From The Columbus Dispatch‘s Spencer Hunt:

…Bicep II contains atrazine, a key ingredient in several herbicides that farmers have used for 50 years. Atrazine is sprayed, injected or spread over 50 percent of corn fields in the United States, according to the U.S. Geological Survey….

…Atrazine is a poison like most of the estimated 136 herbicides and pesticides that Ohio farmers use each year to kill weeds, insects and fungi. Because atrazine can threaten people’s health, the government limits its use and imposes safety restrictions.

In animal studies, chronic exposure to atrazine affected the brain, heart, liver, lungs, kidneys and ovaries….

… And despite government oversight, atrazine is one of the most commonly found pollutants in waterways and drinking water in Ohio and nationwide. It’s not the only poison, either.

Tests of water in agricultural areas have for years found as many as 60 pesticides, herbicides and fungicides and their residues in reservoirs and drinking-water supplies. The federal government and states routinely look for only five of the most commonly used chemicals: alachlor, atrazine, cyanazine, metolachlor and simazine….

… A 2003 University of Missouri-Columbia School of Medicine study found that men with measurable levels of atrazine and another herbicide called alachlor were more likely to have lower sperm counts.

And a 2009 Purdue University study tied atrazine in drinking water to low birth-weight in babies. Researchers examined more than 24,000 children born in 19 Indiana communities from 1993 through 2007.

The study found a 17 percent to 19 percent increase in lower birth-weight babies born to mothers exposed to atrazine at concentrations above 0.1 part per billion in drinking water during the final three months of their pregnancies….

… Piqua’s water-system superintendent said the city now draws water from a groundwater-fed gravel pit that has virtually no atrazine. Superintendent Don Freisthler uses the groundwater in summer months to bypass or dilute contaminated water taken from the city’s main reservoir.

The electricity bill to pump water from the gravel pit totaled more than $33,500 last year. Freisthler said the city also spent more than $6,000 on powder-activated carbon that removes atrazine and other contaminants from untreated water.

A test in central Ohio on May 25, 2005, found atrazine at 19.3 parts per billion in the city of Delaware’s drinking water.

Brad Stanton, Delaware’s public-utilities director, said the city uses powdered carbon to filter atrazine in reservoir water and draws groundwater from wells to help dilute it each summer. The city spends about $50,000 a year on powdered carbon, he said.

"The (spikes) typically occur during and after large rainfall events when you get a lot of runoff from the fields," Stanton said.

These costs have led three Ohio communities – Monroeville, Upper Sandusky and Ottawa – to join with 16 other Midwestern towns in a lawsuit filed in March against Syngenta. The plaintiffs also include the Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa and Missouri divisions of the American Water Co.

American Water provides water to customers in 14 Ohio communities, including seven townships in Franklin County and the cities of Ashtabula, Mansfield and Marion.

A complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Illinois argues that, because Syngenta makes atrazine, the company should pay for cities’ treatment costs.

"The taxpayers should not be responsible for the cost of the chemical and the cost of removing it," said Cary McDougal, of Dallas, attorney for the communities.