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Surveying Upstate NY Well Water for Pesticide Contamination: Cayuga and Orange Counties



Private wells in Cayuga and Orange counties in New York were sampled to determine the occurrence of pesticide contamination of groundwater in areas where significant pesticide use coincides with shallow or otherwise vulnerable groundwater. Well selection was based on local groundwater knowledge, risk modeling, aerial photo assessments, and pesticide application database mapping. Single timepoint samples from 40 wells in each county were subjected to 93-compound chromatographic scans. All samples were nondetects (reporting limits ≤1 μg/L), thus no wells from either county exceeded any of 15 state groundwater standards or guidance values. More sensitive enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISA) found two wells with quantifiable atrazine in each county (0.1–0.3 μg/L), one well with quantifiable diazinon (0.1 μg/L) in Orange County, and one well with quantifiable alachlor (0.2 μg/L) in Cayuga County. Trace detections (<0.1 μg/L) in Cayuga County included atrazine (five wells), metolachlor (six wells), and alachlor (one well), including three wells with multiple detections. All 12 Cayuga County wells with ELISA detections had either corn/grain or corn/forage rotations as primary surrounding land uses (although 20 other wells with the same land uses had no detections) and all quantified detections and most trace detections occurred in wells up to 9-m deep. Orange County trace (<0.1 μg/L) ELISA detections (atrazine three wells, diazinon one well, and metolachlor five wells) and quantified detections were only generally associated with agricultural land uses. Finding acceptable drinking water quality in areas of vulnerable groundwater suggests that water quality in less vulnerable areas will also be good.