Assessment of metal and nutrient concentrations in river water and sediment collected from the cities in the Pearl River Delta, South China

K. C. Cheung, B. H.T. Poon, C. Y. Lan, Ming Hung WONG*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

274 Citations (Scopus)


The effects of anthropogenic activities, industrialization and urbanization on the accumulation of heavy metals and nutrients in sediments and water of rivers in the Pearl River Delta region were examined. Most sediments were seriously contaminated with Cd, Pb, and Zn in accordance with the classification by Hong Kong Environmental Protection Department. Total phosphorus (P) and nitrogen (N) concentrations in sediments ranged from 0.02% to 0.12% and 0.06% to 0.64%, respectively. High carbon (C), N, P and sulphur (S) levels at Yuen Long Creek were related to the discharge of industrial effluents along the river. The enrichment of P and ammoniacal-nitrogen (NH4+-N) in water were obvious. For most sites, the P concentration exceeded 0.1 mg/l, which is the recommended concentration in flowing water to encourage excessive growth of aquatic plants. Nine out of the 16 sites studied had NH4 +-N concentration over 2 mg/l. The rivers in the south of Deep Bay (Hong Kong) had high nutrient exports compared with the rivers in the east region and western oceanic water. The concentrations of nitrate-nitrogen NO 3--N in surface water were under the maximum contaminant level in public drinking water supplies (10 mg/l) except for one site. Although the concentrations of heavy metals in overlying water were low, their accumulations were significant. High contents of nickel (Ni) and zinc (Zn) in water were found at certain locations, suggesting the occurrence of some local contamination. These preliminary results indicated that river and sediment transported pollutants is likely one of the factors for the water quality degradation of Deep Bay water.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1431-1440
Number of pages10
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2003

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Chemistry(all)
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis

User-Defined Keywords

  • Heavy metals
  • Hong Kong Mai Po Marshes
  • Nutrient
  • Pearl River Delta
  • River sediment


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