Mercury in environmental samples from a waterbody contaminated by gold mining in Colombia, South America

Sci Total Environ. 1998 Jun 30;217(1-2):83-9. doi: 10.1016/s0048-9697(98)00175-2.


Environmental samples from a marsh, which receives mercury discharges from a gold mine in Colombia (South America), were evaluated for total mercury content. Mercury concentrations were analyzed in sediments, macrophytes and fish species from different trophic levels. The Mean mercury levels in sediments oscillated between 140 and 355 micrograms/kg whereas in the macrophyte Eichornia crassipes levels were between 219 and 277 microgram/kg with practically no interseasonal variations. The mercury content in the muscle of fish varied depending on the position in the trophic chain and the feeding habits of each species, oscillating between non-detectable (< 7.4 microgram/kg) and 1084 micrograms/kg. Seasonal variations were only observed in fish species whose habitats are mostly the bottom sediment. The presence of mercury in some fish appeared to be the result of bioaccumulation rather than a biomagnification processes. This was clearly evidenced in the detritivorous species Triportheus magdalenae which obtain their food within the sediments and whose mercury concentrations were significantly higher when compared to the other species including carnivorous. The relatively low mercury concentrations found in fish may be due to both the dispersion of the contaminant once it reaches the waterbody and the migrational characteristics of the fish species.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Colombia
  • Environmental Monitoring*
  • Fishes*
  • Gold
  • Mercury / analysis*
  • Mining*
  • Plants / chemistry*
  • Tissue Distribution
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / analysis*


  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Gold
  • Mercury