Toxic Substances Hydrology Program

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Toxic Substances Hydrology Program scientists develop and apply advanced analytical methods, field investigations, laboratory studies, and modeling capabilities to understand sources, movement, and exposure pathways of chemical and microbial contaminants in the environment. They work jointly with Contaminant Biology Program Scientists who then determine the toxicity and effects of contaminants.

News

Date published: March 20, 2019

What's New with Our Budget in Fiscal Year 2020

Information on funding for Environmental Health Mission Area programs for fiscal year 2020.

Date published: February 22, 2019

Fiscal Year 2018 USGS Environmental Health Mission Area Accomplishments

In Fiscal Year 2018 our two integrated programs – Contaminant Biology and Toxic Substances Hydrology Programs – provided essential information to understand the risks of environmental contaminants and pathogens.

"Everything we do is designed to safeguard the Nation's health, economy, and resources."

Date published: February 15, 2019

Environmental Health Mission Area Science Priorities for Fiscal Year 2019

The USGS Environmental Health Mission Area (EHMA)—through its integrated programs, the Toxic Substances Hydrology Program (TSHP) and the Contaminant Biology Program (CBP) — will continue its non-regulatory, non-advocacy science throughout 2019.

USGS Environmental Health Science, led by the Contaminant Biology and theToxic Substances Hydrology Programs, supports specialized teams of scientists who develop and apply advanced laboratory methods and field investigations to understand how contaminants and pathogens enter and move through the environment and affect the health of insects, fish, wildlife, and domestic animals.

Filter Total Items: 71
Date published: February 25, 2019
Status: Completed

Uranium in Springs Sampled Near the Grand Canyon Likely from Natural Sources

Scientists measured nine naturally occurring elements including uranium at 37 spring sites in the Grand Canyon area to establish baseline conditions and to understand the sources of uranium to local springs. Scientists found relatively greater concentrations of uranium at 6 of the 37 springs. A comprehensive geochemical analysis coupled with an understanding of the flow patterns in the area...

Date published: February 25, 2019
Status: Completed

Pilot Study Provides Information on Contaminant Exposure from Tap Water at Residential and Workplace Sites in the United States

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), in collaboration with National Institutes of Health, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and academia, completed a pilot study to provide information on contaminant exposure from tap water at 26 locations including public and private supplies. Public-supply tap water generally met enforceable standards for those compounds with standards. Samples consisted...

Date published: February 8, 2019
Status: Completed

Variability in Composition of an Oil Spill after more than 30 Years of Natural Attenuation

More than thirty years after an oil spill, hydrocarbons measured in groundwater near Bemidji, Minnesota, have been depleted between 25 and 85 percent. However, some components have remained for many decades and some are expected to remain longer indicating that natural attenuation is an effective but slow process. Compounds that are sufficiently soluble and resistant to biodegradation provide...

Contacts: Barbara Bekins
Date published: February 5, 2019
Status: Active

Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFASs) detected in Source Waters and Treated Public Water Supplies

This study, which measured 17 per- and polyfuoroalkyl substances (PFASs) in source and treated public water supplies from 25 drinking water facilities as part of a broader study of contaminants in drinking water across the United States, reports that PFASs were detected in all source water and public water supply samples collected. One sample exceeded the current U.S. Environmental...

Contacts: Edward Furlong, Dana W Kolpin, Susan T. Glassmeyer
Date published: February 5, 2019
Status: Active

Novel Approach Improves Understanding of Virus Occurrence in Drinking Water

Waterborne viruses, one of the leading causes of gastrointestinal illnesses, were measured in United States drinking water sources and finished water. Scientists used a combination of measurement and statistical techniques to overcome limitations to quantifying these viruses, thus offering an enhanced method for virus monitoring.

Contacts: Edward Furlong, Dana W Kolpin, Susan T. Glassmeyer
Date published: November 27, 2018
Status: Completed

Understanding Drivers of Cyanotoxin Production in the Lake Okeechobee Waterway

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and other researchers combined field and laboratory approaches in two studies to understand the factors that drive cyanobacterial bloom development and associated cyanotoxin production in Lake Okeechobee, the St. Lucie River and Estuary, and the Indian River Lagoon in response to the large-scale Lake Okeechobee cyanobacteria bloom in 2016.

Date published: September 26, 2018
Status: Active

Is Uranium in Water Resources near the Grand Canyon a Health Hazard?

The public worries that uranium in natural geologic formations, mine tailings, dusts, water, and other geologic materials can pose a health hazard to humans and wildlife.

