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    Determination of Polynuclear Aromatic Hydrocarbons in Water and Wastewater by a Gas Chromatographic—Ultraviolet Spectrophotometric Method

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    The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and American industry are interested in determining the concentrations of 129 potentially hazardous compounds in water. Included on the recently issued priority pollutant list are 13 polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PNAs) containing from three to six condensed rings. Exxon Research has developed a gas chromatographic, ultraviolet spectrophotometric (GC-UV) method that accurately determines 23 PNAs, including the 13, at the 0.1-ppb (microgram/litre) level and higher in industrial and municipal wastewater effluents. Alkyl-substituted PNAs can be measured and additional compounds added as desired. The method has been verified by analyzing effluents spiked with a variety of PNAs.

    At the start of the analysis carbon-14-labeled benz [a] anthracene and benzo [a] pyrene internal standards are added and the sample extracted with methylene chloride. A concentrate of PNA is provided by liquid-liquid extraction with dimethyl sulfoxide; if necessary, this is followed by chromatographic separation on partially deactivated alumina. The individual PNAs are separated by gas chromatography, where eluted fractions are trapped for ultraviolet absorption measurement of the PNAs. Peaks containing the carbon-14 internal standards are assayed for radioactivity. The ratio of the final to the initial radioactivity is used to quantitate the data.

    With this technique, the removal of the individual PNA by the various wastewater treatment processes has been followed.


    aromatic polycyclic hydrocarbons, wastewater, particulates, determination, gas chromatography, ultraviolet spectrophotometry, solvent extraction, radioactive isotopes, petroleum refineries

    Author Information:

    Searl, TD
    Research associate and staff chemist, Exxon Research and Engineering Co., Linden, N.J.

    Robbins, WK
    Research associate and staff chemist, Exxon Research and Engineering Co., Linden, N.J.

    Brown, RA

    Committee/Subcommittee: D19.06

    DOI: 10.1520/STP35013S