Sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3) is the principal salt in coal bed natural gas produced water from the Powder River Structural Basin, Wyoming, USA, and concentrations of up to 3000 mg NaHCO3/L have been documented at some locations. No adequate studies have been performed to assess the chronic effects of NaHCO3 exposure. The present study was initiated to investigate the chronic toxicity and define sublethal effects at the individual organism level to explain the mechanisms of NaHCO3 toxicity. Three chronic experiments were completed with fathead minnows (Pimephales promelas), 1 with white suckers (Catostomus commersoni), 1 with Ceriodaphnia dubia, and 1 with a freshwater mussel, (Lampsilis siliquoidea). The data demonstrated that approximately 500 mg NaHCO3/L to 1000 mg NaHCO3/L affected all species of experimental aquatic animals in chronic exposure conditions. Freshwater mussels were the least sensitive to NaHCO3 exposure, with a 10-d inhibition concentration that affects 20% of the sample population (IC20) of 952 mg NaHCO3/L. The IC20 for C. dubia was the smallest, at 359 mg NaHCO3/L. A significant decrease in sodium–potassium adenosine triphosphatase (Na+/K+ ATPase) together with the lack of growth effects suggests that Na+/K+ ATPase activity was shut down before the onset of death. Several histological anomalies, including increased incidence of necrotic cells, suggested that fish were adversely affected as a result of exposure to >450 mg NaHCO3/L.