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This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 36 No. 3, p. 654-663
    Received: Sept 28, 2006

    * Corresponding author(s): grobinso@usgs.gov


Assessment of Contamination from Arsenical Pesticide Use on Orchards in the Great Valley region, Virginia and West Virginia, USA

  1. Gilpin R. Robinson *a,
  2. Peter Larkinsa,
  3. Carol J. Boughtonb,
  4. Bradley W. Reeda and
  5. Philip L. Sibrellb
  1. a USGS, 954 National Center, Reston, VA USA 20192
    b USGS, 11649 Leetown Road, Kearneysville, WV USA 25430


Lead arsenate pesticides were widely used in apple orchards from 1925 to 1955. Soils from historic orchards in four counties in Virginia and West Virginia contained elevated concentrations of As and Pb, consistent with an arsenical pesticide source. Arsenic concentrations in approximately 50% of the orchard site soils and approximately 1% of reference site soils exceed the USEPA Preliminary Remediation Goal (PRG) screening guideline of 22 mg kg−1 for As in residential soil, defined on the basis of combined chronic exposure risk. Approximately 5% of orchard site soils exceed the USEPA PRG for Pb of 400 mg kg−1 in residential soil; no reference site soils sampled exceed this value. A variety of statistical methods were used to characterize the occurrence, distribution, and dispersion of arsenical pesticide residues in soils, stream sediments, and ground waters relative to landscape features and likely background conditions. Concentrations of Zn, Pb, and Cu were most strongly associated with high developed land density and population density, whereas elevated concentrations of As were weakly correlated with high orchard density, consistent with a pesticide residue source. Arsenic concentrations in ground water wells in the region are generally <0.005 mg L−1 There was no spatial association between As concentrations in ground water and proximity to orchards. Arsenic had limited mobility into ground water from surface soils contaminated with arsenical pesticide residues at concentrations typically found in orchards.

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