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Occurrence of trihalomethanes in the nation's ground water and drinking-water supply wells, 1985-2002

Scientific Investigations Report 2006-5068

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Abstract

This report describes the occurrence of trihalomethanes (THMs) in the Nation's ground water and drinking-water supply wells based on analysis of 5,642 samples of untreated ground water and source water collected or compiled during 1985-2002 by the U.S. Geological Survey National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Program. THMs are a group of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) with natural and anthropogenic sources that are of interest because they are associated with acute and chronic health problems in humans. THMs occur in water primarily from chlorination and are classified as disinfection by-products. In this report, the four THMs are discussed in the order of chloroform, bromodichloromethane, dibromochloromethane, and then bromoform; this sequence corresponds to largest to smallest chlorine content and smallest to largest bromine content. Four trihalomethanes were detected in less than 20 percent of samples from studies of (1) aquifers, (2) shallow ground water in agricultural areas, (3) shallow ground water in urban areas, (4) domestic wells, and (5) public wells. Detection frequencies for individual THMs in the five studies ranged from zero for shallow ground water in agricultural areas to 19.5 percent for shallow ground water in urban areas. None of the samples from aquifer studies, domestic wells, or public wells had total THM concentrations (the sum of the concentrations of chloroform, bromodichloromethane, dibromochloromethane, and bromoform) greater than or equal to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Maximum Contaminant Level of 80 micrograms per liter (?g/L). Comparisons of results among studies of aquifers, shallow ground water in agricultural areas, and shallow ground water in urban areas were used to describe the occurrence of the four THMs in ground water for three different land-use settings-mixed, agricultural, and urban, respectively. At the 0.2-?g/L assessment level, one or more of the four THMs were detected in 7.9 percent of the samples from aquifer studies, 2.2 percent of the samples from shallow ground water in agricultural areas, and 19.5 percent of the samples from shallow ground water in urban areas. In general, detection frequencies and concentrations of the four THMs were greater in shallow ground water in urban areas compared to aquifer studies and to shallow ground water in agricultural areas. For all three of these studies, the most common two-THM mixture at the 0.2-?g/L assessment level was chloroform-bromodichloromethane, and this was the only two-THM mixture found in samples of shallow ground water in agricultural areas. Comparisons of results between studies of domestic wells and public wells were used to describe the occurrence of the four THMs in two different supplies of ground water used for drinking water. At the 0.2-?g/L assessment level, one or more of the four THMs were detected in 5.2 percent of the domestic well samples and in 14.7 percent of the public well samples. In general, detection frequencies and THM concentrations were greater in samples from public wells than from domestic wells. At the 0.2-?g/L assessment level, the six possible two-THM mixtures occurred about six times more frequently in samples from public wells than from domestic wells. One of the most common two-THM mixtures in samples from domestic and public wells was bromodichloromethane-dibromochloromethane. Detection frequency is associated with the chlorine content of the THM compound. In general, for each of the five studies, as the chlorine content of the THM compound decreased, the detection frequency at the 0.2-?g/L assessment level also decreased. The exception was the study of public wells in which the detection frequency of the THMs decreased in the following order: chloroform, bromoform, dibromochloromethane, and bromodichloromethane. At the 0.2-?g/L assessment level, the median concentration for one or more of the four THMs ranged from 0.3 ?g/L (shallow ground water in agricultural a

Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Report
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Title:
Occurrence of trihalomethanes in the nation's ground water and drinking-water supply wells, 1985-2002
Series title:
Scientific Investigations Report
Series number:
2006-5068
Edition:
-
Year Published:
2006
Language:
ENGLISH
Contributing office(s):
South Dakota Water Science Center
Description:
viii, 64 p.
Number of Pages:
72
Time Range Start:
1985-01-01
Time Range End:
2002-12-31