The effects of motorway runoff on freshwater ecosystems: 2. Identifying major toxicants

Lorraine Maltby, Alistair B.A. Boxall, David M. Forrow, Peter Calow, Clifford I. Betton

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    115 Scopus citations


    Previous studies have provided prima facie evidence that runoff from the Ml motorway, UK, affects both the quality of the receiving water and the biota living there, in sites short distances from point sources —i.e., possible worst‐case situations. Because discharges contain a wide variety of contaminants, both the identification of toxicants and the establishment of causal relationships between observed changes in water/sediment quality and biology are often difficult. In this particular case, the problem was addressed by conducting a series of toxicity tests using the benthic amphipod Gammarus pulex. The abundance of this species was greatly reduced downstream of the point where motorway runoff entered the stream. Stream water contaminated with motorway runoff was not toxic to G. pulex. However, exposure to contaminated sediments resulted in a slight reduction in survival over 14 d, and sediment manipulation experiments identified hydrocarbons, copper, and zinc as potential toxicants. Spiking experiments confirmed the importance of hydrocarbons, and fractionation studies indicated that most of the observed toxicity was due to the fraction containing polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Animals exposed to contaminated sediments and water spiked with sediment extract accumulated aromatic hydrocarbons in direct proportion to exposure concentrations.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)1093-1101
    Number of pages9
    JournalEnvironmental Toxicology and Chemistry
    Issue number6
    StatePublished - Jun 1995


    • Gammarus pulex
    • Hydrocarbons
    • Motorway runoff
    • Sediment toxicity
    • TIE


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