In response to concern about recent blooms of the dinoflagellate, Pfiesteria piscicida, samples of sediment and water were collected from the lower Pocomoke River Basin and were screened for trace elements, pesticides, and other organic compounds. A large group of steroid and fatty acid methyl-ester compounds was detected in streamwater using gas chromatography/mass spectroscopy in scan mode. Some of these steroid compounds have been identified and further quantified in bed-sediment extracts. Spatial patterns of the concentrations of cholesterol suggest that these compounds are linked to the runoff of animal wastes into the river. Many of the organic compounds found in the Pocomoke River sediments have not yet been identified, but at least several are in the class of hormone compounds related to estradiols and have the potential to promote endocrine-disrupting effects in aquatic life. Particulate forms of arsenic and zinc are slightly elevated above normal levels for streams, but the sources for these elements are still undetermined. Several pesticides were found in low, parts-per-trillion concentrations, but were within the ranges commonly found in streams of this region.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Organic compounds and trace elements in the Pocomoke River and its tributaries
Revised January 2000
U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey,