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Keywords:

  • volatile organic compounds;
  • aquifers;
  • ground water;
  • transport and fate;
  • ground water management

Abstract:  Samples of ambient ground water were collected during 1985-2002 from 3,498 wells in 98 aquifer studies throughout the United States. None of the sampled wells were selected because of prior knowledge of nearby contamination. Most of these samples were analyzed for 55 volatile organic compounds (VOCs) to characterize their national occurrence. Volatile organic compounds were found in samples collected from 90 of the 98 aquifer studies. Occurrence frequencies of one or more VOCs for the 98 aquifer studies ranged from 0 to about 77% at an assessment level of 0.2 microgram per liter (μg/l). The aquifer studies with the largest occurrence frequencies were in southern Florida, southern New York, southern California, New Jersey, and Nevada. Trihalomethanes and solvents were the most frequently occurring VOC groups. Of the 55 VOCs included in this assessment, 42 occurred in at least one sample at an assessment level of 0.2 μg/l. Chloroform, perchloroethene, and methyl tert-butyl ether were the most frequently occurring VOCs. Many factors, such as the hydrogeology of the aquifer, use of VOCs, land use, and the transport and fate properties of VOCs, affect the occurrence of VOCs in ground water.