Purge and trap capillary gas chromatography/mass spectrometry is a rapid, precise, accurate method for determining volatile organic compounds in samples of surface water and ground water. The method can be used to determine 59 selected compounds, including chlorofluorohydrocarbons, aromatic hydrocarbons, and halogenated hydrocarbons. The volatile organic compounds are removed from the sample matrix by actively purging the sample with helium. The volatile organic compounds are collected onto a sorbant trap, thermally desorbed, separated by a Megabore gas chromatographic capillary column, ionized by electron impact, and determined by a full-scan quadrupole mass spectrometer. Compound identification is confirmed by the gas chromatographic retention time and by the resultant mass spectrum. Unknown compounds detected in a sample can be tentatively identified by comparing the unknown mass spectrum to reference spectra in the mass-spectra computer-data system library compiled by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Method detection limits for the selected compounds range from 0.05 to 0.2 microgram per liter. Recoveries for the majority of the selected compounds ranged from 80 to 120 percent, with relative standard deviations of less than 10 percent.