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Ecological risk assessment of a subtropical river influenced by discharges of residues from water and sewage treatment plants

Angélica Megda Silva (Instituto de Pesquisas Energéticas e Nucleares – IPEN, São Paulo, Brazil)
Denis Abessa (UNESP, São Vicente, Brazil)
Paulo Augusto Zaitune Pamplin (Instituto de Ciência e Tecnologia, Universidade Federal de Alfenas, Poços de Caldas, Brazil)
Maria Beatriz Bohrer-Morel (Instituto de Pesquisas Energéticas e Nucleares – IPEN, São Paulo, Brazil)

Management of Environmental Quality

ISSN: 1477-7835

Article publication date: 13 March 2017




The São Lourenço River (SLR) is used to supply potable waters for the cities of São Lourenço da Serra and Juquitiba, but receives the residues from the water treatment plants (WTPs) and sewage treatment plants (STPs), respectively. The purpose of this paper is to evaluate the impacts of the discharges of Juquitiba’s WTP and STP on the quality of the SLR, by using an integrated approach based on different lines of evidence.


Six sampling sites were established along the river and comprised areas situated upstream and downstream of the discharges. Five sampling surveys were performed between 2004 and 2006 for collecting water and sediment samples for ecotoxicological assays. In two of these campaigns, benthic community structure and geochemistry (metals, nutrients and sediment texture) were also assessed.


Concentrations of P, Fe and Al in waters exceeded the national standards, but sediments were not considered to be contaminated by metals or nutrients. Water and sediments tended to exhibit marginal toxicities, excluding the sediments from JQT007 and JQT008 that were frequently toxic. Combination of geochemistry, toxicity and ecological indices indicated that some sites are not degraded, but in some stations the benthic alteration may be due to non-measured contaminants, especially in JQT007 and JQT008.

Practical implications

As the use of waters from SLR for public supply has increased, these results show that action should be taken in order to reverse the environmental degradation of SRL.


This research combined sediment and water quality assessments in order to provide a more suitable and reliable diagnostic of the environmental quality of the SLR.



The authors thank the colleagues from CQMA-IPEN for the support, and Drs Luiz Ricardo Lopes de Simone and Gustavo Augusto Schmidt de Melo (Zoology Museum from USP), for the identification of mollusks and crustaceans, respectively. The authors are also grateful to the FUNDESPA, TECAM and SABESP, for the logistical support. The authors would like to thank the São Paulo State Research Foundation (FAPESP; Grant No. 2004/10085-4) for the financial support.


Silva, A.M., Abessa, D., Pamplin, P.A.Z. and Bohrer-Morel, M.B. (2017), "Ecological risk assessment of a subtropical river influenced by discharges of residues from water and sewage treatment plants", Management of Environmental Quality, Vol. 28 No. 2, pp. 156-174.



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