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The past five years have seen a significant emphasis on the use of chemical instrumentation to perform rapid assessment and accurate analysis in the field. This trend began with gas chromatography and has grown rapidly with the introduction of new instruments with remarkable sensitivity and versatility. Coupled with a renewed interest in simple techniques like headspace analysis for volatiles and rapid extraction procedures for nonvolatiles, field gas chromatography is proving to be invaluable in field investigations.
There are several features which make an instrument suitable for field use. Among the key factors are ruggedness and simplicity of design, reliability and versatility. A few of the most versatile and sensitive instruments will be discussed here and some of the most practical applications will be discussed. Finally, reference will be made to one of the most important problems facing the environmental community today, protection of drinking water supplies. Because of their unique sensitivity, field chromatographs show great promise in enabling an analyst to cost-effectively and rapidly assess the condition of potable groundwater before contamination has progressed to the point of rendering it unfit for consumption.
Field Instruments, Gas Chromatography, Ground Water Protection, Headspace Analysis, Volatile Organics, PCB's
director, the USEPA Regional Laboratory, Lexington, MA