Carcinogenic VOCs Contaminant Group: Filling Critical Knowledge Gaps to Inform Meaningful Regulation

Jun 5, 2019

In March 2010, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its new Drinking Water Strategy. One of the four goals under this strategy is to address contaminants as a group rather than one at a time, so that the enhancement of drinking water protection can be achieved more cost-effectively. In February 2011, EPA identified carcinogenic volatile organic compounds (cVOCs) as the first group to be regulated as part of the new strategy. Establishment of new cVOC maximum contaminant levels (MCLs) will require many public water systems that have already installed treatment for VOCs to adjust to meet the new standard, or for many systems not treating for VOCs to implement treatment techniques. Utilities need information to guide their decision-making processes when implementing this new MCL. Recognizing these needs, WRF initiated the cVOCs Research Area in 2012. This Research Area was terminated in 2014 due to lack of additional information from EPA on the regulatory approach.


Research Area Objectives

Develop a comprehensive research agenda to:

  1. Assess effectiveness of analytical methods
  2. Address occurrence and co-occurrence of VOCs
  3. Evaluate treatment for removing VOCs and reliability of technologies; and
  4. Develop cost information for VOC treatment


Research Area Project Timeline and Value

Survey of Existing VOC Treatment Installations

  • Timeline: 2012–2016
  • Total Project Value: $510,393
  • Research Area Objectives: Occurrence, Treatment, Cost

Evaluation of Henry's Law Constant and Freundlich Adsorption Constant for VOCs

  • Timeline: 2012–2017
  • Total Project Value: $213,893
  • Research Area Objectives: Treatment

Evaluation of cVOC Removal Efficiences by Various Technologies

  • Timeline: 2014–2017
  • Total Project Value: $564,940
  • Research Area Objectives: Treatment, Cost

Cumulative Project Value for Research Area: $1,289,226


Projects Funded Outside of the Research Area Program that meet a Research Area Objective

Removal of VOCs via Low Profile Aeration

  • Year Completed: 2014
  • Funding Program: EO
  • RA Objectives: Treatment

Removal of VOCs via GAC

  • Year Completed: 2015
  • Funding Program: EO
  • RA Objectives: Treatment



EO = Emerging Opportunity

Project Status

Year Initiated: 2012

Year Completed: 2015


Advisory Committee Members

  • Zaid Chowdhury, ConocoPhillips
  • David Cornwell, Environmental Engineering & Technology, Inc.
  • Michael Kavanaugh, Geosyntec Consultants
  • Peter Keenan, American Water
  • Gary R. Lynch, Park Water Company
  • Jonathan Pressman, EPA
  • Alan Roberson, American Water Works Association.