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Historical trends in occurrence and atmospheric inputs of halogenated volatile organic compounds in untreated ground water used as a source of drinking water

January 1, 2004

Analyses of samples of untreated ground water from 413 community-, non-community- (such as restaurants), and domestic-supply wells throughout the US were used to determine the frequency of detection of halogenated volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in drinking-water sources. The VOC data were compiled from archived chromatograms of samples analyzed originally for chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) by purge-and-trap gas chromatography with an electron-capture detector (GC-ECD). Concentrations of the VOCs could not be ascertained because standards were not routinely analyzed for VOCs other than trichloromonofluoromethane (CFC-11), dichlorodifluoromethane (CFC-12) and 1,1,2-trichloro-1,2,2-trifluoroethane (CFC-113). Nevertheless, the peak areas associated with the elution times of other VOCs on the chromatograms can be classified qualitatively to assess concentrations at a detection limit on the order of parts per quadrillion. Three or more VOCs were detected in 100% (percent) of the chromatograms, and 77.2% of the samples contained 10 or more VOCs. The maximum number of VOCs detected in any sample was 24. Modeled ground-water residence times, determined from concentrations of CFC-12, were used to assess historical trends in the cumulative occurrence of all VOCs detected in this analysis, as well as the occurrence of individual VOCs, such as CFC-11, carbon tetrachloride (CCl4), chloroform and tetrachloroethene (PCE). The detection frequency for all of the VOCs detected has remained relatively constant from approximately 1940 to 2000; however, the magnitude of the peak areas on the chromatograms for the VOCs in the water samples has increased from 1940 to 2000. For CFC-11, CCl4, chloroform and PCE, small peaks decrease from 1940 to 2000, and large peaks increase from 1940 to 2000. The increase in peak areas on the chromatograms from analyses of more recently recharged water is consistent with reported increases in atmospheric concentrations of the VOCs. Approximately 44% and 6.7% of the CCl4 and PCE detections, respectively, in pre-1940 water, and 68% and 62% of the CCl4 and PCE detections, respectively, in water recharged in 2000 exceed solubility equilibrium with average atmospheric concentrations. These exceedences can be attributed to local atmospheric enrichment or direct contaminant input to ground-water flow systems. The detection of VOCs at concentrations indicative of atmospheric sources in 100% of the samples indicates that untreated drinking water from ground-water sources in the US recharged within the past 60 years has been affected by anthropogenic activity. Additional inputs from a variety of sources such as spills, underground injections and leaking landfills or storage tanks increasingly are providing additional sources of contamination to ground water used as drinking-water sources.

Publication Year 2004
Title Historical trends in occurrence and atmospheric inputs of halogenated volatile organic compounds in untreated ground water used as a source of drinking water
DOI 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2003.09.007
Authors S.D. Shapiro, E. Busenberg, M. J. Focazio, Niel Plummer
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Science of the Total Environment
Index ID 70027206
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Toxic Substances Hydrology Program