Mission Areas

Toxic Substances Hydrology Program

Programs L2 Landing Page

The U.S. Geological Survey Toxic Substances Hydrology Program develops and applies advanced analytical methods, field investigations, laboratory studies, and modeling capabilities to understand the sources, movement, and exposure pathways of chemical and microbial hazards in the environment.

View Full Web Site

News

Image shows varying pigment levels from a satellite perspective of lakes in the United States
June 19, 2017

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.

Microscope image of Dolichospermum circinale, a cyanobacteria found in last year's Florida harmful algal bloom.
May 31, 2017

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.

Photo of Pigeon Canyon just before it merges with Snake Gulch in northern Arizona. 
January 24, 2017

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.

The Program has studies focused on issues of national concern including contaminants associated with unconventional oil and gas and uranium extractions, home and personal-care products, agricultural production, industrial processes.

Learn More
Filter Total Items: 15
The Toxics Emerging Contaminants Project’s nation-wide effort assesses the ecological risk associated with EDC in National Parks
Date Published: January 24, 2017

Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDC) threaten the reproductive success and long-term survival of sensitive aquatic populations in U.S. National Parks. Understanding the ecological impacts of contaminants of emerging concern (CEC), in general, and EDC, in specific, has been identified as a U.S. National Park Service (NPS) management priority.

The project employs a standardized EDC risk...

A dragonfly in the wetlands in Southeast North Dakota.
Date Published: August 16, 2016

Wetlands of the northern Great Plains are crucial feeding grounds for migrating birds and waterfowl embedded in an agricultural landscape. Land use and hydrology can affect adult aquatic insects – crucial prey for critically declining populations of insectivorous birds. Current studies focus on effects of current-use pesticides on adult aquatic insects to inform decision making about...

Poudre River looking upstream.
Date Published: August 12, 2016

Water quality and aquatic life standards that are set by Federal and state regulatory agencies are used to evaluate the quality of our nation’s water and the health of aquatic ecosystems. These standards currently are based on hardness of the water and are determined for single metals, not for mixtures of metals that are typically found in natural systems. Metal mixtures can potentially be...

View of Cement Creek, Colorado
Date Published: April 19, 2016

The goal of this investigation is to provide improved information and tools to support decisions related to management, risk assessment, remediation planning, and mitigation of the effects of hard-rock metal mining and uranium mining on watersheds and ecosystems.

USGS scientist lifting a sample bottle from ice hole
Date Published: April 19, 2016

This study is assessing the environmental health risks associated with wastes from unconventional oil and gas development by characterizing waste materials, identifying potential environmental pathways, and evaluating the potential effects on organisms from exposure to unintended waste releases.

White tanks used to hold the tracer injection solutions with tubing going to injection wells
Date Published: April 19, 2016

The USGS is investigating a wastewater plume in a shallow aquifer near Cape Cod, Massachusetts, to increase the understanding of the physical, chemical, and microbiological processes that affect the fate and transport of contaminants in groundwater.

USGS scientist collecting a water-quality sample from Zollner Creek, Oregon
Date Published: April 19, 2016

The USGS is developing methods to measure new pesticides and their byproducts in environmental media, conducting studies on the fate of these chemicals, and assessing exposure and potential effects on fish, wildlife, and human health.

USGS Mobile Atmospheric Mercury Laboratory
Date Published: April 19, 2016

This investigation focuses on understanding mercury sources, pathways and key processes in the environment, with particular emphasis on mercury methylation and accumulation in aquatic ecosystems.

USGS scientists collecting gas samples from the unsaturated zone.
Date Published: April 19, 2016

The objective of research at the Amargosa Desert Research Site, Nevada, is to improve understanding of processes controlling the migration and fate of contaminants in arid environments, and the environmental-health implications of disposed radioactive and industrial waste.

Four sample bottels filled with leachate
Date Published: April 19, 2016

The USGS is conducting source-to-receptor research on a broad range of chemical and microbial contaminants including pharmaceuticals, personal care products, pathogens, antibiotic resistant genes, and natural toxins that are not commonly considered in environmental research but have the potential to impact environmental health.

