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Hydrological tracers, the herbicide metazachlor and its transformation products in a retention pond during transient flow conditions

Ulrich, Uta, Lange, Jens, Pfannerstill, Matthias, Loose, Lukas, Fohrer, Nicola
Environmental science and pollution research international 2019 v.26 no.26 pp. 26706-26720
isotopes, long term experiments, metazachlor, photolysis, pollution, sodium, solutes, sorption, subsurface flow, surface water, temporal variation, tracer techniques, transient flow
Since decades, surface water bodies have been exposed to pesticides from agriculture. In many places, retention systems are regarded as an important mitigation strategy to lower pesticide pollution. Hence, the processes governing the transport of pesticides in and through a retention system have to be understood to achieve sufficient pesticide attenuation. In this study, the temporal dynamics of metazachlor and its transformation products metazachlor-oxalic acid (OA) and –sulphonic acid (ESA) were observed in an agricultural retention pond and hydrologic tracers helped to understand system-inherent processes. Pesticide measurements were carried out for 80 days after their application during transient flow conditions. During a short-term (3 days) experiment, the tracers bromide, uranine and sulphorhodamine B were used to determine hydraulic conditions, residence times and sorption potential. A long-term experiment with sodium naphthionate (2 months) and isotopes (12 months) provided information about inputs via interflow and surface-groundwater interactions. During transient conditions, high concentration pulses of up to 35 μg L⁻¹ metazachlor, 14.7 μg L⁻¹ OA and 22.5 μg L⁻¹ ESA were quantified that enduringly raised solute concentrations in the pond. Mean residence time in the system accounted for approximately 4 h showing first tracer breakthrough after 5 min and last tracer concentrations 72 h after injection. While input via interflow was confirmed, no evidence for surface-groundwater interaction was found. Different tracers illustrated potentials for sorption and photolytic degradation inside the system. This study shows that high-resolution sampling is essential to obtain robust results about retention efficiency and that hydrological tracers may be used to determine the governing processes.