The Latest in Water Quality: Toxic Contaminants
- Pollution levels in nine rivers remain below long-term average in 2013 ...read more
- Updated water-quality trends for major rivers entering the Bay ...read more (12/2014)
- Chemical contaminants in water and sediment near fish nesting sites in the Potomac River basin: Determining potential exposures to smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomie) (Journal Article)
- EPA, USGS, with USFWS release new report on the extent and severity of toxic contaminants in the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed ...read more
- The occurrence of pesticides in the Bay watershed (USGS Circular 1316)
- Contaminant exposure and impacts on waterbirds and selected wildlife (USGS Circular 1316)
- Factors affecting fish health (USGS Circular 1316)
USGS Role in Water Quality: Toxic Contaminants
Toxic contaminants can affect the health of people, fish, and wildlife in the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed. About 70 percent of the Bay is impaired due to toxic contaminants. These toxic contaminants are in water, fish, or sediment. Examples include metals, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and pesticides, which can all be harmful to fish and wildlife and detrimental to human health. The Chesapeake Bay Program partners adopted a toxic reduction strategy in 2001 to address the issue.
More recently, concerns have arisen about newer contaminants such as pharmaceuticals, personal-care products, and flame retardants. These contaminants can affect the reproductive systems of fish and wildlife and are believed to contribute to intersex conditions in fish, which was discovered by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in the Potomac River basin. Another new concern is the impacts of drilling into shale deposits for natural gas. The Marcellus Shale underlies the western portion of the Bay watershed—Federal and State efforts other than the Chesapeake Bay Program are addressing this issue.
The President's Chesapeake Bay Executive Order (EO) calls for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to work with partners to develop new goals and strategies to reduce the impact of toxic contaminants.
Planned USGS activities to address toxic contaminants in the Bay watershed include:
- Conducting assessments of the health of fish and wildlife to better document the effects of toxic contaminants.
- Better defining the sources and transport pathways of chemicals impacting fish and wildlife.
- Summarizing results to help partners assess the seriousness of the toxic contaminants and develop reduction goals and strategies.
The USGS is working with the EPA, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to summarize the information on the extent and seriousness of toxic contaminants in the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed. EPA will work with States within the watershed to develop more specific goals (by 2013) and strategies (by 2015) to previous and newer threats posed by toxic contaminants.