Ecological Services: Environmental Contaminants
Midwest Region

 

 

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Technical Assistance to Fish and Wildife Service Programs and Partners

Conserving Our Lands and Resources

 

We provide environmental contaminants expertise to all Service programs including the National Wildlife Refuge System, Endangered Species, Migratory Birds, Fisheries, Marine Mammals, and Law Enforcement. Our contaminant biologists are working with EPA, Department of Defense, and other Federal and State agencies responsible for cleaning up contaminated sites by providing invaluable information on sensitive resources and recommendations to ensure that the cleanups protect natural resources for the continuing benefit of the public. We also provide basic research information on the effects of different contaminants (metals, petroleum products, pesticides and other organic compounds) and assist in evaluating risks and fate of those contaminants to fish and wildlife resources.

 

Highlights

National Wildlife Refuges (Nationwide)

Assessment of Environmental Contaminants on National Wildlife Refuges through the Contaminants Assessment Process (CAP)

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Environmental Contaminants Program biologists from around the country formed a team to help better assess environmental contaminants at National Wildlife Refuges. 

 

One product of this effort is the Contaminants Assessment Process Online Tool and Database version 2.0 (CAP). The upgrade is now completed.  Mike Coffey, Environmental Contaminants biologist from the Rock Island, Illinois Ecological Services Field Office was one of the participants that worked with the computer programmers for the upgrade.  CAP is one of the modules under the Service’s Environmental Conservation Online System (ECOS).  ECOS is used by Service personnel to store and track a variety of activities including for the endangered species, environmental contaminants, and fish passage programs.  CAP has been in use for 13 years and was in need of improvements. CAP evolved from activities started back in the mid 1980’s to identify and study contaminants problems on National Wildlife Refuges. 

 

The new features in CAP include a modern online navigation approach, mapping capabilities, ability to upload files, a quality assurance step, instant access to USEPA databases and impaired waters listings.  The database for CAP is a single point of reference for the status of contaminant problems on Refuge lands and waters.

 

Great Lakes Basin

Service Expertise Sought on Developing Strategy for Assessing Exposure to and Ecological Effects from Chemicals in the Great Lakes

Dr. Lisa Williams, Environmental Contaminants biologist in the East Lansing Field Office was invited by the International Joint Commission (IJC) to be part of a two day workshop in Chicago, IL, to develop advice to the IJC on how to assess exposure to and ecological effects from chemicals of emerging concern in the Great Lakes.

On April 6 and 7, Dr. Williams joined approximately 40 other scientists in reviewing our current level of knowledge of these types of chemicals and making recommendations on how to design a basinwide surveillance program that could detect ecological problems caused by the changing mixture of thousands of chemicals that are released into our waters every day. 

 

Upper Mississippi river

Clean Water Act Memorandum of Agreement

Mike Coffey, Environmental Contaminants biologist from the Rock Island, IL Ecological Services Field Office supported water quality initiatives for the Upper Mississippi River as part of the Water Quality Task Force.  There will be benefits to federally listed endangered species, migratory birds, Refuge lands, and inter-jurisdictional fishes from these initiatives.  The Upper Mississippi River Basin Association received a series of grants from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under the Recovery Act to develop bioassessment and biocriteria guidance documents for use by State and Federal governments.  Bioassessment is an alternative to chemical monitoring that uses the diversity and relative abundance of fish communities in the habitats for the ecosystem.  Biocriteria are thresholds to determine attainment of designated water uses like for water quality criteria except using the fish community data.    http://umrba.org/wq.htm

 

Illinois

Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge

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Shoreline dune habitat along the Mississippi River at the Savanna Army Deport in Parcel 9, Dune habitat is rare in the inland regions of Illinois. the dunes contain a number of State-listed endangered and threatened species.

Environmental Contaminants Program staff from the Rock Island, Illinois Ecological Services Field Office certified 197 acres at Parcel 9 of the Savanna Army Depot as free of environmental liability and ready for transfer from the Department of the Army to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as part of the Lost Mound Unit of the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge.

 

Environmental Contaminants Staff Assist with Endangered Species Consultations

Environmental Contaminants staff from the Rock Island, IL Ecological Services Field Office assisted with several endangered species consultations related to water quality criteria and Clean Air Act permits.  The water quality consultations are in accordance to the National Memorandum of Agreement between our agency and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.  A streamlined consultation process was developed for the Clean Air Act permits that continue to improve with usage.

 

Pallid Sturgeon

Aleshia Kenney from the Rock Island, IL Ecological Services Field Office continued her participation along with other Environmental Contaminants Program staff from Regions 4 and 6 in the preparation of a contaminants report for the recovery plan update on the federally listed endangered pallid sturgeon. 

