IDENTIFICATION OF ORGANIC POLLUTANTS USING LINEAR TEMPERATURE PROGRAMMED RETENTION INDICES (LTPRIs) - PART I Final report for the Department of the Environment
Report No DWI0382

March 1986

SUMMARY

The purpose of this work has been to provide the Water Industry with a cheap method of identifying unknown organic compounds in the aquatic environment. Pollution incidents frequently occur in which it is necessary to identify an organic compound accidentally or illegally discharged into the water catchment. Analytical instrumentation normally applied to the identification of organic compounds is relatively expensive and usually beyond the means of Water Utility Laboratories. A relatively cheap technique based on gas chromatographic retention times has been successfully developed.

Gas chromatography is a separation technique the mechanism of which depends upon the differing affinities of the organic compounds in a mixture for the stationary phase of the gas chromatographic column. Thus different components of the mixture are retained on the column for different periods of time. If chromatographic separation conditions can be precisely standardised and the retention time of a component be measured with sufficient accuracy, the data may be used to give a precise identification of the component. This report describes work on the fabrication of standard columns of adequate durability and reproducibility, the establishment of standard separation conditions, the generation of retention data for organic compounds in priority pollutants lists, and the setting up of computer data bases for flexible searching, retrieval, and formatting of data. A second tier library of data generated under conditions which closely adhered to those prescribed in our work has also been established using information available in the open literature.

This tool has already been applied to several real problems and has proved itself of value. Its existence will be publicised through appropriate scientific committees AND by circulation of hard copies of the data base to appropriate scientists within the Water Industry. It is recommended that water authorities be encouraged to generate further data on organic compounds of concern for incorporation into the data base and that WRc continues to generate new data on compounds of concern as and when the occasion demands.

Copies of this report may be available as an Acrobat pdf download under the 'Pre 2000 Reports' heading on the DWI website.