Detection of Chemical Contaminants for Source Water Protection


  • Ben Wright, Ben Stanford, Allison Reinert, Erik Rosenfeldt - Hazen and Sawyer

As the energy boom in the US expands, storage and transport of liquid hydrocarbons and associated chemicals is increasing. The industrial landscape in the US is changing rapidly due to the availability of hydrocarbons for fuel and chemical feedstocks. Crude oil transported by rail has expanded the area of potential spill risks to areas that have no local oil production. Inexpensive natural gas has reinvigorated industrial chemical manufacturing in the US. Hydraulic fracturing continues to spread throughout many states across the US. Concurrently, the chemical and energy sectors are experiencing similar aging infrastructure issues as with municipal infrastructure. These increased risk factors heighten the concern for accidental releases to drinking water supplies.

In addition to the well-publicized Elk River spill of MCHM in West Virginia, there has been a tanker accident on the Mississippi, crude oil spills from train derailments in West Virginia, Virginia and Colorado, a pipeline failure in Ohio, and a refinery spill in Indiana. In each of these instances public drinking water supplies were threatened. Fortunately in all but the West Virginia example, advanced notification enabled utilities to temporarily shut down intakes to avoid the contaminants with little impact to consumers. Given these rapid changes and increased risks, can utilities afford to rely on other organizations for advanced notification of spills? Do current source water assessments accurately reflect potential chemical contaminants in the watershed? Do emergency response plans provide response measures for a wide range of potential contamination scenarios?

This presentation is designed to assist drinking water utilities in improving their preparedness for chemical and hydrocarbon spills, and will include a review of available data for identifying sources of contamination in a watershed, summarize technology for advance detection of synthetic organic contaminants, and provide an overview of mitigation response measures in the event of a spill.

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