USGS Scientist collecting water samples in a stream
Date Published: April 19, 2016

The USGS is investigating the occurrence and environmental effects of complex mixtures of both natural and man-made chemicals in environmental waters.

USGS scientists collecting a water sample from a well at the USGS Bemidji Research Site
Date Published: April 19, 2016

This investigation focuses on the long-term persistence in soils and groundwater of petroleum hydrocarbon spills, including crude oil and refined petroleum fuels. The study site near Bemidji, MN, is a laboratory for developing site assessment tools and understanding chemical changes affecting human and environmental health that occur during natural attenuation of petroleum hydrocarbons.

Filter Total Items: 2
Map of ongoing project locations in U.S. National Parks, Assessing Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals Risk
January 24, 2017

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.

 

Screen capture of the The SCoRR Mapping Application
March 15, 2016

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.

Filter Total Items: 573
Year Published: 2010

USGS Toxic Substances Hydrology Program, 2010

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Toxic Substances Hydrology Program adapts research priorities to address the most important contamination issues facing the Nation and to identify new threats to environmental health. The Program investigates two major types of contamination problems: * Subsurface Point-Source Contamination, and * Watershed...

Buxton, Herbert T.
USGS Toxic Substances Hydrology Program, 2010; 2010; FS; 2010-3011; Buxton, Herbert T.

Year Published: 2008

Comparison of Pumped and Diffusion Sampling Methods to Monitor Concentrations of Perchlorate and Explosive Compounds in Ground Water, Camp Edwards, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, 2004-05

Laboratory and field tests were conducted at Camp Edwards on the Massachusetts Military Reservation on Cape Cod to examine the utility of passive diffusion sampling for long-term monitoring of concentrations of perchlorate and explosive compounds in ground water. The diffusion samplers were constructed of 1-inch-diameter rigid, porous polyethylene...

LeBlanc, Denis R.; Vroblesky, Don A.
Comparison of Pumped and Diffusion Sampling Methods to Monitor Concentrations of Perchlorate and Explosive Compounds in Ground Water, Camp Edwards, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, 2004-05; 2008; SIR; 2008-5109; LeBlanc, Denis R.; Vroblesky, Don A.

Year Published: 2008

Results of the Chemical and Isotopic Analyses of Sediment and Ground Water from Alluvium of the Canadian River Near a Closed Municipal Landfill, Norman, Oklahoma, Part 2

Analytical results on sediment and associated ground water from the Canadian River alluvium collected subsequent to those described in Breit and others (2005) are presented in this report. The data presented herein were collected primarily to evaluate the iron and sulfur species within the sediment at well sites IC 36, IC 54, and IC South located...

Breit, George N.; Tuttle, Michele L.W.; Cozzarelli, Isabelle M.; Berry, Cyrus J.; Christenson, Scott C.; Jaeschke, Jeanne B.
Results of the Chemical and Isotopic Analyses of Sediment and Ground Water from Alluvium of the Canadian River Near a Closed Municipal Landfill, Norman, Oklahoma, Part 2; 2008; OFR; 2008-1134; Breit, George N.; Tuttle, Michele L.W.; Cozzarelli, Isabelle M.; Berry, Cyrus J.; Christenson, Scott C.; Jaeschke, Jeanne B.

Year Published: 2007

Chloroethene dechlorination in acidic groundwater: Implications for combining fenton's treatment with natural attenuation

A sulfuric acid leak in 1988 at a chloroethene-contaminated groundwater site at the Naval Air Station Pensacola has resulted in a long-term record of the behavior of chloroethene contaminants at low pH and a unique opportunity to assess the potential impact of source area treatment technologies, which involve acidification of the groundwater...

Bradley, Paul M.; Singletary , Michael A. ; Chapelle, Francis H.

Year Published: 2007

Preface--Environmental issues related to oil and gas exploration and production

Energy is the essential commodity that powers the expanding global economy. Starting in the 1950s, oil and natural gas became the main sources of primary energy for the rapidly increasing world population (Edwards, 1997). In 2003, petroleum was the source for 62.1% of global energy, and projections by energy information administration (EIA)...

Kharaka, Yousif K.; Otton, James K.

