Low-Level detections of halogenated volatile organic compounds in groundwater: Use in vulnerability assessments

Journal of Hydrologic Engineering
By: , and 



Concentrations of halogenated volatile organic compounds (VOCs) were determined by gas chromatography (GC) with an electron-capture detector (GC-ECD) and by gas chromatography with mass spectrometry (GC-MS) in 109 groundwater samples from five study areas in the United States. In each case, the untreated water sample was used for drinking-water purposes or was from a monitoring well in an area near a drinking-water source. The minimum detection levels (MDLs) for 25 VOCs that were identified in GC-ECD chromatograms, typically, were two to more than four orders of magnitude below the GC-MS MDLs. At least six halogenated VOCs were detected in all of the water samples analyzed by GC-ECD, although one or more VOCs were detected in only 43% of the water samples analyzed by GC-MS. In nearly all of the samples, VOC concentrations were very low and presented no known health risk. Most of the low-level VOC detections indicated post-1940s recharge, or mixtures of recharge that contained a fraction of post-1940s water. Concentrations of selected halogenated VOCs in groundwater from natural and anthropogenic atmospheric sources were estimated and used to recognize water samples that are being impacted by nonatmospheric sources. A classification is presented to perform vulnerability assessments at the scale of individual wells using the number of halogenated VOC detections and total dissolved VOC concentrations in samples of untreated drinking water. The low-level VOC detections are useful in vulnerability assessments, particularly for samples in which no VOCs are detected by GC-MS analysis.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Low-Level detections of halogenated volatile organic compounds in groundwater: Use in vulnerability assessments
Series title Journal of Hydrologic Engineering
DOI 10.1061/(ASCE)1084-0699(2008)13:11(1049)
Volume 13
Issue 11
Year Published 2008
Language English
Publisher ASCE
Contributing office(s) California Water Science Center, Toxic Substances Hydrology Program
Description 20 p.
First page 1049
Last page 1068
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