The quality of Caí river water (Rio Grande do Sul State) in an area under the influence of a petrochemical complex was studied using the micronucleus assay in erythrocytes from peripheral blood of the fathead minnow Pimephales promelas. This cytogenetic in vivo assay was performed to evaluate the effects of petrochemical effluents on the stream. Organisms were exposed to samples collected at four sites, during an 11-month period. Three different exposure periods were used (7, 14, and 21 days) to evaluate their influence in genotoxic detection. The 14-day exposure period was most effective in detecting genotoxicity in samples from this area. The presence of substances with clastogenic and/or aneugenic potential could be detected at the different sites analyzed. This in vivo assay allowed the detection of genotoxicity in the area studied, indicating the potential for environmental genotoxicity monitoring.