Many studies investigating the ecotoxicological impacts of industrial effluents on freshwater biota utilize standardized test species such as the daphnids, Ceriodaphnia dubia, Daphnia magna, and the fathead minnow, Pimephales promelas. Such species may not be the most predictive or ecologically relevant gauges of the responses of instream benthic macroinvertebrates to certain stressors, such as total dissolved solids. An indigenous species approach should be adopted, using a sensitive benthic collector-filterer following development of practical laboratory bioassays. In the Leading Creek Watershed (southeast Ohio), an aggregated ∼ 99% reduction in mean mayfly abundance for all impacted sites was observed below a coal-mine effluent with mean specific conductivity (SC) of 8,109 (7,750–8,750) μS cm−1. The mayfly, Isonychia, was exposed for 7-days to a simulation of this effluent, in lotic microcosms. Based on lowest observable adverse effect concentrations, Isonychia survival was a more sensitive endpoint to SC (1,562 μS cm−1) than were 7-day C. dubia survival and fecundity (3,730 μS cm−1). Isonychia molting, a potentially more sensitive endpoint, was also examined. Using traditional test species to assess discharges to surface water alone may not adequately protect benthic macroinvertebrate assemblages in systems impaired by discharges high in SC.