Water quality monitoring of the Blyde River, Mpumalanga, and the effect of nickel and lead on selected fish species

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dc.contributor.advisor Prof. J.H.J. van Vuren en_US
dc.contributor.author Van Jaarsveldt, Deirdré
dc.date.accessioned 2012-09-11T09:44:43Z
dc.date.available 2012-09-11T09:44:43Z
dc.date.issued 2012-09-11
dc.date.submitted 1999
dc.identifier.uri http://hdl.handle.net/10210/7446
dc.description M.Sc. en_US
dc.description.abstract The water quality monitoring project undertaken on the Blyde River in Pilgrim's Rest and surrounding area, provided information on various parameters. These included the macro variables (pH, temperature, conductivity, dissolved oxygen concentration, oxygen saturation percentage and turbidity), micro variables (ionic and metal concentrations) and fauna (fish and invertebrates). Field and experimental data were integrated to form a realistic and representative picture of the general state of health of the Blyde River. The macro variables (pH, temperature, conductivity, dissolved oxygen concentration, oxygen saturation percentage and turbidity) were all within the guideline limits as provided by the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry. The ionic concentrations (calcium, magnesium, sodium, chloride and nitrate) were acceptable and conformed to guideline values. The aquatic macro-invertebrate and habitat quality survey indicated that most of the sampling sites could be described as good. Sampling site 2 (next to reduction works) was classified as poor. This is the result of mining activity at this specific site situated at the rock dump at Peach Tree Creek. The extensive disturbance of the habitat is the result of 130 years of mining activities. The metal concentrations in the Blyde River exceeded the guideline limits, except for manganese. Aluminium toxicity is pH dependent, and increases with a decrease in the pH. The alkaline pH in the Blyde River acts as a buffer against the aluminium toxicity. The lead concentration in the Blyde River exceeded the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry guideline limit. Lead is hazardous to most forms of life. Zinc is toxic to fish and aquatic organisms at relatively low concentrations. Although nickel is a natural element of the earth and water, mining activities cause nickel emissions and an increase in the nickel concentrations in water systems. Copper is regarded as a highly toxic metal if present in high concentrations. Iron is not easily absorbed by aquatic organisms and because of its limited toxicity and bioavailability, described as a noncritical element. Chromium is biologically inert. Despite of a lack of information on the concentrations of metals in the Blyde River before the onset of mining activities at Pilgrim's Rest, it is clear that the extensive disturbance of the habitat at Peach Tree Creek and Vaalhoek, and to a lesser extent at Delvers' Creek exists. Present and past mining activities in the Pilgrim's Rest area resulted in the deterioration of the water quality in the Blyde River. Rehabilitation of the area around the rock dump at Peach Tree Creek will have to be done to prevent seepage from the rock dump and disturbed area to the river. Measures, such as the construction of paddocks and berm walls to collect seepage before it reaches the river, will have to be implemented. The water will then have to be treated before releasing it into the river. The acute, sub-lethal toxicity tests with nickel and lead were conducted based on the concentrations as derived from water samples taken from the Blyde River, during the monitoring phase of the project. The results of the blood physiological experimentation indicated that normal physiological functioning were disturbed when fish were exposed to sub-lethal concentrations of lead and nickel. Results indicated that stimulation of the immune system, osmotic stress and hypoxic conditions arise after lead and nickel exposure. Hypoxia arises because of a deficiency in the amount of oxygen reaching bodily tissues. Osmotic stress is a result of affected gill and kidney functioning. The metabolic variables indicated that the metabolism of trout was affected, because of stress associated with metal exposure. The nervous system functioning was also, affected, as derived from the enzymatic variables. Taking these factors into consideration, the normal functioning and survival of rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) is hindered. The acute, lethal toxicity tests of nickel on rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) and chubby head barb (Barbus anoplus) were performed using nickel concentrations as determined in the Blyde River. The 100% mortalities recorded, when exposing the fish to these concentrations, indicated that the Blyde River provides a buffer action against the toxic effect of nickel on the aquatic organisms. Should this buffer action be disturbed, for instance a sudden drop in water pH, the toxicity of nickel will increase and have detrimental effects on the aquatic organisms. Further deterioration of the water quality in the Blyde River should be avoided at all cost. Large scale yellow fish (Barbus marequensis) were only found at sites below sampling site no 8, which is alarming and a further confirmation of habitat degradation. To prevent further degradation of the water quality in the Blyde River annual biomonitoring in conjunction with experimental studies are suggested to obtain information, which enables effective managerial decision making. Measurements should be taken to reduce the impacts of mining and agricultural activities, if future studies indicate further water quality degradation. Objectives regarding the health of the aquatic environment should be set and actions taken to prevent the impactors from doing further harm. The Pilgrim's Rest area can be developed for Eco-tourism, and therefore the aim should be to create awareness of the river and its surroundings and involve people in the conservation thereof. en_US
dc.language.iso en en_US
dc.subject Water quality management - South Africa - Blyde River en_US
dc.subject Water pollution - South Africa - Blyde River en_US
dc.subject Fishes - Effect of water pollution on - South Africa - Blyde River en_US
dc.title Water quality monitoring of the Blyde River, Mpumalanga, and the effect of nickel and lead on selected fish species en_US
dc.type Thesis en_US

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