Pennsylvania Field Office
Northeast Region
Environmental Contaminants

Pollution is one of the American public's greatest environmental concerns. Like the proverbial canary in the coal mine, fish and wildlife often signal pollution problems that ultimately affect people and their quality of life.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the main federal agency dedicated to protecting fish and wildlife and their habitats from pollution's harmful effects, helping to create a healthy world for all living things that depend on a clean environment. The Service has been investigating the presence and effects of contaminant in the environment since the late 1940s, when researchers linked fish and wildlife problems to synthetic organic pesticides. Nationwide, Service biologists seek to identify contaminant threats to fish and wildlife resources and recommend actions to State and other federal agencies to eliminate those threats. 

Since 1984, the Pennsylvania Field Office (PAFO) has conducted dozens of investigations of potential contamination across the state. PAFO also provides technical assistance to private, state, and federal entities on the effects of contaminants on fish and wildlife. We cooperate with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to ensure that hazardous waste site cleanups protect fish and wildlife resources. The program also coordinates with EPA and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection in the development and implementation of State water quality standards. We are also involved in assessing the impacts to fish and wildlife from oil and chemical spills. 

Special Studies
Investigative studies conducted by PAFO have resulted in the discovery of previously-unknown pollution situations. For example, PCB contamination was discovered in Logan Branch in Centre County as a result of fish samples collected and analyzed by PAFO. State regulators traced the problem to an industry in Bellefonte, and a massive hazardous waste cleanup ensued.

Hazardous Waste Site Assessment and Cleanup
The Fish and Wildlife Service serves an important function in cleanup activities at Superfund hazardous waste sites. Pollutants present on Superfund sites can be toxic to fish, migratory birds, and other wildlife. PAFO has a full-time wildlife toxicologist who is funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to participate in EPA’s “Biological Technical Assistance Group,” or “BTAG” (for more information about the BTAG, see http://www.epa.gov/reg3hwmd/risk/eco/index.htm). Through the BTAG, PAFO provides technical assistance to EPA on cleanup concentrations and techniques necessary to protect fish and wildlife and their habitats. For example, at the Jack’s Creek (PDF), Ryeland Road (PDF), and Sharon Steel (PDF) Superfund sites, remediation of contamination will result in long-term habitat improvements that will benefit fish and wildlife.


Last updated: June 21, 2017