Document Type


Publication Date


Journal / Book Title

Environmental Pollution


The environmental forensics approach is most often applied in petroleum and fuel spill incidents, for which sophisticated chemical fingerprinting procedures have evolved. In cases in which pollutant discharges occur in settings with prior contamination, more care must be taken in source discrimination, requiring further advances in methodology. Additional obstacles can arise if the spill is an atypical industrial discharge. This would necessitate painstaking characterization of unfamiliar substances lying outside of existing regulatory regimes and thus overlooked by mandated analytical protocols (i.e., contaminants of emerging concern). Towards these ends, this paper presents a systematic, multi-faceted GC-MS approach using the saturated, aromatic, and resin fractions of contaminated soil extracts, alongside soil thermal desorption and analytical pyrolysis of the soil and its asphaltene fraction. This complimentary "extract + thermal" approach is applied to a typical fuel oil spill, sediments of a severely-impacted urban river, and brownfield soils from coke, petrochemical, and Hg-As pyrometallurgical plants. The insights thus attained can serve to better inform brownfield remediation planning in the public interest.



  • Environmental forensic methods for brownfields with complex contamination histories
  • Characterization of unfamiliar pollutants lying outside of existing regulatory regimes
  • Multi-faceted GC-MS approach using all SARA fractions including asphaltenes
  • Pyrolysis-GC-MS providing effective, rapid soil contaminant assessment