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Dark, shiny oil covers a shoreline and the grasses growing on the beach.
Information icon An oiled shoreline along the Savannah River. Photo by USFWS.


The role of the Service’s Environmental Contaminants Program is to protect wildlife and their habitat from the harmful effects of pollution. The program’s main responsibilities include: spill incident planning and response, Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration (NRDAR), identification and assessment of potential environmental hazards, and technical support.

Spill incident planning and response

Environmental contaminant specialists work throughout the year to prevent oil and chemical spills from occurring by coordinating with other federal, state and local partners as well as industry to draft or update spill response plans and participate in spill contingency exercises. In the event that a spill does occur, contaminant biologists work to minimize the impacts to natural resources by providing scientific technical support to the federal On-Scene Coordinator, suggesting preventive countermeasures to protect resources at risk, participating in search and rescue operations for injured wildlife, and initiating natural resource damage assessment activities.

Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration Program (NRDAR)

When trust species or their habitats are harmed by the release of contaminants into the environment, the Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration (NRDAR) Program responds by gathering data to assess and quantify those injuries and working with those responsible to ensure that the public is appropriately compensated for natural resource losses.

Identification and assessment of potential environmental hazards

Environmental contaminant specialists strive to identify, document, and assess potentially toxic hazards so as to protect the public’s natural resources and reduce the pollution exposure risk to wildlife. On lands that are owned and maintained by the Service, contaminant specialists perform contaminant screening surveys on future property to be acquired by the Service, identify past, current, and future contaminant threats to national wildlife refuges and other Service lands through the Contaminant Assessment Process (CAP), and perform focused investigations on areas of concern for refuge lands. Contaminant specialists also conduct investigations on non-refuge lands.

Technical support

Environmental contaminant specialists provide technical support and recommendations to staff within the Service as well as to other federal, state and local agencies regarding contaminant issues and wildlife toxicology. They review environmental documents, legislation, regulations, and permits and licenses with pollution potential (e.g., for pesticide use or wastewater treatment). This assistance serves to ensure that natural resources are protected to the extent possible before certain actions are undertaken (e.g. use of pesticides/herbicides for controlling invasive species, cleanup of hazardous waste sites, etc.)




Anthony Sowers, Toxicologist, Townsend, GA office, (912) 832-8739 ext. 111

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