Determination of (4-methylcyclohexyl)methanol isomers by heated purge-and-trap GC/MS in water samples from the 2014 Elk River, West Virginia, chemical spill

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Abstract

A heated purge-and-trap gas chromatography/mass spectrometry method was used to determine the cis- and trans-isomers of (4-methylcyclohexyl)methanol (4-MCHM), the reported major component of the Crude MCHM/Dowanol™ PPh glycol ether material spilled into the Elk River upriver from Charleston, West Virginia, on January 9, 2014. The trans-isomer eluted first and method detection limits were 0.16-μgL-1 trans-, 0.28-μgL-1 cis-, and 0.4-μgL-1 Total (total response of isomers) 4-MCHM. Estimated concentrations in the spill source material were 491-gL-1 trans- and 277-gL-1 cis-4-MCHM, the sum constituting 84% of the source material assuming its density equaled 4-MCHM. Elk River samples collected≤3.2km downriver from the spill on January 15 had low (≤2.9μgL-1 Total) 4-MCHM concentrations, whereas the isomers were not detected in samples collected 2 d earlier at the same sites. Similar 4-MCHM concentrations (range 4.2-5.5μgL-1 Total) occurred for samples of the Ohio River at Louisville, Kentucky, on January 17, ~630km downriver from the spill. Total 4-MCHM concentrations in Charleston, WV, office tap water decreased from 129μgL-1 on January 27 to 2.2μgL-1 on February 3, but remained detectable in tap samples through final collection on February 25 indicating some persistence of 4-MCHM within the water distribution system. One isomer of methyl 4-methylcyclohexanecarboxylate was detected in all Ohio River and tap water samples, and both isomers were detected in the source material spilled.

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Foreman, W. T., Rose, D. L., Chambers, D. B., Crain, A. S., Murtagh, L. K., Thakellapalli, H., & Wang, K. K. (2015). Determination of (4-methylcyclohexyl)methanol isomers by heated purge-and-trap GC/MS in water samples from the 2014 Elk River, West Virginia, chemical spill. Chemosphere, 131, 217–224. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chemosphere.2014.11.006

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