Identification and Confirmation of Ammonia Toxicity in Contaminated Sediments using a Modified Toxicity Identification Evaluation Approach
Toxicity identification of sediment pore waters from four sites in the upper Scheldt (Belgium) was assessed using a simplified and discriminative toxicity identification evaluation procedure. The samples from all locations exhibited acute toxicity toward the freshwater crustaceanThamnocephalus platyurus. Toxicity was removed or considerably reduced by the cation exchange resins and air stripping at pH 11. In addition, the toxicity of the pore waters was found to be highly pH dependent. Increased toxicity was observed at higher pH levels, whereas reduced toxicity was found at lower pH levels. Based on these results, ammonia was suggested as the main toxic agent. The presence of ammonia concentrations exceeding the 24 h median lethal concentration and comparison of the toxicity characterization profiles of the pore waters with those of the suspected toxicant supported this hypothesis. Furhtermore, a significant positive correlation between the observed toxicity of the pore waters and the expected toxicity (due to the presence of the suspected toxicant) confirmed ammonia as the true toxic agent. Finally, the ratio between the expected ammonia toxicity and the observed toxicity from the characterization tests was approx. 1, meaning that all or most of the observed toxicity was caused by the presence of one toxicant (i.e., ammonia). The developed toxicity identification evaluation procedure is suggested as a useful tool for the identification and confirmation of toxicants in contaminated sediments.
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