The potential for biosensors to contribute to on-line toxicity testing for monitoring of water quality is currently constrained both by the relevance of the biosensors available and the technology for biosensor delivery. This paper reports the use of novel slow release biosensor delivery for on-line monitoring instrumentation, with environmentally relevant bacteria for both simple toxicity testing and more complex toxicity fingerprinting of industrial effluents. The on-line toxicity test, using bioluminescence-based biosensors, proved to be as sensitive and reliable as the corresponding batch test, with comparable contaminant EC(50) values from both methods. Toxicity fingerprinting through the investigation of the kinetics (dose-response) and the dynamics (response with time) of the biosensor test response proved to be diagnostic of both effluent type and composition. Furthermore, the slow release of biosensors immobilised in a polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) matrix greatly improved biosensor delivery, did not affect the sensitivity of toxicity testing, and demonstrated great potential for inclusion in on-line monitoring instrumentation.