USGS Banner

Project ID: 2006DC80B

Title: Assessment of Waterborne Contamination with Human Pathogens in Tributaries of the Anacostia River using the Asiatic Clam (Corbicula fluminea)

Project Type: Research

Start Date: 03/01/2006

End Date: 02/28/2007

Congressional District: District of Columbia

Focus Categories: Water Quality, Non Point Pollution, Solute Transport

Keywords: Waterborne pathogens, cryptosoridium, giardia, microsporidia, microbiological contaminants, corbicula clams, biomonitoring, point sources,non-point sources, pollutants

Principal Investigator: Graczyk, Thaddeus K.

Federal Funds: $15,000

Non-Federal Matching Funds: $9,450

Abstract: The highly polluted 10 km freshwater Anacostia River estuary is the largest water body of Washington, DC, and a focus of environmental concerns. It runs along the lower third of the District and essentially separates Federal buildings and upscale housing from the poorer and mostly minority communities in the south and west districts. The Anacostia has been termed one of three Areas of Concern in the Chesapeake Bay and one of the 10 worst American Rivers. The District of Columbia is making plans for extensive waterfront development (Washington Post 2003) although the poor water quality of the Anacostia River has been known for years (Freudberg et al. 1989). There is a fishing advisory issued based on PCB and chlordane levels (Velinsky and Cummins 1994). The River has high bacterial levels (Washington Post 2004a) and tumors in catfish residing in this river are among the highest in the US (Pinkney et al. 2000, Washington Post 2004b). Anacostia benthic life is very poor and sediments have high levels of toxic contaminants (Velinsky and Ashley 2001; Velinsky et al. 1992; Phelps 1993; AWTA 2002). Amazingly, even with high coliform levels detected at the upper end of the estuary (Maeda and Connolly 2002), there have been no studies on human intestinal waterborne parasites such as Cryptosporidium parvum, Giardia lamblia, and microsporidia (i.e., Encephalitozoon intestinalis, E. hellem, and Enterocytozoon bieneusi) in the Anacostia River or its tributaries. These biological contaminants originate from human and non-human, point and non-point sources as they infect humans, livestock and wildlife (Graczyk et al. 1997a; Graczyk et al. 2004). These category B biodefense pathogens are on the CDC, NIH, and USEPA priority lists, because they significantly contribute (particularly Cryptosporidium) to morbidity of healthy people and mortality of immunosuppressed individuals (Graczyk et al. 1997; Graczyk et al. 2004). Protozoan parasites could also be contributed by the numerous Canadian geese residing in and visiting the Anacostia River watershed (Graczyk et al. 1998a). Eighty percent of Anacostia’s tributaries are in Maryland. There have been relatively few studies of the tributaries but all suggest they are a major source of the chemical and biological contamination of the tidal River (Gruessner et al. 1997; Coffin et al. 1999; Phelps 2000; Phelps 2002; Warner et al. 1997). The proposed project will assess the contamination of Anacostia tributary first and second order streams with human waterborne parasites using the freshwater Asiatic clam, Corbicula fluminea. Molluscan shellfish are considered an ideal organism to study environmental aquatic health as they filter feed and bioaccumulate rather than detoxify pollutants. Because the Asiatic clam is common, widespread, and resistant to environmental toxicants, it is recommended for freshwater contaminant bioaccumulation studies by the National Water Quality Assessment Program (Crawford and Luoma 1993). Translocated Asiatic clams have been used to detect organochlorines and pesticides (Hartley and Johnston 1983; Colombo et al.1995). Asiatic clams can concentrate important human enteric disease protozoa such as Cyclospora cayetanensis (Graczyk et al. 1998b), Cryptosporidium parvum (Graczyk et al. 1998c) and Giardia lamblia (Graczyk et al. 1997b; Graczyk et al 1999; Graczyk et al. 2003). The nearby Potomac River, a Chesapeake Bay restoration success, has a large Corbicula population (Phelps 1995; Phelps 2002) being used for this study.

The overarching objective of the proposed project is to assess contamination of the MD and DC tributaries to the Anacostia River with human waterborne pathogens using the Asiatic clam (Corbicula fluminea). Specifically we will: 1) Identify the source of human waterborne pathogens in the Anacostia River watershed by involving in the project graduate and undergraduate students; 2) Demonstrate the use of the locally available Corbicula clam to assess contamination of Anacostia watershed tributaries with microbiological contaminants; 3) Bring to the attention of Maryland and the District of Columbia administration and public health officials the necessity for cooperation to resolve the contamination problems of the Anacostia River; 4) Facilitate the development of the best management plan for remediation of the water quality and contamination of the Anacostia River; 5) Publicize the results in the scientific literature among scientific communities and among appropriate local agencies; and 6) Provide training for graduate and undergraduate students of the Johns Hopkins University and University of Maryland, respectively.

Progress/Completion Report, PDF

U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
Maintained by: John Schefter
Last Updated: Friday, December 07, 2007
Privacy Statement || Disclaimer
|| Accessibility