The accumulation of heavy metals by aquatic plants
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The pollution of water bodies by heavy metals is a serious threat to humanity. The technique known as phytoremediation is used to clean up these polluted water bodies. The accumulation of heavy metals by aquatic plants is a safer, . cheaper and friendlier manner of cleaning the environment. The aquatic plants -studied in this project are A.sessilis, P.stratiotes, R.steudelii and T.capensis. The accumulation of heavy metals in aquatic plants growing in waste water treatment ponds was investigated. The water, sludge and plants were collected from five maturation ponds at the Northern Waste Water Treatment Works, Sea Cow Lake, Durban. The samples were analysed for Zn, Mn, Cr, Ni, Pb and Cu using ICP-MS. In general it was found that the concentrations of the targeted metals were much lower in the water (0.002 to 0.109 mg/I) compared to sediment/sludge (44 to 1543mg/kg dry wt) and plants (0.4 to 2246 mg/kg dry wt). These results show that water released into the river from the final maturation pond has metal concentrations well below the maximum limits set by international environmental control bodies. It also shows that sediments act as good sinks for metals and that plants do uptake metals to a significant extent. Of the four plants investigated it was found that }t.sessi[ir (leaves, roots and stems) and }A.sessilis (roots and stems) are relatively good collectors of Mn and Cu respectively. These findings are described in the thesis. The concentration of heavy metals in the stems, leaves and roots of the three plants were compared to ascertain if there were differences in the ability of the plant at different parts of the plant to bioaccumulate the six heavy metals studied.