Share

First State Geology Newsletter Signup

First State Geology has been the newsletter of DGS for over 25 years.

Click here to signup!

Federal News

Identify, Enroll & Plan for Financial Security in Disasters

FEMA Press Releases - Wed, 04/16/2014 - 12:32

CHICAGO – Spring in the Midwest brings the potential for severe weather, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is encouraging everyone to take steps now to ensure your family is prepared. Don’t forget to consider the safety of your finances before a severe storm threatensyour area.

“Don’t hinder your recovery if disaster strikes. Take the time now to ensure criticaldocuments are safely stored, valuables are adequately insured, and potential spending needs are planned for,” said Andrew Velasquez III, regional administrator, FEMA Region V.

Language English
Categories: Federal News

Elevated Levels of Mercury Found in Fish in Western U.S. National Parks

USGS Newsroom - Wed, 04/16/2014 - 11:40
Summary: Mercury has been discovered in fish in some of the most remote national park lakes and streams in the western United States and Alaska. Mercury levels in some fish exceeded U.S. Environmental Protection Agency health thresholds for potential impacts to fish, birds, and humans

Contact Information:

Susan Kemp ( Phone: 541-750-1047 ); Jeffrey Olson ( Phone: 202-208-6843 );



WASHINGTON. — Mercury has been discovered in fish in some of the most remote national park lakes and streams in the western United States and Alaska. Mercury levels in some fish exceeded U.S. Environmental Protection Agency health thresholds for potential impacts to fish, birds, and humans.

The information about mercury, and its appearance in protected areas considered to be relatively pristine and removed from environmental contaminants, is in a recently published scientific report from the U.S. Geological Survey and National Park Service.

The study of mercury in fish is the first of its kind to incorporate information from remote places at 21 national parks in 10 western states, including Alaska. Western parks were selected for this study because of the significant role that atmospheric mercury deposition plays in remote places, and the lack of broad-scale assessments on mercury in fish in remote areas of the west.

Mercury concentrations in fish sampled from these parks were generally low, but were elevated in some instances. This study examines total mercury in fish, of which 95 percent is in the form of methylmercury, the most dangerous form to human and wildlife health.

Mercury is harmful to human and wildlife health, and is among the most widespread contaminants in the world. It is distributed at a global scale from natural sources, such as volcanic eruptions and from human sources such as burning fossil fuels in power plants. Mercury is distributed at local or regional scales as a result of current and historic mining activities. These human activities have increased levels of atmospheric mercury at least three fold during the past 150 years. 

“Although fish mercury concentrations were elevated in some sites, the majority of fish across the region had concentrations that were below most benchmarks associated with impaired health of fish, wildlife, and humans. However, the range of concentrations measured suggest that complex processes are involved in driving mercury accumulation in these environments and further research is needed to better understand these processes, and assess risk,” said USGS ecologist Collin Eagles-Smith, the lead author of the publication. 

Between 2008 and 2012, NPS resource managers collected more than 1,400 fish from 86 lakes and rivers, and USGS scientists measured mercury concentrations in fish muscle tissue. Sixteen fish species were sampled, with a focus on commonly consumed sport fish found across the study area such as brook, rainbow, cutthroat, and lake trout. Smaller prey fish consumed by birds and wildlife were also sampled.

Scientists compared fish mercury concentrations among sites within an individual park, as well as  from one park to other parks, and identified areas with elevated mercury levels. They also compared the mercury concentrations in the fish to a range of health benchmarks including human health guidelines established by the EPA for fish consumption, and wildlife risk thresholds that indicate the potential for toxicity and impairment in fish and fish-eating birds.

The authors found that mercury levels varied greatly, from park to park and among sites within each park. In most parks, mercury concentrations in fish were moderate to low in comparison with similar fish species from other locations in the Western states. Mercury concentrations were below EPA’s fish tissue criterion for safe human consumption in 96 percent of the sport fish sampled. 

