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Products > Water Quality and Drinking Water > Emerging Contaminants

All Emerging Contaminants Products


thumbnail Assessing Metals and PAHs in Urban Sediment in Milwaukee and Madison Wisconsin –USGS, in cooperation with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, measured concentrations of select metals and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) sand and silt particles that make up urban sediment. Metals were found at high, but not toxic, levels; high levels of PAHs were found in the majority of sand and silt samples. All sources of sediment showed some level of toxic potential with stormwater bed sediment the highest followed by stormwater suspended, street dirt, and streambed. Many treatment structures are designed to capture coarse sediment but do not work well to similarly capture the finer particles, such as in stormwater. (Press release; Report)


thumbnail Water Quality in the Fayetteville Shale Gas-Production Area, North-Central Arkansas –USGS, in cooperation with the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission, Arkansas Oil and Gas Commission, Duke University, Faulkner County, Shirley Community Development Corporation, and the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, examined water quality in 127 shallow domestic wells in the Fayetteville Shale natural gas production area of Arkansas and found no groundwater contamination associated with gas production. Scientists analyzed water-quality data from samples taken in Van Buren and Faulkner counties in 2011, focusing on chloride concentrations from 127 wells and methane concentrations and carbon isotope ratios from a subsample of 51 wells. Chloride is a naturally occurring ion that is found at elevated levels in waters associated with gas production. Chloride moves easily through groundwater without reacting with other ions or compounds in solution, which thereby makes it a good indicator of whether chemicals used during hydraulic fracturing are reaching groundwater. In this case, the chloride concentrations from this study were not higher than samples taken from nearby areas from 1951 through 1983. Methane is the primary component of natural gas, but also can be found naturally in shallow shale formations in the Fayetteville Shale area that are used as sources of water for domestic supplies. What methane was found in the water, taken from domestic wells, was either naturally occurring, or could not be attributed to natural gas production activities. (Full report; Press release)


thumbnail Sources and Characteristics of Organic Matter Related to the Formation of Disinfection By-Products in Treated Drinking Water
in the Clackamas River, Oregon –USGS, in cooperation with Clackamas River Water and the City of Lake Oswego, characterized the amount and quality of organic matter in the Clackamas River to gain an understanding of sources that contribute to the formation of chlorinated and brominated disinfection by-products. (Report)


thumbnail Chemicals of Emerging Concern in the St. Louis River, St. Louis Bay, and Superior Bay, Minnesota and Wisconsin –USGS, in cooperation with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, collected water and bottom-sediment samples from 40 sites in 2010 to identify the extent to which chemicals of emerging concern occur in water and sediment in the St., Louis River, St. Louis Bay, and Superior bay. These chemicals include pharmaceuticals, hormones, and other organic chemicals—some of which have been shown to have detrimental effects on fish and other aquatic life, including endocrine disruption. They can occur in urban runoff, wastewater treatment plant effluent, and industrial effluent. A total of 33 of 89 chemicals of emerging concern were detected in water samples and 56 of the 104 chemicals of emerging concern were detected in bottom-sediment samples. In general, chemicals of emerging concern were detected at a higher frequency in bottom-sediment samples than in water samples, indicating that bottom sediment is an important sink for chemicals of emerging concern. (Full report)


thumbnail NEW STUDY on Emerging Contaminants in Iowa Public Supply Wells –USGS begins a new study with multiple State agencies to assess the occurrence and spatial distribution of a large list of contaminants through sampling of 60 public supply wells—including pharmaceutical and personal care products, pesticides (including glyphosate), nutrients, ions, metals, bacteria, and human and animal gastrointestinal viruses.  Groundwater is the source of drinking water to about 2.4 million Iowans, and over 2 million residents obtain their groundwater-drinking water from a public water supply. This is one of the first known statewide studies of its kind producing a dataset that will document occurrence of human, swine, and bovine viruses along with the extensive list of 112 pharmaceuticals. Findings will help guide future monitoring efforts and studies connecting contaminants in drinking water to public health outcomes, and will provide at least a basic ability to forecast the potential for contaminant occurrence in other PWS and private well sources. (Contact; Kevin Richards, krichard@usgs.gov, (319) 358-3600)


