Author(s): Van Genderen EJ, Ryan AC, Tomasso JR, Klaine SJ
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Abstract The hardness-based regulatory approach for Cu prescribes an extrapolation of the toxicity-versus-hardness relationship to low hardness (< or =50 mg/L as CaCO3). Hence, the objective of the present research was to evaluate the influences of water quality on acute Cu toxicity to larval fathead minnow (Pimephales promelas) in low-hardness surface waters. Seasonal water sampling was conducted at 24 sites throughout South Carolina, USA, to determine the site-specific influences of soft surface-water conditions on acute Cu toxicity. Concurrent toxicity tests in laboratory water, matched for hardness and alkalinity (modified method), also were conducted to allow calculation of water-effect ratios (WERs). In addition, tests were conducted at recommended hardness levels (recommended method) for comparison of WER methodology in soft water. Surface-water conditions (average+/-standard deviation, n = 53) were hardness of 16+/-8 mg/L as CaCO3, alkalinity of 18+/-11 mg/L as CaCO3, and dissolved organic carbon of 6+/-4 mg/L. Dissolved Cu 48-h median lethal concentration (LC50) values varied nearly 45-fold across the dataset and greater than four-fold at individual sites. Spatial (p < 0.0001) and seasonal (p = 0.026) differences among LC50 values were determined for eight sites that had multiple toxicity results for one year. All modified WERs were greater than 1.0, suggesting that the site waters were more protective of Cu toxicity than the matched laboratory water. Some WERs generated using recommended methods were less than 1.0, suggesting limited site-specific protection. Based on these observations, extrapolation of the hardness-based equation for Cu at 50 mg/L or less as CaCO3 would adequately protect fathead minnow populations in soft surface waters. The WER results presented here demonstrate the inconsistency between hardness-based criteria and the methodology for deriving site-specific water-quality criteria in low-hardness waters.
This article was published in Environ Toxicol Chem
and referenced in Journal of Pollution Effects & Control