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Heavy Metals in Sediments of the Upper Hawkesbury-Nepean River

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There is little published information on heavy metals in surficial sediments of the upper Hawkesbury-Nepean River in central New South Wales, Australia. In the current investigation, the fine fraction (<62.5 µm) of 90 sediment samples taken from this section of the river was analysed by flame-Atomic Absorption Spectroscopy for nine heavy metals (Ag, Cd, Pb, Zn, Cu Co, Fe, Ni and Mn) to determine background and enrichment.

 Sediment in the upper Hawkesbury-Nepean River is not heavily polluted by heavy metals. Maximum enrichment over background for Ni and Ag, Cd, Pb, Zn, Cu and Mn is 3x, 5.7x, 6x, 6.7x, 12x and 13.6x, respectively. Mean heavy metal concentrations for this, the upper section of the river, are about half the mean values for the Hawkesbury River between Windsor and Broken Bay in the lower, estuarine section of the river.

 The highest Cu, Pb and Zn concentrations (214, 108 and 334 mg kg−1, respectively) occur in surficial sediments in Peachtree Creek at Penrith and the Nepean River near Jacksons Lane, Castlereagh. These metal concentrations are possibly associated with industrial activity at Penrith. Two of the six sewage treatment plants on the upper Hawkesbury-Nepean River are associated with high metal concentrations (Cu, Zn, Fe and Mn) in sediments, that is, the West Camden and Penrith sewage treatment plants. Other possible sources of heavy metals are coal mining and washing which occurs at several places in the upper catchment.

 The highest Cd, Co and Fe concentrations (1.7, 27.6 mg kg−1 and 4.81%, respectively) were found in sediments 400 m downstream of the Nepean Dam and the highest concentrations of Ni and Mn (54 and 790 mg kg−1, respectively) were located in sediment from the Nepean River at Moresby Hill Road Bridge, near Robertson and at the Avon Dam Road Bridge. The source of these metals is unknown.

Keywords: Hawkesbury-Nepean River; flame AAS; heavy metals; surface sediments

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: University of Western Sydney E-mail:, Email: 2: University of Sydney

Publication date: 2003-07-01

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