Two simple and straightforward analytical procedures for the screening of sediment samples are reported. They involve extraction with ethyl acetate or methanol and subsequent' analysis by means of gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) using large-volume injection (LVI) or solid-phase extraction (SPE). The latter, which was originally developed for the analysis of aqueous samples, can be used without any modification. In general, 10 ml of organic solvent were added to 2 g of sediment, and the mixture was shaken and allowed to stand overnight. The methanolic extracts were then diluted in water and subjected to preconcentration and analysis using on-line SPE-GCMS. The ethyl acetate extracts were injected directly into the GC using LVI. Both methods were used for the detection and identification of microcontaminants during a monitoring study of the river Nitra (Slovak Republic). They included polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), chlorofluorohydrocarbons, alkoxylated and alkylated phenols and benzothiazole derivatives. Semi-quantitative profiles of the contaminants were constructed and provisionally interpreted. The results indicate that SPE-GC-MS, and also LVI-GC-MS, have good potential for a rapid screening of sediment samples and the identification of microcontaminants. The analytical procedures pose no problems, and the on- line set-up is user-friendly. (C) 2000 Elsevier Science Ltd.