 

Indiana

Patoka National Wildlife Refuge; Cane Ridge Unit - Selenium Concentrations Dropping

Following discovery of elevated levels of selenium in the water and aquatic life at Cane Ridge Wildlife Management Area in southwestern Indiana in the spring of 2008, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service took several actions designed to reduce selenium levels available to endangered least terns and other birds feeding on the refuge. In 2008, the Service stopped accepting selenium-contaminated water from Duke Energy’s Gibson Lake into Cane Ridge, drew down the ponds and wetlands, removed approximately 4 tons of fish, disked the soil on the bottom of the ponds and wetlands to redistribute selenium in the soil and reduce the surface average concentrations of selenium. Duke Energy has provided a new and clean water supply for Cane Ridge and has stocked minnows in the tern pool to provide a less contaminated source of food for the nesting least terns. 

 

Environmental Contaminants Program biologists at the Bloomington, IN Ecological Services Field Office continue to monitor selenium concentrations in sediments, invertebrates, fish, bird eggs, and evaluate red-winged black bird nesting success at the Cane Ridge Unit of Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge to assess the success of these actions.  The results have been very positive.  Selenium residues are down 30% in forage fish, 38% in invertebrates and 71% in sediments of the tern pool management unit in our 2010 samples. The majority of the red-winged black bird nests successfully fledged young this year, although some did not. These nest failures could be the result of adverse weather, monitoring disturbance or other factors in addition to the unlikely possibility of selenium toxicity.  It is likely that through this work biologists will be able to assess trends in selenium contamination in these habitats and track the improvements of clean-up measures taken in preceding years. Additional laboratory results are expected this fall, and a final report completed in FY2012.

 

Iowa

Port Louisa National Wildlife Refuge

Staff from the Port Louisa National Wildlife Refuge and the Environmental Contaminants Program at the Rock Island, IL Ecological Services Field Office re-started water quality monitoring at Keithsburg Division of the Port Louisa National Wildlife Refuge.  Nutrient enrichment and eutrophication were identified as problems during the mid-1990s and staff are now confirming if watershed projects and other water quality initiatives have changed the nutrient loading at Keithsburg Division.  The monitoring was the subject of a poster at the Refuge Vision conference.  This year’s monitoring discovered a sport fish kill caused by nutrient enrichment.  Josh Eash and Brian Newman from Refuges and Mike Coffey from the Environmental Contaminants Program hosted a workshop for Refuge, Endangered Species Program, and Contaminants Program staff on nutrient problems and solutions for trust resources. 

 

Union Slough National Wildlife Refuge

Staff from Union Slough National Wildlife Refuge and the Environmental Contaminants Program at the Rock Island, IL Ecological Services Field Office continue to research the topics of nutrient reduction and selenium treatment for contaminant problems at Union Slough National Wildlife Refuge.  New information will be added to hydrological models to help mitigate contaminant inputs including through the use of land easements or acquisition alternatives.  Union Slough National Wildlife Refuge has over 3,000 acres of water impoundments and wetlands exposed to high levels of nutrients and selenium dissolved in the agricultural drainage water.

 

DeSoto, Cypress Creek, and Port Louisa National Wildlife Refuges

Three Contaminants Assessment Processes (CAPs) were started on DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge, Cypress Creek National Wildlife Refuge, and Port Louisa National Wildlife Refuge with the assistance of the Rock Island Field Office and Refuge staff. These CAPs are integrated with Water Resource Inventory and Assessment projects under the new Refuge’s Inventory and Monitoring Program.  Josh Eash and Brian Newman from Refuges and Mike Coffey from the Environmental Contaminants Program hosted a workshop for Refuge and Contaminants Program staff on the integration and coordination betweenWater Resource Inventory and Assessment and CAP.  Monitoring water quality trends will help agency personnel respond and adapt to changing environmental conditions including from Global Climate Change.

 

Utilizing the Contaminant Assessment Process

Environmental Contaminants Program staff from the Rock Island, IL Ecological Services Field Office initiated three CAPs with staff from DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge, Cypress Creek National Wildlife Refuge, and Port Louisa National Wildlife Refuge.  These CAPs are integrated with Water Resource Inventory and Assessment (WRIA) projects under the new Refuge’s Inventory and Monitoring Program.  Josh Eash and Brian Newman from Refuges and Mike Coffey from the Environmental Contaminants Program hosted a workshop for Refuge and Contaminants Program staff on the integration and coordination between WRIA and CAP.  Monitoring water quality trends will help agency personnel respond and adapt to changing environmental conditions including from Global Climate Change.