The average concentration of mercury in sport fish from two sites in two Alaskan parks exceeded EPA’s human health criterion. Mercury levels in individual fish at some parks from other states including California, Colorado, Washington, and Wyoming also exceeded the human health criterion.

Neither the USGS nor the NPS regulate environmental health guidelines. The NPS is coordinating with state officials in the 10 study states regarding potential fish consumption advisories. State fish consumption guidelines consider both the risks associated with mercury exposure and the benefits of fish consumption, such as improved cardiac health from increased omega-3 fatty acid consumption or potential reduced intake of unhealthy fats due to food substitutions. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, exposure to high levels of mercury in humans may cause damage to the brain, kidneys, and the developing fetus. Pregnant women and young children are particularly sensitive to the effects of mercury.

Mercury at elevated levels can also impact wildlife. High mercury concentrations in birds, mammals, and fish can result in reduced foraging efficiency, survival, and reproductive success. Mercury concentrations in fish exceeded the most conservative fish toxicity benchmark at 15 percent of all sites, and levels exceeded the most sensitive health benchmark for fish-eating birds at 52 percent of all sites.

Mercury threatens natural resources, including wildlife, which the NPS is mandated to protect. “This is a wake-up call,” said NPS ecologist Colleen Flanagan Pritz, a co-author of the report. “We need to see fewer contaminants in park ecosystems, especially contaminants like mercury where concentrations in fish challenge the very mission of the national parks to leave wild life unimpaired for future generations."

Funding for this study was provided by the NPS Air Resources Division, USGS Contaminants Biology Program within the Environmental Health Mission Area, the Ecosystems Mission Area to the USGS Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center, and with in-kind contributions from participating parks.

More information is available in the USGS Top Story "Mercury Finds a Way—Even into the Pristine National Parks."

Lack of Vitamin B1 Killing Great Lakes Fish

USGS Newsroom - Wed, 04/16/2014 - 09:00
Summary: Great Lakes fish in the salmon family that rely on the fish “alewife” as part of their diet face a major obstacle in restoring naturally reproducing populations, according to new U.S. Geological Survey research published in the journal Fish and Shellfish Immunology

Contact Information:

Christopher  Ottinger ( Phone: 304-724-4453 ); Christian Quintero ( Phone: 813-498-5019 );



LEETOWN, W.Va. — Great Lakes fish in the salmon family that rely on the fish “alewife” as part of their diet face a major obstacle in restoring naturally reproducing populations, according to new U.S. Geological Survey research published in the journal Fish and Shellfish Immunology.

For more than a decade researchers have been trying to unravel the mystery of why Lake Trout and other salmonids that consume alewife produce spawn that die young.  Although researchers have recognized the connection between thiamine and the death of the young fish for a decade, the new study provides an additional clue; fish that survive the initial impact of thiamine deficiency are experiencing changes in immune function that resemble those occurring in humans with inflammatory diseases.

Early Mortality Syndrome, or EMS, results in embryonic mortality in salmon, steelhead trout, brown trout, lake trout, and Chinook salmon. The symptoms of EMS include loss of equilibrium, swimming in a spiral pattern, lethargy, hyper-excitability, hemorrhage and death, which occurs between hatching and first feeding.

“Vitamin B1, or Thiamine, is an essential nutrient that animals must obtain through their diet,” said Chris Ottinger, a USGS immunologist and lead author of the study. “We found that alewives, one of the main diets of many Great Lakes fish, contains an enzyme called “thiaminase” that destroys the thiamine in fish that consume them. The lack of B1 leads to Early Mortality Syndrome as well as the newly reported immune dysfunctions that may be perpetuating infectious diseases in this fish community.”

Alewives were introduced to the Great Lakes as food fish for the species such as lake trout and the introduced Pacific salmon.

