Hydrophobic organic pollutants in urban wet weather discharges can accumulate in the sediments of receiving waters and may have adverse effects on the ecological system, especially on benthic organisms. Here, a novel method is developed for evaluating the bioavailability of such hydrophobic organic pollutants by considering the digestive guts in deposit-feeding polychaetes. We compared the amount of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) extracted by an organic solvent and by sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS) solution (as a hypothetical digestive gut fluid of polychaetes) and interpreted the ratio of the two values as bioavailability. The sediment extracts were applied to bacterial acute toxicity tests and algal growth inhibition tests. Sediment samples were collected from an urban stream system receiving wet weather discharges. The bioavailability of the total amount of 12 PAHs in the sediments was in the range 14–38% based on the results from the GC/MS determination of the two different extracts. Lower molecular PAHs showed higher bioavailability compared to the higher molecular ones. The sediment extracts were shown to be toxic towards both algae and bacteria. The SDS extracts showed similar or higher toxicity in the two biotests compared to the organic solvent extracts in spite of their lower PAHs content.

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