EPA Releases Tool For Determining Cause Of Ecological Harm To Rivers, Streams

In an effort to improve the nation's waters, EPA released a new web-based tool, the Causal Analysis/Diagnosis Decision Information System (CADDIS), which simplifies determining the cause of contamination in impaired rivers, streams and estuaries.

An impaired body of water does not meet the state or federal water quality standards for one or more pollutants. More than a thousand U.S. water bodies have been identified as impaired, and in many cases, the cause is unknown. There are many possible sources of pollution such as industrial waste, municipal sewage, agricultural runoff, naturally occurring minerals in rock and sand, and biological materials. Before restorative or remedial actions can be taken, the cause of impairment must be determined. By helping to find the source of contamination, state and local organizations will be better able to implement the Clean Water Act.

CADDIS provides a standardized and easily accessible system to help scientists find, use and share information to determine the causes of aquatic impairment. Causal analyses look at stressor-response relationships, meaning the effect of a specific substance or activity (stressor) on the environment. Typical water stressors include excess fine sediments, nutrients or toxic substances.

CADDIS was developed by EPA scientists through partnerships with EPA programs and regions, as well as states and tribes.

"The development of CADDIS has been an impressive effort and a great example of customer focus by EPA's Office of Research and Development," said Michael Shapiro, deputy assistant administrator in EPA's Office of Water.

The version of CADDIS released on Jan. 25 is the first of three. Future versions will include modules to quantify stressor-response relationships, and databases and syntheses of relevant literature on sediments and toxic metals. CADDIS is available on EPA's Web pages at http://www.epa.gov/caddis.

This article originally appeared in the 01/01/2006 issue of Environmental Protection.

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