This work aimed to evaluate whether the performance of passive sampling devices in measuring time-weighted average (TWA) concentrations supports their application in regulatory monitoring of trace metals in surface waters, such as for the European Union's Water Framework Directive (WFD). The ability of the Chemcatcher® and the diffusive gradient in thin film (DGT) device sampler to provide comparable TWA concentrations of Cd, Cu, Ni, Pb and Zn was tested through consecutive and overlapping deployments (7–28 days) in the River Meuse (The Netherlands). In order to evaluate the consistency of these TWA labile metal concentrations, these were assessed against total and filtered concentrations measured at relatively high frequencies by two teams using standard monitoring procedures, and metal species predicted by equilibrium speciation modeling using Visual MINTEQ. For Cd and Zn, the concentrations obtained with filtered water samples and the passive sampling devices were generally similar. The samplers consistently underestimated filtered concentrations of Cu and Ni, in agreement with their respective predicted speciation. For Pb, a small labile fraction was mainly responsible for low sampler accumulation and hence high measurement uncertainty. While only the high frequency of spot sampling procedures enabled the observation of higher Cd concentrations during the first 14 days, consecutive DGT deployments were able to detect it and provide a reasonable estimate of ambient concentrations. The range of concentrations measured by spot and passive sampling, for exposures up to 28 days, demonstrated that both modes of monitoring were equally reliable. Passive sampling provides information that cannot be obtained by a realistic spot sampling frequency and this may impact on the ability to detect trends and assess monitoring data against environmental quality standards when concentrations fluctuate.
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