Environmental Health - Toxic Substances Hydrology Program

Program Science Features

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

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View of corn fields and USGS rain gage

New Study Documents Crop Bactericide, Nitrapyrin, in Iowa Streams

First-ever reconnaissance study documents the off-field transport of nitrapyrin — a nitrification inhibitor applied with fertilizers as a bactericide to kill natural soil bacteria for the purpose of increasing crop yields — to adjacent streams. This study is the first step in understanding the transport, occurrence, and potential effects of nitrapyrin or similar compounds on nitrogen processing in aquatic systems. ...

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Four photos depecting effects of exposure of fathead minnows to gestodene

Human Contraceptive Gestodene Affects Fish Reproductive Behavior

Short-term laboratory exposure of adult fathead minnows to the human contraceptive progestin, gestodene (GES), at environmentally relevant concentrations induced rapid and negative effects on reproductive health and suggests that wild fish may be similarly affected. ...

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USGS analyst performs DNA extractions in a laboratory

Swine Manure Application as a Source of Hepatitis E Virus and other Livestock-Related Pathogens

The presence of indicator bacteria, hepatitis E virus (HEV), and numerous bacterial pathogen genes increased following precipitation-induced runoff events in streams draining adjacent land surfaces in Iowa where swine manure was recently applied. ...

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Before and after photos of Fourmile Creek near Ankeny, Iowa

Recovery of Stream and Adjacent Groundwater After Wastewater Treatment Facility Closure

The hydrology and chemistry of a wastewater-impacted stream and adjacent groundwater responded rapidly (had fewer chemicals at lower concentrations) following wastewater treatment facility shutdown. However, the adjacent shallow groundwater remained a continuing source of some wastewater-derived contaminants to the stream at least 1 year post-shutdown. ...

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Freshwater snail -- Lymnaea stagnalis

Study Reveals Processes that Control Uranium Bioavailability in a Freshwater Snail—Relevance to Aquatic Biota in the Grand Canyon Area

Scientists refined an existing speciation model to identify key biogeochemical processes controlling dissolved uranium bioavailability to a freshwater snail. This information is important to advance current understanding and prediction of the ecological risk posed by uranium mining to freshwater ecosystems, including federally managed lands such as in the Grand Canyon area. ...

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Satellite image of a dust cloud from the Sahara Desert

Nutrients in Dust from the Sahara Desert cause Microbial Blooms on the East Coast of the United States

Saharan dust nutrients, particularly iron, deposited episodically in tropical marine waters stimulate marine microbial bloom growth and change microbial community structure. ...

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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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