum, Kenya


Analysis of elemental concentration in soil and water was carried out in Ortum to ensure safe utilization of soil and water resources for agriculture, industrial, and household purposes. Elemental analysis of soil and water was done using the EDXRF spectrometer and the inductively coupled plasma – optical emission spectrometry (ICP-OES), respectively. A total of 59 soil samples from different locations and depth and 10 water samples were collected from Ortum using purposive sampling method. The results of the mean elemental composition of 13 elements Ni (ppm), Cu (ppm), Zn (ppm), Pb (ppm), K (%w), Ca (%w), Fe (%w), Ti (%w), Mn (ppm), Rb (ppm), Sr (ppm), Zr (ppm), and Nb (ppm) in soils were 58.11, 46.91, 73.49, 22.20, 3.83, 24.39, 1.72, 7.73, 1529.74, 60.98, 442.26, 410.63, and 29.36, respectively, and the mean of 19 elements Ni, Cu, Pb, Zn, Ag, Al, As, Ba, Ca, Cd, Co, Cr, Fe, K, Mg, Mn, Mo, Na, and Se in water samples in (mg/l) were 0.037, 0.0014, 0.0005, 0.0042, 0.0030, 0.021, 0.0080, 0.12, 73.81, 0.00023, 0.0036, 0.00276, 0.0040, 6.11, 38.18, 0.00023, 0.0032, 46.87, and 0.0026, respectively. The average elemental concentration in soils was within the world average range. The mean concentration of Cu, Zn, and Pb in soil reduced with increase in depth while that of Ni increased with increase in depth. The average metal pollution indices in soils, geoaccumulation index (Igeo) potential ecological risk index (Ei), and synthesized potential ecological risk index (Er) were evaluated and found to be − 0.40, 4.92, and 19.69, respectively. According to the classification index, the results show that the soil in Ortum is moderately polluted, and the risk associated with the measured elemental concentration of Ni, Zn, Cu, and Pb in the soils is low. The elemental concentrations in water samples was lower than the recommended permissible limits except for Calcium (Ca) in borehole water with an average of 90.80 mg/l against the permissible levels of 75 mg/l (WHO, 2011). The pH for water samples was found to range from 6.60 to 7.71 with an average of 7.07 which is within the acceptable range of pH 6.5 to pH 8.5 as recommended by WHO, 2011. The study found out that elemental concentration in soil and water samples from Ortum were withing the world average values and that the soil and water in Ortum is safe for use in agriculture and domestic purposes.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6
Fig. 7
Fig. 8


  1. Angelone, M., & Bini, C. (2017). Trace element concentrations in soils and plants of Western Europe. In Biogeochemistry of trace metals (pp. 31–72). CRC Press.

  2. Balakrishnan, A., & Ramu, A. (2016). Evaluation of heavy metal pollution index (HPI) of ground water in and around the coastal area of Gulf of Mannar Biosphere and Palk Strait. Journal of Advanced Chemical Sciences, 331–333.

  3. Cevik, U., Damla, N., Karahan, G., Celebi, N., & Kobya, A. I. (2006). Natural radioactivity in tap waters of Eastern Black Sea region of Turkey. Radiation Protection Dosimetry, 118, 88–92.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Kabata-Pendias, A., & Mukherjee, A. B. (2007). Trace elements from soil to human. Springer Science & Business Media.

  5. Koki, I. B., Bayero, A. S., Umar, A., & Yusuf, S. (2015). Health risk assessment of heavy metals in water, air, soil and fish. African Journal of Pure and Applied Chemistry, 9(11), 204–210.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Muohi, A. W., Onyari, J. M., Omondi, J. G., & Mavuti, K. M. (2003). Heavy metals in sediments from Makupa and port–Reitz Creek systems: Kenyan coast. Environment International, 28(7), 639–647.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Ojekunle, O. Z., Ojekunle, O. V., Adeyemi, A. A., Taiwo, A. G., Sangowusi, O. R., Taiwo, A. M., & Adekitan, A. A. (2016). Evaluation of surface water quality indices and ecological risk assessment for heavy metals in scrap yard neighbourhood. SpringerPlus, 5(1), 560.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Omoniyi, I. M., Oludare, S. M., & Oluwaseyi, O. M. (2013). Determination of radionuclides and elemental composition of clay soils by gamma-and X-ray spectrometry. Springerplus, 2(1), 74.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Poshtegal, M. K., & Mirbagheri, S. A. (2019). The heavy metals pollution index and water quality monitoring of the Zarrineh River, Iran. Environmental & Engineering Geoscience, 25(2), 179–188.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Scholze, F., Beckhoff, B., Kolbe, M., Krumrey, M., MŘller, M., & Ulm, G. (2006). Detector calibration and measurement of fundamental parameters for X-ray spectrometry. Microchimica Acta, 155(1-2), 275–278.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Sereshti, H., Heravi, Y. E., & Samadi, S. (2012). Optimized ultrasound-assisted emulsification microextraction for simultaneous trace multielement determination of heavy metals in real water samples by ICP-OES. Talanta, 97, 235–241.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Singh, S., Ghosh, N. C., Krishan, G., Kumar, S., Gurjar, S., & Sharma, M. K. (2019). Development of indices for surface and ground water quality assessment and characterization for Indian conditions. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment, 191(3), 182.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Towett, E. K., Shepherd, K. D., Tondoh, J. E., Winowiecki, L. A., Lulseged, T., Nyambura, M., et al. (2015). Total elemental composition of soils in Sub-Saharan Africa and relationship with soil forming factors. Geoderma Regional, 5, 157–168.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Wanjala, O. F., Rathore, I. V. S., & Murungi, J. (2016). Assessment of Heavy Metals Concentration in Soils at Selected Points on Roads and Sites Around Nairobi Using EDXRF Spectrometer

  15. WHO (2011). Guidelines for drinking-water quality. WHO chronicle,38(4), 104-8.

  16. World Health Organization (2011). Guidelines for drinking-water quality: World Health Organization. Distribution and Sales, Geneva, 27.

  17. World Resources. (1998). A guide to the Global Environment. Environmental Change and Human Health. part, 1, 1–386.

    Google Scholar 

  18. Wu, J., Long, J., Liu, L., Li, J., Liao, H., Zhang, M., et al. (2018). Risk Assessment and Source Identification of Toxic Metals in the Agricultural Soil around a Pb/Zn Mining and Smelting Area in Southwest China. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 15(9), 1838.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


The authors are grateful to the people of Ortum for their assistance and co-operation in collecting soil and water samples during the field work. We are also grateful to the staff of Kenyatta University, Institute of Nuclear Science and Technology, University of Nairobi and the Kenya Bureau of Standards for providing necessary facilities in carrying out this research work.


The authors highly acknowledge the financial assistance provided by the Kenya National Research Fund (NRF) and African Development Bank (AfDB) in funding the activities of this research.

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to F. O. Wanjala.

Additional information

Publisher’s note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Wanjala, F.O., Hashim, N.O., Otwoma, D. et al. Environmental assessment of heavy metal pollutants in soils and water from Ortum, Kenya. Environ Monit Assess 192, 118 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10661-020-8070-3

Download citation

Key words

  • Elemental concentration
  • Soil
  • Water
  • Pollution
  • Ortum