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Volatile Organic Compounds in the Nation's Ground Water and Drinking Water Supply Wells

Congressional Briefing
Friday, April 28, 2006
10:00 to 11:30 a.m.
2318 Rayburn House Office Building

Discussion and questions from the audience will follow presentations.

The U.S. Geological Survey’s National Water-Quality Assessment Program (NAWQA) will release at this briefing its nationwide assessment on the occurrence and concentrations of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in ground water and drinking-water supply wells.  The report will be available for briefing attendees.

VOCs are produced in large volumes and are associated with a myriad of products, such as plastics, adhesives, paints, gasoline, fumigants, refrigerants, and dry-cleaning fluids. Widespread and long-term use of VOCs and their ability to persist and migrate in ground water raises questions about their possible effects on the environment, including drinking water.  The USGS assessment provides the most comprehensive national-scale analysis to date of VOC occurrence and the potential for effects on human health. 

USGS findings can be used to help guide and inform state and national policies for ground water and drinking-water protection. For example, the science-based insights can identify and prioritize commonly detected VOCs for continued monitoring and can help decisions makers better anticipate the types of VOCs most likely to occur in urban areas and other land-use settings.  Early findings from these studies discovered the widespread and relatively rapid presence of methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE) in ground water after its extensive use as an oxygenate in gasoline. 


  • Robert Hirsch, USGS Associate Director for Water, will describe elements of the NAWQA design and significance of NAWQA’s studies, providing a context for the VOC findings.

  • John Zogorski, NAWQA VOC Synthesis Team Leader, will present key findings and their implications.

Co-sponsored by the Water Environment Federation, the Environmental and Energy Institute, and the National Ground Water Association in cooperation with the U.S. Geological Survey.

The briefing is free and open to the public.  No registration is required.

For more information, please contact Pat Sinicropi at 703-684-2416 ( or Donna Myers at 703-648-5012 (