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Environmental Health

A System that Identifies Environmental Risk to Public Health in America

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One mission of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is to conduct research on the impacts of human activities that introduce chemical and pathogenic contaminants into the environment and threaten human, animal (fish and wildlife), and environmental health. The USGS Washington Water Science Center (WAWSC) supports this mission primarily through our hydrologic investigations program, although we also collect routine contaminant data at a number of sites in both the Puget Sound and Central Columbia/Yakima Basins in support of the USGS National Water Quality Assessment (NAWQA) program. Some of these activities are funded entirely by USGS, although most are funded through partnerships between the USGS, other federal agencies, state and local governments, and tribes.

Most current or recent environmental health studies conducted by the WAWSC focus on sources, transport, and fate of various contaminants in surface water and groundwater. For surface-water systems, we are currently evaluating a somewhat unique environmental health problem involving the transport and fate of naturally occurring asbestos-laden sediment in the Sumas River. The results of the study are being used to better understand the potential human health risk from the asbestos load in water as well as deposits along the banks and flood plain of Swift Creek and the Sumas River. The occurrence of emerging contaminants--a group of chemical compounds that generally include pharmaceuticals, personal-care products, surfactants, industrial and household chemicals, and food additives--in streams and fish is under investigation in the Stillaguamish River basin where the Stillaguamish Tribe is concerned with the chronic or toxic effects that low-level environmental exposure of these contaminants may have on Chinook salmon. The results from this study will help identify sources of emerging contaminants in the system. Sources and transport of nitrates in groundwater that may be used for drinking water are under investigation in the Yakima River basin and Whatcom County. Results from these studies will be used to help identify where nitrates in groundwater originated, and how nitrate could be better managed at the land surface in order to protect drinking water supplies.

WAWSC scientists have a long history of supporting the Department of Defense and other Federal agencies with environmental contamination and health problems. The studies we conduct for these agencies most often focus on sources, fate, and transport of contaminants in groundwater, and the results of the studies are used to help determine effective and feasible remediation (clean up) strategies. Recently, we have been examining the sources and sinks of mercury in the marine environment of Sinclair Inlet, Puget Sound, and the potential for mercury to methylate and enter the food web; and expanding and refining numerical groundwater models to help optimize remedies for removing volatile organic compounds and 1,4-dioxane from groundwater. We also provide technical support to other federal agencies in the form of document or plan reviews, such as we currently do for the Department of Interior at Lake Roosevelt, for the US Environmental Protection Agency and US Fish and Wildlife Service at the Hanford Site.

Current and Recent Environmental Health Studies Conducted by the Washington Water Science Center
Bumping Reservoir Review
River of Water and Power Resources Service (WPRS) Water-Supply Analysis for Proposed Enlargement of Bumping Reservoir - Completed FY1980
NCCN Critical Loads
Developing Critical Loads for Atmospheric Deposition of Inorganic Nitrogen to North Coast and Cascades Network Lakes - Completed FY2011
Central Columbia Plateau - Yakima River Basin NAWQA
National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA), Central Columbia Plateau-Yakima River Basin
Columbia Plateau
Ground-Water Pumpage and Water Levels in the Columbia Plateau - Completed FY1987

Crop Water Determination Through Remote Sensing - Completed FY1986

Ground-Water Hydrology and Development in East-Central Washington - Completed FY1986

Use of LANDSAT Imagery to Define the Distribution and Rate of Water Use - Completed FY1985

Distribution of Dissolved Sodium in the Ground Water of the Columbia River Plateau, Washington - Completed FY1985

Coarse-grid Model of Ground Water in the Columbia River Basalts - Completed FY1983

Artificial Recharge of Coumbia River Basalt - Completed FY1982

Artificial Recharge of Columbia River Basalt - Completed FY1972
Columbia Plateau Ground-Water Availability
Characterizing the Hydrologic Status of the Columbia Plateau Ground-Water System, Identifying Trends in Ground-Water Storage and Use, and Quantifying Ground-Water Availability - Completed FY2011
Columbia Plateau RASA
Columbia Plateau Regional Aquifer Systems Analysis (RASA) Project - Completed FY1999
Consumptive Use
Consumptive Water Use and Groundwater Withdrawals in Irrigated Lands - Competed FY2013
Recharge and frozen ground in the PNW
Monitoring Effects of Climate Change on Groundwater Recharge in the Pacific Northwest through Remote Sensing of Frozen Ground - Competed FY2014
Lake Crescent
Nearshore Effects of Residential Wastewater-Influenced Groundwater on Lake Crescent - Completed FY2011

