USGS Columbia Environmental Research Center Project: Toxic Elements: Development of Methods for Toxic Elemental Constituents to Assess Bioavailability and Evaluate Ecosystem Health


Statement of Problem: Elemental contaminants directly from anthropogenic sources and from natural sources disturbed by anthropogenic activities are an ever present threat to biological resources and ecosystem health. Examples of such contamination are well documented and are widespread: metal laden acid mine drainage from abandoned mine lands; selenium in subsurface agricultural irrigation drainage; historic movement of mine tailings in watersheds; aerial mercury contamination of lakes and streams; electroplating plant outflows; urban dust exposure; and coal-fired power plant emissions. In many cases, the elemental contaminants, once reaching the aquatic ecosystem, are processed up the biological food chain, undergoing bioaccumulation and becoming a threat to bird and terrestrial wildlife populations, and in some cases, human health. The need then focuses on studies that will assess the biological/human impacts of such contaminants. Research studies will be conducted that will help evaluate the impacts of metal contaminants on biological/human resources. This research will focus primarily on the discovery of metal contaminants in watersheds having identified anthropogenic sources.
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