Impact of chirano gold mines operations on levels of As, Pb, Hg AND Cd in the suraw river and the possible health implications on downstream communities.
Suraw River water quality awareness and preference survey conducted in five immediate downstream communities indicated that the residents were very much aware of the changes that have occurred since the commencement of active mining by CGML last quarter in 2004. Notwithstanding the residents overwhelming preference for the borehole water for their basic water needs including drinking, some people still rely on the River water when they go to their farms. Suraw River which principally drains the surface waters of Chirano Gold Mines operational area was investigated to assess the levels of As, Cd, Pb and Hg in the River water, bottom sediments and community borehole water using Atomic Absorption Spectrophotometer and Inductively Coupled Plasma - Optical Emission Spectroscopy (ICP – OES) for the water and sediments respectively. The results of the study generally showed low to below laboratory detection levels for the four heavy metals under investigation. The occurrence of Arsenic in more than half of the sampling sites in both the Suraw River and the community boreholes and particularly its detection at S1 in the surface water samples are most probably as a result of natural background levels. Except Cadmium which exceeded the Lowest Effect Level (LEL) in the sediment samples, the concentration of As, Pb and Hg were below the LEL of toxicity. The concentration of Cd also exceeded the Threshold Effect and the Probable Effect Levels but lower than the Severe Effect Level o f sediment toxicity at five of the six sampling sites. The study has shown that the concentration of the four heavy metals investigated in both the Suraw River and the community borehole water were lower than expected compared with WHO/GWCL Drinking Water Standards and were within acceptable limits for potable water and therefore do not pose any immediate health risk to residents and settler farmers who still depend on the River water for their basic water needs. Apart from the concentration of Cd in the River sediments which showed consistent increase along the course of the River, concentration of the rest of the heavy metals investigated were all below the LEL and do not have any detrimental ecological impact on freshwater flora and fauna.
A Thesis submitted to the School of Graduate Studies, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the Degree of Master of Science, July-2011