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J Chromatogr A. 2002 Sep 20;971(1-2):173-84.

Characterization and source identification of hydrocarbons in water samples using multiple analytical techniques.

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Emergencies Science and Technology Division, ETC, Environment Canada, Ottawa, Ontario.


This paper describes a case study in which multiple analytical techniques were used to identify and characterize trace petroleum-related hydrocarbons and other volatile organic compounds in groundwater samples collected in a bedrock aquifer exploited for drinking water purposes. The objective of the study was to confirm the presence of gasoline and other petroleum products or other volatile organic pollutants in those samples in order to assess the respective implication of each of the potentially responsible parties to the contamination of the aquifer. In addition, the degree of contamination at different depths in the aquifer was also of interest. The analytical techniques used for analyses of water samples included gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) and capillary GC with flame-ionization detection, solid-phase microextraction and headspace GC-MS techniques. Chemical characterization results revealed the following: (1) The hydrocarbons in sample A (near-surface groundwater, 0-5 m) were clearly of two types, one being gasoline and the other a heavy petroleum product. The significant distribution of five target petroleum-characteristic alkylkated polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon homologues and biomarkers confirmed the presence of another heavy petroleum product. The concentrations of the TPHs (total petroleum hydrocarbons) and BTEX (collective name of benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and p-, m-, and o-xylenes) were determined to be 1070 and 155 microg/kg of water for sample A, respectively. (2) The deepest groundwater (sample B, collected at a depth ranging between 15 and 60 m) was also contaminated, but to a much lesser degree. The concentrations of the TPH and BTEX were determined to be only 130 and 2.6 microg/kg of water for sample B, respectively. (3) The presence of a variety of volatile chlorinated compounds to the groundwater was also clearly identified.

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