 

Minnesota

Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge - Round Lake Remediation and Restoration Efforts Continue

The Environmental Contaminants Program at the Twin Cities Ecological Services Field Office continues to provide lead assistance to the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge to remediate and restore the Round Lake Unit in Arden Hills, Minnesota.  Round Lake received runoff contaminated with hazardous substances from the nearby Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant, a designated Superfund Site.  The USFWS (Twin Cities Ecological Services Field Office and the Refuge) has worked with the regulators (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency) and the U.S. Army for many years to ensure ecological risks in Round Lake are fully evaluated and considered as part of the Superfund remedial process.  Building on previous accomplishments which included regulatory designation of unacceptable ecological risk in Round Lake, the Service assisted the design and review of supplementary sediment sampling and analysis to delineate specific areas of contamination to be addressed.  These data will now be used in FY2012 to revise a draft Feasibility Study to ensure remedial alternatives are developed which support Refuge management goals for Round Lake.

 

Missouri

Mercury Exposure at Mingo National Wildlife Refuge

Environmental Contaminants Program (EC) staff from the Columbia Missouri Field Office finalized a mercury exposure study involving fish, invertebrates, duck eggs, dredge spoil, and sediment in 2010.  Field Office EC biologists are assisting the refuge with a follow-up study evaluating mercury contamination in red-eared slider turtle tissues.  The additional inquiry is in response to a request from refuge staff regarding evidence of high mortality rates in turtles and snakes on the refuge.  The contaminant investigations will assist refuge staff in the management of 1,200 acres of wetlands and 25 miles of ditches.

 

CAPs Conducted at Missouri National Wildlife Refuges

Columbia Missouri Field Office (CMFO) Environmental Contaminants Program biologists finalized a Contaminant Assessment Program evaluation of the Great Rivers National Wildlife Refuge and began work on the Contaminant Assessment Program evaluation of the Swan Lake National Wildlife Refuge. 

 

Missouri State Clean Water Act Designated Use Guidelines

Columbia Missouri Ecological Services Field Office (CMFO) Environmental Contaminants biologists worked with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) and Missouri Department of Conservation to establish Designated Uses for streams that give additional protection to aquatic endangered species.  The MDNR is recommending a rule change that will establish a new category of designated use, called “Exceptional Waterways”.   This designation will provide more stringent water quality standards to protect sensitive species.  CMFO will provide additional feedback to the state related to contaminant concentrations protective of specific species and stream reaches of concern for endangered species.

 

Meramec River Tributaries Alliance and The Nature Conservancy Meramec River Strategic Plan

Columbia Missouri Ecological Services Field Office (CMFO) Environmental Contaminants (EC) biologists participated with several partners in two separate planning efforts focused on the Meramec River.  Working with The Nature Conservancy, CMFO EC biologists helped in a planning effort that identified sensitive areas, and water quality threats, educational outreach, and mitigation measures to improve water quality.  The Meramec River Tributaries Alliance is an important partnership of diverse interests focusing mainly on the lower Meramec River. The Meramec River is one of the most diverse and important streams for mussel habitat in the entire Midwest.  These planning efforts should help preserve freshwater mussels in the long-term.

 

Byrnes Mill Wastewater Treatment Plan

Columbia Missouri Ecological Services Field Office (CMFO) Environmental Contaminants and Endangered Species biologists cooperatively negotiated the relocation of a municipal wastewater treatment plant outfall from directly upstream of an important mussel bed to a mile below the freshwater mussels’ habitat.  Construction work on the relocation of the outfall is currently ongoing.  When the work is complete, more than a mile of habitat for the endangered freshwater mussels scaleshell and pink mucket will be safeguarded from the deleterious impact of the sewage plant’s effluent. 

 

Southwest Jefferson County Mining Site Biological Technical Assistance Group (BTAG)

Columbia Missouri Ecological Services Field Office (CMFO) Environmental Contaminants (EC) biologists are actively involved in providing technical assistance to EPA at the Southwest Jefferson County Mining Superfund Site.  The NPL Site is located along the Big River of southeast Missouri and home to several species of endangered freshwater mussels.  CMFO EC biologists are assisting in the development of Ecological Risk Assessment tools and strategies.

Wisconsin

Support for the Great Lakes Areas of Concern

Environmental Contaminants Program (EC) biologists at the Wisconsin Ecological Services Field Office have been actively involved in delisting activities for the Menominee River and Sheboygan River & Harbor AOCs (Area of Concern).  At each of these sites, Environmental Contaminants Biologists have participated with local stakeholders as members of the Fish & Wildlife Technical Advisory Committees (TACs).  For the Sheboygan River, The Service contributed to the development of a package of restoration projects to achieve removal of two fish and wildlife habitat BUIs (Beneficial Use Impairments) by 2012.  For the Menominee River, EC biologists assisted with the development of monitoring and restoration project proposals.  In both AOCs, EC Biologists have also contributed to the development of Stage II RAP (Remedial Action Plans) and Fish & Wildlife Habitat Restoration Plans.

 

 


 

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Last updated: October 29, 2012
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