Contaminant Characterization Studies

Contaminant characterization describes the types of toxic chemicals and general extent of contamination specific to a certain waterbody or other place in the environment and often covers multiple matrices including water, sediments and fish tissue. Contaminant characterization studies cover a wide range of study objectives. Studies include screening-level studies, evaluations of site-specific toxicity, and area-wide background contamination assessments. Some recent studies include:

Control of Toxic Chemicals in Puget Sound: Characterization of Toxic Chemicals in Puget Sound and Major Tributaries, 2009-10 reports on toxic chemicals from the marine water column and five major rivers that feed into the Puget Sound. Marine water concentrations were used to evaluate exchange of toxic chemicals between the sound and the ocean.

Background Characterization for Metals and Organic Compounds in Northeast Washington Lakes is a report in two parts:

Part 1: Bottom Sediments
Part 2: Fish Tissue

Puget Sound Toxics Assessment discusses a multi-year, multi-agency effort to discover chemical contaminants to Puget Sound.

Copper and Zinc in Urban Runoff: Phase 1 – Potential Pollutant Sources and Release Rates, the most recent follow up, is designed to discover how copper and zinc are entering stormwater in the Puget Sound basin. During Phase 1 of the study, we calculated the potential loading from various sources of copper and zinc using literature release rates, the exposed surface area of construction materials, and the annual vehicle miles traveled. (October 2017)

Poster: Copper and Zinc in Urban Runoff: Potential Pollutant Sources and Release Rates offers more information on the above study. (October 2017)


Toxics Studies in the Spokane River Basin


The Toxics Studies Unit has begun monitoring for toxics in the Spokane River in support of the long-term toxics monitoring strategy being developed by the Spokane River Regional Toxics Task Force (SRRTTF):

Quality Assurance Project Plan: Spokane River Toxics Fish Tissue and Preliminary Monitoring in Fiscal Year 2013 in Support of the Long-term Toxics Monitoring Strategy describes the study.

This work follows earlier source-assessment studies:

Spokane River PCB Source Assessment, 2003-2007 describes a series of water quality studies to assess sources of PCBs in the Washington section of the Spokane River and presents recommendations for a comprehensive toxics control strategy. This work supports the Spokane River Basin initiative.