Cross River serves as a major source of drinking water, transportation, agricultural activities and fishing in Cross River State, Nigeria. Since there is no formal control of effluents discharged into the river, it is important to monitor the levels of metals contaminants in it, thus assessing its suitability for domestic and agricultural use. In order to determine this, three sampling stations designated as Ikom (Station I), Obubra Ogada (Station II) and Calabar (Station III) were randomly selected to study. For this, ten samples of the freshwater Silver Catfish (Chryshchythys nigrogitatus) (29.4-39.5cm SL, 310-510g), sediment and water were collected from each sampling Station from June 2009-June 2010. The heavy metals profiles of Zn, Cu, Fe, Co, Pb, Cd and Cr, in water, sediments and fish muscle were analyzed by atomic absorption spectrophotometry (AAS). In fish, the heavy metals concentration was found to be Cu>Fe>Zn>Cu>Pb>Cd>Co; the highest mean concentration of Copper (0.297±0.022 μg/g), Cadmium (0.011±0.007μg/g), Iron (0.371±0.489μg/g), Lead (0.008±0.008μg/g), were determined for the fish. In water, the order was found to be Fe>Pb>Zn>Cu>Cr>Cd>Co; the highest mean concentration of Iron (0.009±0.00μg/g), Copper (0.015±0.01 μg/g), Lead (0.0002±0.00μg/g) Cadmium (0.0006±0.001μg/g), Zinc (0.0036±0.003μg/g), were observed in the surface water, respectively. The highest mean concentration of Copper (0.037±0.03μg/g), Iron (0.053±0.04μg/g), Lead (0.0002±0.00μg/g), Cobalt (0.0002±0.00μg/g), Cadmium (0.0006±0.001μg/g) and Zinc (.009±0.0015μg/g) was observed in the bottom water. In sediments, the concentration order found was Zn>Fe>Cu>Pb>Co>Cd; the highest mean concentration of 0.057±0.04μg/g, 0.043±0.03μg/g, 0.0006±0.00μg/g, 0.0002±0.00μg/g, 0.0009±0.00μg/g, 0.099±0.00404μg/g in Iron, Copper, Lead, Cobalt, Cadmium and Zinc were observed in the sediment, respectively; Chromium was not detected in the sediment for the whole sampling area. Most of the heavy metals were below the maximum allowable levels set by the WHO, FEPA and USEPA, except Zinc which mean concentration of 0.099±0.00404μg/g was above the recommended limit of 0.0766μg/g of USEPA in the sediment at Ikom. This implies that the waste assimilation capacity of the river is high, a phenomenon that could be ascribed to dilution, sedimentation and continuous water exchange. This is an indication that an urban and industrial waste discharged into the Cross River has a significant effect on the ecological balance of the river. Thus fish species from the Cross River harvested are safe for human consumption.
Keywords: cross river, maximum limit, fish, water, sediment, heavy metals