Toxic compounds in groundwater

Vinyl chloride is a cancer-causing compound formed from solvents in groundwater systems under anaerobic conditions. These solvents are used in many industrial applications around the world and often belong to the most encountered groundwater pollutants in industrialized countries. Groundwater is a major drinking water resource, and it is vital to determine if vinyl chloride can be further degraded into harmless compounds.

A group of scientists at Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausannne (EPFL) and the University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland, has studied the degradation of the toxic compound in a laboratory setting mimicking a natural groundwater system. This work has been funded by the Swiss Federal Office for Education and Science within the framework of the EC Environment/Water Program.

In this experiment, solutions containing vinyl chloride, as well as some mineral salts, were pumped through laboratory columns. The toxic compound was regularly analyzed in inlet and outlet samples. After several weeks of cycling, vinyl chloride concentrations began to decrease, reaching zero after about four months. Ethene, an organic compound often used as a plant hormone, is one of the possible degradation products.

Christof Holliger, director of the EPFL laboratory, explained that ethene's outlet concentration was always lower than the inlet vinyl chloride concentration.

The complete results from this study were published in the May-June 2011 issue of Journal of Environmental Quality.

Download Center

  • Waste Management in 2021: Accelerate Your Success with Technology

    Join waste management experts on February 23rd for a live best practice session webinar. You’ll learn how to take your waste program to the next level with visual location, barcoding, and mobility. Register now.

  • Green Quadrant EHS Software 2021

    Reserve your copy of the new report by independent analyst firm, Verdantix, to get a detailed, fact-based comparison of the 22 most prominent EHS software vendors in the industry.

  • Your Guide to Environmental Metrics that Drive Performance

    Translating sustainability into action starts with implementing the right metrics to assess your environmental risk and performance. Learn how to design metrics that improve your decision-making process and drive enterprise performance.

  • 5 Keys to Best-in-Class Chemical Management

    Running a safe chemical program is challenging and complex: from knowing what's on-site to proper handling and disposal - all while navigating regulatory changes. Learn the best ways to mitigate chemical risk, get the most value out of your data, and gain buy-in for a chemical management solution.

  • Unpacking ESG: 6 Questions You Were Too Afraid to Ask

    Environmental and Sustainability experts from Arcadis and Cority answer 6 of the most pressing questions EHS professionals have about getting started with Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) reporting.

  • Industry Safe