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Keywords:

  • Sediment toxicity;
  • Toxicity identification evaluations;
  • Nonionic organic contaminants;
  • Polyethylene samplers

Abstract

Marine and estuarine sediments accumulate contaminants and act as a sink for a wide range of toxic chemicals. As a result, the sediments themselves can become a source of contamination. At sufficient levels, contaminated sediments can cause benthic impairments and toxicity to marine organisms. Among the wide range of contaminants, nonionic organic contaminants (NOCs) are a primary cause of toxicity in marine sediments. Toxicity identification evaluations (TIEs) are used to characterize and identify chemicals causing toxicity in effluents, interstitial waters, and whole sediments using whole-organism endpoints. Phase I whole-sediment TIE methods for NOCs exist, but the development of phase II TIE methods for NOCs is a current research challenge. In the present study, the use of reverse polyethylene samplers (RePES) for phase II methods is examined. Various RePES designs were evaluated in an experimental design study with NOC chemical solutions. Based on equilibration time and proximity of measured NOC water concentrations in the reconstituted system to theoretical concentrations, a nontriolein design with loading of chemical solutions on the inside of the polyethylene tubing was chosen as most effective. A partitioning study demonstrated NOCs partitioned between the RePES and water as well as between the water and air, as expected using this nontriolein RePES design. Finally, a sediment toxicity study comparing the nontriolein RePES to contaminant-spiked sediments was conducted. The nontriolein RePES design was capable of successfully recreating the toxicity and water concentrations observed with the intact sediments.