The gravel commonly used to cover parking lots and roadways at retail agrichemical facilities may contain relatively large concentrations of pesticides that resulted from past management problems. These pesticides may threaten groundwater quality. Previous studies, however, suggested that the pesticides had not moved from the gravel in several sample profiles. Excavations at a closed facility revealed tremendous variability in pesticide distribution within the site. Pesticides were present below the gravel in two profiles, but the mechanism(s) for their movement were not clear. The objectives of this study were to investigate how the physical and chemical properties of the gravel influence the environmental fate of atrazine. All of the gravel samples collected and characterized contained atrazine and sufficient organic C to adsorb significant amounts of atrazine, thus retarding its movement through the gravel. Laboratory column leaching experiments, however, suggested that much of the atrazine should leach from the gravel within a year or two. A field-scale test plot was constructed to study how atrazine moves through the gravel under controlled conditions. Atrazine was "spilled" in the test plot. Atrazine moved from the gravel both vertically and horizontally. It appears that formulated product spilled on gravel will leach. A single discrete spill can give rise to phantom spills whose occurrence and distribution is not related to any specific pesticide-management practice. The apparent lack of atrazine leaching from gravel appeared to be a transient phenomenon and/or the result of sampling limitations in previous studies. The contaminated gravel clearly poses a risk to groundwater quality.
Additional publication details
Chemical fate and transport of atrazine in soil gravel materials at agrichemical distribution facilities