Chesapeake Bay Field Office
Northeast Region


Cleaning contamination site

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Overview of Environmental
Contaminants Program

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Environmental Contaminants

Contaminants are toxic substances that can harm people, fish, wildlife and plants. The mission of the Environmental Contaminants Program is focused on identifying and preventing harmful contaminant effects on fish and wildlife and restoring resources degraded by contaminants. Environmental Contaminants staff, based at the Chesapeake Bay Field Office serve Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, and the District of Columbia.This region supports thousands of fish and wildlife species and is home to millions of people.

Environmental Contaminants biologists work to reduce the negative impact of contaminants on the environment, economy and the overall quality of life in the mid-Atlantic region, including the Chesapeake Bay, one of the most dynamic ecosystems in the United States. This is accomplished through

  • Identifying environmentally sensitive areas and determining the extent of contamination on existing National Wildlife Refuges, proposed refuge lands and throughout the region;
  • Conducting scientific research such as Osprey Reproduction near Baltimore Harbor, and more recently, Tumors in Catfish from the South River, Anne Arundel County, MD . To view other reports and fact sheets, go here. (Acrobat Reader required to read these documents);
  • Restoring damaged habitats into viable and productive homes for fish and wildlife;
  • Reducing the effects of contaminants on fish and wildlife resulting from oil and chemical spills, and at Superfund hazardous waste sites;
  • Advising federal agencies on pesticide registration, hazardous waste sites, water quality standards, dredging and disposal of materials to fish and wildlife and their habitats;
  • Promoting alternatives to harmful pesticides to reduce the use of pesticides on National Wildlife Refuges.

Contaminant problems can be prevented and solved. In 1972, for example, the federal government banned the use of the pesticide DDT, which caused bald eagles and other birds to produce non viable eggs with very thin shells. Since the ban, bald eagle populations have increased throughout the country. In 1995, the bald eagle was reclassified from an endangered species to a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.

Each of us can help prevent contaminant-related problems. Here are just a few things you can do:

  • Discard used motor oil, paints and other potential pollutants to an approved repository, and report any suspected "unauthorized dumping" to local authorities.
  • Participate in local hazardous waste collections for household chemicals, pesticides, paints, batteries and fluorescent tubes, and get involved in community recycling programs.
  • Reduce or eliminate the use of pesticides and fertilizers on home lawns and gardens.
  • Practice conservation landscaping to reduce pollution and enhance wildlife habitat.
  • Always follow advisories on eating regionally-caught fish and shellfish.
Last updated: January 6, 2011