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New Environmental-Research Publication Has Timely Release for Mercury Concerns in the Gulf of Mexico


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Map illustrating the study area (Lower Mississippi River, Atchafalaya River, Gulf of Mexico) and sampling points
Map illustrating the study area (Lower Mississippi River, Atchafalaya River, Gulf of Mexico) and sampling points (red dots) for chemical and other data in the regional data base in Professional Paper 1634, recently published as a CD-ROM. This map was created with LandView software included in the CD-ROM. LandView incorporates geographic and demographic base data and permits importing of user data, which can be plotted and labeled with a built-in mapping system (MARPLOT). A student assistant with no previous experience completed this illustration on his second day working with the software. The LandView package is in the public domain and is configured on the Professional Paper CD-ROM for both Windows and Macintosh platforms.
[larger version - 88KB gif]
A USGS Professional Paper entitled "Lake Pontchartrain Basin: Bottom Sediments and Related Environmental Resources" (USGS Professional Paper 1634) was presented at the biennial "Basics of the Basin" symposium on Lake Pontchartrain research, held in New Orleans, LA, on May 16-17. Edited by Frank Manheim (Reston, VA) and Laura Hayes (Pembroke, NH), with LandView (4th release) implementation by Jerry McFaul (Reston, VA), the professional paper was published as a CD-ROM. It summarizes several years of collaborative work, with contributions from Jeff Williams, Chris Polloni, Rich Signell, and Jeff List (Woods Hole, MA), Jack Kindinger and Jim Flocks (St. Petersburg, FL), and others from the USGS' Coastal and Marine Geology Program. The product contains a wealth of information, including data, scientific reports, instructional and outreach information, and a comprehensive sediment-chemistry data base integrated with a specially edited and augmented version of LandView, a software package for creating information-rich maps that runs on both Windows and Macintosh platforms.

The Professional Paper's release was timely, following reports in the media about mercury contamination around Gulf of Mexico drill rigs and concerns that similar contamination might be found in Lake Pontchartrain. The Gulf of Mexico drill rigs discharge 1 million pounds of drilling mud per hole. Barite, used to create a heavy drilling mud to overcome high pressures in oil-bearing formations, is believed to be the source of enhanced mercury in sediment samples and fish specimens collected in the gulf. Concern about mercury contamination has extended to Lake Pontchartrain because earlier drilling discharged drilling mud in the lake, and USGS Professional Paper 1634 reveals high concentrations of barium, a component of barite, in and around New Orleans waterways. The sediment-chemistry data base published in the Professional Paper, however, shows only a few samples with enhanced mercury in the area.

Two more highlights from Professional Paper 1634:

  • two cypress trees
    Photograph "Old Friends" by Julia Sims (Ponchatoula, LA) appears in USGS Professional Paper 1634. Photograph was taken at Keifer Point, Lake Maurepas, near the mouth of Pass Manchac.
    During presentation of the Professional Paper at the "Basics of the Basin" symposium in New Orleans, Frank Manheim, Laura Hayes, Jerry McFaul, and Arthur Horowitz (USGS Water Resources, Atlanta, GA) compared data from Lake Pontchartrain with chemical data on suspended matter in the Mississippi River (from the USGS National Stream Water Quality Accounting Network, or NASQAN). Their findings revealed that Lake Pontchartrain sediment is cleaner than current Mississippi River suspended matter, even though the Mississippi River is the source of most of Lake Pontchartrain's sediment. The Professional Paper shows that shell dredging in Lake Pontchartrain (stopped in the 1990s) has mixed clean sediment of Pleistocene age with the contaminated modern suspended matter.

  • Jerry McFaul developed a tutorial to demonstrate the LandView software at the symposium, using the newly released CD-ROM. The product's potential value to a wide variety of users continues to gain attention. LandView incorporates detailed Federal data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the USGS with a public-domain mapping package. Selected data can be plotted and labeled on base maps incorporating such data as roads, political boundaries, coastlines, and streams, as the map accompanying this article shows. User-supplied data sets may also be integrated with the embedded information. The LandView package offered on the Professional Paper CD-ROM is configured for both Windows and Macintosh platforms.


Related Web Sites
Geologic Framework and Processes of the Lake Pontchartrain Basin
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)

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in this issue: Fieldwork cover story:
Mapping Lake Mohave

Research Delmarva Coastal Bays

Glen Canyon Dam

Outreach Career Options for Jr. High School Girls

Coastal Hazards Lecture

Earth Day at Lowry Park Zoo

Practical Applications of GIS

Gulf of Maine GIS Workshop for Teachers

MarineQuest 2002

Florida Caribbean Science Center Open House

Meetings CMGP Knowledge Bank

Communicating Science in a Virtual World

Continental-Shelf Territory Rights

Awards Kvenvolden Honored

Staff & Center News Student Employees

New Woods Hole Chief Scientist

Two New Employees at WHFC

University of Minnesota Visitor

Publications Special Issue of Marine Geology on USGS Monterey Bay Research

Timely Publication for Gulf of Mexico Mercury Concerns

June Publications List


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