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Scientific Investigations Map 2938

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Volatile Organic Compounds in Samples from Domestic and Public Wells, 19852002

By Barbara L. Rowe, John S. Zogorski, and Joshua F. Valder

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Study Basics

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 (

For more information about USGS activities in South Dakota, visit the USGS South Dakota Water Science Center home page.

For more information about USGS National Water-Quality Assessment Program, visit the NAWQA Program home page or for more information about the USGS National Water-Quality Assessment Program Volatile Organic Compound National Syntheses, visit the VOC National Synthesis home page.

Please send questions and comments about this map to:
Chief, VOC National Synthesis
U.S. Geological Survey
1608 Mt. View Road
Rapid City, South Dakota 57702
Telephone: 605-394-3214
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