Fuel-oil contamination of groundwater and waterways is common throughout the world. The fuel components methyl-tert-butyl ether (MTBE) and benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and o-, p- and m-xylenes (BTEX) compounds are most likely to reach a borehole after a contamination event, and also those that pose the greatest risk.

Various gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GCMS) methods are available for the analysis of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) but many of these are not suitable for rapid and combined analysis of MTBE and BTEX. Here we describe and validate a simple and reliable method that fulfils these requirements. The method is quick: 48 samples can be analysed in a 24 hour period using the Precept II® autosampler and therefore is suitable for high throughput work. Validation of our experiments is presented in the form of linearity, precision and intra-day repeatability of standards as well as limits of detection and limits of quantification for the range 1–20 μg/l.

This MTBE/BTEX analytical method developed was used to study the optimization of a modular post-abstraction remediation system incorporating air-stripping and granular activated carbon (GAC) technologies (Hall, 2004), from which a selection of sample data is presented.

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