National Park Service

Great Lakes Network (GLKN)

Persistent Contaminants Monitoring

A climber carefully approaches an eagle nest
A climber carefully approaches an eagle nest

GLKN Persistent Contaminant Monitoring Briefs

GLKN Persistent Contaminant Monitoring Reports

GLKN Protocol for Monitoring Environmental Contaminants in Bald Eagles

GLKN Protocol for Monitoring and Assessing Methylmercury and Organic Contaminants in Aquatic Food Webs

For more information contact:
Bill Route


According to the Environmental Protection Agency's Toxic Release Inventory, industry released over 120 million pounds of toxic waste to the air, water, or on land in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan in 2006. Similar amounts are released each year by industry in these and other states and provinces in the Great Lakes region. Some of this waste is transported elsewhere by air, some is confined to landfills, and some is degraded to harmless elements. But a portion of this waste ends up in the environment in the form of chemical contaminants that can persist for years, bioaccumulate in food webs, and become toxic to fish, wildlife, and humans.

The National Park Service has a responsibility to understand the levels and effects of these contaminants on natural systems they manage and to inform the visiting public of any human health hazards. In 2006 the NPS Great Lakes Inventory & Monitoring Network began monitoring selected contaminants that are persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic.

Long-term Monitoring

We currently monitor six contaminants: mercury; lead; PCBs (95 congeners); DDT and its metabolites DDE and DDD; PFCs (16 telomers); and PBDEs (9 congeners). These six contaminants account for most of the impaired waters in Great Lakes Network parks. We monitor these contaminants in tissues of indicator species (sentinels). Our objectives are to:

  1. Monitor patterns and levels of targeted contaminants that accumulate in sentinel species
  2. Monitor patterns and trends in the health and productivity of sentinel species
  3. Archive tissue samples from sentinel species and periodically investigate levels of new and emerging contaminants

Monitoring is conducted under two protocols: one using bald eagles as sentinels at APIS, MISS, and SACN; and a second using fish and dragonflies at GRPO, INDU, ISRO, PIRO, SLBE, and VOYA.

Parks Monitored

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Last Updated: December 30, 2016 Contact Webmaster