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Chemosphere. 1999 Sep;39(6):1001-17.

Sediment toxicity and stormwater runoff in a contaminated receiving system: consideration of different bioassays in the laboratory and field.

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  • 1Zoology Department, Oregon State University, Corvallis 97331.


Several field and laboratory assays were employed below an urban storm sewer outfall to define the relationship between stormwater runoff and contaminant effects. Specifically, two bioassays that measure feeding rate as a toxicological endpoint were employed in the field and in the laboratory, along with bioassays measuring survival and growth of test organisms. In 7 to 10 d in situ exposures, amphipod leaf disc processing, growth and survival were monitored. Different exposure scenarios were investigated by varying the mesh size (74 microns or 250 microns mesh) and method of deployment (water column, sediment surface, or containing sediment) of in situ exposure chambers. Hyalella azteca, Daphnia magna, and Pimephales promelas survival were monitored in 48 h in situ exposures. Feeding inhibition was investigated via enzyme inhibition of H. azteca and D. magna and via leaf disc processing measurements of the detritivore H. azteca. Additionally, we investigated the extent of phototoxicity at this site via field exposures in sun and shade and laboratory exposures with and without UV light. The measurement of detritivore leaf disc processing, and thus its usefulness as an endpoint, was hindered by individual variability in the amount of leaf consumed and by leaf weight gain during the summer field exposures. For D. magna, enzyme inhibition measured in a laboratory exposure did not reveal the toxicity observed in field exposures. For H. azteca, enzyme inhibition measured in the laboratory indicated toxicity similar to that observed in short term chronic in situ exposures. Enzyme inhibition also did not detect differences in toxicity due to variations in flow conditions. There were no statistically significant effects of any exposure on P. promelas survival or H. azteca growth, and there were no statistically significant effects due to mesh size or sun exposure. Survival of H. azteca was the most sensitive and the least variable endpoint. Effects on survival were noted in the same treatments over short-term chronic exposures in the laboratory and in situ. Significant differences in survival were noted due to the method of deployment under low flow conditions. In situ chambers containing sediment resulted in greater mortality in the 10 d low flow in situ experiments. Under high flow conditions, significant reductions in survival and leaf disc processing were noted under all methods of deployment at the two impacted sites over a 7 d exposure. Also under high flow conditions, significantly greater mortality of H. azteca was reported at the downstream field site when sediment was included in the chamber at deployment. These results suggest that significant toxicity at this site is due to accumulation of contaminants in the sediment and the mobilization of these contaminants during a storm event. In situ exposures detected toxicity not observed in laboratory exposures. These results suggest that a combination of laboratory and field bioassays is most useful in defining field effects.

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