Chemical Tracers of Stormwater

Runoff of incident precipitation from paved urban landscapes, or “stormwater”, can be a source of adverse impacts on water quality due to high levels of toxic heavy metals, toxic or potentially harmful organic chemicals, and/or bacteria that may be present in the runoff. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are a class of aromatic hydrocarbons present in or produced by combustion of fossil fuels. Major sources of PAHs include gasoline and diesel fuel combustion in automobiles, indicating that PAHs could serve as useful tracers of stormwater runoff from paved surfaces which are driven upon (i.e., roads, highways, parking lots). In addition, PAHs are one of the first classes of atmospheric pollutants to be identified as suspected carcinogens, and are a documented cause of water body impairment in California, as of 2006. We are quantifying PAHs via SPE and GC-MS for use as tracers of stormwater on the Sacramento State campus.

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