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Minnesota Water Science Center Newsletter
Spring 2017
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U.S. Department of Interior
U.S. Geological Survey
Minnesota Water Science Center
2280 Woodale Drive
Mounds View, MN 55112

From the Director

Jim Stark
Jim Stark
After 39 years of public service I am retiring in May. Working for the USGS has been a privilege and a really important part of my life. It has not been just a job. I’ve been the Director of the Center for nine years. That's a long time as Directors go. Prior to that, I held various jobs in the Center: Studies Chief, Lead of the National Water Quality Assessment of the Upper Mississippi, Groundwater Specialist and Project Chief. Prior to my time in Minnesota, I worked for the USGS in Utah and in Michigan. I have been blessed with a career that has had a great deal of variety and new experiences each day.

I'm not completely going away. I'll continue to be involved in the Lake Superior and Rainy- Lake of the Woods bi-national watershed boards. In addition, I'll stay involved in technical advisory committees focused on sustainable water supplies for the Metropolitan Twin Cities. Away from the office, I will keep busy with my family and grandkids, volunteer activities, basketball refereeing, and as a board member of the Minnesota Land Trust.

During my career I have survived many USGS reorganizations and changes in national priorities. My career has been enhanced by many bosses, mentors, and colleagues. From these individuals I have learned a great deal.

Changing priorities, evolving projects, and reviews of budgets, reports, and programs have been part of the job. The blessing, however, has been working with and being able to know many special people in the water-resource community within and beyond the USGS family. I take great satisfaction in seeing the progress that Minnesota is making in protecting and improving the waters of our State. It has been an honor for our staff to be a part of the work funded by the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment to the Minnesota Constitution that protects, enhances, and restores, streams, lakes, wetlands, and groundwater. I also take great pride in seeing the contributions that the many USGS student interns have made, over the years, on water challenges faced by the State and the Nation.

It has been a good ride! I hope to see you around at water meetings as we celebrate the good work that you all are doing for the citizens of our great State.


New Minnesota Water Science Center reports

Contaminants of Emerging Concern (CECs) in the Great Lakes Basin

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CECs in the Great Lakes Basin
Two reports recently were published on CECs in the Great Lakes Basin. Sarah Elliott (MN WSC) was lead author on the first paper, in collaboration with David VanderMuelen of the National Park Service. A regional assessment of chemicals of concern in surface waters of four Midwestern United States national parks was published in Science of The Total Environment. The National Park Service presented the major findings and implications of this study in a 2-page Resource Brief.
Contact: Sarah Elliott,

The second report resulted from collaboration with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. USFWS has led a multi-pronged study of risks posed by CECs to fish and wildlife in the Great Lakes Basin. As part of this study, USGS assisted with sampling and interpretation of CECs in water and sediment in U.S. tributaries to the Great Lakes. The first interpretive report from this collaboration was published in late January as the USFWS report Contaminants of emerging concern in the Great Lakes Basin: A report on sediment, water, and fish tissue chemistry collected in 2010-2012. Mark Brigham, Sarah Elliott, and Kathy Lee (all with MN WSC) were co-authors. Contact: Sarah Elliott,

Mercury and lake levels in Voyageurs National Park

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The magnitude of lake-level fluctuations has been previously correlated to increases in mercury bioaccumulation in fish that inhabit lakes of northern Minnesota. The National Park Service had great interest in seeing if this relationship continued to hold true, particularly in light of the ongoing review of the current “rule curves” which govern lake levels in Voyageurs National Park. This interest led to a study of mercury in young-of-the-year yellow perch from large lakes in Voyageurs. A new report provides comparisons between fish mercury concentrations and the lake level and water-quality data for this assessment.
Contact: Victoria Christensen,

Suspended Sediment in the Lower Minnesota River

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The MN WSC’s Sediment Team has published four reports within the past year (three described in our last newsletter). The latest report, Suspended-sediment concentrations, bedload, particle sizes, surrogate measurements, and annual sediment loads for selected sites in the Lower Minnesota River Basin, water years 2011 through 2016, summarizes sediment-transport relations and sediment budgets in the Minnesota River Basin.
Contact: Joel Groten,

Significant national reports

From Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico--The challenge of tracking nutrient pollution 2,300 miles

The USGS issued a press release on March 6, on the Spatially Referenced Regression on Watershed At tributes (SPARROW) model, and its use to estimate nutrient yields and identify hotspots of nutrient loading within the Mississippi River Basin. The release quotes the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's Dave Wall. Full press release.