Lake Crescent Nutrient Budget - Completed FY2008

USGS Technical Assistance for Water-Quality Microbiology, Lake Crescent, Olympic National Park - Completed FY2006
Elwha River
Transport of Suspended Sediment and Its Effect on Aquatic Habitat in the Elwha River, Olympic National Park - Completed FY2005

Development of a Continuous, Real-Time Suspended-Sediment Monitoring System and Its Evaluation in the Elwha River, Washington - Completed FY2005

Evaluation of Current Ecological Conditions with Respect to Nutrient Dynamics in the Elwha River, Olympic National Park - Completed FY1999
Hood Canal
Estimating Ground-Water Discharge and Nitrogen Loading in Hood Canal, Washington - Completed FY2011

Studies Addressing Low Concentrations of Dissolved Oxygen in Hood Canal - Completed FY2004
Methow River Basin
Surface-Water Hydrology in the Methow River Basin - Completed FY2003

The Unconsolidated Aquifer and Its Interaction with Surface Water - Completed FY2003

Monitoring Water Resources and Simulating Water Management Alternatives - Completed FY2003

Analyzing Aquifer and Streamflow Characteristics for Artificial Recharge in the Methow River Basin - Completed FY2003
Mount St. Helens
Retrospective Analysis of Processes Affecting the Water Quality Due to the Eruption of Mount St. Helens - Completed FY1987
Coal Transport
USGS Pilot Study to Assess Ecosystem Effects of Increased Coal Transport Across the Northwest Region
GW/SW Interactions
Interactions between Ground Water and Surface Water in Alluvial Rivers of the Pacific Northwest - Completed FY2004
Potholes Reservoir
Simulation of Unregulated Runoff and Irrigation Return Flows into Potholes Reservoir - Completed FY2008
Coastal Habitats in Puget Sound (CHIPS)
USGS Web Page for the Coastal Habitats in Puget Sound (CHIPS) Program to Provide the Science Needed to Restore and Preserve Puget Sound
Puget Hazards
Urban Hydrologic and Geologic Hazards in the Puget Sound Area - Completed FY2003
Puget Parks
Persistent Organic Pollution and Heavy Metals in Glacial-Fed Lakes and Aquatic Biota in National Parks and Forests of the Puget Sound Basin - Completed FY2004
Puget Sound Basin NAWQA
National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA), Puget Sound Basin
Puget Sound-Willamette Trough
Puget Sound-Willamette Trough Regional Aquifer System Analysis (RASA) - Completed FY2001
Characterization and Numerical Simulation of the Puyallup River Watershed
Groundwater-level and Stream Baseflow Monitoring, Puyallup River Watershed, King and Pierce counties, Washington
Quincy Groundwater
Assessment of Groundwater in Storage, Quincy Basin, Washington
Lake Roosevelt-Upper Columbia River
Interdisciplinary investigation of the occurrence and potential impacts of slag on Lake Roosevelt white sturgeon (Acipenser transmontanus)

The Effects of Trace Elements on Water Quality and Biological Health in the Lake Roosevelt National Recreational Area: Columbia River - Completed FY2006

Occurrence And Distribution of Trace Elements In Air Along Lake Roosevelt: A Pilot Study - Completed FY2006

Assessment of Trace-Element Concentrations in Sediment Cores and Rates of Sediment Accumulation in Franklin D. Roosevelt Lake - Completed FY2004

Occurrence and Distribution of Trace Elements in Lake Beach and Bank Sediments - Completed FY2003

Development of a Sediment Quality Program for the Upper Columbia River and Lake Roosevelt - Completed FY1999

Organochlorine Compounds and Mercury in Fish Tissue from Lake Roosevelt and the Upper Columbia River - Completed FY1999

Bioaccumulation of Mercury in Walleye, FDR Lake, Washington - Completed FY1997

Toxics-Related Water Quality of Lake Roosevelt, Washington - Completed FY1995
Satus Creek
Restoration Monitoring of Satus Creek and the Satus Wildlife Area, Yakama Nation Reservation - Completed FY2004
Seattle-Tacoma Urban Pilot Study
Seattle-Tacoma Urban Pilot Area Study - Completed FY1973
Goat Lake Watershed
Background Water Quality of Goat Lake Watershed, Snohomish County - Completed FY1993
Floodpath project
FloodPath Forecast Flood Mapping System
Spokane River Basin
Hydrologic Summary of Spokane Area, Washington, for Planners - Completed FY1985

