In 1999 and 2000, the U.S. Geological Survey National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Program conducted a national pilot study of pesticides and degradates in drinking-water supplies, in cooperation with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA). William H. Harsha Lake, which provides drinking water for several thousand people in southwestern Ohio, was selected as one of the drinking-water supplies for this study. East Fork Little Miami River is the main source of water to Harsha Lake and drains a predominantly agricultural basin. Samples were collected from the East Fork Little Miami River upstream from Harsha Lake, at the drinking-water intake at Harsha Lake, at the outfall just below Harsha Lake, and from treated water at the Bob McEwen Treatment Plant. These samples were analyzed using standardized methods developed for the NAWQA Program.
In all, 42 pesticide compounds (24 herbicides, 4 insecticides, 1 fungicide, and 13 degradates) were detected at least once in samples collected during this study. No compound in the treated water samples exceeded any drinking-water standard, although atrazine concentrations in untreated water exceeded the USEPA Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) for drinking water (3 ?g/L) on four occasions. At least eight compounds were detected with greater than 60 percent frequency at each sampling location. Herbicides, such as atrazine, alachlor, acetochlor, cyanazine, metolachlor, and simazine, were detected most frequently.
Rainfall affected the pesticide concentrations in surface waters of the East Fork Little Miami River Basin. Drought conditions from May through November 1999 led to lower streamflow and pesticide concentrations throughout southwestern Ohio. More normal climate conditions during 2000 resulted in higher streamflows and seasonally higher concentrations in the East Fork Little Miami River and Harsha Lake for some pesticides
Comparison of pesticide concentrations in untreated lake water and treated drinking water supplied by the Bob McEwen Treatment Plant suggests that treatment processes employed by the plant (chlorination, activated carbon) reduced pesticide concentrations to levels well below USEPA drinking-water standards. In particular, the percentage of pesticides remaining in treated water samples decreased significantly for several frequently occurring pesticides when the plant replaced the use of powdered activated carbon with granular activated carbon in November 1999. For example, the median percentage of atrazine remaining after treatment that included powdered activated carbon was 63 percent, whereas the median percentage of atrazine remaining after the switch to granular activated carbon was 2.4 percent.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Pesticides and pesticide degradates in the East Fork Little Miami River and William H. Harsha Lake, southwestern Ohio, 1999-2000