Document Type



Virginia Institute of Marine Science

Publication Date



Special scientific report (Virginia Institute of Marine Science) ; no. 133.


In response to concerns raised about the impacts of vegetable cultivation using plastic ground covers on water quality, we have initiated a broad-scale, systematic study of water quality in seaside tidal creeks of Virginia' s Eastern Shore. Our objective was to determine if acute toxicity associated with heavy metals or pesticides was more prevalent in tidal creeks with drainage areas which include this agricultural practice than in those which do not. Though such correlations do not confirm cause and effect, they may serve as the basis for future, more targeted investigations and for some immediate changes in land management practices which, regardless of the specific cause, are likely to produce some remediation.

Eleven study sites, located in six different watersheds, were selected to evaluate acute toxicity (from heavy metals and organic pesticides. Land use patterns and acreage within each watershed was determined from aerial photographs. The amount of vegetable plasti-culture in the watersheds of the study sites ranged from 0-13% of total acreage. An assay for heavy metals, based upon enzyme inhibition in a bacterial strain, was used to determine if up to seven metals (including copper) were present at acutely toxic levels. Both water samples and aqueous extracts of sediment samples were tested. A continuous series of 96 hr in situ bioassays using the grass shrimp, Palaemonetes pugio, were conducted from Aug. I, 1996 - Sept. 22, 1996 at each station to assay for toxicity from organic pesticides. Grass shrimp are known to be quite sensitive to insecticides and the in situ bioassay approach provides a continuous means of monitoring for toxic events.



Water quality -- Eastern Shore (Md. and Va.); Agricultural pollution -- Eastern Shore (Md. and Va.); Environmental quality; Pollution