Water Center, The


Date of this Version



Published in Journal of Environmental Quality 32 (2003), pp. 92-99. JEQ is published by The American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and Soil Science Society of America. Article copyright © Roy F. Spalding, Mary E. Exner, Daniel D. Snow, David A. Cassada, Mark E. Burbach, and Stephen J. Monson.


Profiles of ground water pesticide concentrations beneath the Nebraska Management Systems Evaluation Area (MSEA) describe the effect of 20 years of pesticide usage on ground water in the central Platte Valley of Nebraska. During the 6-yr (1991–1996) study, 14 pesticides and their transformation products were detected in 7848 ground water samples from the unconfined water table aquifer. Triazine and acetamide herbicides applied on the site and their transformation products had the highest frequencies of detection. Atrazine [6-chloro-N-ethyl-N’-(1-methylethyl)-1,3,5-triazine-2,4,-diamine] concentrations decreased with depth and ground water age determined with 3H/3He dating techniques. Assuming equivalent atrazine input during the past 20 yr, the measured average changes in concentration with depth (age) suggest an estimated half-life of >10 yr. Hydrolysis of atrazine and deethylatrazine (DEA; 2-chloro-4-amino-6-isopropylamino-s-triazine) to hydroxyatrazine [6-hydroxy-N-ethyl-N’-(1-methylethyl)-1,3, 5-triazine-2,4-diamine] appeared to be the major degradation route. Aqueous hydroxyatrazine concentrations are governed by sorption on the saturated sediments. Atrazine was detected in the confined Ogallala aquifer in ultra-trace concentrations (0.003μgL–1); however, the possibility of introduction during reverse circulation drilling of these deep wells cannot be eliminated. In fall 1997 sampling, metolachlor [2-chloro-N-(2-ethyl-6-methylphenyl)-N-(2-methoxy-1-meth- ylethyl) acetamide] was detected in 57% of the 230 samples. Metolachlor oxanilic acid [(2-ethyl-6-methylphenyl)(2-methoxy-1-methylethyl) amino]oxo-acetic acid] was detected in most samples. In ground water profiles, concentrations of metolachlor ethane sulfonic acid [2-[(ethyl- 6-methylphenyl)(2-methoxy-1-methylethyl)amino]-2-oxo-ethanesul- fonic acid] exceeded those of deethylatrazine. Alachlor [2-chloro- N-(2,6-diethylphenyl)-N-(methoxymethyl)acetamide] was detected in <1% of the samples; however, alachlor ethane sulfonic acid [2-[(2,6- diethylphenyl)(methoxymethyl)amino]-2-oxoethanesulfonic acid] was present in most samples (63%) and was an indicator of past alachlor use.