Relative sensitivity of three freshwater benthic macroinvertebrates to ten contaminants

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The objective of this study was to determine the suitability of Hyalella azteca, Chironomus tentans and Lumbriculus variegatus as representative species for the assessment of sediment toxicity. Ten chemicals were tested at the U.S. EPA Environmental Research Laboratory-Duluth, always using H. azteca and C. tentans and, occasionally, L. variegatus. The exposures were water-only, flow-through tests with measured chemical concentrations, which were conducted for 10 days in Lake Superior water. Chemicals tested included five metals (copper, lead, zinc, nickel, cadmium) and five pesticides (chlorpyrifos, dieldrin, p,p′-DDD, p,p′-DDE, p,p′-DDT). The amphipod was quite sensitive to the metals, while the midge often was exceptionally sensitive to the pesticides. No one of the three species was most (or least) sensitive to the toxicants. Toxicity of the contaminants to the three species was compared to the genus mean acute and chronic data found in U.S. EPA Water Quality Criteria (WQC) documents, as well as information from the AQUIRE database. The results of these comparisons indicated that the three species reasonably represent the range of sensitivities of other aquatic test species, and occasionally are among the most sensitive species when compared to others in the WQC database.