thumbnail Man-Made Chemicals Found at Low Concentrations in Pennsylvania Waters –Low concentrations of different contaminants, including pharmaceuticals, hormones and organic wastewater compounds, were detected in rivers and streams throughout Pennsylvania during a four year study conducted by USGS in cooperation with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. Concentrations of individual contaminants were generally less than 50 nanograms per liter, or the equivalent of less than one drop of water in an Olympic-size swimming pool. The sites near drinking-water intakes that had the greatest number contaminants of emerging concern were generally on mid-sized to large rivers with mixed urban and agricultural land use and a large number of identifiable sources of point discharges per unit of drainage area. (Report; Press release)


thumbnail Dissolved Methane in New York Groundwater –USGS, in cooperation with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, sampled groundwater from more than 200 wells across New York State and found levels of naturally-occurring methane high enough to warrant monitoring or other actions in nine percent of the water samples tested. In the state of New York, an estimated six million people get their drinking water from groundwater. The findings of this study highlight the importance of well owners understanding the source and quality of their drinking water. Methane in groundwater has been much in the news on account of the potential association with unconventional energy development, but methane also occurs naturally in some groundwater systems. With ongoing unconventional gas development in Pennsylvania and surrounding states and possible unconventional gas development in New York State, knowing the current quality of groundwater is important to establish baseline water-quality conditions for individual and public water-supply wells. (Report; Technical announcement)


thumbnail High Concentrations of Nitrate and Perchlorate in Some Inland Empire Groundwater in southern California –USGS in cooperation with California State Water Resources Control Board, showed elevated nitrate in one quarter of the aquifer system used for Inland Empire public water supply. Additionally, high concentrations of perchlorate were detected in 11 percent of the aquifer system and in moderate concentrations in about 50 percent. This aquifer system, located in Riverside and San Bernardino Counties, includes the Upper Santa Ana Valley, San Jacinto, and Elsinore groundwater basins, although, high nitrate and perchlorate concentrations were not found in the Elsinore groundwater basin. Sources of nitrate include agriculture, effluent from wastewater treatment plants, and septic systems. Perchlorate sources include rocket fuel, fireworks, safety flares, and fertilizers. Elevated concentrations of both nitrate and perchlorate in drinking water have been associated with adverse health effects and are monitored by the California Department of Public Health. (Full report; Fact Sheet; Press release) This study is part of the Priority Basin Project of the Groundwater Ambient Monitoring and Assessment (GAMA) Program that is characterizing groundwater quality in 120 basins that supply about 95 percent of public groundwater supplies.


thumbnail Pharmaceutical compounds in groundwater used for public drinking-water supply in California –USGS in cooperation with the State Water Resources Control Board, released a study in the journal, Science of the Total Environment, showing low concentrations of pharmaceutical compounds in 2.3 percent of more than 1,200 groundwater samples in tested aquifers used for drinking water in California. Pharmaceuticals were detected more frequently in urban areas; the most frequently detected pharmaceutical was carbamazepine (a prescription medication used mainly as a mood stabilizer or anti-seizure medication). This study was designed to characterize the occurrence and distribution of pharmaceuticals in untreated groundwater, not in water delivered to consumers. Water in public systems may be disinfected, filtered, mixed, and/or exposed to the atmosphere before it is delivered as tap water. (Press release, July 2011)


thumbnail Anti-biotic compounds in source water and finished drinking water from the Upper Scioto River Basin, Ohio –USGS, in cooperation with the City of Columbus, Division of Power and Water, released a study that provides a synoptic view of the occurrence of antibiotics in source and finished waters in the upper Scioto River Basin. The occurrence of antibiotics in surface water and groundwater in urban basins has become a topic of increasing interest in recent years. Little is known about the occurrence, fate, or transport of these compounds and the possible health effects in humans and aquatic life.

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