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Zoltan Szabo

A Research Hydrologist with the USGS New Jersey Water Science Center, specializing in investigating the occurrence and mobility of radon and radium since 1985, has been the national leader in defining the occurrence of short-lived radium-224 in groundwater. His recent work has expanded to the occurrence of a broad suite of "emerging" contaminants in groundwater and surface water.

Led the radionuclide occurrence and mobility assessment for the National Water Quality Assessment (NAWQA) program, with focus on National Radium occurrence. He has co-authored the NAWQA cycle III 10-year research plan for radionuclides. He worked on methods development for radionuclide analyses, included in Standard Methods, and analytical methods challenges of complex matrices including high TDS natural waters and waste brines. He has worked with isotopes as tracers of ground-water movement, including use of tritium, helium-3, and stable isotopes of nitrogen and strontium. He has been working on characterizing waste streams from septic tanks affecting ground-water quality and sewage discharge affecting surface water, as well as examining the effect of various treatment systems for these compounds. He has also been working on toxicology of sediments. He has helped design, test and implement "ultra-clean" ground-water sampling protocols for trace elements, including mercury, and is working on defining mercury distribution in the environment for coastal regions. He has expanded into “emerging” contaminants in ground/surface water, including various short-lived radionuclides, organic compounds, and the “species” of mercury and arsenic. He has designed studies to document the effects of natural isotope variations on variability in gross alpha-particle activity in ground water and effects of holding time after sample collection.

He has more than 65 full length publications and more than 100 abstracts, mostly devoted to radionuclide occurrence and mercury chemistry.


Education and Certifications

  • MS in Geology, Ohio State University, thesis on strontium isotopes as groundwater flow tracers


Affiliations and Memberships*

  • USGS NAWQA Program Trace-Element Synthesis Team on radionuclide occurrence

  • NIEHS (National Institute Environmental Health & Safety) Superfund Basic Research Program Committee (SBRP)

  • American Water Works Assoc. Research Foundation (AWWARF) Radionuclide Technical Advisory Committee

  • Technical advisor to the USGS NWQL (National Water Quality Laboratory) to the radionuclide and tritium-helium analytical services and associated contracts

  • Collaborates with researchers at local universities and serves as a committee member for graduate student candidates or as senior project advisor


Honors and Awards

  • Recipient of American Water Works Assoc. Researcher of the Year (2007, NJ Chapter). 

  • Won the USGS Report of the Year Award for the Northeastern USA sparking EPA’s efforts to define occurrence of radium.


Abstracts and Presentations

  • One of three authors cited for radionuclide studies by USEPA in the Radionuclide Rule of 2000 and the accompanying Radionuclide NODA (Notice of Data Availability). 


Science and Products

*Disclaimer: Listing outside positions with professional scientific organizations on this Staff Profile are for informational purposes only and do not constitute an endorsement of those professional scientific organizations or their activities by the USGS, Department of the Interior, or U.S. Government