Our specialized teams of hydrologists, chemists, and geologists working together at a field site in the Grand Canyon region of the United States have shown:

Elevated uranium concentrations (above the drinking...

Date published: September 26, 2018
Status: Active

Can There be Unintended Benefits when Wastewater Treatment Infrastructure is Upgraded?

Science from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and other entities has shown that a mixture of natural and synthetic estrogens and other similar chemicals are discharged from wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) to streams and rivers.

USGS and University of Colorado hydrologists, chemists, geologists, and biologists studied the chemistry and biology of Boulder Creek downstream of Boulder ...

Date published: September 25, 2018
Status: Active

Are Spills from Swine Lagoons Causing Downstream Health Hazards?

There are no national databases or tracking of the number or frequency of manure spills in the United States. Some past spills have been shown to result from events such as equipment failures, over-application of manure to agricultural fields, runoff from open feedlots, storage overflow, accidents with manure transporting equipment, severe weather events, or possibly deliberate actions....

Date published: September 25, 2018
Status: Active

What Are the Health Hazards from Contaminants Released to the Environment by Natural Disasters?

Our specialized teams of hydrologists, chemists, and geologists working together at field sites in Northeastern US after Hurricane Sandy have shown:

  • Metal contaminants were released to the environment after Hurricane Sandy due to some dune restoration activities.
  • In other locations the storm actually decreased contaminant exposures to bottom dwelling aquatic biota.
  • ...
Date published: September 24, 2018
Status: Active

Are Naturally Occurring Microbiological Toxins in Water Resources a Health Hazard?

A growing number of human gastrointestinal, respiratory, dermatologic, and neurologic effects, as well as dog and livestock illnesses and deaths, in the United States have been linked to exposures to algal blooms in recreational lakes and stock ponds.

Some of the blooms contain cyanobacteria, which have the potential to produce cyanotoxins in freshwater systems. However, the connection...

Date published: September 24, 2018
Status: Active

What is the Chemical and Microbial Content of Our Tap Waters?

Safe Drinking Water Act compliance addresses the safety of public-supply water systems. The composition of public-supply drinking water is generally only tested at the treatment plant, and not at the tap after traveling through the water distribution system. Only lead and copper are tested at a subset of residential and other taps. Testing of water in private wells is rare unless local health...

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Date published: January 24, 2017

Assessing Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals Risk In U.S. National Parks

Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDC) threaten the reproductive success and long-term survival of sensitive aquatic populations in the U.S. National Park Service (NPS). The project employs a standardized EDC risk assessment framework to link new and ongoing research efforts in individual Parks and in Park Monitoring Networks, in order to provide a service-wide assessment of EDC risk in the NPS.

 

Date published: March 15, 2016

SCoRR Mapping Web Application

The Sediment-bound Contaminant Resiliency and Response (SCoRR) Mapping Application was developed to allow users to visualize and view information generated during this study. Additional datasets including Census data, the National Land Cover Database, and National Hydrography data are also provided for users to generate custom maps.

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Year Published: 2017

Future research needs involving pathogens in groundwater

Contamination of groundwater by enteric pathogens has commonly been associated with disease outbreaks. Proper management and treatment of pathogen sources are important prerequisites for preventing groundwater contamination. However, non-point sources of pathogen contamination are frequently difficult to identify, and existing approaches for...

Bradford, Scott A.; Harvey, Ronald W.
Bradford, S. A., Harvey, R. W.,2016, Future research needs involving pathogens in groundwater: Hydrology Journal, doi: 10.1007/s10040-016-1501-0

Year Published: 2017

Density-driven free-convection model for isotopically fractionated geogenic nitrate in sabkha brine

Subsurface brines with high nitrate (NO3−) concentration are common in desert environments as atmospheric nitrogen is concentrated by the evaporation of precipitation and little nitrogen uptake. However, in addition to having an elevated mean concentration of ∼525 mg/L (as N), NO3− in the coastal sabkhas of Abu Dhabi is enriched in 15N (mean δ15N...

Wood, Warren W.; Böhlke, John K.
Wood, W.W., and Böhlke, J.K., 2017, Density-driven free-convection model for isotopically fractionated geogenic nitrate in sabkha brine. Groundwater, v. 55(2), p. 199-207, doi: 10.1111/gwat.12463

Year Published: 2017

Geochemistry and hydrology of perched groundwater springs: assessing elevated uranium concentrations at Pigeon Spring relative to nearby Pigeon Mine, Arizona (USA)

The processes that affect water chemistry as the water flows from recharge areas through breccia-pipe uranium deposits in the Grand Canyon region of the southwestern United States are not well understood. Pigeon Spring had elevated uranium in 1982 (44 μg/L), compared to other perched springs (2.7–18 μg/L), prior to mining operations at the nearby...

