Preparative isolation and fractionation procedures coupled with spectrometric analyses were used to identify surfactant-derived contaminants in sewage effluent and sewage-contaminated groundwater from a site located on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Anionic surfactants and their biodegradation intermediates were isolated from field samples by ion exchange and fractionated by solvent extraction and adsorption chromatography. Fractions were analyzed by 13C nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometry and gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. Carboxylated residues of alkylphenol polyethoxylate surfactants were detected in sewage effluent and contaminated groundwater. Linear alkylbenzenesulfonates (LAS) were identified in sewage effluent and groundwater. Groundwater LAS composition suggested preferential removal of select isomers and homologs due to processes of biodegradation and partitioning. Tetralin and indane sulfonates (DATS), alicyclic analogs of LAS, were also identified in field samples. Although DATS are a minor portion of LAS formulations, equivalent concentrations of LAS and DATS in groundwater suggested persistence of alicyclic contaminant structures over those of linear structure. Sulfophenyl-carboxylated (SPC) LAS biodegradation intermediates were determined in sewage effluent and groundwater. Homolog distributions suggested that SPC containing 3-10 alkyl-chain carbons persist during infiltration and groundwater transport. Surfactant-derived residues detected in well F300-50 groundwater have a minimum residence time in the range of 2.7-4.6 yr. LAS detected in groundwater at 500 m from infiltration has been stable over an estimated 50-500 half lives.
Additional publication details
Identification of persisten anionic surfactant-derived chemicals in sewage effluent and groundwater