USGS and Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture study groundwater quality in agricultural areas

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USGS Pennsylvania Water Science Center and the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture have agreed on a new five-year program to continue 30 years of cooperation assessing groundwater quality in agricultural areas. 

In addition to sampling domestic groundwater wells for pesticides and nutrients, the new agreement includes sampling of major ions, trace elements, bacteria, and isotopes for groundwater age-dating. Sampling targets areas with limited historical groundwater quality data. A subset of wells will be sampled for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) to help understand the prevalence of these emerging industrial contaminants.  

Each year, 30 domestic wells will be sampled; homeowners will receive detailed laboratory results. Seven hydrogeologic settings will be sampled during the course of this agreement; three – the Glaciated Pittsburgh Plateau, Pittsburgh Low Plateau, and Northwestern Glaciated surficial hydrogeologic settings – have not been previously sampled, and the others have not been sampled in a decade or more. 

Timeline for different hydrogeologic settings:

  • 2021 - Triassic Lowland siliciclastic (previously sampled in 1993 and 2003), 

  • 2022 - Glaciated Low Plateau siliciclastic (previously sampled in 1998) and Northeastern Glaciated surficial (previously sampled in 1998, 2001, and 2007), 

  • 2023 - Appalachian Mountain siliciclastic (previously sampled in 2000) and Northeastern Glaciated surficial, 

  • 2024 - Glaciated Pittsburgh Plateau siliciclastic and Northwestern Glaciated surficial (neither previously sampled), and 

  • 2025 - Pittsburgh Low Plateau siliciclastic (not previously sampled) and Northwestern Glaciated surficial. 

Map of hydrogeologic zones of Pennsylvania to be sampled for pesticides

Hydrogeologic settings of Pennsylvania to be sampled for pesticides, 2021-2025. (Public domain.)

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Date published: May 8, 2019
Status: Active

Pesticides in Pennsylvania Groundwaters

USGS annually samples domestic groundwater wells to characterize pesticides, nutrients, and radon in agricultural areas, in cooperation with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. Beginning in 2021, samples for major ions, trace elements, bacteria, and isotopes will also be collected. A subset of wells will be sampled for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (...