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TPH Tests for Soil, Water and Solid Surfaces: Cheiron Resources

TPH Tests for Soil, Water and Solid Surfaces


This glossary is provided as a service by Cheiron and is designed to target terminology most likely to be used by our client group.   It is NOT intended to be a definitive document and is only offered as a general reference.

 The definitions have been gathered from a number of sources (including Canadian, USA and European).  The web-sites for those sources are listed at the end of the document should anyone want a more complete list.

Abandoned Well:  This refers to a well that has been permanently closed down, or which is in a state of such disrepair that it cannot be used for its intended purpose.

Abatement: Reducing the degree or intensity of, or eliminating, pollution.

Alluvial: Relating to and/or sand deposited by flowing water.

Aqueous: Something made up of water.

Aqueous Solubility: The maximum concentration of a chemical that will dissolve in pure water at a reference temperature.

Aromatics: A type of hydrocarbon, such as benzene or toluene, with a specific type of ring structure. Aromatics are sometimes added to gasoline in order to increase octane. Some aromatics are toxic.

Attenuation: The process by which a compound is reduced in concentration over time, through absorption, adsorption, degradation, dilution, and/or transformation. an also be the decrease with distance of sight caused by attenuation of light by particulate pollution.

Barrel Sampler: Open-ended steel tube used to collect soil samples.

Bench-scale Tests: Laboratory testing of potential cleanup technologies

Biodegradable: Capable of decomposing under natural conditions.

Bio-Monitoring: The use of living organisms to test the suitability of effluents for discharge into receiving waters and to test the quality of such waters downstream from the discharge.

Bioremediation: Use of living organisms to clean up oil spills or remove other pollutants from soil, water, or wastewater; use of organisms such as non-harmful insects to remove agricultural pests or counteract diseases of trees, plants, and garden soil.

Boom: A floating device used to contain oil on a body of water.

Borehole: Hole made with drilling equipment.

Brownfields: Abandoned, idled, or under-used industrial and commercial sites where expansion or redevelopment is complicated by environmental contamination. They can be in urban, suburban, or rural areas.

Carbon Tetrachloride (CC14): Compound consisting of one carbon atom and four chlorine atoms, once widely used as an industrial raw material, as a solvent, and in the production of CFCs. Use as a solvent ended when it was discovered to be carcinogenic.  NOTE OUR test kits do NOT work on CarbonTet

Chlorinated Hydrocarbons:  Are chemicals containing only chlorine, carbon, and hydrogen.  Any chlorinated organic compounds including chlorinated solvents such as dichloromethane, trichloromethylene, chloroform.

Cleanup: Actions taken to deal with a release or threat of release of a hazardous substance that could affect humans and/or the environment. The term "cleanup" is sometimes used interchangeably with the terms remedial action, removal action, response action, or corrective action.

Compliance:  A state achieved by a company or person by adhering to certain legislative and regulatory requirements. These requirements can cover a wide range of activities, from the prevention of pollution by operating within standards set by legislative and regulatory requirements, to the obtaining of required licenses, or to the completion of paperwork and the filing of reports.

Compliance Monitoring: Collection and evaluation of data, including self-monitoring reports, and verification to show whether pollutant concentrations and loads contained in permitted discharges are in compliance with the limits and conditions specified in the permit.

Contaminant: Any physical, chemical, biological, or radiological substance or matter that has an adverse effect on air, water, or soil.

Contamination: Introduction into water, air, and soil of microorganisms, chemicals, toxic substances, wastes, or wastewater in a concentration that makes the medium unfit for its next intended use. Also applies to surfaces of objects, buildings, and various household and agricultural use products.

Continuous Sample: A flow of water, waste or other material from a particular place in a plant to the location where samples are collected for testing. May be used to obtain grab or composite samples.

Conventional Site Assessment: Assessment in which most of the sample analysis and interpretation of data is completed off-site; process usually requires repeated mobilization of equipment and staff in order to fully determine the extent of contamination.

Decontamination: Removal of harmful substances such as noxious chemicals, harmful bacteria or other organisms, or radioactive material from exposed individuals, rooms and furnishings in buildings, or the exterior environment.

Deflocculating Agent: A material added to a suspension to prevent settling.

