Utah's Ground Water & Pesticides

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Ground water is essential to the welfare and vitality of the people and agricultural producers of Utah. Approximately half of the ground water withdrawn from wells in Utah is used for agriculture. Furthermore, about half of the population of the United States, although less in Utah, depends on ground water as a source of drinking water.

Modern technology can detect extremely low concentrations of chemicals in ground water. Across the United States, many streams and wells have been found to be contaminated with agricultural chemicals. Although the problem of agricultural chemical contamination of surface and ground water appears to be less in Utah than in other states, the possibility of contamination still exists. Under certain conditions, agricultural chemicals will enter into surface or ground water.

Public concern over pesticide contamination of surface and ground water has led to the implementation of state and federal programs designed to protect water resources and prevent water pollution. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), under authority of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodentcide Act (FIFRA), is working with States to establish State Management Plans (SMPs) and Pesticide Management Plans (PMPs) as a new regulatory mechanism for water quality.

State Management Plans (SMPs)

In 1997, The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food received approval from the EPA for its Ground Water/Pesticide State Management Plan. The plan outlines the State's philosophy and plans towards protecting ground water from pesticide contamination. The plan also details the State's response to a detection of a pesticide or pesticides in ground water.

If a water sample from a well is analyzed and contains a pesticide or pesticides, the well will first be sampled again to make sure that the original sample was not contaminated by the samplers, transportation, or laboratory practices.

If a pesticide detection in ground water is confirmed, then a ground water monitoring plan will be implemented in the area to determine the extent and, if possible, the source of pesticide contamination. This will require the involvement of the Pesticide SMP Committee, a group of agricultural representatives and government scientists appointed by the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food.

The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food will work with the landowner to prevent further ground water contamination. A number of different farming practices, called Best Management Practices (BMPs), and simple devices can significantly reduce the possibility of pesticides entering the ground water system.

Pesticide State Management Plans (PMPs)

The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food is currently developing Pesticide State Management Plans (PMP). These plans contain the actions necessary to protect ground water resources from specific pesticides being regulated by the EPA. The plans will be required by the EPA as a condition of future use of the pesticides.

The EPA has identified the first five pesticides for restriction under the proposed PMP rule, all of which are broad-spectrum herbicides. The pesticides are: alachlor, atrazine, cyanazine, metolachlor, and simazine. These pesticides were chosen due to their high potential to leach into groundwater and to be a possible detriment to public health, safety, and the environment. Each of these five pesticides have been detected in ground water in several states, with some detections exceeding drinking water standards.

The first set of PMPs will manage five pesticides:

  1. Alachlor: Product names of commercial herbicides containing alachlor include Alanex, Bronco, Cannon, Crop Star, Lariat, Lasso, and Partner. Alachlor may also be found in formulations with other herbicides.
  2. Atrazine: Product names of commercial herbicides containing atrazine include Aatrex, Aktikon, Alazine, Atred, Atranex, Atrataf, Atratol, Azinotox, Crisazina, Farmco Atrazine, G-30027, Gesaprim, Giffex 4L, Malermais, Primatol, Simazat, and Zeapos
  3. Cyanazine: Product names of commercial herbicides containing cyanazine include Bladex, DW3418, Fortrol, Match, and Payze. Cyanazine may be used in combination with other herbicides.
  4. Metolachlor: Product names of commercial herbicides containing metolachlor include Bicep, CGA-24705, Dual, Pennant, and Pimagram. Metolachlor may be found in formulations with other pesticides (often herbicides that control broad-leaved weeds).
  5. Simazine: Product names of commercial herbicides containing simazine include Aquazine, Caliber, Cekusan, Cekusima, Framed, Gesatop, Primatol S, Princep, Simadex, Simanex, Sim-Trol, Tanzine and Totazine. Simazine may also be found in formulations with other herbicides.