Trends in water quality

The Surface-Water Trends team of the USGS National Water Quality Asssessment (NAWQA) project has determined over 10,000 trends at almost 1,400 sites monitored by 74 organizations across the United States. These trends are presented in an online mapper that displays changes in the quality of the Nation’s rivers and streams since passage of the Clean Water Act in 1972. Data preparation, statistical methods, and trend results from the study are documented in the companion Scientific Investigations Report 2017–5006. Local, State, Tribal, and Federal organizations as well as the public and other stakeholders can use the online mapper and companion report to determine whether 51 chemical constituents (including nutrients, pesticides, sediment, salinity, and carbon) and 38 measures of aquatic life (including the types and numbers of fish, macroinvertebrates, and algae) have increased, decreased or remained the same at specific sites starting in 1972, 1982, 1992, or 2002 and ending in 2012. Over the next several years, we will be using these trend results to describe the geographic distribution, environmental significance, and major causes of water-quality changes over time throughout the Nation.
Contact: Lori Sprague, Coordinator of the NAWQA Surface-Water Trends team,

Challenges remain in combining data from multiple organizations

Almost 60 percent of previously collected nutrient water-quality records for U.S. rivers and streams have missing or ambiguous reference information. This inconsistency limits the use of these data for assessing water quality across large river basins. Across the country, nearly 14.5 million of the 25 million records collected since 1899 by nearly 500 public and private organizations had missing or ambiguous metadata — the standard descriptive information needed to evaluate whether the amount of a chemical present in the sample is representative and defensible. Press Release
Contact: Lori Sprague,

Nationwide study of contaminants of emerging concern in source and treated drinking water

The USGS Toxic Substances Hydrology Program, in collaboration with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, conducted a study to evaluate the presence of contaminants of emerging concern in source and treated drinking water at 24 drinking water treatment plants across the U.S. A suite of papers highlighting results from the study was recently published in Science of the Total Environment. The papers summarize wastewater indicators and inorganic chemicals, pharmaceuticals, microbial pathogens, and estrogenicity in source and treated drinking water samples. Two additional papers report on the value of quality control in trace organic studies and human health significance of the findings.

This just in: nationwide assessment of trace organic contaminants

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Many U.S. waterways carry a variety of pollutants, but not much is known about the composition or health effects of these chemical combinations. A new in-depth study, however, is providing insight as it shows the mixtures are more complex than expected and contain compounds that could potentially harm aquatic species. The findings, reported in two papers in Environmental Science & Technology, could have implications for human health. Two Minnesota stream sites were included in this national survey. Press release with links to papers.
Contacts should be directed to the lead authors of the respective papers ( and

Staff notes


Helen Malenda
Helen Malenda
In January Helen Malenda, a National Science Foundation Fellow doctoral student from the Colorado School of Mines, began a 6-month Graduate Research Internship Program internship in the MN WSC. Helen will work primarily with Dr. Mindy Erickson to better understand arsenic occurrence and mobilization in glacial aquifers and the project results’ relevance to public health policy decision-making by USGS cooperators. Helen brings a broad background and wealth of experience to the WSC, with a B.S. in Geology, an M.S. in Fluvial Geomorphology and experience in environmental consulting and volunteering at international non-profits related to water sanitation and hygiene.


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Perry Jones and co-authors were recognized for the Best Groundwater Report of 2016, for the report Statistical analysis of lake levels and field study of groundwater and surface-water exchanges in the northeast Twin Cities Metropolitan Area, Minnesota, 2002 through 2015. The award recognizes excellence in groundwater reports from USGS Water Science Centers nationwide. This report is the second in a series of three USGS reports documenting groundwater and surface-water interactions in and around White Bear Lake, Minnesota. The study used a combination of innovative and novel field and statistical methods to identify and describe critical groundwater/surface water interactions in the northeast Metro region and in White Bear Lake. The results of this body of work are being used by stakeholders for important water resources decision-making. The Metropolitan Council and Minnesota Department of Health were cooperators on this project.


