Journal of Water Resource and Protection, 2012, 4, 493-496
http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/jwarp.2012.47057 Published Online July 2012 (http://www.SciRP.org/journal/jwarp)
Biochemical Approach to Assess Groundwater Pollution
by Petroleum Hydrocarbons (Case Skikda Algeria)
Sofiane Labar1, Azzedine Hani2, Larbi Djabri2
1Institute of Sciences of Nature and Life, University of El-Tarf, El-Tarf, Algeria
2Department of Geology, University of Annaba, Annaba, Algeria
Received February 3, 2012; revised March 10, 2012; accepted April 16, 2012
Due to the accelerated population growth and development in all sectors especially industry, more water has been
pumped and more effluents have been rejected to the natural system. In the coastal Skikda Valley; Petrochemical indus-
try is practiced along the year and almost groundwater are threatened. This work is referred to the characterization of
the environmental hydrobiochemistry in the coastal petrochemical industrial area. The study has investigated the
groundwater pollution by hydrocarbons using biochemical approach and assessing the nature and extent of contamina-
tion of groundwater in relation to petroleum industrial activities surrounding tank, channel and pipe. At site of this in-
dustrial zone, groundwater circulates on slight deep in the mio-pliocene alluviums (sand and gravel) which is character-
ized by an important permeability. Groundwater quality analysis proved that groundwater quality is largely polluted
with respect to BOD5, COD, TPH and TSS. So, a narrow relationship between BOD and TPH and important qualitative
degradation of the groundwater is shown, especially in the parts situated in the down gradient area and in direct prox-
imity of tank, channel and pipe. The extent of groundwater contamination is influencing by the depth of the water table,
permeability of the soil and therefore infiltratio n rate. In order to prevent further pollu tion of groundwater, o il must be
stored and transported via impervious tank, pipe and channel. So, effluents must be treated prior to discharge.
Keywords: Groundwater; TPH; Biochemical Parameters; BOD5; Algeria
Groundwater is one of the most precious natural re-
sources in the north east of Algeria as it is the principal
source of drinking water for the majority of the popula-
tion. The groundwater aquifer of Skikda region is ex-
tremely susceptible to surface-derived contamination be-
cause of the high permeability of sands and gravels that
compose the soil profile of East Skikda region [1-3]. Se-
veral studies in Skikda region reported various degrada-
tions levels of groundwater as one of the major concerns
among the public and governmental decision makers
[1-4], but these studies did not include a biochemical
approach to evaluate groundwater contamination.
Skikda city is located in the northeast of Algeria and
occupies an area of around 4138 km2. The population has
increased greatly to some 800,000 inhabitants. The de-
mographical development and the intensification of the
economic industrial activities in Skikda have been ac-
companied by an increase in demand for water. There are
about 135 groundwater wells in the Skikda region and
the amount of groundwater abstracted from these wells
has been estimated to be about 52 hm3 per year with 12
hm3 per year being abstracted from the industrial zone.
Such large industrial demands on groundwater have
caused water quality and the contamination of ground-
water in this coastal zone to become an extremely im-
portant issue for industrial groundwater supply. Ground-
water contamination should be largely dependent on pe-
troleum industrial waste and effluents of channel, tank
and or pipe. This study was designed to elucidate the hy-
drobiochemical characteristics and the contamination of
groundwater by hydrocarbons by using a biochemical
approach according to industrialization and land use pat-
The remainder of this paper is organized as follows. In
Section 2 we present an overview of the general charac-
teristics of the study site. Section 3 presents materiel and
methods and how biohemical approach is used. Related
work and results is discussed in Section 4, and finally,
the paper is conclud ed with an outlook on future work in
2. Site Characteristics
The study of the vulnerability of groundwater to pollu-
tion using natural characteristics by means of the
DRASTIC method  has sho wn that our area is located
opyright © 2012 SciRes. JWARP
S. LABAR ET AL.
in the zone of moderate to high vulnerability. The cli-
mate is of humid type with an annual rainfall of 733 mm,
a mean annual temperature of 18˚C and the prevailing
winds direction is from the industrial towards the resi-
dential part of the city. The total infiltration in the allu-
vial water-table of Skikda is around 33% of the total
rainfall, approximat ely 240 mm per year infiltrates t hrough
soil to the water table. The studied zone, which is a part
of northeast Algerian coast, is formed by a Paleozoic
substratum overlaid by Mesozoic and mio-plioquaternary
continental and lagoonal sediments. The aquifer system
is characterized by a superficial table (alluviums “15 m
of thickness”) and a captiv e table which is fundamentally
constituted by gravels (gravel table, “10 - 40 m of thick-
3. Material and Methods
Many monthly surveys of the piezometric level and geo-
chemical analysis have been monitored on dry and wet
period. The analyses are carried out on network of 19
piezometers (one to two wells per km2) surrounding tank ,
channel and pipe. Three samples of industrial effluents
were sampled from a drainage channel within the Indus-
trial zone. The temperature (T), pH and electrical con-
ductivity (EC) were measured in situ using a handheld
meter (WTW Multiline P3 PH/LF-SET, CellOx 325).
The concentration of chloride (Cl–), carbonates (3
and sulfates (4) were measured using the volumetric
method . The total suspended solids (TSS) was deter-
mined by filtration through a standard GF/F glass fiber
filter (NF EN 872). The chemical o xyg en demand (COD)
was measured by COD meter (Tract 42 mm RIN 29/32
and refrigerant RIN 29/32). The biochemical oxygen
demand (BOD5) was measured by intelligent system
BOD meter (W TW DIN 38 4 09). Th e pho sph a te (
Nitrate (3), Nitrite (2), and ammonium (4
were analyzed by colorimetery method using spectro-
photometer (Spectronic 20 D). The total petroleum hy-
drocarbons (TPH) was measured and calculated by in-
frared (IR) determination. The piezometric level map
was grided by the golden Software Surfer (Version 9.8),
using the Kriging method.
