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Accounting for Toxicity Test Variability in Evaluating Test Results

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Limits on whole effluent toxicity (WET) now have been part of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) for more than a decade. While it is generally agreed that such limits are an important component of efforts to improve the quality of our nation's surface waters, implementation of WET limits in NPDES permits has been controversial since its inception. Two major issues at the source of the controversy have been (1) “how well do WET test results predict the actual toxic effects of an effluent to the aquatic communities present in receiving waters?” and (2) “how reliable are the tests for measuring effluent toxicity?” Over the past decade a large number of studies have been conducted to address both of these issues, but the issues have not been resolved satisfactorily. This paper presents the results of a research project addressing the precision of WET test procedures, and develops methods for incorporating variance estimators into EPA decisionmaking frameworks. In addition, a national data base of reference toxicity tests, a national data base of WET compliance test results, and a series of case studies are developed in support of the statistical analyses.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2002-01-01

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