What does the Total Petroleum Hydrocarbon Water Test determine?
Simply put, it is a test used to determine if a well is contaminated with fuel oils or like substances, including a broad family of several hundred chemical compounds that originally came from crude oil.
These chemicals are called hydrocarbons because almost all of them are made entirely from hydrogen and carbon. Crude oils can vary in how much of each chemical they contain, and so can the petroleum products that are made from crude oils. Most products that contain TPH will burn. Some are clear or light-colored liquids that evaporate easily, and others are thick, dark liquids or semisolids that do not evaporate.
Many of these products in Connecticut and nationwide, have characteristic gasoline, kerosene, or oily odors. Because modern society uses so many petroleum-based products (for example, gasoline, kerosene, fuel oil, mineral oil, and asphalt), contamination of the environment by them is potentially widespread.
Because there are so many, it is not usually practical to measure each one individually. However, it is useful to measure the total amount of all hydrocarbons found together in a particular water sample.
When TPH is released directly to CT water through spills or leaks, certain TPH fractions will float in water and form thin surface films. Other heavier fractions will accumulate in the sediment at the bottom of the water, which may affect bottom-feeding fish and organisms. Some organisms found in the water (primarily bacteria and fungi) may break down some of the TPH fractions.
TPH released to the soil may move through the soil to the groundwater. Some of these compounds will evaporate into the air and others will dissolve into the groundwater and move away from the release area. Other compounds will attach to particles in the soil and may stay in the soil for a long period of time, while others will be broken down by organisms found in the soil.
Health effects from exposure to TPH in CT, depends on many factors. These include the types of chemical compounds in the TPH, how long the exposure lasts, and the amount of the chemicals contacted. Swallowing some petroleum products such as gasoline and kerosene causes irritation of the throat and stomach, central nervous system depression, difficulty breathing, and pneumonia.
The compounds in some TPH fractions can also affect the blood, immune system, liver, spleen, kidneys, developing fetus, and lungs. Certain TPH compounds can be irritating to the skin and eyes. Other TPH compounds, such as some mineral oils, are not very toxic and are used in foods.
If you are exposed to TPH, many factors determine whether you’ll be harmed. These factors include the dose (how much), the duration (how long), and how you come in contact with it. You must also consider the other chemicals you’re exposed to and your age, sex, diet, family traits, lifestyle, and state of health.