This study determined the influence of key water chemistry parameters (pH, alkalinity, dissolved organic carbon [DOC], and hardness) on the aqueous speciation of copper and zinc and its relationship to the acute toxicity of these metals to the cladoceran Ceriodaphnia cf dubia. Immobilization tests were performed for 48-h in synthetic or natural waters buffered at various pH values from 5.5 to 8.4 (other chemical parameters held constant). The toxicity of copper to C. cf dubia decreased fivefold with increasing pH, whereas the toxicity of zinc increased fivefold with increasing pH. The effect of DOC on copper and zinc toxicity to C. cf dubia was determined using natural fulvic acid in the synthetic water. Increasing DOC was found to decrease linearly the toxicity of copper, with the mean effect concentration of copper that immobilized 50% of the cladocerans (EC50) value 45 times higher at 10 mg/L, relative to 0.1 mg/L DOC at pH 6.5. In contrast, the addition of 10 mg/L DOC only resulted in a very small (1.3-fold) reduction in the toxicity of zinc to C. cf dubia. Copper toxicity to C. cf dubia generally did not vary as a function of hardness, whereas zinc toxicity was reduced by a factor of only two, with an increase in water hardness from 44 to 374 mg CaCO3/L. Increasing bicarbonate alkalinity of synthetic waters (30–125 mg/L as CaCO3) decreased the toxicity of copper up to fivefold, which mainly could be attributed to the formation of copper-carbonate complexes, in addition to a pH effect. The toxicity of copper added to a range of natural waters with varying DOC content, pH, and hardness was consistent with the toxicity predicted using the data obtained from the synthetic waters.
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