Beisner, Kimberly R.; Paretti, Nicholas V.; Tillman, Fred; Naftz, David L.; Bills, Donald; Walton-Day, Katie; Gallegos, Tanya J.
Beisner, K.R., Paretti, N.V., Tillman, F.D., Naftz, D.L., Bills, D.J., Walton-Day, K., and Gallegos, T.J., 2017, Geochemistry and hydrology of perched groundwater springs: assessing elevated uranium concentrations at Pigeon Spring relative to nearby Pigeon Mine, Arizona (USA), Hydrogeology Journal, vol. 25, issue 2, p. 539-556.

Year Published: 2017

Improved vertical streambed flux estimation using multiple diurnal temperature methods in series

Analytical solutions that use diurnal temperature signals to estimate vertical fluxes between groundwater and surface water based on either amplitude ratios (Ar) or phase shifts (Δϕ) produce results that rarely agree. Analytical solutions that simultaneously utilize Ar and Δϕ within a single solution have more recently been derived, decreasing...

Irvine, Dylan J.; Briggs, Martin A.; Cartwright, Ian; Scruggs, Courtney R.; Lautz, Laura K.
Irvine, D.J., M.A. Briggs, I. Cartwright, C. Scruggs, and L.K. Lautz (2016), Improved vertical streambed flux estimation using multiple diurnal temperature methods in series, Groundwater, 55(1), doi:10.1111/gwat.12436

Year Published: 2016

The removal kinetics of dissolved organic matter and the optical clarity of groundwater

Concentrations of dissolved organic matter (DOM) and ultraviolet/visible light absorbance decrease systematically as groundwater moves through the unsaturated zones overlying aquifers and along flowpaths within aquifers. These changes occur over distances of tens of meters (m) implying rapid removal kinetics of the chromophoric DOM that imparts...

Chapelle, Francis H.; Shen, Yuan; Strom, Eric W.; Benner, Ronald

Year Published: 2016

Investigating dynamic sources of pharmaceuticals: Demographic and seasonal use are more important than down-the-drain disposal in wastewater effluent in a University City setting

Pharmaceutical pollution in surface waters poses risks to human and ecosystem health. Wastewater treatment facilities are primary sources of pharmaceutical pollutants, but little is known about the factors that affect drugs entering the wastewater stream. This paper investigates the effects of student pharmaceutical use and disposal behaviors and...

Vatovec, Christine; Phillips, Patrick J.; Van Wagoner, Emily; Scott, Tia-Marie; Furlong, Edward T.
Vatovec, C., Phillips, P., Van Wagoner, E., Scott, T-M., and Furlong, E., 2016, Investigating dynamic sources of pharmaceuticals: Demographic and seasonal use are more important than down-the-drain disposal in wastewater effluent in a University City setting, Science of The Total Environment, Volume 572: 906-914.

Year Published: 2016

Effects of flow regime on metal concentrations and the attainment of water quality standards in a remediated stream reach, Butte, Montana

Low-flow synoptic sampling campaigns are often used as the primary tool to characterize watersheds affected by mining. Although such campaigns are an invaluable part of site characterization, investigations which focus solely on low-flow conditions may yield misleading results. The objective of this paper is to demonstrate this point and elucidate...

Runkel, Robert L.; Kimball, Briant A.; Nimick, David A.; Walton-Day, Katherine

Year Published: 2016

Exposure to the contraceptive progestin, gestodene, alters reproductive behavior, arrests egg deposition, and masculinizes development in the fathead minnow (Pimephales promelas)

Endogenous progestogens and pharmaceutical progestins enter the environment through wastewater treatment plant effluent and agricultural field runoff. Lab studies demonstrate strong, negative exposure effects of these chemicals on aquatic vertebrate reproduction. Behavior can be a sensitive, early indicator of exposure to environmental...

Frankel, Tyler E.; Meyer, Michael T.; Kolpin, Dana W.; Gillis, Amanda B.; Alvarez, David A.; Orlando, Edward F.

Year Published: 2016

Molecular-level evidence provided by ultrahigh resolution mass spectrometry for oil-derived doc in groundwater at Bemidji, Minnesota

Dissolved organic matter samples extracted from ground water at the USGS Bemidji oil spill site in Minnesota were investigated by ultrahigh resolution mass spectrometry. Principle component analysis (PCA) of the elemental composition assignments of the samples showed that the score plots for the contaminated sites were well separated from those...

