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Research Article

Distribution of Chromium, Manganese and Cobalt in the Bottom Sediment of Pahang River-Estuary, Pahang, Malaysia

B.Y. Kamaruzzaman, A. Siti Waznah, M.S. Mohd Zahir, M.C. Ong, S. Shahbudin, K.C.A. Jalal, Z. Rina Sharlinda, A.T. Shuhada, B. Akbar John, B. Joseph, S.M. Al-Barwani and J.S. Goddard
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Bottom sediments from 62 stations at Pahang river-estuary were analyzed for the concentrations of Chromium (Cr), Manganese (Mn) and Cobalt (Co). Heavy metal concentrations were analyzed by using an Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS). The average dry weight concentrations of Cr, Mn and Co were 62.80±20.04, 416.21±127.41 and 7.93±3.25 μg g-1, respectively. The observed concentrations of the studied metals were significantly higher near the estuary and declining as the sampling points were further away from the estuary. The Enrichment Factors (EFs) were calculated and all elements showed metal contamination was predominantly of terrigenous in origin.

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B.Y. Kamaruzzaman, A. Siti Waznah, M.S. Mohd Zahir, M.C. Ong, S. Shahbudin, K.C.A. Jalal, Z. Rina Sharlinda, A.T. Shuhada, B. Akbar John, B. Joseph, S.M. Al-Barwani and J.S. Goddard, 2010. Distribution of Chromium, Manganese and Cobalt in the Bottom Sediment of Pahang River-Estuary, Pahang, Malaysia. Journal of Applied Sciences, 10: 3122-3126.

DOI: 10.3923/jas.2010.3122.3126

Received: May 24, 2010; Accepted: August 01, 2010; Published: October 14, 2010


Sediments can be sensitive indicators for monitoring contaminants in aquatic environments. The sediments were polluted with various kinds of hazardous and toxic substances (Kamaruzzaman et al., 2011). Heavy metals are one of the main pollutant classes which gets accumulate in bottom sediments primarily due to the urban developmental practices. Sources of heavy metal contamination are numerous and tend to be associated with urban runoff, sewage treatment plants, industrial effluents and wastes, mining operations, boating activities, domestic garbage dumps and agricultural fungicide runoff etc. Sediment in the estuary plays an important role as a carrier of trace metals in the hydrological cycle, where they can react as traps for trace elements especially the pollutant elements (Chester et al., 1994). Sediments can also act as a scavenger agent for heavy metal and an adsorptive sink in aquatic environment. It is therefore considered to be an appropriate indicator of heavy metal pollution (Idris et al., 2007). These phenomena were described by previous study in the river watershed where the sediment load is significant in the transport of pollutants (Olsen et al., 1989). Sediments in estuaries have multiple sources with the main sources being rivers, offshore and littoral areas and the banks of estuaries themselves (Burton, 1988). Their secondary sources such as from the sediment flocculation that occurs at low-high salinity contact is also an important phenomenon with regard to elemental behavior (Olivarez and Owen, 1991). The transportation and mixing of those different sources of input can be explained largely through the measurement of the chemical composition in the sediments (Idris et al., 2007).

Concentrations of trace metals in estuaries can be elevated due to high inputs from natural as well as anthropogenic sources (Alemdaroglu et al., 2003; Heyvaert et al., 2000). Recently Yap et al. (2002, 2003) reported the existing Pb and Cu concentration in the sediments of Malaysian west coast. The studies regarding geochemical profile of sediments in east coast of Malaysia is still scanty. In recent years, Pahang River estuary has been heavily impacted by discharges from municipal and industrial outflows. This was due to the rapid development of the area via expansion of the industrialization area as well as the increase in population. Sand mining and fishing activities are the main activities in this area and is the catalyst for other supportive industries to develop around the area. In view of the importance of the estuary to various aspects of the environment, research on the concentration of heavy metals as well as their distribution pattern in sediment was carried out.


Sampling sites and samples collection: The study was carried out at Pahang River estuary which located at Pekan and situated 50 km south of Kuantan, Malaysia (Fig. 1). This area has a humid tropical climate with two monsoon periods, characterized by bimodal pattern: southwest and northeast monsoons bringing an annual rainfall which varies between 1488 and 3071 mm. The Pekan river is mostly influenced by the semidiurnal tides and the riverbanks provides suitable habitat for mangroves at downstream but dominated by Nypa at upstream due to low salinity and soft bottom sediment. A total of 62 bottom sediments were collected using a Smith McIntyre at Pahang river-estuary during 2008. Collected samples were transferred to the polyethylene bags and labelled properly and transported to the laboratory prior to the analysis. Samples were kept in hot air oven at 60°C for 7 days to remove the moisture content and finely powdered for further analysis.

Heavy metal analysis: Acid digestion method were adopted to determine the total Cr, Mn and Co levels in the sediment samples following the published methods with some modifications (Defew et al., 2005; Munksgaard et al., 1998; Yuan et al., 2004). An inductively-coupled plasma mass spectrometer (ICP-MS) was used for the precise determination of Cr, Mn and Co in the digested sediment. The digestion processes involved heating up 50 mg of a fine powdered sample in a sealed Teflon vessel, with a 1.5 mL of mixed acid solution (concentrated HF, HNO3 and HCl). The Teflon vessel was kept at 150°C for 5 h. After cooling, 3.0 mL of mixed solution of EDTA and boric acid were added and the vessels were heated again at 150°C for 5 h. After cooling, the content of the vessels were transferred into a 15 mL polypropylene test tube and were dilute to 10 mL with deionized water. The precision were assessed by the replicate analysis which was less than 3%.


