Occurrence of chlorinated volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in a sanitary sewer system: Implications for assessing vapor intrusion alternative pathways

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Science of the Total Environment


Sewer systems have been recently recognized as potentially important exposure pathways to consider during vapor intrusion assessments; however, this pathway has not been well-characterized and there is need for additional information about the occurrence of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in sewer systems. This paper reports the results of sewer gas sampling conducted in a sanitary sewer over the years of 2014–2017. Sewer gas samples were collected and analyzed using several different techniques, including TO-15 (grab), TO-17 (passive), Radiello® (passive) and a novel continuous monitoring technique, the Autonomous Rugged Optical Multigas Analyzer (AROMA). The applicability of each of the different approaches used in this study is discussed in the context of investigating sanitary sewers as a vapor intrusion alternative pathway. The data confirmed that trichloroethylene (TCE) concentrations in sewer gas were detected adjacent to and extending hundreds of feet away from a previously defined vapor intrusion area, where TCE was a primary contaminant. TCE concentrations detected in sewer gas ranged from non-detect to 1600 μg/m3. Temporal variability was observed in TCE concentrations over timescales that ranged from minutes to months to years at discrete sampling locations. Spatial variability in sewer gas concentrations was also observed throughout the study area. Temporal and spatial variability may be caused by groundwater contamination sources in the study area, as well as sewer gas transport mechanisms.

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The project described was supported by a CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation (Award #1452800), a SBIR grant from the National Science Foundation (IIP-1215518), Grant Number P42ES007380 (University of Kentucky Superfund Research Program), and by NIH Grant Number 2R44ES022538 (Entanglement SBIR Superfund Research Program) from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. This material is based upon work supported in part by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. IIP-1330903.