Monitoring of Emerging and Legacy Contaminants in Groundwater and Tap Water of the Karst Region in Northern Puerto Rico for Assessment of Sources and Fate and Transport Processes

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Irmarie Cotto, Ingrid Yamill Padilla and Perla M Torres, University of Puerto Rico Mayaguez, Mayaguez, PR, United States
The karst aquifer region of northern Puerto Rico is the area with the highest groundwater extraction in the island. Urban and industrial development has led to extensive contamination of the groundwater in the region. Of particular concern, is the presence of emerging and legacy organic contaminants, such as phthalates and chlorinated organic compounds (CVOCs), because there high risk for exposure and adverse health impact. Variable sources and the heterogeneous and dynamic conditions of karst groundwater systems, limits the ability to properly assess and manage the water quality of these precious water resources. This work develops a monitoring and water analysis scheme to assess spatial-temporal exposure of hazardous contaminants trough karst water in northern Puerto Rico. Groundwater and tap water are sampled in the region and analyzed for phthalates, CVOCs, and common ions. Detections and concentrations of phthalates and CVOCs are determined by using modified EPA methods, which rely on liquid-liquid extractions and gas chromatography techniques. The modified methods have reduced the volume of samples and solvent waste, decreased the time of analysis, increased analysis outcomes, and lower potential for hazardous exposure. Results show intermittent presence of di-ethyl, di-butyl and di (2-ethyl hexyl) phthalates in 36% of the groundwater and 53% of tap water samples, with detected concentrations ranging between 0.1-88.7 μg/L. These results indicate that karst groundwater can serve as a route of exposure for phthalates, but there are additional disperse sources in the water system. CVOCs are detected in groundwater at much higher frequencies (50%) than phthalates, and include trichloromethane (TCM), carbon tetrachloride (CT), trichloroethylene (TCE), and tetrachloroethylene (TCE). CVOCs, except for TCM, are found at lower frequencies on tap water (5.8%) than groundwater (27%). TCM is detected more frequently and at higher concentrations in tap water (56.8%) than tap water (30%). Results indicated that most CVOCs on tap water come from groundwater sources. Spatial-temporal analysis of CVOC data shows that transport through karst system is highly heterogeneous variable, and reflect high capacity of the system to store and slowly release contaminants through rate-limited mass transport process.