This report presents the detection frequency of 83 analyzed pesticides, describes the concentrations of those pesticides measured in water from streams and shallow wells, and presents conceptual models of the major factors affecting seasonal and areal patterns of pesticide concentrations in water from streams and shallow wells in the Lower Susquehanna River Basin. Seasonal and areal patterns of pesticide concentrations were observed in 577 samples and nearly 40,000 pesticide analyses collected from 155 stream sites and 169 shallow wells from 1993 to 1995. For this study, shallow wells were defined as those generally less than 200 feet deep. The most commonly detected pesticides were agricultural herbicides?atrazine, metolachlor, simazine, prometon, alachlor, and cyanazine. Atrazine and metolachlor are the two most-used agricultural pesticides in the Lower Susquehanna River Basin. Atrazine was detected in 92 percent of all the samples and in 98 percent of the stream samples. Metolachlor was detected in 83 percent of all the samples and in 95 percent of the stream samples. Nearly half of all the analyzed pesticides were not detected in any sample. Of the 45 pesticides that were detected at least once, the median concentrations of 39 of the pesticides were less than the detection limit for the individual compounds, indicating that for at least 50 percent of the samples collected, those pesticides were not detected. Only 10 (less than 0.025 percent) of the measured concentrations exceeded any established drinking-water standards; 25 concentrations exceeded 2 mg/L (micrograms per liter) and 55 concentrations exceeded 1 mg/L. None of the elevated concentrations were measured in samples collected from streams that are used for public drinking-water supplies, and 8 of the 10 were measured in storm-affected samples. The timing and rate of agricultural pesticide applications affect the seasonal and areal concentration patterns of atrazine, simazine, chlorpyrifos, and diazinon observed in water from wells and streams in the Lower Susquehanna River Basin. Average annual pesticide use for agricultural purposes and nonagricultural pesticide use indicators were used to explain seasonal and areal patterns. Elevated concentrations of some pesticides in streams during base-flow and storm-affected conditions were related to the seasonality of agricultural-use applications and local climate conditions. Agricultural-use patterns affected areal concentration patterns for the high-use pesticides, but indicators of nonagricultural use were needed to explain concentration patterns of pesticides with smaller amounts used for agricultural purposes. Bedrock type influences the movement and discharge of ground water, which in turn affects concentration patterns of pesticides. The ratio of atrazine concentrations in stream base flow to concentrations in shallow wells varied among the different general rock types found in the Lower Susquehanna River Basin. Median concentrations of atrazine in well water and stream base flow tended to be similar in individual areas underlain by carbonate bedrock, indicating the connectivity of water in streams and shallow wells in these areas. In areas underlain by noncarbonate bedrock, median concentrations of atrazine tended to be significantly higher in stream base flow than in well water. This suggests a deep ground-water system that delivers water to shallow wells and a near-surficial system that supplies base-flow water to streams. In addition to the presence or absence of carbonate bedrock, pesticide leaching potential and persistence, soil infiltration capacity, and agricultural land use affected areal patterns in detection frequency and concentration differences between samples collected from streams during base-flow conditions and shallow wells.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Summary of and factors affecting pesticide concentrations in streams and shallow wells of the lower Susquehanna River basin, Pennsylvania and Maryland, 1993-95