The U.S. Geological Survey's (USGS) National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Program recently completed a national study of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the Nation's ground water (Zogorski and others, 2006). Part of this assessment emphasizes the occurrence of 55 VOCs in samples from 2,401 domestic wells and 1,096 public wells during 1985-2002. Samples were collected prior to any treatment or blending of water.
Domestic wells are privately owned, self-supplied sources used for drinking water and household use (Moran and others, 2002). Public wells are privately or publicly owned and supply water to public water systems (PWSs). Samples from public wells in this assessment characterize the quality of water captured by wells that supply drinking water to PWSs. These systems supply drinking water to at least 15 service connections or regularly serve at least 25 individuals daily at least 60 days a year (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2005).
For a screening-level assessment, VOC concentrations were compared to human-health benchmarks. Concentrations greater than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (USEPA) Maximum Contamination Levels (MCLs) (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2004) or the USGS's Health-Based Screening Levels (HBSLs) (Zogorski and others, 2006) were considered of potential human-health concern. The findings from the well samples provide an important perspective on the quality of the Nation's ground water used for drinking-water supplies. More information about this national assessment of VOCs is available (http://water.usgs.gov/nawqa/vocs/national_assessment).