Environmental Health - Toxic Substances Hydrology Program

Science Features from the Low-Level Radioactive and Mixed- Hazardous Wastes Investigation

Highlights of research findings.

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USGS scientists collecting a soil sample

High Levels of Natural Perchlorate in a Desert Ecosystem

Naturally formed perchlorate falls from the atmosphere and accumulates in the soil of a Nevada desert at rates several times greater than previously thought, according to research by USGS and Texas Tech University scientists published in the Journal of Environmental Quality. The study is the first to document how natural perchlorate is ...

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USGS scientists collecting gas samples from the unsaturated zone

Findings Suggest VOCs May Help Explain Radionuclide Transport

Scientists find that volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emanating from a closed low-level radioactive waste landfill can migrate over long distances through the unsaturated zone. ...

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Surface geophysical equipment used to measure electrical resistivity in the subsurface

Visualizing Contamination Pathways in the Subsurface

Visualizing Potential Contamination Pathways in the Subsurface, USGS scientists developed non-invasive methods to identify potential pathways, such as faults, fractures, and gravel beds. ...

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USGS scientists collecting gas samples from the unsaturated zone

Mercury Found to Migrate Horizontally from Landfill

USGS scientists find that mercury gas can migrate horizontally over long distances through the unsaturated zone ...

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Diagram of modeled tritium migration in unsaturated zone from an idealized waste disposal trench

New Model Allows for More Accurate Simulation of Tritium Movement in the Unsaturated Zone

USGS scientists and their colleagues have developed a new computer model that simulates the movement of tritium in the unsaturated zone more accurately than previous models ...

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USGS scientists in a shallow trench studying the unsaturated zone.

Widespread Accumulations of Natural Perchlorate in Southwestern Soils

Just below the active root zone in deserts and other dry regions in the southwestern United States are salt-rich layers with substantial quantities of perchlorate that occurs naturally ...

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Map of tritium concentrations in soil-water vapor at a depth of 0.5 meter at ADRS

Desert Plants Reveal Contaminant Transport Pathways

USGS scientists use desert plants to reveal contaminant transport pathways in the unsaturated zone ...

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USGS scientist collecting gas samples for analysis

New Model Improves Understanding of the Transport of Carbon Isotopes in the Unsaturated-Zone

USGS scientists have developed and applied a new computer model that simulates the transport and reaction of gases in the unsaturated zone ...

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Desert vegetation at the Amargosa Desert Research Site

Are Deserts Still Drying Out Since the Ice Age?

Desert sediments have been drying out since the ice age and desert plants could be used to design more effective landfill covers ...

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Plant sample

Using Plants To Detect Tritium Contamination

USGS scientists developed a new method for identifying the occurrence and distribution of tritium contamination in the subsurface that uses plants ...

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