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Scientific Investigations Report 2008–5027

Scientific Investigations Report 2008–5027

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Pesticide occurrence and distribution in the lower Clackamas River basin was evaluated in 2000–2005, when 119 water samples were analyzed for a suite of 86–198 dissolved pesticides. Sampling included the lower-basin tributaries and the Clackamas River mainstem, along with paired samples of pre- and post-treatment drinking water (source and finished water) from one of four drinking water-treatment plants that draw water from the lower river. Most of the sampling in the tributaries occurred during storms, whereas most of the source and finished water samples from the study drinking-water treatment plant were obtained at regular intervals, and targeted one storm event in 2005.

In all, 63 pesticide compounds were detected, including 33 herbicides, 15 insecticides, 6 fungicides, and 9 pesticide degradation products. Atrazine and simazine were detected in about half of samples, and atrazine and one of its degradates (deethylatrazine) were detected together in 30 percent of samples. Other high-use herbicides such as glyphosate, triclopyr, 2,4-D, and metolachlor also were frequently detected, particularly in the lower-basin tributaries. Pesticides were detected in all eight of the lower-basin tributaries sampled, and were also frequently detected in the lower Clackamas River.

Although pesticides were detected in all of the lower basin tributaries, the highest pesticide loads (amounts) were found in Deep and Rock Creeks. These medium-sized streams drain a mix of agricultural land (row crops and nurseries), pastureland, and rural residential areas. The highest pesticide loads were found in Rock Creek at 172nd Avenue and in two Deep Creek tributaries, North Fork Deep and Noyer Creeks, where 15–18 pesticides were detected. Pesticide yields (loads per unit area) were highest in Cow and Carli Creeks, two small streams that drain the highly urban and industrial northwestern part of the lower basin. Other sites having relatively high pesticide yields included middle Rock Creek and upper Noyer Creek, which drain basins having nurseries, pasture, and rural residential land.

Some concentrations of insecticides (diazinon, chlorpyrifos, azinphos-methyl, and p,p’-DDE) exceeded U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) aquatic-life benchmarks in Carli, Sieben, Rock, Noyer, Doane, and North Fork Deep Creeks. One azinphos-methyl concentration in Doane Creek (0.21 microgram per liter [μg/L]) exceeded Federal and State of Oregon benchmarks for the protection of fish and benthic invertebrates. Concentrations of several other pesticide compounds exceeded non-USEPA benchmarks.

Twenty-six pesticides or degradates were detected in the Clackamas River mainstem, typically at much lower concentrations than those detected in the lower-basin tributaries. At least 1 pesticide was detected in 65 percent of 34 samples collected from the Clackamas River, with an average of 2–3 pesticides per sample. Pesticides were detected in 9 (or 60 percent) of the 15 finished water samples collected from the study water-treatment plant during 2003–2005. These included 10 herbicides, 1 insecticide, 1 fungicide, 1 insect repellent, and 2 pesticide degradates. The herbicides diuron and simazine were the most frequently detected (four times each during the study), at concentrations far below human-health benchmarks—USEPA Maximum Contaminant Levels or U.S. Geological Survey human Health-Based Screening Levels (HBSLs). The highest pesticide concentration in finished drinking water was 0.18 μg/L of diuron, which was 11 times lower than its low HBSL benchmark. Although 0–2 pesticides were detected in most finished water samples, 9 and 6 pesticides were detected in 2 storm-associated samples from May and September 2005, respectively. Three of the unregulated compounds detected in finished drinking water (diazinon-oxon, deethylatrazine [CIAT], and N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide [DEET]) do not have human-health benchmarks available for comparison.

Although most of the 51 current-use pesticides detected have multiple uses, 48 (or 94 percent) can be used on agricultural crops. Ninety-two percent can be used on nursery or floriculture crops; about one-half are commonly used on either lawns and landscaping in urban areas (57 percent), on golf courses (49 percent), along roads and right-of-ways (45 percent), and some can be used on forestland (7 percent).

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