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Assessing the presence of current-use pesticides in mid-elevation Sierra Nevada streams using passive samplers, California, 2018–19

Matthew De Parsia, James L. Orlando, Michelle L. Hladik | February 9th, 2023

Passive sampler devices were deployed in six northern California streams five times between November 2018 and December 2019 to measure the presence or absence of current-use pesticides in surface water. In the targeted areas, there are reported pesticide uses for agriculture, commercial forestry, and rights of way maintenance along with unreported pesticide use at private residences and cannabis grow sites. The sites sampled in this study were not previously monitored for current-use pesticides. Streams in the Sierra Nevada foothills of northern California are important habitats for many sensitive species including salmonids, but the logistics of sampling these areas can be difficult using traditional water-quality sampling techniques, especially when sampling watersheds where contaminant transport is episodic. Chemcatcher passive sampling devices and silicone bands were deployed in these areas to concentrate pesticides for days to weeks at a time. The U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board, was responsible for developing passive sampler field deployment and laboratory analytical methods for current-use pesticides, providing pesticide measurements from streams in the study region, and determining how well passive samplers detect pesticides in these environments. Six sites were monitored during the study, and passive sampler extracts were analyzed for a total 155 current-use pesticides in this study. A total of 19 out of the 155 pesticides including 9 insecticides, 5 fungicides, and 5 herbicides were detected in extracts from passive samplers. The most frequently detected pesticides were the herbicides hexazinone and dithiopyr, the insecticides bifenthrin and methoxyfenozide, and the fungicide azoxystrobin.


agriculture, cannabis, monitoring, pesticides, Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta, streams, water quality