Pesticides and their Metabolites in Selected Surface-Water Public Supplies in New York State, 1999

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Government Document

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Sixteen different pesticides or their metabolites (degradations products) where detected in water samples collected in 1999 from three networks of lakes and reservoirs in upstate New York that are sources of public water supply. The networks sampled included the New York City network (10 reservoirs); the Finger Lakes-Great Lakes network (three Finger Lakes and two Great Lakes that supply large and small cities) and the western New York reservoir network (three reservoirs that supply small cities or towns).

The concentrations of the compounds detected in the samples generally were low. Only a few of the compounds detected had a concentration exceeding 1 mg/L (microgram per liter), and no compounds detected in the New York City reservoirs network had concentrations exceeding 0.05 mg/L. None of the compounds detected exceeded any Federal or State water-quality standard. Compounds that were most frequently detected, and whose concentrations were highest, were the three herbicides atrazine, metolachlor, and simazine, and two herbicide metabolites (the atrazine metabolite deethylatrazine, and the metolachlor metabolite metolachlor ESA). Most of these compounds, or their parent compounds, are used on corn or other row crops.

Median total pesticide and metabolite concentration for each network ranged from less than 0.02 mg/L for the New York City reservoirs network to more than 2 mg/L for the western New York reservoir network; the median for the Finger Lakes–Great Lakes network was about 0.1 mg/L. These differences reflect the amount of agricultural land use within each of the three networks, although other factors can affect pesticide and metabolite concentrations. The watersheds of the New York City reservoirs have the lowest percentage of agricultural land, and those of the western New York reservoirs have the highest. The highest herbicide or herbicide-metabolite concentrations among the New York City reservoirs were in the Cannonsville reservoir, whose watershed has a high percentage of agricultural land. The highest pesticide concentrations of the Lake sites were in Cayuga Lake, and the highest pesticide concentrations of the western New York reservoir sites were at the LeRoy reservoir.

The drought conditions in 1999 resulted in a general decrease in median total concentrations, and in the median number of detected compounds, in all networks, from January through September. Pesticide concentrations at the western New York reservoir sites were lower in 1999 than in 1998, as a result of the late-spring and early-summer drought conditions in 1999. Concentrations of pesticides in surface-water supplies are likely to be higher during years with normal or high streamflows than in years of drought, and the small reservoirs are likely to show a greater change in pesticide concentrations from drought year to nondrought years than the larger water bodies.


U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC)