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Environmental Health - Toxic Substances

Investigations - Contaminants of Emerging Concern in the Environment

In-Stream Processes

The hydraulics of the two stream reaches being investigated
The hydraulics of the two stream reaches being investigated

(click on image for larger version)

Research is being conducted on Boulder Creek, Colorado, and Fourmile Creek, Iowa to develop an understanding of the hydrologic and geochemical processes that govern the distribution and transport of emerging contaminants in streams. Both streams are in waste-dominated systems but have very different geomorphological and other characteristics. For example, although the two study reaches are of similar length, steeper gradients in Boulder Creek create shorter travel times. Bed material and climate are among other factors that vary between the two sites and could affect contaminant transport processes. Dye-tracing tests were first conducted within the stream reaches to accurately determine travel times between the strategically located sampling sites. Lagrangian samples were subsequently collected from both stream reaches using the travel times determined. Data from this study are currently being analyzed and results will soon be published.

Related Science Features

Available Publications

Barber, L.B., Brown, G.K., Cahill, J.D., Furlong, E.T., and Keefe, S.H., 2003, Natural and contaminant organic compounds in the Boulder Creek Watershed, Colorado under high-flow and low-flow conditions, 2000 (Chapter 5), in Murphy, S.F., Verplanck, P.L., and Barber, L.B., ed., Comprehensive water quality of the Boulder Creek Watershed, Colorado, during high-flow and low-flow conditions, 2000: U.S. Geological Survey Water-Resources Investigations Report 03-4045.

Barber, L.B., Schnoebelen, D.J., Murphy, S.F, Keefe, S.H., Kolpin, D.W., Gray, J.L., Furlong, E.T., Zaugg, S.D., Sandstrom, M.W., Meyer, M.T., and Sprague, L.A., 2004, Fate of organic wastewater contaminants: A lagrangian based comparison between high and low gradient streams: in Proceedings of the 4nd International conference on pharmaceuticals and endocrine disrupting chemicals in water, Minneapolis, Minn., National Ground Water Association, October 13-15, 2004, CD-ROM, p. 47.

Murphy, S.F., 2006, State of the Watershed: Water quality of Boulder Creek, Colorado: U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1284, 34 p.

Verplanck, P.L., Murphy, S.F., and Barber, L.B., 2003, Water quality of the Boulder Creek watershed, Colorado: U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet 043-03, 4 p.

Verplanck, P.L., Taylor, H.E., Nordstrom, D.K., Barber, L.B., 2005, Aqueous stability of gadolinium in surface waters receiving sewage treatment plant effluent, Boulder Creek, Colorado: Environmental Science and Technology, v. 39, no. 18, p. 6923-6929, doi: 10.1021/es048456u.

USGS scientists collecting water-quality samples, Boulder Creek, CO.
USGS scientists collecting water-quality samples for the analysis of emerging contaminants, Boulder Creek, Colorado. Photo Credit: Jennifer A. Beck, USGS.

More Information

  • Photo Gallery
  • Project contact: Larry Barber

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