“There is some debate as to whether the thiaminase that is obtained through the consumption of the alewives is coming directly from the fish or from bacteria associated with the fish,” said Ottinger. “Either way the fish that eats the alewives becomes thiamine deficient through the destruction of the thiamine they obtain in their diet resulting in EMS as well the immune dysfunctions we have demonstrated.”

Thiamine is essential for energy production in cells, normal nerve function and also is an antioxidant. Other dysfunctions associated with Great Lakes salmonids consumption of alewives include changes in behavior and reduced ability to capture prey.

"In vitro immune function in thiamine-replete and-depleted lake trout (Salvelinus namaycush)" is available online in the journal Fish & Shellfish Immunology by C. A. Ottinger, D. C. Honeyfield, C. L. Densmorea, and L. R. Iwanowicz. 

2014 FEMA Individual and Community Preparedness Award Application Period Now Open

FEMA Press Releases - Tue, 04/15/2014 - 13:53

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is pleased to announce that the application period for the 2014 Individual and Community Preparedness Awards is now open.

The awards highlight innovative local practices and achievements by recognizing individuals and organizations that have made outstanding contributions toward making their communities safer, stronger, better prepared, and more resilient.

Language English
Categories: Federal News

As Search Continues, Officials Move To Demobilize Some Assets

FEMA Press Releases - Mon, 04/14/2014 - 12:32

ARLINGTON, Wash. – As the search operation continues, the area where specialized canine search teams and Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) Task Forces are seeking to recover SR530 Slide fatalities grows smaller. Considering the progress that has been accomplished, officials have made the decision to release California Task Force 7 (CA-TF7) as early as Monday, April 14, 2014. Washington Task Force 1 and search canines will remain onsite on the eastern side of the slide as the search continues.

Language English
Categories: Federal News

Federal Aid Programs for the State of Tennessee Declaration

FEMA Press Releases - Fri, 04/11/2014 - 23:34

Following is a summary of key federal disaster aid programs that can be made available as needed and warranted under President Obama's disaster declaration issued for the State of Tennessee.

Assistance for State and Affected Local Governments Can Include as Required:

Language English
Categories: Federal News

President Declares Disaster for Tennessee

FEMA Press Releases - Fri, 04/11/2014 - 23:31

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency announced that federal disaster aid has been made available to the State of Tennessee to supplement state and local recovery efforts in the area affected by a severe winter storm during the period of March 2-4, 2014.

Language English
Categories: Federal News

FEMA Awards $121,323 Grant to City of Scandia: Hazard Mitigation Grant Program funds will be used to construct tornado safe rooms

FEMA Press Releases - Fri, 04/11/2014 - 13:20

CHICAGO – The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has released $121,323 in Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) funds to the city of Scandia Minn., for the construction of two safe rooms at Oakhill Neighborhood Cottages in Washington County.

Language English
Categories: Federal News

FEMA Awards $80,795 to Stearns County: Hazard Mitigation Grant Program funds will be used to construct a tornado safe room

FEMA Press Releases - Fri, 04/11/2014 - 13:10

CHICAGO – The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has released $80,795 in Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) funds to Stearns County Minn., for the construction of a safe room at Melrose Mobile Home Park.

Language English
Categories: Federal News

FEMA Awards $69,632 to City of Forest Lake: Hazard Mitigation Grant Program funds will be used to construct a tornado safe room

FEMA Press Releases - Fri, 04/11/2014 - 13:07

CHICAGO – The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has released $69,632 in Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) funds to the city of Forest Lake Minn., for the construction of a safe room at John Jergens Estates.

Language English
Categories: Federal News

FEMA Awards $327,054 Grant to City of Rochester: Hazard Mitigation Grant Program funds will be used to construct a tornado safe room

FEMA Press Releases - Fri, 04/11/2014 - 12:58

CHICAGO – The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has released $327,054 in Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) funds to the city of Rochester Minn., for the construction of a safe room at Quarry Hill Nature Center in Olmsted County.