Year Published: 2007

Publishing our "ugly babies”

No abstract available 

Year Published: 2007

A Framework for Assessing the Sustainability of Monitored Natural Attenuation

The sustainability of monitored natural attenuation (MNA) over time depends upon (1) the presence of chemical/biochemical processes that transform wastes to innocuous byproducts, and (2) the availability of energy to drive these processes to completion. The presence or absence of contaminant-transforming chemical/biochemical processes can be...

Chapelle, Francis H.; Novak, John; Parker, John; Campbell, Bruce G.; Widdowson, Mark A.
A Framework for Assessing the Sustainability of Monitored Natural Attenuation; 2007; CIR; 1303; Chapelle, Francis H.; Novak, John; Parker, John; Campbell, Bruce G.; Widdowson, Mark A.

Year Published: 2007

Streamflow and Nutrient Fluxes of the Mississippi-Atchafalaya River Basin and Subbasins for the Period of Record Through 2005

U.S. Geological Survey has monitored streamflow and water quality systematically in the Mississippi-Atchafalaya River Basin (MARB) for more than five decades. This report provides streamflow and estimates of nutrient delivery (flux) to the Gulf of Mexico from both the Atchafalaya River and the main stem of the Mississippi River. This report...

Aulenbach, Brent T.; Buxton, Herbert T.; Battaglin, William A.; Coupe, Richard H.
Streamflow and Nutrient Fluxes of the Mississippi-Atchafalaya River Basin and Subbasins for the Period of Record Through 2005; 2007; OFR; 2007-1080; Aulenbach, Brent T.; Buxton, Herbert T.; Battaglin, William A.; Coupe, Richard H.

Year Published: 2007

Accumulation of dechlorination daughter products: A valid metric of chloroethene biodegradation

In situ reductive dechlorination of perchloroethene (PCE) and trichloroethene (TCE) generates characteristic chlorinated (cis-dichloroethene [cis-DCE] and vinyl chloride [VC]) and nonchlorinated (ethene and ethane) products. The accumulation of these daughter products is commonly used as a metric for ongoing biodegradation at field sites. However...

Bradley, Paul M.; Chapelle, Frank H.

Year Published: 2007

Arsenic in the environment: Biology and chemistry

Arsenic (As) distribution and toxicology in the environment is a serious issue, with millions of individuals worldwide being affected by As toxicosis. Sources of As contamination are both natural and anthropogenic and the scale of contamination ranges from local to regional. There are many areas of research that are being actively pursued to...

Bhattacharya, Prosun; Welch, Alan H.; Stollenwerk, Kenneth G.; McLaughlin , Mike J.; Bundschuh, Jochen; Panaullah, G.

Year Published: 2007

Contaminated salmon and the public's trust

Scientific uncertainties often make it difficult for environmental policy makers to determine how to communicate risks to the public. A constructive, holistic, multisectoral dialogue about an issue can improve understanding of uncertainties from different perspectives and clarify options for risk communication. Many environmental issues could...

Luoma, Samuel N.; Löfstedt, Ragnar E.

Year Published: 2007

Coupling between geochemical reactions and multicomponent gas and solute transport in unsaturated media: A reactive transport modeling study

The two-way coupling that exists between biogeochemical reactions and vadose zone transport processes, in particular gas phase transport, determines the composition of soil gas. To explore these feedback processes quantitatively, multicomponent gas diffusion and advection are implemented into an existing reactive transport model that includes a...

Molins, S.; Mayer, K.U.

Explore our science and investigations through photography and scientific imagery.

See Full Photo Gallery
Filter Total Items: 15
View of Old Mans Creek near Iowa City, Iowa
2016 (approx.)

View of Old Mans Creek near Iowa City, Iowa upstream from a bridge used for collecting water-quality samples (USGS Site ID: 05455100). This site was part of the sampling network for the first reconnaissance study to assess potential off-field transport of nitrapyrin (a bactericide) to streams.

USGS Scientist collecting water samples in a stream
2014 (approx.)

USGS scientist collecting water samples and measuring water field properties at North Sylamore Creek, Arkansas, on January 7, 2014. Water samples were analyzed for over 700 chemicals and a wide range of biological activity and toxicity.

