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Media Advisory: Insecticides, Mercury, Toxic Cyanobacteria, Nitrate levels in the Pacific Northwest and Nationwide
Media Tip Sheet for Water Quality Conference
Released: 4/26/2012 6:00:00 AM

Contact Information:
U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
Office of Communications and Publishing
12201 Sunrise Valley Dr, MS 119
Reston, VA 20192
Kara Capelli 1-click interview
Phone: (571) 420-9408



The National Water Quality Monitoring Council's Eighth National Monitoring Conference features the latest information about the nation’s water quality from governmental and tribal organizations, academia, environmental groups, and the private sector, including new USGS research. The conference will be held in Portland, Ore., April 30th-May 4th, 2012. 

If you are a member of the media and interested in attending any of these USGS presentations or speaking with the presenter, please contact Kara Capelli: kcapelli@usgs.gov, (571) 420-9408. 

New Research in the Pacific Northwest: 

Contaminants in the Columbia River near Columbia City: Endocrine disrupting chemicals, PAH’s, DDT and other contaminants are widespread in the lower Columbia River and in largescale suckers. New USGS research found a study site near Columbia City, Ore. tended to have the highest concentrations of contaminants. This presentation by Elena Nilsen, titled “Emerging and Legacy Contaminants in POCIS, SPMDs, Sediments, and the Largescale Sucker (Catostomus macrocheilus) in the Lower Columbia River,” will be held Thursday, May 3, during a session from 8:00-9:30 a.m. PDT. 

Can dam removal temper the effects of climate change on the Klamath River? Research indicates that temperatures on the Klamath River will increase incrementally with each decade. The research also shows that temperature cycles could be altered by climate change. However, dam removal appeared to delay the effects of climate change to some extent in some areas. These potential changes in seasonal water temperatures resulting from dam removal have a direct impact on salmon populations in the Klamath Basin. This presentation by Russell Perry, titled “Simulating Water Temperature of the Klamath River under Dam Removal and Climate Change Scenarios,” will be held on Tuesday, May 1, during a session from 3:35 -5:00 p.m. PDT. 

Toxic Cyanobacteria and the decline of fish in Upper Klamath Lake, Ore.: Cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, that occur in Upper Klamath Lake, Ore., produces toxins at concentrations that may contribute to the decline of the endangered Lost River and shortnose suckers. This presentation by Sara Eldridge, titled “Spatial and Temporal Dynamics of Microcystins and their Relation to Other Water Quality Variables in Upper Klamath Lake, Oregon,” will be held Wednesday, May 2, during a session from 3:35-5:00 p.m. PDT.

Insecticides, herbicides and declining salmon in the Hood River: Historically, the Hood River and its tributaries served as important spawning and rearing streams for a variety of salmon species, three of which are listed as “threatened.” A new analysis discusses the occurrence of insecticides, herbicides and trace elements, some of which are at potentially harmful levels to salmon. Learn more in a presentation by Whitney Temple, titled “An Assessment of Pesticides, Trace Elements, and Their Potential to Affect Salmonids in the Hood River Basin, Oregon, 1999-2009,” on Friday, May 4 in a session from 10:00-11:30 a.m. PDT. 

Natural sources more often the source of nutrients in the Pacific Northwest: On average, natural sources of nitrogen and phosphorus, including from forest land and geologic material, were found to be the largest local sources of nutrients in streams. However, the accumulation of human sources, including wastewater, urban runoff and agricultural activities, contributed most of the nutrient load that ultimately discharged from many of the largest watersheds. Learn more in a presentation from Daniel Wise, titled “A Web-Based Tool for Evaluating Surface-Water Nutrient Conditions across the Pacific Northwest” on Wednesday, May 2, in a session from 10:35 a.m.-12:00 p.m. PDT. 

National Findings:  

A picture of mercury across the nation: Learn how mercury and methylmercury are distributed in lake sediments across the nation. Sites from New England, Florida, northern Wisconsin and Minnesota, and the Olympic Peninsula consistently yield the highest mercury concentrations. This presentation will examine the role of point sources like mining, mercury deposited from the atmosphere, and other processes within the lake that control mercury and methylmercury levels. These results will be presented by David Krabbenhoft in a presentation titled “Sediment Mercury and Methylmercury Concentrations Across the Conterminous United States” on Friday, May 4 in a session from 10:00-11:30 a.m. PDT. 

Nitrate concentrations still high in the Mississippi River: Despite efforts to reduce nitrate levels in the Mississippi River Basin, little consistent progress has been made in reducing nitrate in the Mississippi River and its tributaries since 1980. Increasing nitrate concentrations in groundwater are likely having an important effect on concentrations in the river. Nitrate in the Mississippi River and its tributaries eventually ends up in the Gulf of Mexico, where it contributes to the formation of dead zones. Learn more about why concentrations are still consistently high, despite major efforts to reduce concentrations in a presentation by Lori Sprague, titled “Nitrate Trends in the Mississippi River and its Tributaries: Evidence of Groundwater/Surface Water Interaction,” on Thursday, May 3 in a session from 8:00-9:30 a.m. PDT. 

From the 90’s to the early 2000’s, what’s the change in groundwater quality? There was no change in concentrations of chloride, dissolved solids, or nitrate in groundwater for more than 50 percent of well networks sampled in a new analysis by the USGS. For those networks that did have a change, seven times more networks saw increases as opposed to decreases.  Learn more about these long-term trends in groundwater quality in a presentation by Bruce Lindsey, titled “Decadal-scale changes of Chloride, Dissolved Solids, and Nitrate concentrations in Groundwater in the United States, 1988-2010,” on Tuesday, May 1 in a session from 1:35-3 p.m. PDT. 

Contaminants in water and sediment before and after the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill: USGS scientists collected beach water and sediment samples before and after oil landfall from the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. PAH concentrations in sediment increased after the spill, and several sites with the largest PAH concentration increases had geochemical evidence of oil from the ruptured Macondo-1 well in sediment or tarballs sampled after oil landfall. Learn more about these and other changes in a presentation by Lisa Nowell, titled “Organic Contaminants and Trace Elements in Water and Sediment Sampled in Response to the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill,” on Thursday May 3, in a session from 8:00-930 a.m. PDT.


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