Environmental Protection

USGS Sampling Water in Hurricane Sandy's Aftermath

The U.S. Geological Survey crews are sampling water nutrients, sediment, and pesticides in order to document water quality in areas affected by the hurricane.

The sampling effort of the USGS is part of the federal government’s efforts to ensure public health and to support state, local, and tribal response to the storm. The sampling is taking place at various locations to get a broad range of results for all areas affected.

In New Jersey, crews will collect water quality samples along the Delaware River near Trenton and along the Raritan River near Queens Bridge. Pennsylvania crews will be sampling near the Chesapeake Bay. In Maryland, water quality samples will be collected from the Potomac River, various sites in Washington, D.C., several locations along the Eastern Shore, and from the Susquehanna River at the Conowingo Dam. In addition, Virginia crews will be sampling throughout Northern Virginia. USGS crews will be sampling in these and other areas for contaminants like pesticides, E. coli, nutrients, and sediment to document water quality in areas affected by the hurricane.

"Significant high water events are important to document, because a storm event like this can flush large quantities of nutrients, pesticides, and sediment into rivers," said Charles Crawford, coordinator of the sampling effort. "When looking at long-term water quality trends and year-to-year variation, this hurricane could be a defining event for the past few decades, and it’s important that USGS captures a complete picture of what happens."

Excessive nutrients in the Nation's rivers, streams and coastal areas are a major issue for water managers because they cause algal blooms, which can increase costs to treat drinking water, limit recreational activities, and threaten valuable commercial and recreational fisheries. Increased sediment can cause costly changes in shipping channels, where new sediment can require additional dredging.

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