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Emerging Contaminants in the Environment

Graph of average concentrations of antidepressants in water, sediment, and fish neural tissue
Average concentrations of antidepressants in water, sediment, and fish neural tissue from Boulder Creek just below the point where wastewater from a sewage treatment plant is discharged (USGS Site ID 400305105103901). Since concentration units differed for each sample type, the concentrations were normalized to the highest single antidepressant concentration in each sample type (highest concentration was set to equal one). The graph shows that fish selectively absorb some antidepressants more than others.

USGS scientist dissecting a fish
USGS scientist dissecting a fish to determine possible effects from exposure to endocrine disrupting contaminants.

USGS scientist measuring pH and other water properties on the banks of Fourmile Creek, Iowa.
USGS scientist measuring pH and other water properties on the banks of Fourmile Creek, Iowa, before collecting a sediment sample for laboratory biodegradation experiments on detergent degradation products.

Scientist collected earthworms from a soybean field fertilized with biosolids.
Scientist collected earthworms from a soybean field fertilized with biosolids. The earthworms were analyzed for 77 different chemicals; 20 chemicals were detected in the earthworms.

USGS scientist measuring pH and other water properties on the banks of Fourmile Creek, Iowa.
USGS scientist measuring pH and other water properties on the banks of Fourmile Creek, Iowa, before collecting a sediment sample for laboratory biodegradation experiments on potential wastewater indicators, such as caffeine, nicotine, and cotinine.

Glass serum vials (bottles in the foreground and in the box) are used for microcosms experiments.
Glass serum vials (bottles in the foreground and in the box) are used to construct microcosms for laboratory biodegradation experiments on potential wastewater indicators, such as caffeine, nicotine, and cotinine. The syringe is use for injecting chemicals for testing and withdrawing samples for analysis. Radioactive labeled chemicals (vial on right) are used so reaction products can be identified.

Aquariums where male fathead minnows were exposed to the effluent from a wastewater treatment plant.
Aquariums where male fathead minnows were exposed to the effluent from a wastewater treatment plant. USGS scientists and their colleagues found that exposure to the wastewater from a sewage treatment plant caused endocrine disruption in the minnows.

Diagram of an activated sludge tank at a wastewater treatment plant and a holding area for biosolids
Biosolids are the sludge generated by the treatment of sewage at wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs). WWTPs produce a variety of biosolids products for agricultural, landscape, and home use. Depicted in the diagram is an activated sludge tank at a wastewater treatment plant (upper left) and a holding area for biosolids (lower right). (The two photos are not from the same facility.)

Graph of concentrations of rare earth elements in wastewater discharged to Boulder Creek, Colorado
Concentrations of rare earth elements in wastewater discharged to Boulder Creek, Colorado, compared with upstream and downstream samples. Concentrations are normalized to the North American Shale Composite, and shown on a logarithmic scale. The graph shows that the discharge from wastewater treatment plants can be enriched with gadolinium (Gd).

Graph of the average frequency of detection of emerging contaminants.
Average frequency of detection of emerging contaminants by compound class in 10 wastewater discharges from across the Nation. Numbers in parentheses indicate the number of compounds in each class.

Cyanobacterial accumulation at Binder Lake, IA, with a dead fish - Date 6-29-06 - Jennifer Graham
Cyanobacterial accumulation at Binder Lake, IA, dominated by the blue green algae Microcystis sp. with a dead fish. USGS scientists studied the effects of harmful algal blooms on lake water quality found that blooms of blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) in Midwestern lakes produced mixtures of cyanotoxins and taste-and-odor causing compounds, which co-occurred in lake water samples.

Algal bloom warning sign on the shore of Marion Reservoir, KS - Date 6-29-06 - Jennifer Graham.
Marion Reservoir, KS, with a posted advisory warning the public not to come into contact with the cyanobacteria bloom present in the lake (circa 2006). USGS scientists investigated the effects of harmful algal blooms like this one on lake water quality in several Midwestern lakes.

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Page Last Modified: Tuesday, 24-Jun-2014 16:41:15 EDT