Comparison of methods for conducting marine and estuarine sediment porewater toxicity tests—extraction, storage, and handling techniques

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Abstract

A series of studies was conducted to compare different porewater extraction techniques and to evaluate the effects of sediment and porewater storage conditions on the toxicity of pore water, using assays with the sea urchin Arbacia punctulata. If care is taken in the selection of materials, several different porewater extraction techniques (pressurized squeezing, centrifugation, vacuum) yield samples with similar toxicity. Where the primary contaminants of concern are highly hydrophobic organic compounds, centrifugation is the method of choice for minimizing the loss of contaminants during the extraction procedure. No difference was found in the toxicity of pore water obtained with the Teflon® and polyvinyl chloride pressurized extraction devices. Different types of filters in the squeeze extraction devices apparently adsorbed soluble contaminants to varying degrees. The amount of fine suspended particulate material remaining in the pore water after the initial extraction varied among the methods. For most of the sediments tested, freezing and thawing did not affect the toxicity of porewater samples obtained by the pressurized squeeze extraction method. Pore water obtained by other methods (centrifugation, vacuum) and frozen without additional removal of suspended particulates by centrifugation may exhibit increased toxicity compared with the unfrozen sample.

The toxicity of pore water extracted from refrigerated (4°C) sediments exhibited substantial short-term (days, weeks) changes. Similarly, sediment pore water extracted over time from a simulated amphipod solid-phase toxicity test changed substantially in toxicity. For the sediments tested, the direction and magnitude of change in toxicity of pore water extracted from both refrigerated and solid-phase test sediments was unpredictable.