The genotoxic and toxic potential of polluted surface water exposed to a fertilizer factory effluent was evaluated using assays with fish (Cyprinus carpio) and plant (Lemna minor) model organisms. Beside classical physicochemical parameters, the contents of fluorides, some heavy metals and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons were analyzed as well. Surface water caused inhibition of plant growth and decrease of photosynthetic pigment content. Regarding DNA damage and oxidative stress parameters, both fish and plants showed similar response to the surface water. In confirmation to biochemical markers, histopathological analysis of gill and liver tissues revealed a higher incidence of lesions in fish exposed to polluted surface water. Generally, results obtained by biological monitoring were mostly in agreement with chemical analysis of the surface water, although several discrepancies were observed which might be due to difference in sensitivity of model organisms or in experimental conditions (laboratory and field exposure). The results imply that conventional chemical analysis should be extended to genotoxicity/toxicity assays as measured biological effects and the potential health hazard cannot be predicted based on the physicochemical characteristics of water samples alone.