MD-DE-DC WSC Contaminant Fate and Transport Capabilities

Explaining Nitrogen and Phosphorus Trends in the Chesapeake Bay

Explaining Nitrogen and Phosphorus Trends in the Chesapeake Bay

Point sources of phosphorus to local streams declined by half between 1992 and 2012, while non-point inputs were relatively unchanged. Annual phosphorus delivery to the bay increased by 9 percent to 9,570 Mg between 1992 and 2012.


Sequential biodegradation of 1,2,4-trichlorobenzene in Groundwater...

Sequential biodegradation of 1,2,4-trichlorobenzene in Groundwater...

Halogenated organic solvents such as chlorobenzenes (CBs) are frequent groundwater contaminants due to legacy spills. Results from these model systems suggest degredation of anaerobic and aerobic CB.


More Projects Related to Contaminant Fate and Transport Capabilities

More Projects Related to Contaminant Fate and Transport Capabilities

Investigation of contaminant fate and transport is central to a majority of studies conducted by the Contaminant Fate and Transport Team. By conducting thorough investigation of site characteristics including groundwater flow paths and geochemistry.


Science Center Objects

The Contaminant Fate and Transport team conducts research on the transport and fate of contaminants in groundwater through the unsaturated and saturated zones using innovative and proven USGS methods. The team's research focuses on the often complex processes that affect contaminant fate and transport, and includes expertise in wetland environments. Performing both field and laboratory studies to understand and describe the microbial, geochemical, hydrogeological processes, and groundwater-surface water interactions, which often govern contaminant fate and transport.

The team investigates in-situ and ex-situ groundwater remediation methods for hazardous waste sites. Field and laboratory studies are used in the development of bioremediation methods. The development of remediation methods include the use of microbial cultures, laboratory microcosms, column experiments, and field pilot tests.

The Contaminant Fate and Transport team maintains collaboration with other agencies, universities and private companies. Funding comes primarily from federal, state, and local governments and from private companies through technical assistance or cooperative research and development agreements.

From initial site characterization to the development of sustainable bioremediation technology, the FAB team can work with a variety of compounds-- including, but not limited to, volatile organic compounds, nitroaromatics, metals, nutrients and trace organic compounds.

The focus of FAB Team studies often has been on unusual contaminants, for which there is little initial biodegradation data, and on complex environments or site conditions, such as wetlands. The FAB team utilizes, modifies and creates state-of-the-art technology to remediate contaminated sites while maintaining an unbiased science approach, which is the foundation of the U.S. Geological Survey.


Site Characterization Capabilities

Site Hydrological Assessment

  • Geochemistry
  • Flowpaths
  • Tracer Tests
  • Groundwater Seeps

Contaminant Plume Delineation

  • Sediments
  • Aquifer
  • Interactions with surface water

Passive Sampling Techniques

  • Passive Diffusion Bags (VOCs)
  • Dialysis Bags (Geochemical Analyses)
  • Peepers (Vertically Intense Passive Sampling Devices)
  • POCIS (Polar Organic Chemical Integrative Sampler)
  • Polar or Hydrophilic Organic Chemicals (Pharmaceuticals, EDCs)

Chemical Fate

  • Chemical Transformations
  • Adsorption/Desorption from Sediment
  • Microbially-Mediated Degradation


Bioremediation Capabilities

West Branch Consortium (WBC-2)

  • Developed by Dr. Michelle Lorah, Elizabeth Jones, and Dr. Mary Voytek (currently with NASA) and USGS from contaminated wetland sediment 
  • Maintained in sediment-free media in large volumes by SIREM under a Cooperate Research and Development Agreement with Geosyntec Consultants
  • Has been successfully tested in reactive mats, bioreactors, and in situ aquifer tests


  • Laboratory (Controlled anaerobic or aerobic environment)
    • Degradation rates and pathways
    • Optimal electron donors and nutrients
    • Response to temperature, salinity, and other environmental factors
    • Culture enrichment
  • In Situ Site Installation
    • Degradation rates and pathways under natural site conditions
    • Evaluation of biormediation methods under site conditions


  • Column Studies
    • Flow-through experiments especially useful for reactive map/cap technology
  • Bench Scale Bioreactors
    • Evaluation of ex-situ groundwater treatment
  • Low flow rates to determine feasibility

Pilot Scale Studies

  • Reactive Mat
    • In-field evaluation of bioaugmenting and biostimulating localized seeps
  • Bioreactor
    • Moderate flow rates to determine how industrial control processes work with the system.
  • Subsurface Injection
    • In-field evaluation of bioaugmentation and biostimulation