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Environmental Health - Toxic Substances

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Program Science Features

Highlights of our latest research findings, and examples of application to real problems.

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USGS scientist Denis R. LeBlanc

DOI Distinguished Service Award Given to Two Program Scientists

Two USGS Toxic Substances Hydrology Program (TSHP) scientists, Denis R. LeBlanc and Dr. Michael T. Meyer, received the Department of Interior's (DOI) highest honor—the Distinguished Service Award. ...

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USGS scientists prepare a tracer solution in a gas impermeable bladder

USGS Scientists Measure New Bacterial Nitrogen Removal Process in Groundwater

For the first time, USGS, Virginia Institute of Marine Science, and the University of Connecticut scientists have detected active anammox bacteria in groundwater. ...

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Natural-color satellite image of Hurricane Sandy

Persistent Contaminant Threats Following Hurricane Sandy—Establishing Baselines and Assessing Impacts

Potential long-term contaminant threats resulting from compromised infrastructure, beach erosion, and sediment disturbance were evaluated in the coastal environments of New Jersey and New York in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. ...

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USGS scientist taking measurements of field parameters in a stream

Bacterial Pathogen Genes in Streams related to Animal Type and Hydrologic Conditions

A USGS study elucidates the influence of animal type and environmental variables on bacterial pathogen occurrence in streams under typical watershed conditions. ...

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Closes ups of mosquitofish anal fins - left are controls - right are exposed to levonorgestrel

Synthetic Progestin in Environmental Waters can Affect Fish Reproductive Development and Behavior

Scientists conducted laboratory experiments on levonorgestrel (a synthetic progestin) and observed differential effects to males (reproductive behavior) and females (masculinization) of eastern mosquitofish (Gambusia holbrooki) ...

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New section of a landfill under construction

Distinct Microbiomes Identified in Landfills Throughout the United States

A comprehensive study by USGS and scientists from the University of Oklahoma finds distinct microbial assemblages (microbiomes) in landfill leachate across the United States and investigates factors related to microbiome formation. ...

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Close up of a cyanobacteria bloom on Elsian Lake, Minnesota

New Study on Cyanotoxins in Lakes and Reservoirs Provides Insights into Assessing Health Risks

Newly published study provides new evidence of the widespread occurrence of cyanotoxins in lakes and reservoirs of the United States and offers new insights into measures used for assessing potential recreational health risks. ...

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Dairy cows in an animal feeding operation in New York

Iodinated Disinfection Byproducts found in Dairy-Impacted Wastewaters and Streams

Iodinated disinfection byproducts were found at stream locations downstream from treated discharge from wastewater treatment plants that receive dairy waste and in the wastewaters directly from dairy facilities. ...

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Class II injection well wastewater disposal facility with sorage tanks and tanker trucks

Indication of Unconventional Oil and Gas Wastewaters Found in Local Surface Waters

Evidence indicating the presence of wastewaters from unconventional oil and gas (UOG) production was found in surface waters and surficial sediments near an UOG disposal facility in West Virginia. ...

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USGS scientists collecting water-quality samples from shallow groundwater under Ashumet Pond

Importance of Lake Sediments in Removal of Cyanobacteria, Viruses, and Dissolved Organic Carbon

USGS scientists determined that the colmation layer (top 25 centimeters of lake sediments) was highly effective in removing cyanobacteria, viruses, and dissolved organic carbon during water passage through the lake bottom to aquifer sediments. ...

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USGS scientists collecting a water sample from a well at the USGS Bemidji Research Site

U.S. Geological Survey Identifies Crude-Oil Metabolites in Subsurface Plumes

USGS scientists studying two subsurface crude-oil spill sites in Minnesota measured concentrations of oil breakdown products (metabolites) at greater concentrations than parent compound concentrations. ...

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Dr. Edward T. Furlong in the laboratory

U.S. Geological Survey Scientist Recognized as Highly Cited Researcher

USGS scientist Dr. Edward T. Furlong has been designated a Thomson Reuters Highly Cited Researcher, ranking among the top 1 percent of researchers from 2003 to 2013 for most cited documents in their specific field (Environment/Ecology). ...

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USGS scientists collecting soil samples at a mine

U.S. Geological Survey Develops Approach to Assess Baseline Chemical and Radiological Conditions Prior to Uranium Mining near Grand Canyon National Park

USGS scientists developed an approach and collected baseline data to quantitatively assess offsite migration of mine-related contaminants and to identify critical contaminant exposure pathways that could result from uranium mining activities in the Grand Canyon region. ...

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USGS scientist collecting periphyton samples

U.S. Geological Survey Scientists Complete First Systematic Regional Survey of Algal Toxins in Streams of the Southeastern United States

USGS scientists detected microcystin—an algal toxin—in 39 percent of 75 streams assessed in the southeastern United States. These results will inform and become part of a larger, systematic national survey of algal toxins in small streams of the United States. ...

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Looking up at at power plant smoke stack

North American and European Atmospheric Mercury Declines Explained by Local and Regional Emission Reductions

Recent findings from a consortium of university, State, and USGS scientists indicate that declining atmospheric concentrations of mercury (Hg) can be explained by the phaseout of mercury in many commercial products and by reduced emissions from utilities over the past two decades. ...

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Two aerial images - photo of Florida area - MERIS sensor image

Remote Sensing Provides a National View of Cyanobacteria Blooms

Four Federal agencies, including the USGS, are collaborating to transform satellite data into information managers can use to protect ecological and human health from freshwater contaminated by harmful algal blooms. ...

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A scientist collects a groundwater sample with a syringe

Ethanol-Containing Fuel Spills Enhanced Natural Trace Element Release from Sediments in an Experimental Setting

Experimental field research simulating hydrocarbon spills by researchers from the USGS, Virginia Tech, and the University of St. Thomas showed that mixed ethanol and petroleum-based fuels increased the rate by which arsenic and other natural trace elements are released from aquifer sediments to groundwater when compared to petroleum-based fuels alone. ...

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A map that shows mercury source attribution in the Great Lakes

New Tool to Track Sources and Exposure Pathways of Mercury in the Environment — Application for Predatory Fish in the Great Lakes

The US Geological Survey (USGS) and collaborators at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have developed a new tool for attributing (fingerprinting) mercury sources to the Great Lakes. This new fingerprinting tool helps resource managers understand which mitigation strategies will be most effective for reducing mercury loading and exposure to fish and wildlife. ...

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Fathead minnow in a laboratory aquarium

Complex Mixtures, Complex Responses—Using Comprehensive Approaches to Assess Pharmaceutical Effects on Fish

The deleterious effects (for example, alteration of fish behavior) observed in this study confirm that effluents containing pharmaceuticals can adversely affect fish in ways that are central to sustaining populations and that the effects may not be temporally consistent. ...

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Four sample bottels filled with leachate

Landfill Leachate Released to Wastewater Treatment Plants and other Environmental Pathways Contains a Mixture of Contaminants including Pharmaceuticals

Landfills are the final repository for a heterogeneous mixture of liquid and solid waste from residential, industrial, and commercial sources, and thus, have the potential to produce leachate—a liquid waste product that consists of a diverse mixture of chemicals as precipitation or applied water moves through the waste. ...

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