Islam, Ananna; Ahmed, Arif; Hur, Manhoi; Thorn, Kevin A.; Kim, Sunghwan
Islam, A., Ahmed, A., Hur, M., Thorn, K., and Kim, S., 2016, Molecular-Level Evidence Provided by Ultrahigh Resolution Mass Spectrometry for Oil-Derived DOC in Groundwater at Bemidji, Minnesota: Journal of Hazardous Materials, 320, doi:10.1016/j.jhazmat.2016.08.018

Year Published: 2016

Application of frequency- and time-domain electromagnetic surveys to characterize hydrostratigraphy and landfill construction at the Amargosa Desert Research Site, Beatty, Nevada

In 2014 and 2015, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), conducted frequency-domain electromagnetic (FDEM) surveys at the USGS Amargosa Desert Research Site (ADRS), approximately 17 kilometers (km) south of Beatty, Nevada. The FDEM surveys were conducted within and adjacent to a closed low-level radioactive waste disposal site located at the ADRS....

White, Eric A.; Day-Lewis, Frederick D.; Johnson, Carole D.; Lane, John W.

Year Published: 2016

Enabling science support for better decision-making when responding to chemical spills

Chemical spills and accidents contaminate the environment and disrupt societies and economies around the globe. In the United States there were approximately 172,000 chemical spills that affected US waterbodies from 2004 to 2014. More than 8000 of these spills involved non–petroleum-related chemicals. Traditional emergency responses or incident...

Weidhass, Jennifer L.; Dietrich, Andrea M.; DeYonker, Nathan J.; Dupont, R. Ryan; Foreman, William T. ; Gallagher, Daniel; Gallagher, Jennifer E. G.; Whelton, Andrew J.; Alexander, William
Weidhaas, J.L., Dietrich, A.M., DeYonker, N.J., Ryan Dupont, R., Foreman, W.T., Gallagher, D., Gallagher, J.E.G., Whelton, A.J., and Alexander, W.A., 2016, Enabling science support for better decision-making when responding to chemical spills: Journal of Environmental Quality, v. 45, no. 5, p. 1490-1500; http://dx.doi.org/10.2134/jeq2016.03.0090.

Year Published: 2016

Environmental implications of the use of sulfidic back-bay sediments for dune reconstruction — Lessons learned post Hurricane Sandy

Some barrier-island dunes damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Sandy's storm surges in October 2012 have been reconstructed using sediments dredged from back bays. These sand-, clay-, and iron sulfide-rich sediments were used to make berm-like cores for the reconstructed dunes, which were then covered by beach sand. In November 2013, we sampled and...

Plumlee, Geoffrey S.; Benzel, William M.; Hoefen, Todd M.; Hageman, Philip L.; Morman, Suzette A.; Reilly, Timothy J.; Adams, Monique; Berry, Cyrus J.; Fischer, Jeffrey; Fisher, Irene

Explore our science and investigations through photography and scientific imagery.

Filter Total Items: 114
A USGS scientist prepares a sample to test the effect of antibiotics on denitrifying bacteria within a glove box
September 24, 2018

A USGS scientist prepares a sample to test the effect of antibiotics

A USGS scientist prepares a sample to test the effect of antibiotics on denitrifying bacteria within a glove box. A glove box allows scientists to work with samples in an anaerobic (no oxygen) atmosphere, the conditions under which denitrification occurs.

Using the 384-well plate format, a single zebrafish embryo is tested in each well
September 24, 2018

Using the 384-well plate format, a single zebrafish embryo is tested

Using the 384-well plate format, a single zebrafish embryo is tested in each well. This is an example of a 72 hour post fertilization fli1:egfp zebrafish (3 millimeters long) imaged under a fluorescein isothiocyanate (FITC) filter.

Molecular Devices ImageXpress† High-Content Imaging System
September 24, 2018

Molecular Devices ImageXpress† High-Content Imaging System

Molecular Devices ImageXpress High-Content Imaging System

Molecular Devices ImageXpress† High-Content Imaging System
September 24, 2018

Molecular Devices ImageXpress† High-Content Imaging System

Molecular Devices ImageXpress High-Content Imaging System that can generate more than 25,000 images in less than 5 hours of automated image acquisition.

