During the EnviroTech 2018 conference in Calgary, Alberta, Dr. Phil Richards of Chemistry Matters Inc. presented on the fundamentals of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). River sediment contains natural organic material, largely derived from allochthonous sources, meaning a source from outside the river. This is particularly important when regarding PAHs, which can have sources hundreds of kilometers from a sampling point within the river catchment. In fact, every river can contain PAHs from a source other than that which is the focus of a remedial investigation, and consideration of this is very important.
Presentation of the detection of PAHs in relation to guidelines is a requirement for regulatory purposes. However, if those PAHs are natural, or at least originate from a source that is unrelated to the investigation, why take responsibility for them?
In order to determine the source of PAHs it is important to collect the right kind of samples (fine grained, highly organic sediment), analyse for the right kind of chemical package (include alkylated PAHs), and interpret the results using the right kind of techniques.
This presentation describes the correct, and incorrect use of environmental forensics techniques using example datasets from our work in Canadian oil spill response and US CERCLA investigations. It focuses on how to construct and interpret PAH fingerprints and ratios, and the use of statistics such as PCA. Environmental professionals involved in spill remediation or site monitoring will find this presentation applicable.
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