Thursday, February 2, 2012
Atrazine In Drinking Water
Atrazine is in our local news again. A routine EPA water analysis of the Blanchester Pubic Affairs drinking water revealed a rolling average of 4 PPB, over the maximum 3 PPB. Is one part per billion going to kill you or make a difference?
They have to set the benchmark somewhere. Scientists looked at toxicology tests over a period of time determined that anything over 3 PPB was excessive, not 4 or 5 or whatever.
The first thing I thought was, that's what happens when corn goes to $6. The land in the watershed is usually planted to soybeans more than corn. But with the increased price of corn being offered, farmers planted more corn and applied more atrazine to control the weeds.
Then I thought, look at the record rainfall the area has received in the last 13 months. Most farms have received around 70 inches of rainfall in that time period. Atrazine easily attaches to water and gets moved off target.
Probably both had something to do with this finding. The big thing is we do need to protect our water supply and we normally do a good job. The finding isn't big enough to say we are dong a poor job or did the wrong thing in our agricultural practices. It just happened, and we need to take precaution to not let it happen again.
There are lots of alternatives to atrazine, but it is still the cheapest and easiest way to kill grass and other weeds in corn for 50 years. Nothing controls weeds as cheaply, safely and effectively as atrazine.
A sister chemical is cyanazine. It was the best weed killer in corn we have ever had in this region. It moved even more than atrazine and DuPont gave up fighting to relabel it over 10 years ago. It breaks down into cyanide and atrazine a little too easily. I think we could have safely kept it with more regulation but DuPont decided it wasn't worth it.
So what's in your drinking water? I am sure I am drinking a part per billion of atrazine and other chemicals in my Highland County Water but I can safely produce enough food for 155 people like every other farmer in this country does.
Atrazine is a great herbicide but it won't kill the wild bluegrass or poa annua in the fields like this picture. That grass is resistant to every herbicide I have applied to it including Round Up, Ignite, and Gramoxone.