U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientist working on data analysis of cyanotoxins in water samples
September 24, 2018

(USGS scientist working on data analysis of cyanotoxins in water

U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientist working on data analysis of cyanotoxins in water samples

Keith A. Loftin, USGS, is the lead scientist for algal and cyanobacterial toxins
September 24, 2018

Keith A. Loftin is the lead scientist for algal and cyanobacteria

Keith A. Loftin, USGS, is the lead scientist for algal and cyanobacterial toxins

USGS scientists evaluating the nebulizer assembly in a mixed mode ionization source of a triple quadrupole mass spectrometer
September 24, 2018

USGS scientists evaluating the nebulizer assembly

USGS scientists evaluating the nebulizer assembly in a mixed mode ionization source of a triple quadrupole mass spectrometer used to measure individual cyanotoxins

Eosin-nigrosin staining of spermatozoa from common carp  testes collected from the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Nevada
September 24, 2018

Eosin-nigrosin staining of spermatozoa from common carp

Eosin-nigrosin staining of spermatozoa from common carp (Cyprinus carpio) testes collected from the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Nevada

Microscopic video imaging for computerized analysis of sperm motility
September 24, 2018

Microscopic video imaging for computerized analysis of sperm motility

Microscopic video imaging is used for computerized analysis of sperm motility parameters

Tablet-enabled field forms have been developed to help coordinate field effortsand collect site information
September 24, 2018

Tablet-enabled field forms have been developed to help field efforts

Tablet-enabled field forms have been developed to help coordinate field efforts, collect site information, GPS coordinates, photos, and control data collection.

Cyanobacterial accumulation at Binder Lake, Iowa, dominated by the blue green algae Microcystis sp. with a dead fish
April 17, 2018

Cyanobacterial accumulation at Binder Lake, Iowa

Algal and Other Environmental Toxins Laboratory — Lawrence, Kansas. Cyanobacterial accumulation along with a dead fish

This is an example of a 72 hour post fertilization fli1:egfp zebrafish (3 millimeters long) imaged under transmitted light
April 17, 2018

This is an example of a 72 hour post fertilization

This is an example of a 72 hour post fertilization fli1:egfp zebrafish (3 millimeters long) imaged under transmitted light. The same imaging system with was used.

In addition to news release about our latest papers we also provide Environmental Health Science Feature Articles that highlight the results of our investigations.

See Our Featured Science Activities
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Date published: March 20, 2019

What's New with Our Budget in Fiscal Year 2020

Information on funding for Environmental Health Mission Area programs for fiscal year 2020.

Date published: February 22, 2019

Fiscal Year 2018 USGS Environmental Health Mission Area Accomplishments

In Fiscal Year 2018 our two integrated programs – Contaminant Biology and Toxic Substances Hydrology Programs – provided essential information to understand the risks of environmental contaminants and pathogens.

"Everything we do is designed to safeguard the Nation's health, economy, and resources."

Date published: February 15, 2019

Environmental Health Mission Area Science Priorities for Fiscal Year 2019

The USGS Environmental Health Mission Area (EHMA)—through its integrated programs, the Toxic Substances Hydrology Program (TSHP) and the Contaminant Biology Program (CBP) — will continue its non-regulatory, non-advocacy science throughout 2019.

Date published: June 28, 2018

What’s New in Fiscal Year 2019

Information on funding for Environmental Health Mission Area programs for fiscal year 2019.

Date published: March 23, 2018

Highlights of Fiscal Year 2017 Accomplishments

"Everything we do is designed to safeguard the Nation's health, economy, and resources." 

A summary of accomplishments for fiscal year 2017 for the Environmental Health Mission Area.

Date published: June 19, 2017

Satellite Imagery Can Track Harmful Algal Blooms

A joint collaboration between EPA, NOAA, NASA, and USGS scientists has demonstrated that satellite imagery can be used to track the frequency of harmful algal blooms.  The satellites can accomplish this by measuring certain algal pigments in the water.

Date published: May 31, 2017

USGS Finds 28 Types of Cyanobacteria in Florida Algal Bloom

A new U.S. Geological Survey study that looked at the extensive harmful algal bloom that plagued Florida last year found far more types of cyanobacteria present than previously known.

Date published: January 24, 2017

Uranium in Spring Water North of Grand Canyon Likely Not Related to Nearby Mining Activity

Uranium levels in Pigeon Spring, just north of the Grand Canyon, are likely due to a natural source of uranium and not related to the nearby former Pigeon Mine, according to a recent study by the U.S. Geological Survey.

Date published: July 11, 2016

EarthWord–Morbidity

When you’re not dead yet, but aren’t feeling well either, there’s an EarthWord for that...

Date published: May 31, 2016

New Science Challenges Old Assumptions about Harmful Algal Blooms

First-of-its-kind survey shows that algal toxins are found nationwide

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