• Toxicity identification evaluation;
  • Hyalella azteca;
  • Pyrethroid;
  • Carboxylesterase


The New River (CA, USA) was created in 1905 to 1907 when the Colorado River washed out diversionary works and flowed into the Salton Basin, creating the Salton Sea. Approximately 70% of the river's current flow is agricultural wastewater from the Imperial Valley. The river is contaminated with pesticides, industrial organic chemicals, metals, nutrients, bacteria, and silt. Monitoring for the State of California Surface Water Ambient Monitoring Program has indicated persistent water column toxicity to the epibenthic amphipod Hyalella azteca. Four toxicity identification evaluations (TIEs), along with chemical analyses, were performed, and the results indicated multiple and varying causes of toxicity. The first two TIEs characterized the causes of toxicity as a combination of metals and organics, but only the second sample contained enough total copper to contribute to toxicity. The third TIE used an emerging method for characterizing and identifying toxicity caused by pyrethroid pesticides. This TIE characterized organics as the cause of toxicity, and a carboxylesterase enzyme treatment further identified the cause of toxicity as pyrethroids. The final TIE used the enzyme and Phase II procedures to identify cypermethrin as the cause of toxicity. The TIE results demonstrate the evolving causes of toxicity in the New River and should assist regulators with implementing the total maximum daily load process for pesticides, particularly pyrethroids. Further research will determine if pyrethroids and other New River contaminants are having an impact on the Salton Sea.