School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford, Oxford OX1 3QY, UK; Oxford Molecular Biosensors, Centre for Innovation and Enterprise, Begbroke, Oxford OX5 1PF, UK. Electronic address: [Email]
Pollution in rapidly urbanising cities and in delta systems is a serious problem that blights the lives and livelihoods of millions of people, damaging and restricting potable water supply and supplies to industry (Whitehead et al, 2015, 2018). Employing new technology based on luminescent molecular biosensors, the toxicity in the rivers around Dhaka in Bangladesh, namely the Turag, Tongi, Balu and Buriganga, has been assessed. Samples taken at 36 sites during medium and low flow conditions and during the Bishwa Ijtema Festival revealed high levels of cell toxicity, as well as high concentrations of metals, particularly aluminium, cadmium, chromium, iron, zinc, lithium, selenium and nickel. Chemical analysis also revealed low dissolved oxygen levels and anoxic conditions in the rivers at certain sites. The bacterial molecular biosensors were demonstrated to be fast, with results in 30 min, robust and a highly sensitive method for the assessment of water toxicity in the field. Furthermore, the biosensor toxicity analysis correlated with the metals data, and a multivariate regression relationship was developed relating toxicity to key metals, such a selenium, zinc and chromium. The resulting model has been validated against split samples and the Bishwa Ijtema Festival data. The combination of modelling and the molecular biosensor technology provides a new approach to detecting and managing pollution in urban river systems.