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A study of the Mississippi River and its tributaries during July-August 1991, October-November 1991, and April-May 1992 has indicated that the entire navigable reach of the river is contaminated with a complex mixture of agrochemicals and their transformation products derived from nonpoint sources. Twenty-three compounds were identified, including triazine, chloroacetanilide, thiocarbamate, phenylurea, pyridazine, and organophosphorus pesticides. The upper and middle Mississippi River Basin farm lands are major sources of herbicides applied to corn, soybeans, and sorghum. Farm lands in the lower Mississippi River Basin are a major source of rice and cotton herbicides. Inputs of the five major herbicides atrazine, cyanazine, metolachlor, alachlor, and simazine to the Mississippi River are mainly from the Minnesota, Des Moines, Missouri, and Ohio Rivers. Ratios of desethylatrazine/atrazine potentially are useful indicators of groundwater and surface water interactions in the Mississippi River. These ratios suggested that during baseflow conditions, there is a significant groundwater contribution to the river. The Mississippi River thus serves as a drainage channel for pesticide-contaminated surface and groundwater from the midwestern United States. Conservative estimates of annual mass transport indicated that about 160 t of atrazine, 71 t of cyanazine, 56 t of metolachlor, and 18 t of alachlor were discharged into the Gulf of Mexico in 1991.
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Nonpoint source contamination of the Mississippi river and its tributaries by herbicides