Abstract

‘Contamination of water by trichloroethylene’ by Lyne & McLachlan (1949) (Analyst, 74, 513) is believed to be the UK's and world's first publication documenting cases of groundwater contamination by trichloroethene (TCE). The paper on this now notorious contaminant appears to have been overlooked for half a century. The passage of over 55 years since publication, both authors being deceased, and the original text brevity including the omission of site identities makes uncovering the historical details surrounding the paper difficult. Our quest to identify the location of the two anonymous case study sites described by Lyne and McLachlan is reported. Literature and archive searches, consultations with relevant professionals, data matching to site descriptions and reconnaissance site visits were undertaken. Lyne and McLachlan were ‘public analysts’ providing certified analysis for local authority jurisdictions including Reading, Berkshire, Oxford and parts of London including the City of Westminster and Boroughs of Chelsea, Fulham and Marylebone. Such a large jurisdictional area has made identification of the case study sites challenging. Our search to date has focused upon Reading, based upon the affiliation address given by the authors and it being the most industrialized jurisdiction covered. Although some candidate sites were found, unfortunately none could be conclusively identified as Lyne and McLachlan's sites. It remains possible that the sites may still be located within Reading but were simply not recognized because of the paucity of both the site descriptions Lyne and McLachlan provided and historical site contamination records that now generally remain from the 1940s. Industrial areas of the other jurisdictions served are more limited, but remain to be searched. The paucity of relevant historical records suggests that ultimate proof of sites would require contact with personnel directly involved with the incidents. This has, however, become a very remote possibility.

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