Agricultural non-point source (NPS) pollution is considered to be the largest single category resulting in water quality deterioration. Pesticide is one of the main detrimental agricultural NPS constituents causing the impairment of water bodies. In this study, a mountainous wetland located in McDowell County, North Carolina, was selected to demonstrate the effects of the natural wetland system on the removal of NPS pesticide (atrazine) pollution to maintain the surface water quality. The selected wetland receives water from two unnamed creeks, which drain primarily agricultural lands. The hydraulic retention time (HRT) for the wetland was approximately 10.5 days based on the results from a dye release study. Water quality monitoring of the wetland was conducted from March to October 1998. One major storm and baseline water quality samples were analyzed. Analytical results indicate that the wetland completely removed NPS atrazine flushed from the upgradient agricultural lands. Laboratory microcosm experiments were conducted to evaluate the feasibility of using the wetland sediments as the microbial sources to enhance the atrazine biodegradation. Microcosm results suggest that atrazine can be degraded under anaerobic or reductive dechlorinating conditions when sucrose was provided as the primary substrate. Atrazine can also serve as the nitrogen source for the growth of microorganisms under anaerobic conditions. Results from this study can provide us with further knowledge on evaluating the role of wetlands in controlling pesticide pollutants from stormwater runoff.

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