Toxic Substances Hydrology Program

Featured Science Activities

Our science activities are summarized in a series of feature articles that highlight recent U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) environmental health science activities. They are short summaries of peer-reviewed journal articles and USGS reports co-authored by our specialized teams of scientists.
Older featured science activities are on our old Web site.

Filter Total Items: 90
Date published: December 15, 2015
Status: Completed

Ethanol-Containing Fuel Spills Enhanced Natural Trace Element Release from Sediments in an Experimental Setting

Experimental field research simulating hydrocarbon spills by researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), Virginia Tech, and the University of St. Thomas showed that mixed ethanol and petroleum-based fuels increased the rate by which arsenic and other natural trace elements are...

Date published: November 13, 2015
Status: Completed

Complex Mixtures, Complex Responses—Using Comprehensive Approaches to Assess Pharmaceutical Effects on Fish

The occurrence of complex mixtures of prescription pharmaceuticals in streams and rivers around the globe has raised concerns about potential unintended adverse effects on aquatic organisms. The deleterious effects (for example, alteration of fish behavior) observed in this study confirm that effluents containing pharmaceuticals can adversely affect fish in ways that are central to sustaining...

Contacts: Dana W Kolpin, Heiko L. Schoenfuss
Date published: November 13, 2015
Status: Completed

Landfill Leachate Released to Wastewater Treatment Plants and other Environmental Pathways Contains a Mixture of Contaminants including Pharmaceuticals

New scientific research from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) details how landfill leachate, disposed from landfills to environmental pathways, is host to numerous contaminants of emerging concern (CECs).

Date published: November 4, 2015
Status: Completed

Native Bees are Exposed to Neonicotinoids and Other Pesticides

A recent reconnaissance study by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) demonstrates the first observed occurrence of pesticides, including neonicotinoid insecticides, in wild-caught native bees. The results indicate that native bees collected in an agricultural landscape are exposed to multiple pesticides including insecticides, fungicides, and herbicides. This reconnaissance study is the first...

Date published: August 26, 2015
Status: Completed

Potential Exposure to Bacteria and Viruses Weeks after Swine Manure Spill

Manure spills may be an underappreciated pathway for livestock-derived contaminants to enter streams. Scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health studied an Iowa stream after the release of a large volume of swine manure (a manure spill). The scientists observed an increase in viruses...

Date published: August 18, 2015
Status: Completed

First National-Scale Reconnaissance of Neonicotinoid Insecticides in United States Streams

Neonicotinoid insecticides (neonicotinoids) were present in a little more than half of the streams sampled across the United States and Puerto Rico, according to a new U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) study. This is the first national-scale study of the presence of neonicotinoids in urban and agricultural land use settings across the Nation and was completed as part of ongoing USGS investigations...

Date published: July 6, 2015
Status: Completed

Long-Term Study Finds Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals in Urban Waterways

U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientists determined that endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) were present in wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) effluent, water, and fish tissue in urban waterways in the Great Lakes and upper Mississippi River Regions (Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, and Ohio) during 1999 through 2009.

Date published: June 30, 2015
Status: Completed

Assessing Environmental Chemical Mixtures in United States Streams

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are collaborating on a field-based study of chemical mixture composition and environmental effects in stream waters affected by a wide range of human activities and contaminant sources.

Contacts: Paul M Bradley
Date published: June 17, 2015
Status: Completed

Microbiology and Chemistry of Waters Produced from Hydraulic Fracking—A Case Study

A new U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) study determined that the microbiology and organic chemistry of produced waters varied widely among hydraulically fractured shale gas wells in north-central Pennsylvania.

Date published: June 2, 2015
Status: Completed

Personal Care Products, Pharmaceuticals, and Hormones Move from Septic Systems to Local Groundwater

Pharmaceuticals, hormones, personal care products, and other contaminants of concern associated with everyday household activities were found in adjacent shallow groundwater near two septic system networks in New York (NY) and New England (NE). Factors influencing movement to shallow groundwater and the types of chemicals found include population served by a septic system, site conditions such...

Date published: January 28, 2015
Status: Completed

Comprehensive Assessment of Mercury in Streams Explains Major Sources, Cycling, and Effects

A new USGS report, Mercury in the Nation's Streams—Levels, Trends, and Implications, presents a comprehensive assessment of mercury contamination in streams across the United States. It highlights the importance of environmental processes, monitoring, and control strategies for understanding and reducing stream mercury levels. ...

Contacts: Mark E Brigham
Date published: January 26, 2015
Status: Completed

Contaminant Transport Models Aid in Understanding Trends of Chlorinated Ethenes in Public Supply Wells

U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientists used a mass–balance solute–transport model to enhance an understanding of factors affecting chlorinated ethene (CE) concentrations in a public supply well. They found that long–term simulated and measured CEconcentrations were affected by dense nonaqueous phase liquid (DNAPL) volume, composition, and by the bioavailability of organic carbon that drives...