Analysis of 58 Volatile Organic Compounds in the Water Intake of the Panama Canal Using a Tandem GC System

Changing the Paradigm for Water Pollution Monitoring
Oral Presentation

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The Miraflores Water Treatment Plant on the Panama Canal provides 40% of the drinking water for Panama City. Due to the level of traffic on the waterway there is a need to continuously monitor the VOC content of the water. When analyzing a large number of compounds by gas chromatography (GC), the separation of coeluting compounds can be an analytical challenge. In this application, fifty-eight volatile organic compounds (VOCs) were analyzed on two separate GC-MAID (Micro Argon Ionization Detector) instruments. The two GC systems were identical, except that one used a 100% PDMS column and the other used a 94% PDMS, 6% Cyanopropyl-phenyl column. The use of two different stationary phases resulted in a differing elution order on the two columns which ameliorated the coelution issue. The VOCs analyzed for this application were those of concern when managing the drinking water intake at the Panama Canal and were detected at levels down to 1 ppb. The instruments were integrated into the existing infrastructure and set up to continuously and autonomously monitor the water intake using purge and trap technology. Alarms are triggered when the concentration of any contaminant exceeds 2 ppb. It is important for water facilities to have access to on-going, reliable data about the concentration of VOCs present in drinking water and this application shows that it is possible to achieve this data using a GC system.