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    Use of the Blue Mussel, Mytilus edulis, in Water Quality Toxicity Testing and In Situ Marine Biological Monitoring

    Published: 01 January 1990

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    An effort was undertaken at the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Environmental Research Laboratory, Narragansett (ERL-N), Rhode Island, to evaluate the integration of in situ biological monitoring with the blue mussel, Mytilus edulis L., into EPA's Complex Effluent Toxicity Testing Program. The scope for growth (SFG) index, an instantaneous measure of energy balance in an organism, was used to assess the physiological condition of the mussels. The initial step in this program, assessing the sensitivity of M. edulis to several known toxicants in the laboratory, indicated that the SFG of the mussel is comparable in sensitivity to those of other endpoints and test species currently used for assessing receiving waters. A second step involved using the mussel in situ to assess the impact of a municipal sewage outfall on receiving water quality in Greenwich Cove, East Greenwich, Rhode Island. This was completed twice; once before the initiation of an upgrade of the facility, and once when the upgrade was about half complete. Mussels were deployed along a dilution gradient from the sewage outfall to a control station for a period of one month. Subsets of mussels were collected after a 7-day and 30-day exposure period. The results of the first deployment, prior to the upgrade, indicated a significant decline in SFG after 7 days at stations located proximal to the sewage outfall. A similar spatial and temporal pattern was observed in mussels deployed for 30 days. The results of the second deployment, after a portion of the upgrade, indicated that there were no effects after the 7-day exposure and only a slight gradient in mussel SFG after 30 days, suggesting that the upgrade had a positive effect on water quality in Greenwich Cove. These data indicate also that in situ biological monitoring with mussels can be an effective method for assessing receiving water toxicity, including the evaluation of sewage treatment plant improvements, and that short-term tests (7-day) can be reflective of longer-term (30-day) chronic impacts.


    Mytilus edulis, biomonitoring, in situ, water quality, scope for growth, copper, chronic value, effluent toxicity

    Author Information:

    Nelson, WG
    Environmental Protection Agency, Environmental Research Labortory, Narragansett, RI

    Committee/Subcommittee: E47.09

    DOI: 10.1520/STP20105S