Nine samples of whole effluent from the operation of an industrial plant over the course of one year, were tested on rainbow trout for lethality and on the rainbow trout gill cell line, RTgill-W1, for metabolic activity, plasma membrane integrity, and lysosomal activity, as measured by using the alamar Blue (AB), 5-carboxyfluorescein diacetate acetoxymethyl (CFDA-AM), and neutral red (NR) assays, respectively. None of the nine samples caused a loss of plasma membrane integrity, and only two caused a transitory decline in metabolism. Three samples caused massive vacuolisation in RTgill-W1 cells, which was accompanied by increased uptake of NR, and only these three samples were lethal to the rainbow trout. The addition of ammonia to RTgill-W1 cultures also induced vacuolisation and NR uptake, with little change in plasma membrane integrity or metabolism. Subsequently, the effluent source was identified as a nitrogen product producer, and variable levels of ammonia were found in the nine samples. Three of the four samples with the highest non-ionised ammonia levels were those which were toxic to rainbow trout and which caused vacuoles in RTgill-W1 cells. The close correlation between rainbow trout-killing and RTgill-W1 vacuolisation by the effluents, suggests that vacuolisation of RTgill-W1 cells could be used to indicate effluents which would be toxic to rainbow trout as a result of their ammonia content.