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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Scientist uses a syringe to withdraw water from a core

Cyclical Mobilization and Attenuation of Naturally Occurring Arsenic in an Underground Petroleum Plume

Scientists find that naturally occurring arsenic in aquifer sediments is mobilized into groundwater and attenuated through reattachment to sediments within an underground petroleum plume. Understanding these patterns identifies anthropogenic factors that affect arsenic presence and magnitude in groundwater. ...

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samping flume and rain gage - corn field is in the backgroud

Scientists Examined Native Pollinator Exposure Risk to Neonicotinoids in Native Prairie Strips

Neonicotinoids were not detected in native prairie plants placed next to agricultural fields several years after discontinuation of neonicotinoid seed treatment. In addition, neonicotinoid concentrations were lower or absent in soils and runoff at sites with the native prairie strips. ...

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Colonies of the bacteria Bacillus globigii on a petri dish

New Approaches Coupled with Interactive Mapping Application Provide Tool to Visualize the Occurrence of Soil Pathogens

Scientists optimized existing methods to collect and identify microorganisms including Bacillus anthracis, a pathogenic microorganism, in 4,800 soil samples across the United States, and developed a geographic information system (GIS)-based application to visualize microorganism occurrence throughout the United States. ...

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A scientist working in a laboratory

Comparison of Predicted and Measured Pharmaceutical Concentrations in Streams

New study evaluated if predicted environmental concentrations (PECs) of pharmaceuticals (based on pharmaceutical usage data, degree of metabolism in humans, removal in wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs), and environmental dilution), reflect actual measured environmental concentrations (MECs) in two stream systems of different sizes and demographics. ...

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Scientists analyzing samples for viral pathogens

Occurrence of Avian Influenza Virus in Groundwater—Study Provides Baseline Data and Informs Future Studies

This pilot study provided baseline data on avian influenza virus (AIV) occurrence in groundwater underlying poultry farms and documented the challenges for conducting a pathogen transport study during a disease outbreak. ...

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A bloom of cyanobacteria near the shore of Milford Lake, Kansas

New Method Developed to Quantify Spatial Extent of Cyanobacterial Blooms

This study provides a method for quantifying changes in the spatial extent of cyanobacterial blooms at local and regional scales using remotely sensed data to determine if bloom occurrence and size are increasing or decreasing for inland water resources. ...

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Cedar Creek in Congaree National Park, SC, showing old growth bottomland hardwood forest

Sources of Contaminants to Congaree National Park—USGS and National Park Service Working Together

A National Park Service (NPS) and USGS study determined the concentrations, potential for degradation, and potential for aquatic and terrestrial animal exposure to organic contaminants in water and sediment within the flood-plain/aquatic environments of Congaree National Park which is located downstream from urban and agricultural areas. ...

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USGS scientist at a laboratory fume hood preparing experiments

Enhancement of Trichloroethene (TCE) Biodegradation in a Simulated Groundwater System

This laboratory-based study provides information for understanding enhancement of trichloroethene (TCE) biodegradation in a simulated groundwater system. ...

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Scientists collecting samples of runoff from a test plot during a simulated rainfall event

Commonly Used Chemicals Transported to Agricultural Field through Municipal Biosolids Application

Commonly used chemicals (including fragrances, detergents, fire retardants, plasticizers, and antibacterials) transferred to wastewater treatment plants were detected in municipal wastewater biosolids applied to agricultural field plots and subsequently detected in the runoff transported from the plots during precipitation events. ...

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Municipal biosolids being loaded onto spreader for land application

Multi-State Survey Measures Parabens in Municipal Wastewater Biosolids

Study provides new information about the composition and concentrations of 5 parabens—preservatives in pharmaceuticals and personal care products—present in biosolids collected from 14 municipal wastewater treatment plants across the United States. ...

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Map of the frequency of cyanoHAB occurrence above the WHO high threshold - Florida 2008 through 2011

Satellite Imagery Used to Measure Algal Bloom Frequency—Steps Toward Understanding Exposure Risk

Study explores the utility and limitations of currently available remotely sensed satellite data for identifying the frequency of algal blooms in the Nation's lakes and reservoirs. This information provides a first step toward the goal of understanding exposure risk to protect the health of humans, pets, livestock, and wildlife. ...

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Microscopic image of Dolichospermum circinale - bar is 10 micrometers in length

Cyanobacteria from 2016 Lake Okeechobee Harmful Algal Bloom Photo-Documented

New report provides photographic documentation and identification of the cyanobacteria present in Lake Okeechobee, the Caloosahatchee River, and St. Lucie Canal during an extensive algal bloom in 2016. ...

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Aerial photograph of a 2016 cyanobacterial bloom on Lake Okeechobee, Florida_

Evaluating Linkages Between Algal Toxins and Human Health

The amino acid β-methylamino-L-alanine (BMAA) is produced by cyanobacteria and has been suggested by human health researchers as a causal factor for degenerative neurological diseases such as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), Parkinsonism, and dementia. An objective review concluded that this hypothesis is not supported by existing data. ...

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

Program Scientist Receives Meritorious Service Award

Dr. Isabelle M. Cozzarelli received the U.S. Department of Interior's second highest honorary award—the Meritorious Service Award—for her numerous contributions to understanding the biogeochemical controls of contaminant degradation in groundwater and near-surface environments. ...

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Two photos of Dr. Denise Akob (top) and Dr. Karl Haase (bottom) giving a laboratory tour

Two Scientists Receive Early Career Excellence in Leadership Award

The USGS 2016 Early Career Excellence in Leadership Award was given to Dr. Denise M. Akob and Dr. Karl B. Haase. Drs. Akob and Haase have demonstrated outstanding leadership through their scientific accomplishments and service to the USGS. ...

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USGS scientist measuring dissolved oxygen

Trace Levels of Organic Chemicals Limited to Local Reaches of a Stream near an Oil and Gas Wastewater Disposal Facility

Organic contaminants that were present in Wolf Creek near a wastewater disposal facility were not evident farther downstream where Wolf Creek enters the New River. Wolf Creek and the New River are used for drinking water and recreational purposes. ...

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USGS scientist collecting groundwater samples

Poly- and Perfluoroalkyl Substances From Firefighting and Domestic Wastewater Remain in Groundwater for Decades

New study explores the persistence and transport of poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) that originated from both firefighting and domestic wastewater sources. Although the fire training area and wastewater facility were decommissioned over 20 years ago, both sites continue to be sources of PFASs to groundwater. ...

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USGS scientist collecting water-quality samples from the Enoree River, SC

Study Highlights the Complexity of Chemical Mixtures in United States Streams

A new study highlights the complexity of chemical mixtures in streams and advances the understanding of wildlife and human exposure to complex chemical mixtures. ...

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A water tank

Understanding Chemical and Microbial Contaminants in Public Drinking Water

Collaborative joint agency study provides nationally consistent and rigorously quality-assured datasets on a wide range of chemical and microbial contaminants present in source and treated public drinking water supplies. Tap water was not analyzed in this study. ...

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USGS scientists recording inforamtion on water-quality samples and field water-quality parameters

Scientists Start at the Base of the Food Chain to Understand Contaminant Affects on Energy Cycling in Streams

Study examines the potential adverse effects of fungicides on leaf decomposition by microbes and aquatic invertebrates. ...

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