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Environ Monit Assess. 2002 Jun;76(3):311-52.

A ten year summary of concurrent ambient water column and sediment toxicity tests in the Chesapeake Bay watershed: 1990-1999.

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University of Maryland System, Agricultural Experiment Station, Wye Research and Education Center, Queenstown, USA.


The goal of this study was to identify the relative toxicity of ambient areas in the Chesapeake Bay watershed by using a suite of concurrent water column and sediment toxicity tests at seventy-five ambient stations in 20 Chesapeake Bay rivers from 1990 through 1999. Spatial and temporal variability was examined at selected locations throughout the 10 yr study. Inorganic and organic contaminants were evaluated in ambient water and sediment concurrently with water column and sediment tests to assess possible causes of toxicity although absolute causality can not be established. Multivariate statistical analysis was used to develop a multiple endpoint toxicity index (TOX-INDEX) at each station for both water column and sediment toxicity data. Water column tests from the 10 yr testing period showed that 49% of the time, some degree of toxicity was reported. The most toxic sites based on water column results were located in urbanized areas such as the Anacostia River, Elizabeth River and the Middle River. Water quality criteria for copper, lead, mercury, nickel and zinc were exceeded at one or more of these sites. Water column toxicity was also reported in localized areas of the South and Chester Rivers. Both spatial and temporal variability was reported from the suite of water column toxicity tests. Some degree of sediment toxicity was reported from 62% of the tests conducted during the ten year period. The Elizabeth River and Baltimore Harbor stations were reported as the most toxic areas based on sediment results. Sediment toxicity guidelines were exceeded for one or more of the following metals at these two locations: arsenic, cadmium, chromium, copper, lead, nickel and zinc. At the Elizabeth River stations nine of sixteen semi-volatile organics and two of seven pesticides measured exceeded the ER-M values in 1990. Ambient sediment toxicity tests in the Elizabeth River in 1996 showed reduced toxicity. Various semi-volatile organics exceeded the ER-M values at a number of Baltimore Harbor sites; pyrene and dibenzo(a,h)anthracene were particularly high at one of the stations (Northwest Harbor). Localized sediment toxicity was also reported in the Chester, James, Magothy, Rappahannock, and Potomac Rivers but the link with contaminants was not determined. Both spatial and temporal variability was less for sediment toxicity data when compared with water column toxicity data. A comparison of water column and sediment toxicity data for the various stations over the 10 yr study showed that approximately half the time agreement occurred (either both suite of tests showed toxicity or neither suite of tests showed toxicity).

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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