USGS Toxic Substances Hydrology Program, 2000

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Toxic Substances Hydrology (Toxics) Program provides unbiased scientific information on the behavior of toxic substances in the Nation's hydrologic environments. Program contributions improve contaminated-site management and remediation, and enable informed decisions by industry, management and regulatory agencies, and the public.

The objectives of Program activities are to:

Investigations of representative types of environmental contamination are being conducted across the Nation and focus on:

Point-source subsurface contamination, and

Watershed- and regional-scale contamination.

The Toxics Program coordinates with federal land-management, regulatory, and science agencies to ensure that current and future science needs are being met. The Program complements the water-quality monitoring and assessment programs of the USGS, states, and others by identifying new issues and emerging contaminants, and by developing the knowledge and methods needed to meet future monitoring needs. Scientists from universities, other federal agencies, and industry actively participate in the Program's activities.

Investigations of Point-Source Subsurface Contamination

Point-source subsurface investigations are conducted at sites representative of common contamination problems and geohydrologic settings. These investigations are long-term, field-based studies conducted by interdisciplinary research teams.

Comprehensive physical, chemical, and microbial characterizations of the sites establish field-laboratory conditions that provide fundamental knowledge of the processes that control specific types of contamination problems. This fundamental process knowledge is generalized to a wide range of field conditions by specific field and laboratory experiments at other sites with varied conditions and properties. The resulting knowledge and methods improve the effectiveness of and reduce the cost of characterization and remediation at contaminated sites across the Nation.

A unifying theme of these investigations is characterization of the natural response of hydrologic systems to contamination. This makes them ideally suited for assessing potential long-term impacts, evaluating the potential and limitations of remediation by natural attenuation, and designing remediation-performance monitoring.

Map of Toxics Program Study Sites

Point-source subsurface investigations include:

Investigations of Watershed- and Regional-Scale Contamination

Watershed- and regional-scale investigations address contamination problems typical of specific land uses or human activities that may pose a threat to environmental and human health throughout significant parts of the Nation. These studies involve characterizing contaminant sources and their mechanisms for affecting aquatic ecosystems, such as watersheds affected by abandoned mines. These studies involve widespread detection of compounds released to the environment through common use, such as use of agricultural chemicals. Contaminants and degradation products are measured at levels below existing water-quality standards to assess whether they are actually entering the environment and to define the mixtures in which they occur. The information provided by these studies is used for developing regulatory policies and standards, for registering the use of new chemicals, for decisions on what chemicals to manufacture, and for development of usage guidelines.

Investigations of watershed- and regional-scale contamination include:

- Herbert T. Buxton

For more information on the activities of the Toxic Substances Hydrology Program, visit our web site at:

Or write to:

USGS Toxics Program
MS 412
12201 Sunrise Valley Drive
Reston, VA 20192

The full citation for this fact sheet is:

Buxton, H.T., 2000, USGS Toxic Substances Hydrology Program, 2000: U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet FS-062-00, 4 p.

This fact sheet is also available in pdf format (1.1Mb file). [Acrobat Reader]

U.S. Department of the Interior
U.S. Geological Survey
USGS Fact Sheet FS-062-00
May 2000

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