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Types and Sources of Water-Quality Benchmarks for Pesticides

by Lisa Nowell

This guidance provides sources of current (October 2014) standards and guidelines for pesticides in water, bed sediment, and fish tissue. Standards and guidelines can be used as benchmarks for comparison with measured pesticide concentrations in applicable media to help assess the potential effects of pesticides on water quality in the hydrologic systems being studied. This guidance emphasizes national standards and guidelines established for freshwater systems in the United States or Canada. Selected regional and State guidelines also are included for sampling media and beneficial uses for which national guidelines are limited (for example, whole-fish guidelines for protection of wildlife).

The following terms are used in this guidance:

Standard: threshold values that are legally enforceable by agencies of the U.S. Government
Guideline: threshold values that have no regulatory status but are issued in an advisory capacity
Benchmark: generic term for a threshold value against which measured concentrations can be compared; it encompasses both standards and guidelines

Each type of benchmark applies to a specific sampling medium (drinking water, ambient surface water, bed sediment, whole fish, or edible fish tissue) and is designed to protect a specific beneficial use of the hydrologic system (human health, aquatic life, or wildlife). In selecting the appropriate benchmarks to use in comparison with water-quality data, consider both sampling medium and the beneficial uses of the hydrologic system being studied. More than one type of benchmark may be appropriate for some hydrologic systems (such as surface water that is used for drinking water and that also supports aquatic life).

The appropriate and effective use of benchmarks in water-quality assessment requires an understanding of what it means when benchmarks are exceeded—which in turn requires information on how individual benchmarks were derived, and on the specific hydrologic system being studied. Therefore, users are encouraged to consult the original sources (maintained by the originating agency), for up-to-date benchmark values, and for information on the technical bases and underlying assumptions of these benchmarks.

Pesticide benchmark sources below are listed by sampling medium, along with links to the originating agency or source:

I. WATER

A. Drinking Water
B. Ambient Surface Water

II. BED SEDIMENT

III. FISH AND SHELLFISH TISSUE

A. Edible Fish and Shellfish
B. Whole Fish

BENCHMARK SOURCES
I. WATER COLUMN
A. DRINKING WATER

  1. USEPA Drinking Water Standards and Health Advisories

Sampling medium:

Drinking water

Resource protected:

Human health

Internet source:

National Primary Drinking Water Regulations (List of Contaminants and their MCLs)

  1. USEPA Human Health Benchmarks for Pesticides

Sampling medium:

Drinking water

Resource protected:

Human health

Internet source:

Human Health Benchmarks for Pesticides (available for pesticides without drinking water regulations or health advisories) (2013)

Supporting document: Human Health Benchmarks for Pesticides: Updated 2013 Technical Document  (August 2013)

  1. USGS Health-Based Screening Levels

Sampling medium:

Drinking water

Resource protected:

Human health

Internet sources:

Health-Based Screening Levels: benchmarks for evaluating water-quality data (June 2014)

Supporting document: Development and Application of Health-Based Screening Levels for Use in Water-Quality Assessments (2007)

Updated 2014 Technical Information (June 2014)

  1. Canadian Guidelines for Drinking Water Quality

Sampling medium:

Drinking water

Resource protected:

Human health

Internet sources:

Canadian Drinking Water Guidelines (Sept 2012)

Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality, Summary Table (August 2012)

  1. NAS Drinking Water and Health Recommendations

Sampling medium:

Drinking water

Resource protected:

Human health

Source:

References (1977 - 1989)

Internet source:

Available from National Academy Press

B. AMBIENT SURFACE WATER

  1. USEPA Ambient Water-Quality Criteria for the Protection of Human Health

Sampling medium:

Ambient surface water

Resource protected:

Human health

Internet sources:

National Recommended Water Quality Criteria

  1. USEPA Ambient Water-Quality Criteria for the Protection of Aquatic Organisms

Sampling medium:

Ambient surface water

Resource protected:

Aquatic life

Internet sources:

National Recommended Water Quality Criteria

  1. USEPA (Office of Pesticide Programs) Aquatic Life Benchmarks

Sampling medium:

Ambient surface water

Resource protected:

Aquatic life

Internet source:

Office of Pesticide Programs' Aquatic Life Benchmarks (2014)

  1. Canadian Water Quality Guidelines for Aquatic Life

Sampling medium:

Ambient surface water

Resource protected:

Aquatic life

Internet sources:

Canadian Environmental Quality Guidelines (includes introductory text, fact sheets for individual contaminants, and the 2007 protocol for developing water-quality guidelines for the protection of aquatic life)

Canadian Environmental Quality Guidelines, Summary Table (online searchable database and access to downloadable excel file)

  1. Great Lakes Water Quality Objectives

Sampling medium:

Ambient surface water

Resource protected:

Aquatic life

Internet sources:

Specific Objectives

Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement of 1978, as amended by Protocol signed November 18, 1987

  1. Aquatic life water quality criteria for selected pesticides (derived via the UC Davis method) (2012)

    I.   Organophosphate insecticides
    II.  Pyrethroid insecticides
    III. Diuron

II. BED SEDIMENT

  1. USEPA Equilibrium Partitioning Sediment Benchmarks

Sampling medium:

