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Environmental Contaminants

The mission of the Pacific Islands Environmental Contaminants program is to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife and their habitats by identifying, preventing, and restoring the effects ofcontaminants through collaboration with other Federal, Tribal, State, and local agencies as well as our partners in the academia, industry, and the public.

  • The Service’s biologists and toxicologists work with others to prevent and investigate contaminant-related effects to natural resources and implement restoration actions that directly improve the watersheds and landscapes injured from the release of contaminants. Contaminants specialists review environmental documents, legislation, regulations, and permits and licenses with pollution potential to ensure that harmful effects on fish, wildlife, and plants are avoided or minimized.

    Some examples include:

    (1) analysis of documents and permits related to control of nonpoint source pollution from agriculture and urban runoff, point source pollution from industrial and municipal waste treatment facilities, and discharges of dredge and fill material;

    (2) review of proposed Federal projects related to mining, agricultural irrigation, range management, and oil and gas development to ensure that habitat quality concerns are adequately addressed;

    (3) review of EPA pesticide registration proposals to ensure that potential impacts to fish and wildlife are considered; and,

    (4) review of pesticide use on FWS lands to ensure these chemicals are properly applied and, in some cases, to recommend the use of acceptable alternatives.



    Contaminants Identification and Assessment

    Service environmental contaminant specialists conduct field studies to determine sources of pollution, to investigate pollution effects on fish and wildlife and their habitat, and to investigate fish and wildlife die-offs. Sites typically assessed include those impacted by pesticides, industrial wastes, oil and hazardous waste spills, and drain water from agricultural irrigation and mining, as well as Superfund sites and other sites contaminated at some time in the past. Contaminants specialists have also developed tools such as the Contaminants Assessment Process (CAP), which was developed in cooperation with the U.S. Geological Survey, Biological Resources Division's Biomonitoring of Environmental Status and Trends (BEST) Program, to assist in evaluating contaminant threats to national wildlife refuges, as well as other Service lands. In addition, field specialists conduct contaminant surveys prior to the Service buying new lands.



    Contaminant Cleanup and Resource Restoration

    Data collected in contaminant assessments is often used to secure compensation for resources lost or degraded by hazardous waste releases or spills. These efforts are part of the Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration Program. The Service also takes part, through contaminants identification, assessment, planning and restoration, in the Department of Interior's National Irrigation Water Quality Program (NIWQP). Contaminant specialist are often called in by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPS), U.S. Coast Guard, or various other Federal or State agencies responsible for cleaning up a contaminated area, to ensure that fish and wildlife and their habitat are adequately protected during, and upon completion of, the cleanup. Contaminants specialists also work closely with National Wildlife Refuge managers to design and implement actions to cleanup oil and hazardous material on refuge lands.


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