Distribución de Fe, Zn, Pb, Cu, Cd y As originada por residuos mineros y aguas residuales en un transecto del Río Taxco en Guerrero, México

  • Miriam Méndez-Ramírez
  • María Aurora Armienta Hernández
Keywords: metals, arsenic, wastewaters, Taxco River, speciation, environmental mobility


Inadequate waste disposal from ore processing is one of the main inputs of metals to rivers where they are transported either in dissolved or in particulate form. Heavy metals’ and arsenic from metal-rich wastes may reach hazardous levels to humans and ecosystems, and constitute a negative influence on sustainable development. The present study focuses on determining the concentrations and speciation of dissolved and suspended particulate arsenic, cadmium, copper, lead, zinc and iron produced by the combined input of mine wastes and urban wastewater in the Taxco River. Water samples were collected along the river in both, dry and rainy seasons. Results showed near neutral or slightly basic pH values at most sites, dominated by bicarbonate, sulfate, calcium, sodium and magnesium as the main ions. The highest content of metals measured in the water at site TX3 close to tailings were: Fe and As, mainly in particulate form (54.5 mg/L and 0.047 mg/L respectively), Zn, Pb, Cu and Cd in dissolved form (245.83, 0.217, 3.94 and 1.73 mg/L respectively). Closeness of TX3 to mine tailings allows dragging of material by water and wind induced erosion. This process supplies metals, ions and acid drainage to the river water altering its composition mainly in the dry season (pH 2.8). A seasonal dilution factor was observed in the chemistry of the river, since in the dry season average flow of the studied transect was only 0.05 m3/s and in the rainy season the flow increased to 1.45 m3/s. Aqueous metal speciation, predicted using WATEQ4F software, reflected the influence of local geology, with presence of limestones, as well as sulfide oxidation of minerals within tailings. Speciation results data indicated that oxides, ohyhydroxides and carbonates are the main compounds controlling mobilization/immobilization processes of the studied metals. Metal concentrations over drinking water standards, as well as urban wastewater influence render the river water unsuitable for irrigation and as a drinking water source without a previous treatment, mainly at sites close to discharges and wastes. Environmental protection of the river implies avoiding direct wastewater discharges, as well as particle dragging and acid mine drainage input to the river that may be attained through the construction of physical barriers and water treatment systems.