Language English
Categories: Federal News

Five Months Remain Before Gregg County, TX Flood Maps Become Final

FEMA Press Releases - Fri, 04/11/2014 - 12:56

 

DENTON, Texas ––In five months, new flood maps for Gregg County, Texas will become effective.

Local, state and federal officials are encouraging everyone to view the maps before Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2014 in order to understand their flood risk and then consider buying flood insurance.

Language English
Categories: Federal News

Five Months Remain Before Refugio County, TX Flood Maps Become Final

FEMA Press Releases - Fri, 04/11/2014 - 12:48

DENTON, Texas ––In five months, new flood maps for Refugio County, Texas will become effective.

Local, state and federal officials are encouraging everyone to view the maps before Friday, Sept. 26, 2014 in order to understand their flood risk and then consider buying flood insurance.

Language English
Categories: Federal News

Five Months Remain Before Harrison County, TX Flood Maps Become Final

FEMA Press Releases - Fri, 04/11/2014 - 12:40

DENTON, Texas ––In five months, new flood maps for Harrison County, Texas will become effective.

Local, state and federal officials are encouraging everyone to view the maps before Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2014 in order to understand their flood risk and then consider buying flood insurance.

Language English
Categories: Federal News

Five Months Remain Before Jackson County, TX Flood Maps Become Final

FEMA Press Releases - Fri, 04/11/2014 - 12:30

    DENTON, Texas ––In five months, new flood maps for Jackson County, Texas will become effective.

Local, state and federal officials are encouraging everyone to view the maps before Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2014 in order to understand their flood risk and then consider buying flood insurance.

Language English
Categories: Federal News

Federal Aid Programs for the State of Maryland Declaration

FEMA Region III News Releases - Thu, 04/10/2014 - 19:28

Following is a summary of key federal disaster aid programs that can be made available as needed and warranted under President Obama's disaster declaration issued for the State of Maryland.

Assistance for the State and Affected Local Governments Can Include as Required:

Language English

Federal Aid Programs for the State of Maryland Declaration

FEMA Press Releases - Thu, 04/10/2014 - 19:28

Following is a summary of key federal disaster aid programs that can be made available as needed and warranted under President Obama's disaster declaration issued for the State of Maryland.

Assistance for the State and Affected Local Governments Can Include as Required:

Language English
Categories: Federal News

President Declares Disaster for Maryland

FEMA Region III News Releases - Thu, 04/10/2014 - 19:26

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency announced that federal disaster aid has been made available to the State of Maryland to supplement state and local recovery efforts in the area affected by a snowstorm during the period of February 12-13, 2014.

The President's action makes federal funding available to state and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work in Baltimore, Carroll, and Howard counties.

Language English

President Declares Disaster for Maryland

FEMA Press Releases - Thu, 04/10/2014 - 19:26

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency announced that federal disaster aid has been made available to the State of Maryland to supplement state and local recovery efforts in the area affected by a snowstorm during the period of February 12-13, 2014.

The President's action makes federal funding available to state and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work in Baltimore, Carroll, and Howard counties.

Language English
Categories: Federal News

Oyster Aquaculture Could Significantly Improve Potomac River Estuary Water Quality

USGS Newsroom - Wed, 04/09/2014 - 10:00
Summary: Oyster aquaculture in the Potomac River estuary could result in significant improvements to water quality, according to a new NOAA and U.S. Geological Survey study published in the journal Aquatic Geochemistry.

Contact Information:

Ben  Sherman ( Phone: 301-713-3066 ); Karen Rice ( Phone: 434-243-3429 );



Oyster aquaculture in the Potomac River estuary could result in significant improvements to water quality, according to a new NOAA and U.S. Geological Survey study published in the journal Aquatic Geochemistry.