In general, the distributions pattern of Cr, Mn and Co in the sediments of Pahang river-estuary showed an increased concentration towards the downstream area. This phenomenon might be due to the effects of prevailing water salinity that has apparent influence on the distribution of selected metals. Similar observation was also reported by Callaway et al. (1998), who stated that the water salinity could influence in changing the heavy metals from insoluble form to a soluble form that might be easily trapped by fine sediments.

Image for - Distribution of Chromium, Manganese and Cobalt in the Bottom Sediment of Pahang River-Estuary, Pahang, Malaysia
Fig. 1: Location of the study area showing sampling site along Pahang River-Estuary

Image for - Distribution of Chromium, Manganese and Cobalt in the Bottom Sediment of Pahang River-Estuary, Pahang, Malaysia
Fig. 2: The distribution pattern of Chromium (Cr) in Pahang River-estuary, Pahang, Malaysia

Image for - Distribution of Chromium, Manganese and Cobalt in the Bottom Sediment of Pahang River-Estuary, Pahang, Malaysia
Fig. 3: The distribution pattern of Manganese (Mn) in Pahang River-estuary, Pahang

Besides, the complex sediment-water system, speed of water current, sediment matrix, availability and possible toxicity of contaminants are influenced by physic-chemical factors such as redox gradient, pH, salinity and temperature which in-turn determine the amount of heavy metal absorption by the superficial sediments (Ankley et al., 1992; Leivouri, 1998; Maher and Aislabie, 1992) .

The concentration of Cr in the bottom sediment ranged between 26.80 and 114.13 μg g-1 dry weights with mean concentration of 62.80±20.04 μg g-1 dry weights (Fig. 2). For Mn, the average concentration observed was 416.21±127.41 μg g-1 dry weights, which varied between 160.59 and 633.43 μg g-1 dry weights (Fig. 3). The concentration of Co was relatively low, ranging between 3.06 and 15.23 μg g-1 dry weights, with mean concentration value of 7.93±3.25 μg g-1 dry weights (Fig. 4). Overall, the concentration of the selected heavy metals was relatively lower when compared with their respective average shale values (Table 1). The observed concentration of Cr, Mn and Co from the present study were comparable with other estuarine and coastal sediments such as more intensely developed areas of Penang on the west coast of Malaysia and Terengganu River (Kamaruzzaman et al., 2004; Khalik et al., 1997).

It was report that the change in chemical composition of sediment from different sampling stations had direct influence on the absorption of different heavy metals at different rates (El-Nemr et al., 2007; Liu et al., 2003). The variations in heavy metal accumulation at different stations also depend on the rate and sources of contaminations, hence it is necessary do determine the pollution level of the study area. The Enrichment Factors (EF) for all the elements were calculated to determine the pollution status of the study area.

Image for - Distribution of Chromium, Manganese and Cobalt in the Bottom Sediment of Pahang River-Estuary, Pahang, Malaysia
Fig. 4: The distribution pattern of Cobalt (Co) in Pahang River-estuary, Pahang

Table 1: The observed concentration of Cr, Mn and Co in the present study were compared with available data from previous studies
Image for - Distribution of Chromium, Manganese and Cobalt in the Bottom Sediment of Pahang River-Estuary, Pahang, Malaysia

Table 2: EF-value with respect to crustal ratios based on mean concentration determined in bottom sediments of Pahang river-estuary
Image for - Distribution of Chromium, Manganese and Cobalt in the Bottom Sediment of Pahang River-Estuary, Pahang, Malaysia

Enrichment Factors (EFs) values lesser than 1.0 are considered to be non-significant, because such small enrichments might arise from difference in the composition of local soil material and reference soil used in EFs calculations (El-Nemr et al., 2007; Liu et al., 2003). The Efs value was calculated by the equation below:

Image for - Distribution of Chromium, Manganese and Cobalt in the Bottom Sediment of Pahang River-Estuary, Pahang, Malaysia

where, (CX/CAl)sample is the ratio of concentration of the element being tested (CX) to that of (CAl) in the sediment sample and (CX/CAl)crust is the same ratio in unpolluted reference baseline (Szefer et al., 1996). Mason’s soil composition was used as the reference and Al was used as normalizing element (Weijden, 2002; Tanner et al., 2000). The calculated EF values showed that the heavy metal accumulation in the sediments was not due to anthropogenic activities (Table 2).


The Chromium (Cr), Manganese (Mn) and Cobalt (Co) distributions in Pahang river-estuary showed lower concentrations in the upstream and become higher towards the downstream sampling points. The calculated EF values showed that the sediments distribution occurs naturally and not greatly caused by anthropogenic and human activities. Anthropogenic sources from the fishing activities and industrial area at the upstream might be the major reason contributing insignificant heavy metal accumulation at the estuarine system and thus it can be conclude that there were no serious heavy metal contaminations in the study area. It is also to be noted that study related to heavy metal contamination along the coastal areas of Malaysia is still scanty. A detailed and comprehensive study could be carried out to explore the existing status of various heavy metal contamination along the coastal waters of Peninsular Malaysia.


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