Sick smallmouth bass

A smallmouth bass with a malignant tumor caught on the Susquehanna above Harrisburg in the fall of 2014.

Penn State researchers are looking to sign up about 60 volunteers who live near streams draining into the Susquehanna River to help check for the presence of pesticides, pharmaceuticals and personal-care products.

The volunteers will be provided with water test kits. Next spring, they will collect water samples in search of endocrine-disrupting compounds that make their way through sewage-treatment plants and into the river.

Study: hormone-disrupting chemicals, herbicides, pathogens and parasites likely behind bass collapse in Susquehanna

Endocrine-disrupting compounds have become prime suspects in the decline of the Susquehanna’s smallmouth bass population and for creating fish that have both male and female sex organs.

Sewage-treatment plants were not designed to remove such compounds.

In addition to collecting samples and becoming a citizen scientist, volunteers will attend focus groups through the summer “to reveal their concerns, future research directions, and potential desired legislation that could lead to reductions of endocrine-disrupting compounds in the environment.”

The one-year-project will be funded by the National Science Foundation. A team of Penn State researchers and the Susquehanna River Basin Commission also is involved.

“By doing this research with citizen scientists, we can help people understand that potentially dangerous compounds in products they use every day ultimately make their way through wastewater treatment plants into their streams,” said Heather Gall, a Penn State assistant professor of agricultural and biological engineering.

“Given the lack of water-quality standards, the quickest way to reduce their presence in the environment is for people to become more informed consumers.”

Persons interested in participating in the survey can contact Gall at 814-865-7792 or by e-mail at