Little existing information was available describing pesticide occurrence in ground water of Wyoming, so the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the Wyoming Department of Agriculture and the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality on behalf of the Wyoming Ground-water and Pesticides Strategy Committee, collected ground-water samples twice (during late summer/early fall and spring) from 296 wells during 1995-2006 to characterize pesticide occurrence. Sampling focused on the State's ground water that was mapped as the most vulnerable to pesticide contamination because of either inherent hydrogeologic sensitivity (for example, shallow water table or highly permeable aquifer materials) or a combination of sensitivity and associated land use.
Because of variations in reporting limits among different compounds and for the same compound during this study, pesticide detections were recensored to two different assessment levels to facilitate qualitative and quantitative examination of pesticide detection frequencies - a common assessment level (CAL) of 0.07 microgram per liter and an assessment level that differed by compound, referred to herein as a compound-specific assessment level (CSAL). Because of severe data censoring (fewer than 50 percent of the data are greater than laboratory reporting limits), categorical statistical methods were used exclusively for quantitative comparisons of pesticide detection frequencies between seasons and among various natural and anthropogenic (human-related) characteristics.
One or more pesticides were detected at concentrations greater than the CAL in water from about 23 percent of wells sampled in the fall and from about 22 percent of wells sampled in the spring. Mixtures of two or more pesticides occurred at concentrations greater than the CAL in about 9 percent of wells sampled in the fall and in about 10 percent of wells sampled in the spring. At least 74 percent of pesticides detected were classified as herbicides. Considering only detections using the CAL, triazine pesticides were detected much more frequently than all other pesticide classes, and the number of different pesticides classified as triazines was the largest of all classes.
More pesticides were detected at concentrations greater than the CSALs in water from wells sampled in the fall (28 different pesticides) than in the spring (21 different pesticides). Many pesticides were detected infrequently as nearly one-half of pesticides detected in the fall and spring at concentrations greater than the CSALs were detected only in one well. Using the CSALs for pesticides analyzed for in 11 or more wells, only five pesticides (atrazine, prometon, tebuthiuron, picloram, and 3,4-dichloroaniline, listed in order of decreasing detection frequency) were each detected in water from more than 5 percent of sampled wells. Atrazine was the pesticide detected most frequently at concentrations greater than the CSAL.
Concentrations of detected pesticides generally were small (less than 1 microgram per liter), although many infrequent detections at larger concentrations were noted. All detected pesticide concentrations were smaller than U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) drinking-water standards or applicable health advisories. Most concentrations were at least an order of magnitude smaller; however, many pesticides did not have standards or advisories.
The largest percentage of pesticide detections and the largest number of different pesticides detected were in samples from wells located in the Bighorn Basin and High Plains/ Casper Arch geographic areas of north-central and southeastern Wyoming. Prometon was the only pesticide detected in all eight geographic areas of the State.
Pesticides were detected much more frequently in samples from wells located in predominantly urban areas than in samples from wells located in predominantly agricultural or mixed areas. Pesticides were detected distinctly less often in sa