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USGS Chesapeake Bay Activities

USGS Role in Water Quality: Toxic Contaminants

graphic representing ground water discharge

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 Watershed Agreement 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:

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.

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Page Last Modified: Tuesday, 25-Apr-2017 16:26:27 EDT