Baseflow samples were collected from 20 small streams in the Pepacton Reservoir watershed in Delaware County, N.Y., from December 2000 through November 2001 as part of an investigation to define the occurrence of pesticides in shallow ground water in watersheds containing either a recent (2001) corn crop, a previous (1993-94) corn crop, or no history of row-crop cultivation. Baseflow water quality was assumed to represent the chemical quality of shallow ground water within the drainage area above each sampling site.
Baseflow samples were analyzed for 57 pesticides and pesticide degradates. Three herbicides (atrazine, metolachlor and simazine) and three herbicide degradates (alachlor ESA [ethanesulfonic acid], deethylatrazine, and metolachlor ESA) were detected, but no concentrations exceeded any Federal or State water-quality criteria, and the maximum concentrations of all compounds except metolachlor ESA were less than 0.10 microgram per liter. The most frequently detected compounds (atrazine, metolachlor, deethylatrazine and metolachlor ESA) are either those typically used on corn crops, or those whose parent compounds are commonly used on corn crops and have been detected in streams that drain row-crop settings elsewhere in New York State. The pesticide and pesticide-degradate concentrations in baseflow samples collected in December 2000 and July 2001 samples generally corresponded to the amount of cornfield acreage in each watershed in 2001.
The types of pesticides detected, and their median concentrations, were similar to those noted in two previous ground-water studies in row-crop areas elsewhere in upstate New York. Also the SAM ratios (ratio of metolachlor ESA concentration to metolachlor concentration) for the Pepacton samples were similar to those for ground-water samples from other agricultural settings in upstate New York, but were significantly higher than that for stormflow and baseflow samples collected in 1997-98 from Canajoharie Creek, an upstate stream that drains row-crop farmland. These comparisons confirm that the baseflow samples were derived from, and were representative of, ground water in their respective watersheds. Late-summer decreases in atrazine and deethylatrazine concentrations at a site where corn was grown in 2001 may have resulted from the seasonally dry conditions and the accompanying decrease in ground-water discharge from the upper-most part of the surficial aquifer system to streams. The lack of a similar decrease in metolachlor ESA concentrations during this period may reflect the transport of metolachlor ESA to deeper parts of the surficial aquifer that continued to discharge to streams during the dry period.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Hydrogeology and Water Quality of the Pepacton Reservoir Watershed in Southeastern New York. Part 1. Concentrations of pesticides and their degradates in stream baseflow, 2000-2001