Predicting the toxicity of chromium in sediments

Authors

  • Walter J. Berry,

    Corresponding author
    1. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Research and Development, National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory, Atlantic Ecology Division, 27 Tarzwell Drive, Narragansett, Rhode Island 02882
    • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Research and Development, National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory, Atlantic Ecology Division, 27 Tarzwell Drive, Narragansett, Rhode Island 02882
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Warren S. Boothman,

    1. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Research and Development, National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory, Atlantic Ecology Division, 27 Tarzwell Drive, Narragansett, Rhode Island 02882
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Jonathan R. Serbst,

    1. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Research and Development, National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory, Atlantic Ecology Division, 27 Tarzwell Drive, Narragansett, Rhode Island 02882
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Philip A. Edwards

    1. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Research and Development, National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory, Atlantic Ecology Division, 27 Tarzwell Drive, Narragansett, Rhode Island 02882
    Search for more papers by this author

Abstract

Chromium exists in sediments in two oxidation states: Cr(III), which is relatively insoluble and nontoxic, and Cr(VI), which is much more soluble and toxic. Chromium(VI) is thermodynamically unstable in anoxic sediments, and acid-volatile sulfide (AVS) is formed only in anoxic sediments; therefore sediments with measurable AVS concentrations should not contain toxic Cr(VI). If this hypothesis holds true, measuring AVS could form the basis for a theoretically based guideline for Cr in sediments. Ten-day water-only and spiked sediment toxicity tests with the amphipod Ampelisca abdita were performed with Cr(VI) and Cr(III), along with sediments collected from a site contaminated with high concentrations of Cr. In sediments where AVS exceeded analytical detection limits, Cr concentrations in interstitial water were very low (<100 μg/L) and no significant toxicity to A. abdita was observed. In sediments in which AVS was not significantly greater than zero, Cr concentrations in interstitial waters increased significantly, with greater than 90% of the Cr present as Cr(VI), and mortality of A. abdita was elevated. These results demonstrate that measurements of AVS and interstitial water chromium can be useful in predicting the absence of acute effects from Cr contamination in sediments.

Ancillary