American Chemical Society
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Factors Associated with Sources, Transport, and Fate of Volatile Organic Compounds and Their Mixtures in Aquifers of the United States

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journal contribution
posted on 2007-04-01, 00:00 authored by Paul J. Squillace, Michael J. Moran
Factors associated with sources, transport, and fate of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in groundwater from aquifers throughout the United States were evaluated using statistical methods. Samples were collected from 1631 wells throughout the conterminous United States between 1996 and 2002 as part of the National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Program of the U.S. Geological Survey. Water samples from wells completed in aquifers used to supply drinking water were analyzed for more than 50 VOCs. Wells were primarily rural domestic water supplies (1184), followed by public water supplies (216); the remaining wells (231) supplied a variety of uses. The median well depth was 50 meters. Age-date information shows that about 60% of the samples had a fraction of water recharged after 1953. Chloroform, toluene, 1,2,4-trimethylbenzene, and perchloroethene were some of the frequently detected VOCs. Concentrations generally were less than 1 μg/L. Source factors include, in order of importance, general land-use activity, septic/sewer density, and sites where large concentrations of VOCs are potentially released, such as leaking underground storage tanks. About 10% of all samples had VOC mixtures that were associated with concentrated sources; 20% were associated with dispersed sources. Important transport factors included well/screen depth, precipitation/groundwater recharge, air temperature, and various soil characteristics. Dissolved oxygen was strongly associated with VOCs and represents the fate of many VOCs in groundwater. Well type (domestic or public water supply) was also an important explanatory factor. Results of multiple analyses show the importance of (1) accounting for both dispersed and concentrated sources of VOCs, (2) measuring dissolved oxygen when sampling wells to help explain the fate of VOCs, and (3) limiting the type of wells sampled in monitoring networks to avoid unnecessary variance in the data, or controlling for this variance during data analysis.