Correspondence between whole effluent toxicity and the presence of priority substances in complex industrial effluents

Authors

  • Helen C. Sarakinos,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Biology, McGill University, 1205 Docteur Penfield, Montreal, Quebec H3A 1B1, Canada
    Current affiliation:
    1. The current address of H.C. Sarakinos is University of California, John Muir Institute of the Environment, Davis, CA 95616, USA.
    • Department of Biology, McGill University, 1205 Docteur Penfield, Montreal, Quebec H3A 1B1, Canada
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  • Norman Bermingham,

    1. St. Lawrence Center, Environment Canada, 105 McGill Avenue, Montreal, Quebec H2Y 2E7, Canada
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  • Paul A. White,

    1. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, NHEERL, Atlantic Ecology Division, Narragansett, Rhode Island 02882
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  • Joseph B. Rasmussen

    1. Department of Biology, McGill University, 1205 Docteur Penfield, Montreal, Quebec H3A 1B1, Canada
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Abstract

The purpose of this study was to examine broad-scale correlation between presence of priority substances and whole effluent toxicity (WET) across a range of industry types. Using regression analysis, we examined how chemical-based inferred toxicity predicted measured WET of the effluents. Whole effluent toxicity was determined using a suite of acute and chronic bioassays; chemical-based toxicity was inferred from concentrations of priority chemicals and from published chemical toxicity values. When inferred toxicity was corrected for bioavailable metal and ion concentrations, 43% of the variability in measured toxicity was explained. For many industries, priority contaminants accounted for WET, and their toxic action was generally additive. However, industry-specific analysis of the residuals highlighted effluent types for which there was over one order of magnitude variation in inferred and measured toxicity. In particular, chemical-based assessments tended to overestimate toxicity of effluents containing high concentrations of metals and to underestimate toxicity of pulp mill effluents.

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