Virginia Ecological Services
Northeast Region

Environmental Contaminants Program

Clockwise from upper left: water quality sampling; chemical spill on Clinch River; James spinymussels; Kids in the Creek event on the Clinch River; mussel study on Thompson Creek

Our Misson

The mission of the Virginia Field Office Environmental Contaminants program is to protect Virginia wildlife and their habitats from the harmful effects of pollution that can affect all of us.  Pollution may include oil spills, chemical leaks or releases from industrial sources, and pesticides.  Pollution damages the Earth's land, water and air, and can have devastating effects on water quality, fish, birds, other wildlife, and their habitats. 

Why is the Environmental Contaminants Program important to the people of Virginia?

These same pollutants can have similar harmful effects on people—either from direct contact, exposure to impacted drinking water or through consumption of fish from contaminated waterbodies.  There are several fish consumption advisories, including on the Chesapeake Bay and Shenandoah River, some of the most beautiful and popular recreation areas in Virginia.  When wildlife and their habitats are impacted by contamination, it also affects our enjoyment of the rivers and streams in which we fish, canoe, kayak and swim, as well as the quality of our hiking and wildlife viewing experiences. 


The main goals of the Environmental Contaminants program are:

    (1) Preventing impacts to wildlife from pollution, for generations of wildlife viewers to enjoy,
    (2) Identifying and investigating pollution effects on wildlife, so they will have a healthy future,
    (3) Restoring fish, wildlife, and their habitats that were adversely impacted by contaminants, so that people can enjoy clean water, diverse wildlife and the beauty provided by these natural resources.

Program Focus Areas:

  • Spill Preparedness and Response
    Environmental Contaminants biologists are trained to respond to oil spills, and other hazardous material spills, throughout Virginia and off-shore. Environmental Contaminants biologists work with state and federal agencies to keep oil away from areas where migratory birds and other wildlife are located and to deter birds or other wildlife from entering areas affected by oil. Before a spill event happens, we participate on local committees to identify fish and wildlife and sensitive environments and prepare strategies for protecting and treating them. We also work oversee bird rehabilitation during an oil spill until they are ready to be returned to the wild.

  • Technical Assistance
    Environmental Contaminants biologists provide a wide variety of technical assistance to other US Fish and Wildlife Service programs, or other federal or state agencies, for issues requiring contaminants expertise. 
    • Environmental Contaminants biologists work with other organizations to investigate, identify and monitor contaminant impacts to fish and wildlife resources on and off National Wildlife Refuges.  These "special study" investigations help to prevent, reduce, or eliminate these impacts.
    • Environmental Contaminants biologists perform pre-acquisition contaminant surveys ensure that lands acquired by the National Wildlife Refuge System in Virginia do not contain levels of contaminants that will affect natural resources. 
    • Environmental Contaminants biologists provide contaminant-related fish and wildlife technical support to the EPA through the Biological Technical Assistance Team (BTAG) for National Priority List (Superfund) sites throughout Virginia.  This program determines whether cleanup activities at Superfund sites are protective of natural resources.
    • Environmental Contaminants biologists make recommendations to other agencies on how to eliminate or reduce contaminant impacts to natural resources, especially related to water quality.  These activities include reviewing permits and monitoring water quality

  • Restoration
    Environmental Contaminants biologists, through the Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration (NRDAR) program, play a major role in restoring habitats and natural resources destroyed or degraded by oil spills or hazardous waste. We work with state and other federal natural resource agencies to plan and implement restoration activities to compensate for injury to fish, wildlife and their habitats from the released contaminant.


FWS Contaminants Home PageFWS Contaminants Northeast Region


Spill Preparedness and Response
(Link Under Development)

Biological Technical Assistance Group (BTAG)

Special Studies

Water Quality
(Link Under Development)






Last updated: March 19, 2013
All images by FWS unless otherwise noted.