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Program Science Features

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

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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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Native bee foraging on a native flower

Native Bees are Exposed to Neonicotinoids and Other Pesticides

A recent reconnaissance study by the USGS demonstrates the first observed occurrence of pesticides, including neonicotinoid insecticides, in wild-caught native bees. The results indicate that native bees collected in an agricultural landscape are exposed to multiple pesticides including insecticides, fungicides, and herbicides. ...

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Prior water-quality sample colection from stream

Potential Exposure to Bacteria and Viruses Weeks after Swine Manure Spill

Manure spills may be an underappreciated pathway for livestock-derived contaminants to enter streams. Scientists from the USGS and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health studied an Iowa stream after the release of a large volume of swine manure (a manure spill). The scientists observed an increase in viruses and bacteria, which have the potential to cause human or swine disease, in the stream water and bed sediment. This study applied molecular techniques to identify microbial contaminants that were transported as far as 4 kilometers from the spill origin. The microbial contaminants persisted for several weeks in stream water and sediments after the spill. This study documented that stream sediment was a persistent reservoir of contamination following this manure spill. ...

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USGS scientist colecting a water-quality sample from Zollner Creek, Oregon

First National-Scale Reconnaissance of Neonicotinoid Insecticides in United States Streams

Neonicotinoid insecticides (neonicotinoids) were present in a little more than half of the streams sampled across the United States and Puerto Rico, according to a new USGS study. This is the first national-scale study of the presence of neonicotinoids in urban and agricultural land use settings across the Nation ...

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Two scientists on an electrofishing boat

Long-Term Study Finds Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals in Urban Waterways

USGS scientists determined that endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) were present in wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) effluent, water, and fish tissue in urban waterways in the Great Lakes and upper Mississippi River Regions ...

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USGS Scientist collecting water samples in a stream

Assessing Environmental Chemical Mixtures in United States Streams

The USGS and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are collaborating on a field-based study of chemical mixture composition and environmental effects in stream waters affected by a wide range of human activities and contaminant sources. ...

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Three sample bottles with cultures of hydrogen sulfide-producing bacteria

Microbiology and Chemistry of Waters Produced from Hydraulic Fracking—A Case Study

A new USGS study determined that the microbiology and organic chemistry of produced waters varied widely among hydraulically fractured shale gas wells in north-central Pennsylvania. ...

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USGS sceintists sampling groundwater

Personal Care Products, Pharmaceuticals, and Hormones Move from Septic Systems to Local Groundwater

Pharmaceuticals, hormones, personal care products, and other contaminants of concern associated with everyday household activities were found in adjacent shallow groundwater near two septic system networks in New York (NY) and New England (NE). ...

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Power plant smoke stacks

Comprehensive Assessment of Mercury in Streams Explains Major Sources, Cycling, and Effects

A new USGS report, Mercury in the Nation's Streams—Levels, Trends, and Implications, presents a comprehensive assessment of mercury contamination in streams across the United States. It highlights the importance of environmental processes, monitoring, and control strategies for understanding and reducing stream mercury levels. ...

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USGS Hydrologist sampling a public supply well

Contaminant Transport Models Aid in Understanding Trends of Chlorinated Ethenes in Public Supply Wells

USGS scientists used a mass–balance solute–transport model to enhance an understanding of factors affecting chlorinated ethene (CE) concentrations in a public supply well. They found that long–term simulated and measured CE concentrations were affected by dense nonaqueous phase liquid (DNAPL) volume, composition, and by ...

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Three scientists holding a sediment core. The core is in a plastic tube

Natural Breakdown of Petroleum Results in Arsenic Mobilization in Groundwater

Changes in geochemistry from the natural breakdown of petroleum hydrocarbons in groundwater promote mobilization of naturally occurring arsenic from aquifer sediments into groundwater. This geochemical change can result in potentially significant and overlooked arsenic groundwater contamination. Arsenic is ...

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Spirit Creek, Georgia

Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals Persist Downstream from the Source

Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) were transported 2 kilometers downstream of a wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) outfall in a coastal plain stream. EDCs persisted downstream of the outfall with little change in the numbers of EDCs and limited decreases in EDC concentrations. ...

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USGS scientist preparing water samples for glyphosate analysis

Organic Geochemistry Research Laboratory Scored High on Proficiency Testing for Glyphosate

In a recent inter–laboratory comparison of 28 international laboratories, the USGS Organic Geochemistry Research Laboratory (OGRL) scored A's for the analysis of glyphosate and aminomethylphosphonic acid (AMPA) in this proficiency testing. ...

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Scientists measuring field water-quality parameters

Land Disposal of Wastewater Can Result in Elevated Mercury in Groundwater

Field studies conducted in the United States have shown that mercury concentrations in groundwater affected by wastewater disposal can exceed the drinking water maximum contaminant level (MCL) established by the Environmental Protection Agency (2 micrograms per liter of water, µg/L). Two recently published reports by scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, the University of Maine, and the USGS help to explain what can lead to elevated mercury levels in groundwater. ...

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USGS scientists Dr. Michael T. Meyer in the labortory

Recognition for a USGS Scientist in Service to Others

USGS scientist Dr. Michael T. Meyer has had a prolific career, publishing 60 journal articles and 45 USGS publications. Mike's publication record has recently led to his designation as a Thomson Reuters Highly Cited Researcher, ranking among the top 1 percent of researchers from 2002 to 2012 for most cited documents in their specific field (Environment/Ecology). ...

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