Using Performance Reference Compounds in Polyethylene Passive Samplers to Deduce Sediment Porewater Concentrations for Numerous Target Chemicals

Polymeric passive samplers are useful for assessing hydrophobic organic chemical contamination in sediment beds. Here, an improved method is described for measuring concentrations of contaminants in porewater by using performance reference compounds (deuterated phenanthrene, pyrene, and chrysene) to calibrate sampler/site-specific mass transfer behavior. The method employs a one-dimensional diffusion model of chemical exchange between a polymer sheet of finite thickness and an unmixed sediment bed. The model is parametrized by diffusivities and partition coefficients for both the sampler and sediment. This method was applied to estimate porewater concentrations for seventeen PAHs from polymeric samplers deployed for 3−10 days in homogenized sediment from a coal-tar contaminated site. The accuracy of the method was verified by comparing the passive sampler results to concentrations measured through liquid−liquid extraction of physically separated porewaters, with corrections for sorption to colloidal organic carbon. The measurements made using the two methods matched within about a factor of 2.0 (±0.9) for the 17 target PAHs.