Evaluation of Contaminant Movement in the Unsaturated zone of the Spokane Gravel Aquifer - Completed FY1981

Evaulation of Groundwater Quality in the Spokane Basin - Completed FY1981

Water Resources of the Spokane River Basin in Washington - Completed FY1978
Spokane Valley - Rathdrum Prairie
Spokane Valley - Rathdrum Prairie Hydrologic Study - Completed FY2007

Spokane-Rathdrum Prairie Sole-Source Aquifer Study, Washington and Idaho - Completed FY1978
SR530 Lanslide Sediment Transport
Sediment transport and channel change following the SR530 Landslide
Mount St. Helens
Sediment Transport Model Development and Preliminary Application to the Columbia River - Completed FY1990

New Lakes of North Fork Toutle River--Mt. St. Helens - Completed FY1986

Cowlitz River Flood-Wave and Sediment Transport Hydraulics - Completed FY1985

Channel Geomorphology, Sediment Movement, and Channel Changes of Pine and Muddy Rivers - Mount St. Helens - Completed FY1984

Water-Quality Effects of Pumping from Spirit Lake - Completed FY1983

Spirit Lake Hazard Monitoring - Completed FY1983

Effects of Mount St. Helens Eruption on Nearby Lakes - Completed FY1982

Toutle River Basin Rainfall-Runoff Sediment Model - Completed FY1982

Photogrammetry of Selected Streams Draining Mt. St. Helens - Completed FY1982

The Occurrence, Distribution, and Fate of Organic-Vegetation Decay Products in the Vicinity of Mt. St. Helens - Completed FY1982

Atmospheric Deposition Program--Acid Rain - Completed FY1981

Mount St. Helens Aerial Photography - Completed FY1981

Stage-Discharge Ratings, New Stations on Mount St. Helens Streams - Completed FY1981

Elevation Profiles for Mudflows in Streams After the May 18 Eruption of Mount St. Helens - Completed FY1981
Glaciers and Snowpack
Glacier and Snowpack, Washington and Alaska
Ground-Water Records
Collection of Basic Ground-Water Records, Washington
National Urban Runoff`
Summary of Atmospheric Deposition Data collected as Part of the U.S. Geological Survey National Urban Runoff Program - Completed FY1986
Precipitation Records
Collection of Basic Precipitation Records, Washington
Sediment Records
Collection of Basic Sediment Records, Washington
Surface-Water Records
Collection of Basic Surface-Water Records, Washington

Real-Time Hydrologic Data by Independent GOES Telemetry System in Washington - Completed FY1991

Compilation of Miscellaneous Streamflow Measurements in Washington - Completed FY1989

Streamflow Statistics and Drainage Basin Characteristics for the Southwestern and Eastern Regions, Washington - Completed FY1985

Low-Flow Analysis of Selected Streams In Washington - Completed FY1985

Streamflow Estimates for Small Streams in Washington - Completed FY1982

Flood Profiles - Completed FY1981

Re-evaluation of the surface-water gaging station network - Completed FY1978
Water Use
Collection and Compilation of Water-Use Data, Washington
Water-Quality Records
Collection of Basic Water-Quality Records, Washington

Ground-Water Quality Network for the State of Washington - Completed FY1986
GW Recharge
Evaluating Recharge Parameter Sensitivities in the Deep Percolation Model and the Precipitation-Runoff Modeling System, Washington - Completed FY2004
Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Program (EMAP)
EPA Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Program (EMAP), Benthic invertebrates in the Western United States - Completed FY2004
Yakima Nitrates
Particle Tracking of Groundwater in the Lower Yakima Basin
Yakima River Basin
Ground Water in the Yakima River Basin, Washington, and its Relation to the Surface-Water Resource - Completed FY2011

Yakima Gasoline and Diesel Spill Study - Completed FY1987

Areal Variability of Water Quality Within the Yakima River Basin - Completed FY1986

Yakima River Basin Water Enhancement Project - Completed FY1986

Water in the lower Yakima River Basin - Completed FY1983
Yakima River Temperature Model
Development of Water-Temperature Models for Main-Stem Reaches of the Yakima and Naches Rivers, Washington - Completed FY2007

Streamflow Temperature Model of the Yakima River - Completed FY1982
Yakima Watershed and River Systems Management Program
Yakima Watershed and River System Management Program (WARSMP) - Completed FY2002

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