Contaminants in the atmosphere of the Delmarva Peninsula: impact of local activities and atmospheric transport

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Anubha Goel, Doctor of Philosophy, 2007 Upper Delmarva Peninsula (within the Chesapeake Bay watershed), where the land use is predominantly agricultural, may be a significant source of pesticides (contributors in the declining water quality and bio-diversity of associated wetlands of the Chesapeake Bay) to the region. Although the Peninsula is predicted to be receiving significant inputs of herbicides through atmospheric deposition, the extent of local or regional atmospheric transport and deposition of pesticides to this area is poorly understood. The goal of this research was to determine the atmospheric levels and estimate deposition flux of pesticides in the Upper Delmarva Peninsula. This was accomplished by collecting weekly air samples (n=271) and event based rain samples (n=489) from three locations in the region (Dover and Lewes, DE; Cambridge, MD) for the period 2000-2003. The samples were analyzed for the presence of 34 pesticides (19 current use (CUPs), 15 historical (HUPs)) and 4 congeners of penta-BDE (PBDEs) using gas chromatograph-mass spectrometry (GC-MS). Statistically analyzed data was used to evaluate factors impacting phase distribution and the contribution of wet deposition to the levels in Chesapeake Bay. The more persistent insecticides and fungicides occur ubiquitously while application on corn influences herbicide occurrence and levels. Atmospheric CUP levels are driven by regional agricultural activity. CUPs do not exist in equilibrium and local meteorological conditions (like high relative humidity) influence phase distribution. The wet deposition flux of insecticide and fungicide is dependent on the total rainfall amount during the sampling period while timing and frequency relative to application on corn impacts herbicide flux. Levels in rainwater of some pesticides (endosulfans, chlorothalonil, diazinon etc.) were high enough to be of concern for the biota associated with the region's water bodies and associated wetlands and reveals that atmospheric deposition arising out of short range atmospheric transport can result in significant pesticide input to non-target areas. HUP atmospheric levels are lower than in the Great Lakes and are decreasing at a faster rate. This study reveals that spray irrigation of treated wastewater is an unknown source of toxic PBDEs to the atmosphere and can result in elevated levels at locations downwind of the irrigation field