Linking Sources to the Sound

Science Center Objects

The Issue: Bioaccumulation of toxic chemicals in freshwater and marine aquatic research in the Puget Sound continues to be a concern for environmental managers and general public. With renewed interest, Washington State Department of Ecology ( began a phased, coordinated effort in 2006 to understand the sources and management options in controlling the loadings of a number of toxic chemicals.

How the USGS will help: The role of the U.S. Geological Survey is to propose methodologies for evaluating the mechanisms of transport and attenuation from these primary sources along the pathways to their discharge to Puget Sound. The project report will identify and quantify the attenuation processes, from literature research, that prevent contaminants of concern (COC) that are released into Puget Sound watershed to surface runoff from entering Puget Sound.

9722-E6W00 - Primary Sources and Transport Mechanisms of Toxic Chemicals in Puget Sound - Completed FY2011

Problem - The Puget Sound Partnership has identified the need to study toxic chemical loadings to Puget Sound in order to understand the relative contributions from the various sources of contaminants to the ecosystem.

Objectives - Specific objectives of the project are to: 1) provide information about the primary sources of toxicants released to the environment, 2) identify the environmental media and pathways in which each chemical will likely be found following initial release, and 3) provide broader context to studies of chemical loading in order to help prioritize actions needed to reduce toxicants in Puget Sound.

Relevance and Benefits - This study will address the first long-term goal of the USGS 2007-2017 Strategic Science Directions, to monitor and report on the state of the Nation’s terrestrial, freshwater, and coastal ecosystems, and to study the causes and consequences of ecological change. Conducting a basinwide assessment of the source and transport of contaminants is a major direction of the USGS Washington Water Science Center’s Strategic Plan. The study will serve a local need to develop a better understanding of the relation between sources, processes, and concentrations of toxic chemicals in the Puget Sound Watershed. The understanding of the pathways of chemicals of concern (COC) derived from this project will facilitate solutions to reducing the loading of COCs to Puget Sound in support of the Puget Sound Federal Caucus.

Approach - To address the first objective, approximately 14 high elevation lakes will be selected and sampled for contaminants in the upper trophicUSGS primary contributions to the overall project are to: 1) propose methodology for evaluating fate and mechanisms transport of individual chemicals, 2) perform pilot analysis of three primary chemicals (polychlorinated biphenyls, polybrominated diphenyl ethers , copper) using proposed methodology and 3) perform additional pilot analyses time permitting.