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Development of a field test for detecting hydrocarbons in soil


Testing of soils in the vicinity of underground storage tanks is performed to determine if tank liquids have leaked and contaminated the soil. The results of testing determine areas of contamination and whether excavated soil from the removal of an underground storage tank can be returned to the ground or must be treated as a hazardous waste. Many of the methods currently used for field testing are expensive, require skilled technicians, or are time intensive. The main objective of this research was to develop an inexpensive, easy to use, real-time field test for determining soil hydrocarbon concentration. A semi-quantitative technique was developed using color-indicating adsorbent tubes, a small sampling pump, and a plastic cassette. Results showed that an adsorbent tube manufactured by Sensidyne Inc. (#187S) could be used for semi-quantitative analysis for soils with approximately 20 to 200 ppm of gasoline and another tube (#110S) was appropriate for concentrations of 500 to 2000 ppm. This method was capable of detecting low gasoline concentrations in loam, sand, and clay soil types and costs were approximately $20 per test.