• Bioavailability;
  • Creosote;
  • Earthworms;
  • Ecotoxicology;
  • Soil


Quantification of risks to the ecosystem is necessary for cost-effective remediation strategies. Contaminant endpoints need to be established that consider the bioavailability of toxicants in soil. The challenge is to develop methods that assign risk to the bioavailable toxic contaminants, thereby protecting ecosystems, while balancing remediation costs. Our objective was to evaluate changes in bioavailability of creosote constituents in soils to earthworms. An acute ecotoxicological investigation of three weathered creosote-contaminated and two slurry-phase-biotreated soils was conducted using a 14-d earthworm (Eisenia fetida) survival bioassay. Soil characterization (physical and chemical) and contaminant concentration data (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons [PAH] and total dichloromethane extractable organics [DEO]) were also determined. The toxicity of the soils could not always be predicted based on chemical concentrations alone. Soils having a low PAH:DEO ratio had higher cumulative earthworm survival times as measured by earthworm-days. We propose that the DEO fraction may regulate toxicity by altering bioavailability of toxicants.