Dense Non-Aqueous Phase Liquid (DNAPL): Dense non-aqueous phase liquids (DNAPLs) are chemicals that are denser than water and are only slightly soluble. 

Direct Push: Technology used for performing subsurface investigations by driving, pushing, and/or vibrating small-diameter hollow steel rods into the ground/ Also known as direct drive, drive point, or push technology.

Dispersant: A chemical agent used to break up concentrations of organic material such as spilled oil.

Disposal:  means the final disposal of the material (e.g., landfill), or its treatment (e.g., stabilization) prior to final disposal.

DNAPL – see Dense Non-Aqueous Phase Liquid

Ecological Impact: The effect that a man-caused or natural activity has on living organisms and their non-living (abiotic) environment.

EDS: The acronym for Environmental Data Sheet, which describes the frequently asked questions about a product's environmental attributes, aspects and impacts.

ESA’s see Phase I and Phase II Environmental Site Assessments

Environmental Assessment: An analysis, report, or body of evidence, relating to a specific project or development that includes a description of the expected environmental impacts of the project, actions that could prevent or mitigate these environmental impacts, and alternative methods of carrying out the project.

Environmental Audit: An independent assessment of the current status of a party's compliance with applicable environmental requirements or of a party's environmental compliance policies, practices, and controls.

Environmental Site Assessment (ESA): The process of determining whether contamination is present on a parcel of real property. See Phase I and Phase II Environmental Site Assessments.

Ethanol: An alternative automotive fuel derived from grain and corn; usually blended with gasoline to form gasohol.

Free Product: A petroleum hydrocarbon in the liquid free or non-aqueous phase

Grab Sample: A single sample collected at a particular time and place that represents the composition of the water, air, or soil only at that time and place.

Ground Water: The supply of fresh water found beneath the Earth's surface, usually in aquifers, which supply wells and springs

Immiscibility: The inability of two or more substances or liquids to readily dissolve into one another, such as soil and water.

In Situ: In its original place; unmoved unexcavated; remaining at the site or in the subsurface.

Leachate: Water that collects contaminants as it trickles through wastes, pesticides or fertilizers.

Leachate Plume:  An underground leak of leachate from a landfill site into soil and groundwater.

Level of Quantification:  means, in respect of a substance, the lowest concentration that can be accurately measured using sensitive by routine sampling and analytical methods.

Light Non-Aqueous Phase Liquid (LNAPL):  A non-aqueous phase liquid with a specific gravity less than 1.0. Because the specific gravity of water is 1.0, most LNAPLs float on top of the water table. Most common petroleum hydrocarbon fuels and lubricating oils are LNAPLs.

Limit of Detection (LOD): The minimum concentration of a substance being analyzed test that has a 99 percent probability of being identified.

Liquefied petroleum gas (LPG or LP-gas): Consists of propane, propylene, butane and butylenes; however, the most common LPG is propane.

LNAPLS_ see Light Non-Aqueous Phase Liquid (LNAPL)

LUSTS: Leaking Underground Storage Tanks

Meniscus: The curved top of a column of liquid in a small tube.

Monitoring:  The process of periodic or continuous surveillance, or testing of results, to determine the level of compliance with statutory requirements.

Monitoring Well:  A well that is used to obtain water quality samples, or measure groundwater levels.

Mutagen/Mutagenicity: An agent that causes a permanent genetic change in a cell other than that which occurs during normal growth. Mutagenicity is the capacity of a chemical or physical agent to cause such permanent changes.

Non-Aqueous Phase Liquid (NAPL): Contaminants that remain undiluted as the original bulk liquid in the subsurface, e.g. spilled oil.

Oil Spill:  Is an accidental, or intentional, discharge of oil.  

Percolation:  The movement of water through subsurface soil layers, usually continuing downward to ground water.

Petroleum: Crude oil or any of its fractions that is liquid under normal conditions of temperature and pressure. The term includes petroleum-based substances like motor fuel, jet oil, lubricants, petroleum solvents etc.

Petroleum Derivatives: Chemicals formed when gasoline breaks down in contact with ground water.

pH: An expression of the intensity of the basic or acid condition of a liquid; may range from 0 to 14, where 0 is the most acid and 7 is neutral. Natural waters usually have a pH between 6.5 and 8.5.

