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EPA EcoBox

EPA EcoBox Tools by Effects - Aquatic


AquaticMany sources, including databases and publications, contain information for characterizing ecological effects of stressors to aquatic receptors—i.e., fish, benthic invertebratesHelpbenthic invertebratesAnimals without backbones that live on or in the sediments of a lake, pond, river, or other aquatic system., and aquatic plants. Toxicity Reference Values (TRVs) available for use in ecological risk assessment include water quality criteria and sediment quality criteria from several sources.

Aquatic life criteria are chemical concentration goals to protect surface water for aquatic life use. Aquatic life criteria provide protection for plants and animals that are found in surface waters. EPA develops these criteria as numeric limits on the amounts of chemicals that can be present in river, lake, or stream water without harm to aquatic life. Aquatic life criteria are designed to provide protection for both freshwater and saltwater aquatic organisms from the effects of acute (short-term) and chronic (long-term) exposure to potentially harmful stressors. Aquatic life criteria are based on toxicity information and are developed to protect aquatic organisms from death, slower growth, reduced reproduction, and the accumulation of harmful levels of toxic chemicals in their tissues that may adversely affect consumers of such organisms. EPA's compilation of national recommended water quality criteria contains recommended water quality criteria for the protection of aquatic life for approximately 150 pollutants. These criteria are published pursuant to Section 304(a) of the Clean Water Act (CWA).

Controlling the concentrations of stressors in sediment helps to protect bottom dwelling species and prevents contaminants from moving up the food chain and accumulating in the tissue of animals at progressively higher levels. This is particularly important at the lower levels of the food chain because the concentration of many pollutants may increase at each link in the food chain. EPA develops sediment guidance and technical support documents for managing sediment sites. These can be used for determining the concentrations or amounts of individual chemicals that can be present in river, lake, or stream sediments and still protect sediment-dwelling organisms--and ultimately animals higher in the food chain--from the harmful effects of toxic stressors.

EPA’s ECOTOXicology database (ECOTOX) is a source for locating single chemical toxicity data for aquatic life, terrestrial plants, and terrestrial wildlife. ECOTOX integrates three previously independent databases (AQUIRE, PHYTOTOX, and TERRETOX) into a unique system that includes toxicity data derived predominately from the peer-reviewed literature.

Other Federal agencies, state agencies, and some EPA regions have compiled screening criteria for evaluating effects to aquatic life. See the table below for links to these websites.

Federal Agency Websites

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

National Recommended Water Quality Criteria – Aquatic Life Criteria Table
Aquatic Life Benchmarks for Pesticide Registration
Ecological Soil Screening Level (Eco-SSl) Guidance and Documents

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Screening Quick Reference Tables (SQuiRTs)(34pp, 1.36 Mb, About PDF)
Sediment Quality Guidelines developed for the National Status and Trends Program(12 pp, 70 K, About PDF)
U.S. DOE Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) Ecological Benchmark Tool
Preliminary Remediation Goals for Ecological Endpoints (41 pp, 139 K, About PDF)
U.S. EPA Regional Websites
Region 3: Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, District of Columbia BTAG Freshwater Screening Benchmarks (8 pp, 79 K, About PDF)
BTAG Marine Screening Benchmarks (8 pp,77 K, About PDF)
Region 4: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee Region 4 Ecological Risk Assessment Supplemental Guidance Interim Draft (Surface Water and Sediment Screening Levels) (80 pp, 972 K, About PDF)
Region 5: Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Wisconsin Ecological Screening Levels (ARCHIVED in 2015) (14 pp, 159 K, About PDF)
Sediment Screening Values (ARCHIVED in 2015)
U.S. State Websites The following links exit the site Exit
California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA) Environmental Screening Levels
Florida Department of Environmental Protection (Florida DEP) Development and Evaluation of Numerical Sediment Quality Assessment Guidelines for Florida Inland Waters
Florida Sediment Guidelines
Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (Illinois EPA) Water Quality Standards Regulations
Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) Contaminated sediments
New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) Ecological Screening Criteria
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) Screening and Assessment of Contaminated Sediment
Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA) Guidance on Evaluating Sediment Contaminant Results
Water Quality Standards
Ohio Sediment Reference Values (SRVs)
Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) Determining PCLs for Surface Water and Sediment
Texas Risk Reduction Program (TRRP) Protective Concentration Levels
Washington Department of Ecology Sediment Management Standards
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Consensus-Based Sediment Quality Guidelines

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The resources listed below include tools that might be used to calculate dose/risk to aquatic biota as well as documents that describe how to quantify dose/risk or provide reference values/benchmarks for assessing risks.

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