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Collaboration is Key to Environmental Monitoring

2009 August 18

March 2009 marked a memorable month in the 19 years I have worked for EPA’s Office of Water. That is when Environmental Monitoring and Assessment published two articles about EPA’s National Lake Fish Tissue Study. I had the privilege of managing this study for the 8 years required to complete it.

image of men holding fish This study was a unique achievement. It was the first statistically-based national assessment of freshwater fish contamination to be conducted in the United States. It also included the largest set of chemicals (268) ever studied in fish. Field crews worked 4 years to collect fish samples from 500 lakes selected randomly from a statistically-defined set of about 147,000 lakes in the lower 48 states. Tony Olsen in EPA’s Office of Research and Development designed the study and directed statistical analysis of the concentration data. The design of this study generated results that allowed EPA to estimate the percentage of lakes and reservoirs across the country with fish tissue concentrations of specific chemicals, such as mercury, above levels of concern for human health.

Aside from my intense feeling of pride in providing leadership for this major scientific study, I look back in amazement at the number of people who volunteered years of effort to make this study possible. EPA relied on the participation of scientists from 58 state, tribal, and federal agencies for 5 years to evaluate sampling sites and collect fish samples. Their long-term commitment to maintaining the highest standards of quality while participating in the study produced scientific results that earned the praise of senior EPA managers, industry representatives, and members of academia. I want to extend my heartfelt appreciation to all of the scientists across the country that support EPA. In the end, it was their hard work and dedication that made this study a success.

Leanne Stahl is an environmental scientist in the Standards and Health Protection Division of the Office of Water, where she conducts research on chemical contamination in fish and surface waters.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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4 Responses leave one →
  1. Johnny R. permalink
    August 18, 2009

    Today all the fish of the World now carry traces of mercury and other industrial contaminants, and none are safe to eat. But if all the nations agreed to recycle 100 % of their waste and garbage, the global ocean and the six continents could be returned to their natural order, and a peacefully smaller human population could be healthier and happier.

  2. brenildo permalink
    August 18, 2009

    congratulations for fantastic work

  3. Michael E. Bailey permalink
    August 18, 2009

    Collaboration really is the key to success. The Fish Tissue Study is a very important example of what can be done. Working with state and local government and industry is and will be important on a wide range of environmental issues. One is the GREENCHILL Partnership Program to cut commercial refrigeration and freezing system greenhouse gas and ozone depleting chemical emissions. This includes USEPA, several grocery chains, a number of stores, equipment manufacturers, and recyclers. The California Air Resources Board is also interested in the GREENCHILL Program for best practices and case studies as it moves forward to implement greenhouse gas reductions on commgercial air conditioning and freezing systems. Best wishes, Michael E. Bailey.

  4. Johnny R. permalink
    August 19, 2009

    Whatever happened to the international protocol to phase out Freon? I see it being used for large building cooling systems, no problem. Was that only another “gentlemen’s agreement” everyone just winks at to go on with business as usual?

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