Severe impacts of the Brumadinho dam failure (Minas Gerais, Brazil) on the water quality of the Paraopeba River

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On 25 January 2019, Córrego do Feijão's tailing dam at Brumadinho city (Minas Gerais, Brazil) breached, leaving over 250 people dead. At least 12 million cubic meters of ore tailing were spread into Paraopeba River and the surrounding area. To evaluate the short-term impacts of the Brumadinho dam rupture on the environment, we performed biogeochemical, microbiological and ecotoxicological analyses across 464 km of the Paraopeba River in the week following the disaster (1 February 2019) and four months latter (27–29 May 2019). Immediately after the disaster, the water turbidity was 3000 NTU, 30 times greater than the standard recommended by the Brazilian Resolution for Water Quality (CONAMA 357). Up to a 60-fold increase in iron tolerant microbial colony forming unities was observed up to 115 km downstream of the dam failure in May 2019 (compared with February 2019), suggesting changes in microbial metabolic profiles. In the second sampling (May 2019), the ecotoxicological analyses indicate higher zebrafish embryo mortality (up to ~85% embryo mortality) rates in Retiro Baixo (304 km from dam failure location). However, increased zebrafish mortality in Retiro Baixo and Três Marias reservoirs may not be related exclusively to the dam failure. The causal nexus of mortality may be associated with other factors (e.g. local sewage pollution). Our study suggests that independent monitoring programs are needed to quantify the extent of potential impacts caused by the anthropogenic use of the river and to promote the recovery of the impacted area.
Thompson F, Oliveira BC, Cordeiro MC, Masi BP., Rangel TP, Paz P, et al. Severe impacts of the Brumadinho dam failure (Minas Gerais, Brazil) on the water quality of the Paraopeba River. Sci. Total Environ.. 2020 Feb;705:135914. doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2019.135914.
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