Inputs of Pollutants to Watersheds via Atmospheric Deposition, with Implications for Human Health and Aquatic Life

Track 4A: Monitoring Water Quality
Friday, October 13, 2017, 10:00 am – 11:50 am

Elizabeth Boyer
Associate Professor of Water Resources
Director of the Pennsylvania Water Resources Research Center
Assistant Director of Penn State Institutes of Energy & the Environment
Penn State University

Atmospheric deposition affects air quality, vegetation, soils, and waterways. Emissions of mercury, sulfur, and nitrogen from various anthropogenic and natural sources are primary sources of pollution to ecosystems, with delivery to watersheds occurring via wet and dry atmospheric deposition. Acidic deposition is related to a host of environmental issues, including eutrophication of surface waters. Human exposure to mercury occurs primarily through fish consumption, and currently mercury fish eating advisories are in place for many of the streams and lakes nationwide. Here, I present our research on quantifying status and trends of atmospheric deposition and its impacts on surface waters — based on monitoring of deposition and stream water quality, deposition and watershed modeling, and watershed input-output mass balance budgets. Further, I discuss the duality of air pollution problems — where society must balance needs for food and energy with environmental impacts affecting human health and aquatic life.