Environmental Health - Toxic Substances Hydrology Program
Shallow unconsolidated coastal aquifers are critical sources of drinking water to millions of people in the United States and provide environmentally important freshwater flows to rivers, lakes, and coastal waters. These aquifers are also vulnerable to contamination from point and non-point sources including wastewater disposal through wastewater infiltration beds and septic systems.
This investigation is focused on wastewater-derived contaminants in shallow unconsolidated aquifers that serve as drinking-water supplies and are a source of water for freshwater to lakes, rivers, wetlands, and coastal ecosystems. Understanding the transformations and transport of the complex mixtures introduced to groundwater is essential to understanding the real versus perceived risks for humans and other organisms.
Much of the foundational understanding of interrelationships between the hydrologic and biogeochemical systems was done at the Cape Cod field research site. This foundation includes:
The investigation provides the science needed to understand how to economically and effectively minimize the health risk due to exposures of anthropogenic chemical contaminants from wastewater plumes and spills that have persisted for decades in the subsurface. The investigation does research that integrates physical chemical and biological processes that occur along the groundwater-flow pathway from waste sources to environments where exposures can occur.
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. ...
The addition of nitrate in a low oxygen groundwater resulted in the immobilization of naturally occurring dissolved arsenic and the conversion of nitrate to innocuous nitrogen gas. ...
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. ...
Access to publications from this investigation.
A collection of photos illustrating this investigation's activities.
The Cape Cod research team maintains its own home page that contains additional information about the Cape Cod Toxics Site.