USGS Columbia Environmental Research Center Project: Shenandoah River: Investigation of Fish Kills and Intersex Phenomenon in the North Fork of the Shenandoah River


Statement of Problem: Fish kills, especially of sport fishes, and observations of intersex in fish have been increasing in regularity in the Shenandoah River in Virginia. The cause of these phenomenon are unknown, however, the input of anthropogenic organic chemicals into the watershed from human activities are a potential culprit. The Friends of the North Fork of the Shenandoah River and the USGS Columbia Environmental Research Center are working together in an attempt to identify organic contaminants in the river and to test for the potential of these contaminant mixtures to produce an estrogenic response in a yeast cell assay.

Objectives: Passive samplers, SPMDs and POCIS, will be used at sites in the North Fork of the Shenandoah River to look for anthropogenic organic chemicals present in the watershed which may be responsible for fish kills. Since the extent of chemical contamination or cause of the fish kills is unknown, chemical analyses will encompass a broad range of chemical contaminants including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), organochlorine pesticides, agrochemicals, hormones, pharmaceuticals and wastewater-related contaminants. In addition to chemical analysis, the yeast estrogen screen (YES assay) will be used to test the sequestered chemical mixtures for compounds capable of producing an estrogenic response.
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