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From Nuclear Power to Mussels and Largescale Suckers
USGS Research at Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) Focuses on Contaminants
Released: 11/5/2010 5:30:17 PM

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The 2010 Society for Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) North America conference is in Portland, Oregon, from Nov. 7 to Nov. 11.  This year’s theme is Bridging Science with Communities.

Endocrine Disruptors and Columbia River Largescale Suckers: Due to increased urbanization, industrialization, and agricultural development, fish and wildlife of the lower Columbia River are potentially exposed to endocrine-disrupting contaminants.  In order to determine what the exposure level is, scientists have conducted studies on fish, osprey, water and sediments from the Columbia River.  This poster will feature the findings of the study on largescale sucker fish, which were chosen due to their mid-level placement on the food chain, which makes them ideal for studying the buildup and transfer of certain contaminants in the overall food chain.  The results of this study demonstrate significant variations in gonad size between areas upstream and downstream of Portland, but it is too soon to tell whether or not the size difference is due to endocrine disruptors.  The poster will include discussion of the results and methods of the study, as well as its significance in relation to the other studies being done on the Columbia River. This poster, Biomarker Assessments for Endocrine Disruption in Largescale Sucker (Catostomus macrocheilus) in the Columbia River Basin, will be held on Wednesday, Nov. 10, at 7:00 a.m. in the Exhibit Hall. Contact Leticia Torres at leticia.torres@ttu.edu or Jill Jenkins at jenkinsj@usgs.gov. 

Does Appalachian Coal Threaten Mussels? Mussels are the most endangered group of animals in the United States, and up to 30 federally endangered species live in the upper Tennessee and Columbia River basins in Tennessee and Virginia.  However, these river basins are also the site of large-scale coal mining, whose discharge and runoff enter the streams where these endangered mussels live.  In an attempt to determine the potential effects of coal mining activities on sediment-associated contaminants, USGS scientists studied sediment toxicity using two species of mussels, as well as two commonly tested benthic invertebrates.  Their results showed decreased growth or survival rates of the mussels and benthic invertebrates as concentrations of coal-associated contaminants increased.  This session will feature discussion of their results, as well as an explanation of the methods followed. This session, Toxicity of Coal-Associated Contaminants in Sediment to Two Freshwater Mussels and Two Commonly Tested Benthic Invertebrates, will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 9, at 7:00 a.m. in the Exhibit Hall. Contact James Kunz at jkunz@usgs.gov or Chris Ingersoll at cingersoll@usgs.gov.

Insecticides near You: Pyrethroid insecticides, one of the more common insecticides used in agriculture and home gardening, are increasingly coming under scrutiny because of their high aquatic toxicity.  These insecticides are extremely toxic to aquatic organisms, particularly invertebrates, amphibians, and cold-water fish, such as salmon.  USGS scientists undertook a nationwide survey to determine the extent of pyrethroid occurrence in rural and urban streams.  A total of 260 sites in 23 states were sampled for 14 different pyrethroids.  Their findings demonstrate that urban streams have a higher concentration, but agricultural streams have a greater variety.  This session will feature discussion of the results and methods, as well as their significance in the context of wider studies of pyrethroid insecticides.  The session, Overview of Pyrethroid Occurrence in Bed Sediments from Urban and Agricultural Streams Across the USA, will be held on Monday, Nov. 8, at 2:20 p.m. in room B 115/116. Contact Kathy Kuivila at kkuivila@usgs.gov.

Fungicides—Forgotten No More: With all the attention on the toxicity of pesticides and herbicides, fungicides get largely ignored.  Used primarily to prevent fungal blights, like that of the American chestnut, fungicides have not been studied much, either for range of occurrence or toxicity to organisms other than fungi. In order to better understand fungicide effects on surrounding ecosystems, USGS scientists have conducted a study on several fungicides in the western United States in a variety of settings.  The scientists’ results show that fungicides are widespread in the water and sediments surrounding these farms, and are even present in fish and crab tissue.  This session will feature discussion of the study’s results and methods, as well as their significance to later studies.  The session, Occurrence and Fate of Fungicides Used on Various Crops in the Western USA, will be held on Monday, Nov. 8, at 1:55 p.m. in the Portland Ballroom 251. Contact Kathy Kuivila at kkuivila@usgs.gov or Kelly Smalling at ksmall@usgs.gov. 

Nuclear Returns—Preparing for its Effects: After several decades, nuclear power is back on the table as a potential alternative energy source.  With this comes renewed interest in uranium mining and, in particular, deposits found within our country’s borders.  In fact, in uranium-rich northern Arizona, mining of uranium from breccias pipe deposits has already begun.  However, uranium mining in this region may impact biological resources, which include many endemic species that have adapted to the arid climate of the Colorado Plateau.  In order to understand the effects of resuming large-scale uranium mining, USGS scientists set out to create a roadmap for what plants and animals will likely be affected, what chemicals will likely be introduced, and the overall ecology and food web that will need to be studied.  This session will feature a discussion of this roadmap, as well as the significant data gaps that need to be filled by future study. The session, Biological Considerations Related to Mining Uranium as an Alternative Energy Source, will be held on Wednesday, Nov. 10, at 8:00 a.m. in the Portland Ballroom 251. Contact Don Tillitt at dtillitt@usgs.gov.

Are PAH Clean-Up Methods on Long Island Solving One Problem but Creating Another? A variety of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) have been detected at high concentrations in the surficial aquifer of Long Island, due to storage and disposal of coal tar at a former manufactured gas plant, in Bay Shore, NY. The Suffolk County Department of Health Services (SCDHS) has been monitoring the use of an oxygen-gas injection system installed to reduce the contaminants in the groundwater. While the method has been successful at reducing common PAHs in groundwater around the injection sites, the SCDHS is concerned about degradation products noted in several studies that show the potential to generate oxygenated forms of PAHs, or oxy-PAHs. Reports indicate some oxy-PAHs may be harmful to aquatic ecosystems, and may even be more toxic than their parent compounds. The U.S. Geological Survey has been working with the SCDHS to develop methods of analysis and measure concentrations of oxy-PAHs present in the groundwater to better understand the potential fate of some PAHs when exposed to oxygen-gas injection system remediation. The session, Quantification of Oxygenated Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons in the Vicinity of the Former Gasworks at Bay Shore, New York, will include a discussion of recent results and will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 9 at 8:50 a.m. in room A 105/106. Contact Shawn Fisher at scfisher@usgs.gov.

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