Graduation Year


Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


W.M. Keck Science Department

Second Department

Environment, Economics and Politics

Reader 1

Donald McFarlane

Reader 2

Elise Ferree

Terms of Use & License Information

Terms of Use for work posted in Scholarship@Claremont.

Rights Information

© 2014 Lia Kimiko Metzger


Pollution from industrial sources, such as leather tanneries, jewelry factories, car batteries, and construction refuse, has been linked to increased concentrations of toxic heavy metals in rivers in Costa Rica. This study focused on the concentrations of arsenic, cadmium, chromium, copper, nickel, and lead in sediment and water in Rio Baru, Costa Rica, which has not been previously studied. The concentrations in Rio Baru were compared to two controls and the Environmental Protection Agency toxicity limits to determine pollution levels. Inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry was utilized to determine the concentrations of heavy metals in water and sediment samples from Rio Baru, Terciopelo, and Rio Tarcoles. Watershed analysis for Rio Baru was expected to reveal mostly agricultural sources of contaminants. Rio Baru was predicted to have levels of inorganic heavy metals between Rio Tarcoles and Terciopelo, with Tarcoles containing the highest levels. As, Cr, and Ni in Rio Baru were between unpolluted levels in Terciopelo and polluted levels in Rio Tarcoles, but Rio Baru had lower concentrations of Cu and Pb than both Rio Tarcoles and Terciopelo. Analysis of watersheds determined that Rio Baru’s watershed contained intermediate ratios of human development and agricultural sources of pollution. Further comparisons of watershed size with total dissolved sediment levels found a positive linear relationship, indicating a portion of differences in heavy metal concentrations were due to watershed sizes. Concentrations of heavy metals in Rio Baru’s water were below toxic limits for drinking water and placed Rio Baru within “good” sediment levels for As, Cd, Cr, Ni, and Pb. As geochemistry and proximity to industrial sources was not accounted for in methodology, further research would be necessary for determination of natural concentrations of heavy metals in Rio Baru.

This thesis is restricted to the Claremont Colleges current faculty, students, and staff.