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Carbon Treatment as a Method to Remove Imidacloprid from Agriculture Runoff


Use of neonicotinoid pesticides is increasing worldwide and there is growing evidence of surface water contamination from this class of insecticide. Due to their high solubility, traditional mitigation practices may be less effective at reducing neonicotinoid concentrations in agricultural runoff. In the current study, laboratory experiments were conducted to determine if granulated activated carbon (GAC) reduces concentrations of the neonicotinoid imidacloprid in water under simulated flow conditions. Imidacloprid was pumped through columns packed with GAC using flow rates scaled to mimic previously reported field studies. Treatments were tested at two different flow rates and samples were collected after 200 and 2500 mL of treated water were pumped through the column. Chemical analysis of the post-column effluent showed the GAC removed all detectable imidacloprid from solution at both flow rates and at both sample times. These results demonstrate the efficacy of GAC for treating neonicotinoids and the results are discussed in the context of incorporating this treatment into integrated vegetated treatment systems for mitigating pesticides in agricultural runoff. Future studies are being designed to evaluate this technology in full scale field trials.

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Funding for the imidacloprid analysis was provided by Michael Ensminger, California Department of Pesticide Regulation. Imidacloprid analysis was conducted by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife Water Pollution Control Laboratory.

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Correspondence to Jennifer P. Voorhees.

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Voorhees, J.P., Anderson, B.S., Phillips, B.M. et al. Carbon Treatment as a Method to Remove Imidacloprid from Agriculture Runoff. Bull Environ Contam Toxicol 99, 200–202 (2017).

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  • Neonicotinoid pesticide
  • Surface water
  • Granulated activated carbon (GAC)
  • Vegetated treatment system (VTS)