Although mining is essential for human economic development, is amongst the most polluting anthropogenic sources that influence seriously in water resources. Thus, understanding the presence and concentration of heavy metals in water and sediment in the vicinity of mines is important for the sustainability of the ecosystem. In this work, a multidisciplinary approach was developed to characterize the contamination level, source apportionment, co-existence, and degree of ecological and human health risks of HMs on water resources in the Vatukoula Goldmine region (VGR), Fiji. The outcomes suggested significant contamination by Cd (range: 0.01-0.95 g/L), Pb (range: 0.03-0.53 g/L), and Mn (range: 0.01-3.66 g/L) in water samples surpassed the level set by Fiji and international laws, whereas higher concentration of Cd (range: 2.60-23.16 mg/kg), Pb (range: 28.50-200.90 mg/kg) and Zn (range: 36.50-196.66 mg/kg) were detected in sediment samples. Lead demonstrated a strong significant co-existence network with other metals (e.g., Mn, Ni). Source apportionment recognized four source patterns (Cd, Pb, Ni, and Mn) for water and (Cr, Cd-Pb, Mn, and Zn) for sediment which was further confirmed by principal component analysis. The mine inputs source mainly contributed to Cd (66.07%) for water, while mineral processing mostly contributed to Zn (76.10%) for sediment. High non-carcinogenic (>1) and carcinogenic (>10-4) health risks, particularly in children, are related to the elevated Cd, Pb and Cr contents from the VGR. Uncertainty analysis demonstrates that the 90th quantile of Cd led to higher carcinogenic risk. Pollution indices disclosed a moderate to extremely contamination status mainly along the Toko dam which poses high ecological risks identified by index calculation. However, sediment quality indicators based on probable effect levels showed that there was a 75% of likelihood that the concentrations of Cd and Pb adjacent to the VGR have a severe toxic impact on aquatic lives.
Keywords: Environmental and ecological risks assessment; Health risks appraisal; Source apportionment; Statistical approaches; Water and sediment pollution.
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