Organic compounds derived from coal-tar wastes in a contaminated aquifer in St. Louis Park, Minnesota, were identified, and their partition coefficients between the tar phase and aqueous phase were determined and compared with the corresponding n-octanol/water partition coefficients. Coal tar contains numerous polycyclic aromatic compounds, many of which are suspected carcinogens or mutagens. Groundwater contamination by these toxic compounds may pose an environmental health hazard in nearby public water-supply wells. Fluid samples from this aquifer developed two phases upon settling: an upper aqueous phase, and a lower oily-tar phase. After separating the phases, polycyclic aromatic compounds in each phase were isolated using complexation with N-methyl-2-pyrrolidone and identified by fused-silica capillary gas chromatography/mass spectrometry. Thirty-one of the polycyclic aromatic compounds were chosen for further study from four different classes: 12 polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, 10 nitrogen heterocycles, 5 sulfur heterocycles, and 4 oxygen heterocycles. Within each compound class, the tar/water partition coefficients of these compounds were reasonably comparable with the respective n-octanol/water partition coefficient.
Additional publication details
Partitioning studies of coal-tar constituents in a two-phase contaminated ground-water system