All of the nitrogen currently polluting the Potomac River estuary could be removed if 40 percent of its river bed were used for shellfish cultivation, according to the joint study. The researchers determined that a combination of aquaculture and restored oyster reefs may provide even larger overall ecosystem benefits. Oysters, who feed by filtering, can clean an enormous volume of water of algae which can cause poor water quality 

The study is based on data modeling and an ecosystem-wide scientific evaluation, which examined how activities in the watershed affected the river estuary’s water quality. The research team evaluated nitrogen flows from the Potomac River headwaters and the nutrient-related water quality conditions of the estuary, called eutrophication.

Eutrophication takes place when a body of water becomes enriched in dissolved nutrients that stimulate the growth of aquatic plants, causing nuisance algal blooms. These blooms often result in the depletion of dissolved oxygen and the loss of seagrasses.

The team sought to assess how shellfish aquaculture – specifically oyster aquaculture -- could be used to remove nutrients directly from the water, complementing traditional land-based measures.

Although the estuary bottom area needed to grow oysters to remove the nutrients exists, it is unlikely that such a management measure would be implemented because of conflicting uses. However, a smaller area could still provide great benefits if aquaculture leases were approved. According to the study, if only 15 to 20 percent of the bottom was cultivated it could remove almost half of the incoming nutrients.

“Our study looked to see just how much impact oyster aquaculture could have in restoring some balance to the system,” said Suzanne Bricker, physical scientist in NOAA’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science and the paper’s lead author. “Eutrophication conditions in the Potomac River estuary are representative of conditions found in the Chesapeake Bay and many other U.S. estuaries. Historically, waters of the Potomac and other Chesapeake region estuaries were filtered by oysters, but as their populations declined so did their filtration capabilities. This resulted in increased concentrations of nutrients and related water quality concerns, such as algal blooms and low dissolved oxygen.

“The most expedient way to reduce eutrophication in the Potomac River estuary would be to continue reducing land-based nutrients complemented by a combination of aquaculture and restored oyster reefs. The resulting combination could provide significant removal of nutrients and eutrophication impacts directly from the water column, and offer innovative solutions to long-term persistent water quality problems.”

This alternative approach to water quality management has the potential to address legacy pollution, provide a marketable seafood product if there are no other contaminant issues that would prevent human consumption, and enhance local economies with additional income to growers through the possible development of a program -- similar to those being considered in other parts of the country -- where growers would be paid for the water cleaning services done by their oysters.

Flowing into the Chesapeake Bay, the Potomac River is the fourth largest river on the Atlantic coast, with more than six million people living in its watershed. The NOAA and USGS research about human influences on water quality found that the effects of high nutrient levels have not changed overall since the early 1990s. There are, however, some signs of improvement, such as decreased nitrogen loads from the watershed, increased dissolved oxygen and decreased algal blooms in the upper estuary, and continued regrowth of seagrasses.

While scientists have seen signs of improvement, they remain concerned with eutrophication. Dissolved oxygen, a key measure of water quality, is something fish and other aquatic species can’t survive without.

Atmospheric deposition—where gases and particles are released into the atmosphere from combustion of fossil fuels and return to the land as contaminants—also plays a role in polluting the estuary.

“Less attention has been paid to monitoring the effects of atmospheric deposition in headwater streams now that acidic emissions have declined because of the Clean Air Act and Amendments going into effect,” said Karen Rice, USGS research hydrologist. “Nevertheless, monitoring of forested, headwater streams that reflect changes in atmospheric inputs should be continued, if not expanded, so that changes in stream-water quality as related to atmospheric deposition can be tracked.”

The researchers believe the results of the study may be useful on a broad basis, as there are other river-dominated estuaries in the Chesapeake region and elsewhere along the U.S. coastline that could support shellfish aquaculture.

USGS provides science for a changing world. Visit USGS.gov, and follow us on Twitter @USGS and our other social media channels. Subscribe to our news releases via e-mail, RSS or Twitter.

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Join NOAA on Facebook, Twitter and our other social media channels.