This study sought to assess sediment contamination by trace metals (cadmium, chromium, cobalt, copper, manganese, nickel, lead and zinc), to localize contaminated sites and to identify environmental risk for aquatic organisms in Wadis of Kebir Rhumel basin in the Northeast of Algeria. Water and surficial sediments (0–5 cm) were sampled in winter, spring, summer and autumn from 37 sites along permanent Wadis of the Kebir Rhumel basin. Sediment trace metal contents were measured by Flame Atomic Absorption Spectroscopy. Trace metals median concentrations in sediments followed a decreasing order: Mn > Zn > Pb > Cr > Cu > Ni > Co > Cd. Extreme values (dry weights) of the trace metals are as follows: 0.6–3.4 μg/g for Cd, 10–216 μg/g for Cr, 9–446 μg/g for Cu, 3–20 μg/g for Co, 105–576 μg/g for Mn, 10–46 μg/g for Ni, 11–167 μg/g for Pb, and 38–641 μg/g for Zn. According to world natural concentrations, all sediments collected were considered as contaminated by one or more elements. Comparing measured concentrations with American guidelines (Threshold Effect Level: TEL and Probable Effect Level: PEL) showed that biological effects could be occasionally observed for cadmium, chromium, lead and nickel levels but frequently observed for copper and zinc levels. Sediment quality was shown to be excellent for cobalt and manganese but medium to bad for cadmium, chromium, copper, lead, nickel and zinc regardless of sites.
Keywords: contamination, ecotoxicological significance, Kebir Rhumel basin, sediments, trace metal