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Anthropogenic - A condition or occurrence that is the result of, or is influenced by, human activity.

Aquifer - A water-bearing layer of soil, sand, gravel, or rock that will yield usable quantities of water to a well.

Background concentration - A concentration of a substance in a particular environment that is indicative of minimal influence by human (anthropogenic) sources.

Base flow - Sustained, low flow in a stream; ground-water discharge is the source of base flow in most places.

Bed sediment - The material that temporarily is stationary in the bottom of a stream or other watercourse.

Benthic - Refers to plants or animals that live on the bottom of lakes, streams, or oceans.

Bioaccumulation - The biological sequestering of a substance at a higher concentration than that at which it occurs in the surrounding environment or medium. Also, the process whereby a substance enters organisms through the gills, epithelial tissues, dietary, or other sources.

Biota - Living organisms.

Breakdown product - A compound derived by chemical, biological, or physical action upon a pesticide. The breakdown is a natural process which may result in a more toxic or a less toxic compound and a more persistent or less persistent compound.

BTEX - Benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene; volatile organic compounds found in gasoline and solvents.

Chlordane - Octachloro-4,7-methanotetrahydroindane. An organochlorine insecticide no longer registered for use in the U.S. Technical chlordane is a mixture in which the primary components are cis- and trans-chlordane, cis- and trans-nonachlor, and heptachlor.

Community - In ecology, the species that interact in a common area.

Concentration - The amount or mass of a substance present in a given volume or mass of sample. Usually expressed as microgram per liter (water sample) or micrograms per kilogram (sediment or tissue sample).

Denitrification - A process by which oxidized forms of nitrogen such as nitrate (NO3-) are reduced to form nitrites, nitrogen oxides, ammonia, or free nitrogen: commonly brought about by the action of denitrifying bacteria and usually resulting in the escape of nitrogen to the air.

Detect - To determine the presence of a compound.

DDT - Dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane. An organochlorine insecticide no longer registered for use in the United States.

Dieldrin - An organochlorine insecticide no longer registered for use in the United States. Also a degradation product of the insecticide aldrin.

Discharge - Rate of fluid flow passing a given point at a given moment in time, expressed as volume per unit of time.

Domestic well - A private home well, or a well that serves less than 15 households or 25 individuals.

Endocrine system - The collection of glands in animals that secrete hormones, which influence growth, gender and sexual maturity.

Eutrophication - The process by which water becomes enriched with plant nutrients, most commonly phosphorus and nitrogen.

Ground water - In general, any water that exists beneath the land surface, but more commonly applied to water in fully saturated soils and geologic formations.

Herbicide - A chemical or other agent applied for the purpose of killing undesirable plants. See also Pesticide.

Insecticide - A substance or mixture of substances intended to destroy or repel insects.

Intolerant organisms - Organisms that are not adaptable to human alterations to the environment and thus decline in numbers where human alterations occur. See also Tolerant species.

Invertebrate - An animal having no backbone or spinal column.

MCL (Maximum Contaminant Level) - Maximum permissible level of a contaminant in water that is delivered to any user of a public water system. MCLs are enforceable standards established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Median - The middle or central value in a distribution of data ranked in order of magnitude. The median is also known as the 50th percentile.

Metabolite - See breakdown product.

Monitor well - A well designed for measuring water levels and testing ground-water quality.

Nitrate - An ion consisting of nitrogen and oxygen (NO3-). Nitrate is a plant nutrient and is very mobile in soils. In this report, the term “nitrate” is used as shorthand for “nitrate plus nitrite, reported as nitrogen.”

Nutrient - Element or compound essential for animal and plant growth. Common nutrients in fertilizer include nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.

Organochlorine compound - Synthetic organic compound containing chlorine. As generally used, term refers to compounds containing mostly or exclusively carbon, hydrogen, and chlorine. Examples include organochlorine insecticides, polychlorinated biphenyls, and some solvents containing chlorine.

Pesticide - A chemical applied to crops, rights of way, lawns, or residences to control weeds, insects, fungi, nematodes, rodents or other “pests.”

Phosphorus - A nutrient essential for growth that can play a key role in stimulating aquatic growth in lakes and streams.

Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) - A mixture of chlorinated derivatives of biphenyl, marketed under the trade name Aroclor with a number designating the chlorine content (such as Aroclor 1260). PCBs were used in transformers and capacitors for insulating purposes and in gas pipeline systems as a lubricant. Further sale for new use was banned by law in 1979.

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) - A class of organic compounds with a fusedring aromatic structure. PAHs result from incomplete combustion of organic carbon (including wood), municipal solid waste, and fossil fuels, as well as from natural or anthropogenic introduction of uncombusted coal and oil. PAHs include benzo[a]pyrene, fluoranthene, and pyrene.

Recharge - Water that infiltrates the ground and reaches the saturated zone.

Runoff - Excess rainwater or snowmelt that is transported to streams by overland flow, tile drains, or ground water.

SMCL (Secondary maximum contaminant level) - Nonenforceable drinking-water standards established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for contaminants that may adversely affect the odor or appearance of drinking water. Sediment - Particles, derived from rocks or biological materials, that have been transported by a fluid or other natural process, suspended or settled in water.

Semivolatile organic compound (SVOC) - Operationally defined as a group of synthetic organic compounds that are solvent-extractable and can be determined by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry. SVOCs include phenols, phthalates, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).

Streamflow - A type of channel flow, applied to that part of surface runoff in a stream whether or not it is affected by diversion or regulation.

Suspended sediment - Particles of rock, sand, soil, and organic detritus carried in suspension in the water column, in contrast to sediment that moves on or near the streambed.

Taxon (plural taxa) - Any identifiable group of taxonomically related organisms.

Tile drain - A buried perforated pipe designed to remove excess water from soils. Till - An unsorted glacial deposit characterized by low permeability.

Triazine herbicide - A class of herbicides containing a symmetrical triazine ring (a nitrogen-heterocyclic ring composed of three nitrogens and three carbons in an alternating sequence). Examples include atrazine, propazine, and simazine.

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) - Organic chemicals that have a high vapor pressure relative to their water solubility. VOCs include components of gasoline, fuel oils, and lubricants, as well as organic solvents, fumigants, some inert ingredients in pesticides, and some by-products of chlorine disinfection.

Water table - The point below the land surface where ground water is first encountered and below which the earth is saturated. Depth to the water table varies widely across the country.

Water year - The continuous 12-month period, October 1 through September 30, in U.S. Geological Survey reports dealing with the surface-water supply. The water year is designated by the calendar year in which it ends and which includes 9 of the 12 months. Thus, the year ending September 30, 1980, is referred to as water year 1980.

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U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1203

Suggested citation:

Myers, D.N., Thomas, M.A., Frey, J.W., Rheaume, S.J., and Button, D.T., 2000, Water Quality in the Lake Erie-Lake Saint Clair Drainages Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, New York, and Pennsylvania, 1996–98: U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1203, 35 p., on-line at

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