4. Results and Discussion
4.1. Piezometric Level Study
The groundwater table (Figure 1) is characterized by
shallow depths (generally inferior to 7 m with a mini-
mum of 0.8 m). These depths were observed down the
gradient of the drainage channel and in the coastal zone.
The over flow direction of the aquifer was SW-NE. The
presence of shallow depth piezometric level within the
coastal area indicates a seawater intrusion in the Indus-
trial zone. However, this potential source of pollution has
Figure 1. Piezometric level map (m).
been stimulated by effluent of seawater pumped to chill
hot industrial equipments .
So, the conductivity in the source of the effluent of
seawater pumped is about 22 ms/cm and 8 ms/cm in the
drainage channel (average 4 ms/cm in all effluent points,
Table 1) but in the groun dwater at the same area is about
2 ms /cm.
4.2. Chemical Composition of Effluents
The effluents originating from industrial factories are
highly concentrated (Table 1) with copper sulfate (938
mg/l), nitrates (24 mg/l) and phosphates (9 mg/l). These
high values of nitrates and phosphates explain the eutro-
phication of ground water in this petroleum industrial
4.3. Characterization of Pollution
The pollution of groundwater by organics was characte-
rized by high values of total hydrocarbons (Figures 2, 3
and 4) above limit suggested by the World health Or-
ganization (0.001 mg/l)  on all most throughout the
year  near tank, channel and pipe (Figures 3 and 4).
The biochemical pollution identified by biochemical
parameters  (BOD5, COD, TSS) has shown for a dry
and a wet periods above target value by a high concen-
tration of BOD and COD for all effluent and groundwa-
ter points (Figures 2, 3 and 4). Some rivers (Kebir-Est,
Bounamoussa and Seybousse) of El-Tarf nearest region
have shown the same case of pollution by organics 
but without petroleum hydrocarbons because the specific
agricultural activities in this site.
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. JWARP
S. LABAR ET AL.
Table 1. Basic statistics of chemical parameters of water effluent samples (2010-2011).
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
PH EC µs/cm Cl– mg/l 2
Min 6.83 962 102 96 281 28 0 1 0.5
Max 7.65 9729 1799 2450 1244 37 0.26 44 21
Average 7.173 3915.333 739.303 888.637 605.324 33.304 0.109 15.701 7.819
St. Dev. 0.426 5034.998 923.795 1351.897 552.843 5.130 0.135 24.671 11.8
Min 7.45 883 68 74 272 19 0 0.8 2
Max 8.35 8930 1642 2235 1156 30 0.24 40 20
Average 7.827 3593.667 598.701 802.269 570.005 25.436 0.1 14.125 7.322
St. Dev. 0.27 2668.279 903.984 1240.898 507.45 1 5.632 0.124 22.646 10.630
Figure 2. Spatial evolution of biochemical pollution (BOD5,
COD and TSS). Figure 4. Spatial evolution of pollution and relationship
between biochemical parameters and TPH on a wet period
(High level of groundw ater ).
the parts situated in the down gradient area and in direct
proximity of tank, channel and pipe.
Our hydrobiochemical study by using a biochemical
approach to identify water pollution by hydrocarbons
shows that groundwater in the vicinity of petroleum in-
dustrial effluents are characterized by high level of bio-
chemical and organically pollution especially due to its
locations near tank pipe and drainage channel.
The biochemical approach especially with biochemical
oxygen demand (BOD5) presents good results for asse-
ssing groundwater contamination by hydrocarbons (crude
Figure 3. Spatial evolution of pollution and relationship
between biochemical parameters and TPH on a dry period
(Low level of groundwater ).
Certainly exposure to crude petroleum (crude oil), or
its complex chemical constituents, can cau se to xic effects
in humans, livestock and other animal species .
Figure 3 shows that the quality of groundwater on a
dry period is characterized by high effects of tank, chan-
nel and pipe. To prevent further deterioration of groundwater qua-
lity a number of measures are recommended, namely:
Figure 4 shows that the quality of groundwater on a
wet period is characterized by high effects of tank and
pipe. So, a moderate effect by channel because of dilu-
tion by precipitat i o n.
To establish an appropriate system for the collection,
treatment and discharge of effluents;
Introduce impermeable surfaces in the tank, the drain-
age channels and pipe e.g. using clay or high density
polyethylene geomembrane or other suitable structure
Figures 3 and 4 both show clearly a narrow relation-
ship between BOD and TPH and important qualitative
degradation of the groundwater is shown, especially in
S. LABAR ET AL.
To monitor groundwater quality carefully across a
network of representative wells over an extended time
Although crude oils from various geological areas are
known to cause various biochemical and cytological alte-
rations in animal species .
Biochemical changes in cytochrome P-450 (CYP)
isoforms and associated polysubstrate monooxygenase
(PSMO) activities in animals exposed to various lipo-
philic substances are reported to be valuable biomarkers
of early-stage systemic events .
It’s important to study the systemic effects of low
doses of an ACO on selected PSMO activities and the
distribution of biomarker chemicals (hydrocarbons) to
adipose tissues in animals like rats .
We are grateful to director of Skikda environmental di-
rection and the staff of the health, security and environ-
ment (HSE) department of the company of management
of the industrial zone of Skikda “EGZIK”. The ground
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