Kenneth Harris

Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

David Dunn, Thomas Nicholson, John Russell


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Degree Program

Department of Public Health

Degree Type

Master of Science


The USEPA specifies SW-846 method 3810 (Headspace Analysis) for screening field samples and determining relative BTEX values. Unfortunately it is time consuming and awkward and in eight years of practice this author has never seen it used. Among other things, method 3810 requires special containers, sample blanks at each location, aluminum foil seals, and heating the samples to 194°F for one hour prior to PID analysis.

In reality the preferred field method involves simply taking readings out of the sample hole or the sample itself, noting the value, and pursuing the zero ppm goal. There is often little or no regard given to factors that influence these readings, such as humidity, temperature, soil type, instrument calibration, or operator experience.

The purpose of this research was to use a modified PID sampling protocol compatible with current industry practices, apply it in field operations, and compare field values with laboratory values to determine whether any correlation exists. Correlations would then be used to construct a curve to predict soil BTEX from PID readings.

It is important to note that this research did not seek to forecast or reproduce exact laboratory values but only examined whether there were correlations. Neither did it attempt to validate any any specific sampling method or instrument except that used by the researcher.

Questions to be Answered

The research attempted to answer specific questions as well as provide information useful in future studies. Relevant questions included:

  1. Does a positive correlation exist between field measurements and laboratory values for BTEX?
  2. Is the correlation stronger for any specific BTEX component?
  3. Can the data identify a PID detection level below which soil and laboratory BTEX may be reliably predicted to be <1.0 ppm? Hypotheses Three working hypotheses were developed for the study: H1: A positive correlation will be found between PID field values and laboratory soil analyses. H2: One BTEX component will more strongly correlate. H3: A PID detection level will be identified below which it may be reliably predicted that laboratory BTEX will be <1.0 ppm for any component.


Environmental Studies | Public Health