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Maryland Water Science Center



Open-File Report 00-203

Assessment of Volatile Organic Compounds in Surface Water at West Branch Canal Creek, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, 1999

By Lisa D. Olsen and Tracey A. Spencer


This report is available as a pdf.



The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) collected 13 surface-water samples and 3 replicates from 5 sites in the West Branch Canal Creek area at Aberdeen Proving Ground from February through August 1999, as a part of an investigation of ground-water contamination and natural attenuation processes. The samples were analyzed for volatile organic compounds, including trichloroethylene, 1,1,2,2-tetrachloroethane, carbon tetrachloride, and chloroform, which are the four major contaminants that were detected in ground water in the Canal Creek area in earlier USGS studies. Field blanks were collected during the sampling period to assess sample bias. Field replicates were used to assess sample variability, which was expressed as relative percent difference. The mean variability of the surface-water replicate analyses was larger (35.4 percent) than the mean variability of ground-water replicate analyses (14.6 percent) determined for West Branch Canal Creek from 1995 through 1996. The higher variability in surface-water analyses is probably due to heterogeneities in the composition of the surface water rather than differences in sampling or analytical procedures. The most frequently detected volatile organic compound was 1,1,2,2- tetrachloroethane, which was detected in every sample and in two of the replicates. The surface-water contamination is likely the result of cross-media transfer of contaminants from the ground water and sediments along the West Branch Canal Creek. The full extent of surface-water contamination in West Branch Canal Creek and the locations of probable contaminant sources cannot be determined from this limited set of data. Tidal mixing, creek flow patterns, and potential effects of a drought that occurred during the sampling period also complicate the evaluation of surface-water contamination.





Purpose and scope

Location of surface-water sampling sites


Methods of investigation

Volatile organic compound data

Quality-assurance data

Field blanks

Field replicates

Assessment of volatile organic compounds in surface water

Summary and conclusions

References cited

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MD-DE-DC Water Science Center
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Telephone: (410) 238-4200
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