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Monitoring for lead in lakes & streams

Because lead is toxic and persists in the environment for years, we routinely monitor for it in rivers and streams. Beginning in 2008, we've collected suspended particulate matter samples in water at monitoring sites across the state for analysis of total lead. Our sampling occurs in the spring and fall every year and is currently focused on urban streams, as well as rivers with substantial lead contamination.

Why monitor lead?

We monitor lead in Washington rivers and streams because of our concern over its toxic and persistent properties. While lead is a naturally occurring element, human activities have elevated levels throughout the environment.

Lead affects humans and wildlife by harming developing nervous systems, as well as other bodily systems. There are many sources of lead, indoors and out, and even minor exposures may cause some harm. We developed a chemical action plan for lead in 2009 along with the state Department of Health. The plan identified the toxic effects of lead, described lead’s occurrence in the environment, and recommended ways to reduce human and wildlife exposure to lead.

Study supports chemical action plan

This long-term monitoring program supports the Lead Chemical Action Plan by assessing temporal changes of lead in Washington rivers and streams as reduction strategies are implemented. We collect suspended particulate matter samples in the spring and fall for analysis of total lead. Between 2008 and 2014, we monitored 15 sites throughout the state. In 2015, the number of sites was reduced to seven to focus on small urban streams and large rivers with substantial lead contamination.

Click the monitoring locations on the webmap to see the full reports.

Map-based data for Environmental Information Management database. Also find by searching EIM for "pbtrends."