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Installation of nested monitoring well network where groundwater discharge to surface water occurs.

Dr. Bradley leads the Toxics Emerging Contaminants Project’s nation-wide effort to assess the ecological risk associated with EDC in National Parks.




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Assessing Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals Risk In U.S. National Parks

Project Number: B9302, B9304
Project Chief: Paul M. Bradley
Program: Toxic Substances Hydrology Program, USGS-NPS Water Quality Partnership Program
Project Timeline: 2010-Present
Cooperator(s): U.S. National Park Service, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Additional Links:

South Carolina Department of Transportation
U.S. National Park Service and U.S. Enviromental Protection Agency


Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDC) threaten the reproductive success and long-term survival of sensitive aquatic populations in the U.S. National Park Service (NPS). Environmental release of EDC can induce male vitellogenin (egg yolk protein) expression, skewed sex ratios and intersex characteristics, degraded predator avoidance behavior, as well as reproductive failure and population collapse in sensitive fish species at concentrations that have previously been documented in wastewater effluent and effluent-impacted surface water systems. Likewise atmospheric transport of EDC from sources external to National Parks has been linked to male vitellogenin expression and increased intersex percentages in trout in remote alpine lakes in several western National Parks. The widespread co-occurrence of EDC and intersex characteristics in black basses (Micropterus species) in the nation’s rivers suggests endocrine disruption may be pervasive in aquatic populations and emphasizes the potential EDC threat to the high value, sensitive ecosystems of the NPS.

Diagram of conceptual model of significant MTBE biodegradation in the rather narrow hyporheic zone compared to extensive MTBE transport in the aquifer.
Spirit Lake, Rocky Mountains National Park, Colorado. (USGS staff)

NPS is tasked with protecting Park lands to “conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations” (“NPS Organic Act” of 1916; Understanding the ecological impacts of contaminants of emerging concern (CEC), in general, and EDC, in specific, has been identified as a NPS management priority, because these impacts are believed to be widespread and likely to increase in severity due to growing population pressures external to Parks and concomitant increases in Park visitation. Dr. Bradley leads the Toxics Emerging Contaminants Project’s nation-wide effort to assess the ecological risk associated with EDC in National Parks.


The project employs a standardized EDC risk assessment framework to link new and ongoing research efforts in individual Parks and in Park Monitoring Networks, in order to provide a service-wide assessment of EDC risk in the NPS. The standardized research framework assesses three critical components of environmental EDC risk: 1) EDC occurrence and distribution in water and sediment, 2) environmental persistence of EDC in both matrices, and 3) EDC impacts on aquatic and associated populations. Single-park as well as regional-scale, multi-park investigations are conducted under the Toxic Substances Hydrology and the USGS/NPS Water Quality Partnership Programs.


Map showing ongoing project locations in U.S. National ParksMap showing ongoing project locations in U.S. National Parks..


  • Rocky Mountains National Park (ROMO, Colorado)
  • Congaree National Park (CONG; South Carolina)
  • Northern Colorado Plateau Network (NCPN; Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Utah, Wyoming)
  • Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore (IDNU; Indiana)


Use of multilevel piezometers to assess this discharge.



Egler, A.L., M.R. Risch, D.A. Alvarez, and P.M. Bradley. 2013. Organic wastewater compounds in water and sediment in and near Restored Wetlands, Great Marsh, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, 2009-11. U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2013-5186. 64p


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