Specific patterns of isotopic signatures in a contaminant plume clearly indicate secondary sources of pollution – especially lighter (negative) isotope values in the effluent.

Forensics – Liability of Polluters

In order to identify polluters, sources of contaminants must be differentiated and, if possible, contamination events should be dated. The isotopic fingerprint of pollutant sources usually provides clear evidence for a distinction of contamination events. For PHC and tar oils, GC-MS concentration profiles (GC-MS screening) should also be used. Dating before/after a certain decade may be possible based on CSIA analyzes, GC-MS profiles or groundwater dating. However, the year-specific write-up of damage events is not feasible in practice.

Methods for Forensic Investigation of Contaminant Sources

  • Distinction of sources ⇒ Isotopic fingerprint ⇒ GC-MS screening
  • Dating of damage events ⇒ Isotopic fingerprint (only CVOC) ⇒ GC-MS profile ⇒ Groundwater dating