Source Water Protection and Detection of Chemical Contaminants


  • Ben Wright, Ben Stanford, Allison Reinert - 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 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 in the mid-Atlantic and northeast. This increased level of activity also raises the concern for accidental releases to surface water supplies.

In 2014 there was a tanker accident on the Mississippi, train derailments in Virginia and Colorado, and the mining chemical spill in West Virginia as well as the coal ash spill in North Carolina. In each of these instances public drinking water supplies were impacted. Fortunately in all but the West Virginia example, advanced notification enabled utilities to temporarily shut down intakes to avoid the contaminants. Given these rapid changes, 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.

For more information, please contact the author at

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Horizons Fall 2017 (pdf)

Horizons showcases significant water, wastewater, reuse, and stormwater projects and innovations that help our clients to achieve their goals, and can help you achieve yours. Articles are written by top engineers and process group leaders, demonstrating and explaining the beneficial application of a variety of technologies and tools.

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