Influence of small-scale gold mining and toxic element concentrations in Bonsa river, Ghana: A potential risk to water quality and public health.
A preliminary assessment of toxic element pollution caused by artisanal and small-scale gold mining in the Bonsa river of Ghana as well as the influence of TOC and SO4 2− concentration on these traces in the sediment has been determined. With the exception of mercury (Hg), manganese (Mn), and arsenic (As), the concentration of aluminum (Al) in filtered river water exceeded the WHO guideline limit of 0.1 mg L−1 in drinking water. Analyses of toxic element in sediment using Canadian Sediment Quality Criteria, contamination factor, geoaccumulation index, and enrichment factor indicate that river sediment is severely contaminated with Hg confirming the negative impact of the amalgamation technique in gold beneficiation in Ghana. The level of Hg in the surface water exceeded reported values from some rivers in Africa, Asia, and South America. The ranking order of the mean element concentration in both matrices followed the conservative order of traces found in the Earth crust except copper, which was below the detection limit of 0.01 mg kg−1. A Pearson correlation matrix of the toxic element and geology of the river bedrock indicates that the Hg contamination is of anthropogenic origin whilst As, Mn, and Al are the result of natural enrichment. The partitioning of elements in the sediment compartments is independent of TOC and SO42−concentration. Health-risk assessment based on average daily dose, hazard quotient, and cancer risk indicates that Hg is a health risk to the human population. In conclusion, the study has shown that there is a likely anthropic affection of the river and that this situation has worsened since earlier studies. In order to sustain aquatic life and to prevent future human health hazard, an immediate mercury remediation in the river is recommended.