USGS Mobile Atmospheric Mercury Laboratory
2014 (approx.)

The USGS Mobile Atmospheric Mercury Laboratory has onboard instrumentation to measure aerosol concentrations and to continuously monitor mercury speciation and concentrations, air quality, automated wet deposition collection, and meteorological conditions.

USGS scientists collecting a water sample from a well at the USGS Bemidji Research Site
July 22, 2014

U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientists collecting a groundwater sample from a well at the USGS Bemidji Crude-Oil Spill Research Site, Minnesota. The scientists monitored in real time the dissolved oxygen, pH, specific conductance, and temperature of the water as the well is pumped so they can know when to collect representative sample.

USGS scientists collecting water-quality samples from shallow groundwater under Ashumet Pond
July 3, 2014

U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientists collecting water-quality samples from shallow groundwater under Ashumet Pond, Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The scientists collected the samples to understand importance of lake sediments in removal of cyanobacteria, viruses, and dissolved organic carbon.

view across Ashumet Pond, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, with sampling grid markers in forground
2014 (approx.)

Sunset view looking northwest from Fishermans Cove, across Ashumet Pond, Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The small sticks and flags in the lake are a sampling grid. 

USGS scientist collecting water samples on a wastewater disposal facility
June 18, 2014

U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientist collecting water samples on a wastewater disposal facility in West Virginia to assess potential environmental impacts due to activities at the site. Shifts in the overall microbial community structure were present in stream sediments that contained chemicals associated with unconventional oil and gas wastewaters.

USGS scientist collecting a water-quality sample from Zollner Creek, Oregon
May 19, 2014

U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) hydrologic technician Dan Polette collecting a water-quality sample from Zollner Creek, Oregon for a national-scale investigation of the environmental occurrence of neonicotinoid insecticides in agricultural and urban settings. USGS Site ID 14201300 - Oblique downstream view from right bank showing location of cross section and Monitor-McKee Road bridge.

view across Ashumet Pond, Cape Cod, Massachusetts
2014 (approx.)

View looking west from Fishermans Cove, across Ashumet Pond, Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The small sticks in the lake are a small-scale sampling grid. 

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 Science Feature Articles
Filter Total Items: 29
Image shows varying pigment levels from a satellite perspective of lakes in the United States
June 19, 2017

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.

Microscope image of Dolichospermum circinale, a cyanobacteria found in last year's Florida harmful algal bloom.
May 31, 2017

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.

Photo of Pigeon Canyon just before it merges with Snake Gulch in northern Arizona. 
January 24, 2017

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.

Image shows a fish in a tank beneath a half-circle shelter
July 11, 2016

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

Map of the 48 contiguous states showing Microcystin concentrations
May 31, 2016

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

Image shows a map with an aerial image of the study site beneath it
May 9, 2016

These are the first published studies to demonstrate water-quality impacts to a surface stream due to activities at an unconventional oil and gas wastewater deep well injection disposal site.

view across Ashumet Pond, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, with sampling grid markers in forground
April 28, 2016

A recent scientific study shows new, important information about how groundwater cannot only contribute nutrients such as nitrogen to lakes, but can also carry it away. Nitrogen is an important nutrient but harmful when over-supplied. The fate and transport of nitrogen are critically important issues for human and aquatic ecosystem health.

Bald eagle flying over water
April 20, 2016

Researchers have figured out what makes certain chemicals  accumulate to toxic levels in aquatic food webs. And, scientists have developed a screening technique to determine which chemicals pose the greatest risk to the environment.

 

USGS science for a changing world logo
February 17, 2016

USGS scientists have detected toxins known as microcystins produced by various forms of algae in 39 percent of the small streams assessed throughout the southeastern United States. Their recent study looked at 75 streams in portions of Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia.

USGS science for a changing world logo
January 13, 2016

Between 1990 and 2010, global mercury emissions from manmade sources declined 30 percent, according to a new analysis by Harvard University, Peking University, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, and the University of Alberta. These results challenge long-standing assumptions about mercury emission trends.

Keep up with our science by subscribing to the GeoHealth Newsletter.

Get the Newsletter