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Daily stream samples reveal highly complex pesticide occurrence and potential toxicity to aquatic life

January 18, 2020

Transient, acutely toxic concentrations of pesticides in streams can go undetected by fixed-interval sampling programs. Here we compare temporal patterns in occurrence of current-use pesticides in daily composite samples to those in weekly composite and weekly discrete samples of surface water from 14 small stream sites. Samples were collected over 10–14 weeks at 7 stream sites in each of the Midwestern and Southeastern United States. Samples were analyzed for over 200 pesticides and degradates by direct aqueous injection liquid chromatography with tandem mass spectrometry. Nearly 2 and 3 times as many unique pesticides were detected in daily samples as in weekly composite and weekly discrete samples, respectively. Based on exceedances of acute-invertebrate benchmarks (AIB) and(or) a Pesticide Toxicity Index (PTI) >1, potential acute-invertebrate toxicity was predicted at 11 of 14 sites from the results for daily composite samples, but was predicted for only 3 sites from weekly composites and for no sites from weekly discrete samples. Insecticides were responsible for most of the potential invertebrate toxicity, occurred transiently, and frequently were missed by the weekly discrete and composite samples. The number of days with benthic-invertebrate PTI ≥0.1 in daily composite samples was inversely related to Ephemeroptera, Plecoptera, and Trichoptera (EPT) richness at the sites. The results of the study indicate that short-term, potentially toxic peaks in pesticides frequently are missed by weekly discrete sampling, and that such peaks may contribute to degradation of invertebrate community condition in small streams. Weekly composite samples underestimated maximum concentrations and potential acute-invertebrate toxicity, but to a lesser degree than weekly discrete samples, and provided a reasonable approximation of the 90th percentile total concentrations of herbicides, insecticides, and fungicides, suggesting that weekly composite sampling may be a compromise between assessment needs and cost.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2020
Title Daily stream samples reveal highly complex pesticide occurrence and potential toxicity to aquatic life
DOI 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.136795
Authors Julia E. Norman, Barbara Mahler, Lisa H. Nowell, Peter C. Van Metre, Mark W. Sandstrom, Mark A. Corbin, Yaorong Qian, James F. Pankow, Wentai Luo, Nicholas B. Fitzgerald, William E. Asher, Kevin J. McWhirter
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Science of the Total Environment
Series Number
Index ID 70208295
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization California Water Science Center