Bed sediment

Resource protected:

Aquatic life

Internet sources:

Procedures for the Derivation of Equilibrium Partitioning Sediment Benchmarks (ESBs) for the Protection of Benthic Organisms: Compendium of Tier 2 Values for Nonionic Organics. See Table 3-2. (March 2008) EPA-600-R-02-016

Procedures for the Derivation of Equilibrium Partitioning Sediment Benchmarks (ESBs) for the Protection of Benthic Organisms:
Dieldrin
Endrin


Sediment Quality Guidelines EPA listing of EPA publications and related links from other agencies and organizations

  1. Canadian Interim Sediment Quality Guidelines

Sampling medium:

Bed Sediment

Resource protected:

Aquatic Life

Internet sources:

Canadian Environmental Quality Guidelines (includes introductory text, fact sheets for individual contaminants, and the 1999 protocol for derivation of Canadian sediment-quality guidelines for the protection of aquatic life)

Canadian Environmental Quality Guidelines, Summary Table (online searchable database and access to downloadable excel file)

  1. Consensus-Based Sediment Quality Guidelines

Sampling medium:

Bed sediment

Resource protected:

Aquatic life

Internet sources:

Development and Evaluation of Consensus-Based Sediment Quality Guidelines for Freshwater Aquatic Organisms

Prediction of Sediment Toxicity Using Consensus-based Freshwater Sediment Guidelines

  1. Chronic Toxicity Thresholds for Fipronil and Pyrethroid Pesticides in Sediment

Sampling medium:

Bed Sediment

Resource protected:

Aquatic Life

Internet source:

Contaminants in Stream Sediments from Seven U.S. Metropolitan Areas: Data Summary of a National Pilot Study. See Table 13 for pesticide benchmark values and p. 19 of the text for the derivation. Available for pyrethroid and fipronil compounds. USGS SIR 2011-5092. (March 2012)

III. FISH AND SHELLFISH TISSUE
A. EDIBLE FISH AND SHELLFISH TISSUE

  1. USEPA Tolerances

Sampling medium:

Edible fish and shellfish

Resource protected:

Human health

Internet sources:

What the Pesticide Residue Limits are on Food (links and instructions for searching the Electronic Code of Federal Regulations)

Code of Federal Regulations, go to current year, Title 40, Chapter I, Part 180, Subpart C

  1. FDA Action Levels

Sampling medium:

Edible fish and shellfish

Resource protected:

Human health

Internet source:

Compliance Policy Guide, Sec. 575.100, Pesticide Residues in Food and Feed - Enforcement Criteria

  1. USEPA Recommended Screening Values

Sampling medium:

Edible fish and shellfish

Resource protected:

Human health

Internet sources:

Guidance for Assessing Chemical Contaminant Data for Use in Fish Advisories, Vol. 1, 3rd ed., Fish Sampling and Analysis (November 2000)

See especially Ch. 5 which includes Table 5-3 (Dose-response variables and recommended screening values for target analytes - Recreational fishers) and Table 5-4 (Dose-response variables and recommended screening values for target analytes - Subsistence fishers)

  1. USEPA database of U.S. State, Territory, and Tribal fish consumption advisories

Sampling medium:

Edible fish and shellfish

Resource protected:

Human health

Internet source:

National Listing of Fish Advisories Database (NLFA tab) (2010 data)

  1. Great Lakes Water Quality Objectives

Sampling medium:

Edible fish

Resource protected:

Human health

Internet sources:

Specific Objectives

Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement of 1978, as amended by Protocol signed November 18, 1987

B. WHOLE FISH

  1. Canadian Tissue Residue Guidelines for the Protection of Wildlife Consumers of Aquatic Biota

Sampling medium:

Whole fish

Resource protected:

Fish-eating wildlife

Internet sources:

Canadian Environmental Quality Guidelines (includes introductory text, fact sheets for individual contaminants, and the 1999 protocol for derivation of Canadian tissue residue guidelines for the protection of wildlife that consume aquatic biota)

Canadian Environmental Quality Guidelines, Summary Table (online searchable database and access to downloadable excel file)

  1. New York Fish Flesh Criteria for Piscivorous Wildlife

Sampling medium:

Whole fish

Resource protected:

Fish-eating wildlife

Internet source:

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (1987; reprinted February 2000)

  1. NAS/NAE Recommended Maximum Tissue Concentrations

Sampling medium:

Whole fish

Resource protected:

Fish-eating wildlife

Source:

Reference (1973)

  1. Great Lakes Water Quality Objectives

Sampling medium:

Whole fish

Resource protected:

Fish-eating wildlife

Internet sources:

Specific Objectives

Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement of 1978, as amended by Protocol signed November 18, 1987

  1. Whole-Fish Benchmark Ranges for Protection of Fish-Eating Wildlife, Compiled by the USGS National Water-Quality Assessment Program

Sampling medium:

Whole fish

Resource protected:

Fish-eating wildlife

Internet sources:

Whole-Fish Benchmark Ranges for Protection of Fish-Eating Wildlife, from U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1291 (2007)

Derivation (see page 109)

 

Contact: Lisa Nowell
lhnowell@usgs.gov, (916) 278-3096

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