STP1007

    Using Single-Species and Whole Ecosystem Tests to Characterize the Toxicity of a Sewage Treatment Plant Effluent

    Published: Jan 1988


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    Abstract

    A four-month experiment was conducted to evaluate the toxicity of a sewage effluent using both single-species and whole ecosystem tests. Fresh effluent from the East Greenwich, Rhode Island, sewage treatment plant was added daily to six experimental ecosystems (mesocosms). Sewage effluent additions were made at 0.1, 1.0, and 10% of the daily seawater input (960 L/day) from Narragansett Bay. Reagent grade, inorganic nutrients were added to the control, 0.1% and 1.0% effluent treatments to normalize nutrient loadings in all treatments. The Arbacia punctulata sea urchin sperm cell test was conducted on effluent and mesocosm samples. In the mesocosms, measurements of responses at the population, community, and ecosystem levels of biological organization were made.

    The single-species toxicity test indicated the mean EC50 of the sewage effluent was 1.1%. Toxicity decayed rapidly over time, and was unrelated to carbon, nutrient, residual chlorine, or metal concentrations. Toxicity in the mesocosms was variable due to short-term (4 to 5 h), incomplete mixing of the effluent. There was no evidence for a buildup of toxicity in the mesocosms. Mesocosm effluent additions decreased phytoplankton standing stock and produced an imbalance between total system production and respiration leading to hypoxia. At the 10% effluent loading, net system production was negative.

    Results indicated both single-species and mesocosm approaches were useful to assess toxicity. The single-species test was best utilized to characterize the magnitude and persistence of toxicity, and the mesocosm experiments were best employed to identify sensitive communities and processes.

    Keywords:

    toxicity testing, microcosms, mesocosms, ecosystem-level effects, system production, system respiration, dissolved oxygen, Arbacia punctulata, aquatic toxicology


    Author Information:

    Frithsen, JB
    Associate marine scientist and professor of oceanography, Marine Ecosystems Research Laboratory, Graduate School of Oceanography, University of Rhode Island, Narragansett, RI

    Oviatt, C
    Associate marine scientist and professor of oceanography, Marine Ecosystems Research Laboratory, Graduate School of Oceanography, University of Rhode Island, Narragansett, RI

    Nacci, D
    Associate biologists, Science Applications International Corp., c/o U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Environmental Research Laboratory, Narragansett, RI

    Strobel, CJ
    Associate biologists, Science Applications International Corp., c/o U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Environmental Research Laboratory, Narragansett, RI

    Walsh, R
    Associate biologists, Science Applications International Corp., c/o U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Environmental Research Laboratory, Narragansett, RI


    Paper ID: STP10292S

    Committee/Subcommittee: E47.01

    DOI: 10.1520/STP10292S


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