Phase I environmental site assessments (ESAs) are a first stage (primarily paperwork) investigation of historical records to determine ownership of a site and to identify the presence of chemicals used at a site.  Phase I’s can involve site visits but don’t include sampling or testing.  The outcome of a Phase I site assessment directs the need for a Phase II or III assessment.

Phase II environmental site assessments (ESAs) are investigations that include field tests to locate the presence and types of environmental contaminants at a site.  The assessment also includes preparation of a report with recommendations for cleanup options. Phase II assessments are often referred to as ESI’s Environmental Site Investigations.


Pilot Tests: Testing a cleanup technology under actual site conditions to identify potential problems prior to full-scale implementation.

Plume: A visible or measurable discharge of a contaminant from a given point of origin.

Pollutant: Generally, any substance introduced into the environment that adversely affects the usefulness of a resource or the health of humans, animals, or ecosystems.

Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs):  A class of synthetic organic compounds that are toxic and very persistent in the environment.

Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs):  Compounds that occur naturally in living organisms and as a byproduct of the combustion of fossil fuels; they can also be produced synthetically in laboratories.

Potable Water: Water that is safe for drinking and cooking.

Potentiation: The ability of one chemical to increase the effect of another chemical.

Ppm:  The concentration in units of parts per million.

Reclamation: (In recycling) Restoration of materials found in the waste stream to a beneficial use which may be for purposes other than the original use.

Release:  The emission or discharge of a substance from the facility site to air, surface waters, or land and includes a spill or leak.

Residual: Amount of a pollutant remaining in the environment after a natural or technological process has taken place; e.g., the sludge remaining after initial wastewater treatment, or particulates remaining in air after it passes through a scrubbing or other process.

Risk Assessment: Qualitative and quantitative evaluation of the risk posed to human health and/or the environment by the actual or potential presence and/or use of specific pollutants.

Risk Characterization: The last phase of the risk assessment process that estimates the potential for adverse health or ecological effects to occur from exposure to a stressor and evaluates the uncertainty involved.

Salinity: The percentage of salt in water.

Sampling Frequency: The interval between the collection of successive samples

Saturated Zone: The area below the water table where all open spaces are filled with water under pressure equal to, or greater than, that of the atmosphere.

Saturation: The condition of a liquid when it has taken into solution the maximum possible quantity of a given substance at a given temperature and pressure.

Screening Risk Assessment: A risk assessment performed with few data and many assumptions to identify exposures that should be evaluated more carefully for potential risk.

Semi-volatile Organic Compounds: Organic compounds that volatilize slowly at standard temperature (20 degrees C and 1 atm pressure).

Site characterization:  Site characterization is the process of identifying, quantifying and describing the nature, extent, and fate and transport of hazardous substances released into the environment to detect their impacts on human health and the environment. 

Source Characterization Measurements: Measurements made to estimate the rate of release of pollutants into the environment from a source such as an incinerator, landfill, etc.

Surfactant: A detergent compound that promotes lathering.

Threshold: The lowest dose of a chemical at which a specified measurable effect is observed and below which it is not observed.

Total Suspended Solids (TSS): A measure of the suspended solids in wastewater, effluent, or water bodies, determined by tests for "total suspended non-filterable solids”.

Trichloroethylene (TCE): A stable, low boiling-point colorless liquid, toxic if inhaled. Used as a solvent or metal degreasing agent, and in other industrial applications.

Underground Storage Tank (UST): A tank located at least partially underground and designed to hold gasoline, or other petroleum products or chemicals.

Upper Detection Limit: The largest concentration that an instrument can reliably detect

Volatile: Any substance that evaporates readily.

Volatile Liquids: Liquids which easily vaporize or evaporate at room temperature.

Volatile Organic Compound (VOC): Any organic compound that participates in atmospheric photochemical reactions except those designated by EPA as having negligible photochemical reactivity.

Wastewater: The spent or used water from a home, community, farm, or industry that contains dissolved or suspended matter.

Water Pollution: Refers to the presence in water of enough harmful substances to damage the water's quality.

Water Solubility: The maximum possible concentration of a chemical compound dissolved in water. If a substance is water soluble it can very readily disperse through the environment.









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