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Lake Erie Water Quality Study

Date Posted: August 22, 2000

Service contaminants staff, in cooperation with Ohio State University, conducted field sampling for the Lake Erie Ecological Investigation in Ashtabula Harbor, Ohio. Fish diversity was documented and brown bullheads, a species of catfish, were collected for analysis. Brown bullheads feed on worms and other invertebrates on the river bottom and bury themselves in the mud during winter. Because toxic chemicals often accumulate in sediments, pollution problems are frequently observed in bottom-dwelling species. Sediments were collected in 1999 for residue analysis. This investigation which is part of the Lake Erie National Water Quality Assessment (NAWQA) sponsored by the U.S. Geological Survey and the Environmental Protection Agency. Information collected during the study will be compared with information from sediment and brown bullhead studies carried out in the 1980s. Of particular interest is the condition of bullheads sampled in 1999 from a site on the Cayuhoga River in Cleveland, Ohio. This site was below local steel plants and had never been sampled. Gross external skin and oral tumors and barbel deformities and gross liver tumors were very common. Gross liver tumors of the size and frequency observed were considered unique in the experience of the investigators and were said to rival, if not surpass, those found in bullheads from the Love Canal. The study will now enter the data analysis and reporting phase.


John Hickey or Ken Karwowski, (607) 753-9334.


U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, High Rate of Tumors in Catfish from the Anacostia River in Washington, D.C.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Great Lakes National Program Office

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Cuyahoga River Area of Concern
U.S. Geological Survey, National Water-Quality Assessment Program Lake Erie-Lake St. Clair Basins

Last updated: June 12, 2015