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Toxicity of treated bilge water: The need for revised regulatory control

Journal article
Authors Peter Tiselius
Kerstin Magnusson
Published in Marine Pollution Bulletin
Volume 114
Issue 2
Pages 860–866
ISSN 0025-326X
Publication year 2017
Published at Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences, Kristineberg
Pages 860–866
Language en
Keywords Toxicity, Bilge water, Oil pollution, Surfactants, Copepods, Microtox
Subject categories Marine ecology


Water accumulating in the bottom of ships (bilge water), contains a mixture of oil, detergents and other compounds from on board activities. To evaluate ecological effects of released bilge water the chemical composition and toxicity of treated bilge water from seven passenger ships was analysed. The oil content was below 15 mg L− 1, the threshold for legal discharge, in all but one ship. Still, significant reductions in feeding and reproduction of Acartia tonsa were found after 48 h exposure in dilutions with 2.5–5% of bilge water. Mortality was significant at dilutions of 5–10% in 4 of the 5 bilge water samples. Surfactants were the most significant contributor to the toxicity on copepod vital rates and survival. Toxicity was also tested with Microtox where an EC50 was found at dilutions between 4.3% and 52%. The results show that ecological effects might occur also in diluted suspensions of bilge water.

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