Assessment of heavy metal concentration in water around the proposed Mkuju River Uranium Project in Tanzania

Firmi P. Banzi, Peter K. Msaki, Najat K. Mohammed


Effective verification for compliance with water quality standards in uranium mining in Tanzania requires data sensitive to monitor heavy metal concentration in water around the Mkuju River Uranium Project before mining commences. The area susceptible for pollution by the project was estimated using AERMOD dispersion model and found to cover about 1300 km2. Thirty one surface and groundwater samples were collected and analysed for heavy metals and physicochemical properties using ICP-MS and standards techniques, respectively. The physicochemical properties for water samples analysed ranges from 5.7 to 7.8 for pH, 2.8 to 80.2 mg/L for TDS and 15 to 534.5 mS/cm for EC. These values show that the water in the vicinity of the Mkuju River Uranium Project is normal. The ranges of concentration of heavy metals (μgL-1) determined in water ranges were: Al(2 to 9049), Cr(0.2 to 19.96), Mn (0.1 to 1452),Fe(2 to 53890),Co(0.02 to 27.63), Ni(0.2 to 9.7), Cu(2 to 17), Zn(2 to 62.94), As(0.4 to 19.17), Cd(0.02 to 0.14), Pb (0.02 to 78.68), Th (0.002 to 1.73),U(0.002 to 29.76). These values are below the tolerance levels of concentrations set by different International organisations. Therefore heavy metal toxicity in the study area is marginal. The parameters that could serve as baseline data because of their enhanced sensitivity to pollution were (i) concentration of chromium, cobalt, nickel, copper, zinc, arsenic, cadmium and lead in water (ii) pH, TDS and EC for water, (iii) TDS ratio for surface to ground water values and (iv) correlation coefficients between the heavy metals. However, since TDS values are season dependent, this indicator can serve as baseline data when measured during the dry season as was the case in the study.

Keywords: Baseline, Heavy Metal Pollution, Mkuju River Project, Uranium Mining, Water Pollution

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