Jay Roth
Jay Roth
Jay (Jason) Roth accepted a position as Conservation Engineer at the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in St. Paul, and has moved on from the USGS. Jay, who is a Professional Engineer with a Master’s in Civil Engineering, was motivated to gain experience in engineering design and implementation. Jay was integral to several projects here at USGS. His enthusiasm and skills will be missed. Congratulations, Jay. We wish you well and know NRCS is gaining a talented scientist and engineer.

Brent Mason
Brent Mason
Brent Mason is moving on from the USGS MN WSC. He has accepted a position as a Hydrologist at the MN DNR in St. Paul and will be involved primarily with well drilling related to groundwater studies. Brent has used his diverse and unique combination of skill sets to enhance many USGS studies. His dedication, resourcefulness, and sense of humor will be missed in the office. Congratulations Brent, and best of luck in your new position.

Geoff Delin has Retired!

Geoff Delin
Geoff Delin
Geoff Delin retired on April 1, 2017 after 38 years with the USGS. Geoff joined the USGS in 1979 as a hydrologic technician in the Minnesota District. As a technician his duties included operating the borehole geophysical logging unit, operating the auger rig, collecting groundwater quality samples, and supervising contract drilling operations. After transitioning to a hydrologist position Geoff worked on the Upper Midwest Regional Aquifer System Analysis study, then led numerous studies of the quantity and quality of glacial and bedrock aquifers throughout the state. During these studies Geoff was one of the first hydrologists to use the then “new” MODFLOW code. His investigations also included evaluation of aquifer thermal energy storage with model simulations of heat transport using the HST3D code, and a recharge project that estimated groundwater recharge across the state of Minnesota.

In 1990, Geoff was principal investigator for the Minnesota Management Systems Evaluation Area study where he researched fate and transport of agricultural chemicals through unsaturated and saturated sand-plain deposits. From 1995-2008 he was site coordinator on the Bemidji crude-oil spill research project. In addition to site coordination duties, Geoff conducted research on effects of recharge on oil dissolution, multiphase flow processes, and vapor-phase transport of hydrocarbons through glacial deposits. Geoff also was the District’s groundwater specialist from 1994-2008.

In 2008 Geoff moved to Denver where he served as a groundwater specialist for the central part of the country. He was an instructor for the Groundwater Field Methods class as well as the Groundwater/Surface-Water Interaction Class. Geoff served on 48 technical groundwater review teams during his service as groundwater specialist. Throughout his career Geoff authored or co-authored more than 70 peer-reviewed reports and gave presentations at more than 30 technical conferences.

Geoff’s service to the USGS is greatly appreciated and he will be missed. Geoff plans on serving in an Emeritus capacity following retirement to complete some research for the Bemidji project as well as help with USGS training. Geoff and his wife Ruth plan on some international travel, hiking and enjoying the Colorado Rocky Mountains, as well as spending more time with their children and grandchildren.

Passing of Gil Gabanski

Gil Gabanski
The groundwater community lost a family member on March 31 with the untimely passing of Gil Gabanski. Gil was involved in several professional organizations in Minnesota, including the American Institute of Professional Geologists (AIPG) Minnesota Section, the Minnesota Groundwater Association (MGWA), and Minnesota Brownfields. He was a co-founder of MGWA and president of the MGWA Foundation. Gil was an active and enthusiastic volunteer for these geoscience organizations and was very involved in the early days -- helping to recruit members and keep the organizations growing. One of Gil’s passions was to organize student-support committees in these groups. He participated in many career fairs and gave frequent presentations at local colleges and universities. Gil was a frequent judge at the Minnesota Academy of Science State High School Science Fair and always encouraged his fellow geologists to volunteer.

Gil worked for several companies and public agencies over the years. Most recently, he worked at Hennepin County in the Contaminated Lands Unit where he helped manage the Environmental Response Fund grant program.

Gil had a profound impact on the groundwater and geosciences communities in Minnesota. He was a mentor and friend to many of us. Gil was one of the first scientists that I met when I moved to Minnesota. As he could do so well, Gil showed me how to get involved and taught me how things worked in Minnesota. I am just one of many people who will miss him. I hope we can continue to build on the foundation he helped build for geoscience in Minnesota.

--Jim Stark