GLOSSARY OF TECHNICAL TERMS
FOR OIL AND OTHER HYDROCARBON LEAK DETECTION AND SITE REMEDIATION
glossary is provided as a service by Cheiron and is designed to target
terminology mostly 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.
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.
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.
Solubility: The maximum concentration of a chemical that will dissolve in pure water at a
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
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.
Sampler: Open-ended steel tube used to collect soil samples.
Tests: Laboratory testing of potential cleanup technologies
Biodegradable: Capable of decomposing under
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
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.
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
Hydrocarbons: Are chemicals containing only chlorine, carbon, and hydrogen. Any chlorinated
organic compounds including chlorinated solvents such as dichloromethane,
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.
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.
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.
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.
material added to a suspension to prevent settling.
Non-Aqueous Phase Liquid (DNAPL): Dense
non-aqueous phase liquids (DNAPLs) are chemicals that are denser than water and
are only slightly soluble.
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.
the final disposal of the material (e.g., landfill), or its treatment (e.g.,
stabilization) prior to final disposal.
– see Dense
Non-Aqueous Phase Liquid
effect that a man-caused or natural activity has on living organisms and their
non-living (abiotic) environment.
acronym for Environmental Data Sheet, which describes the frequently
about a product's environmental attributes, aspects and impacts.
ESA’s see Phase I and Phase II Environmental Site Assessments
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.
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.
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
petroleum hydrocarbon in the liquid free or non-aqueous phase
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.
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
Situ: In its
original place; unmoved unexcavated; remaining at the site or in the
Leachate: Water that collects
contaminants as it trickles through wastes, pesticides or fertilizers.
underground leak of leachate from a landfill site into soil and groundwater.
of Quantification: means,
in respect of a substance, the lowest concentration that can be accurately
measured using sensitive by routine sampling and analytical methods.
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.
of Detection (LOD): The minimum concentration of a substance being analyzed test that has a 99
percent probability of being identified.
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
LUSTS: Leaking Underground Storage
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.
well that is used to obtain water quality samples, or measure groundwater
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.
Phase Liquid (NAPL): Contaminants that remain undiluted as the original bulk liquid in the
subsurface, e.g. spilled oil.
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.
Derivatives: Chemicals formed when gasoline breaks down in contact with ground water.
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.
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
A class of synthetic organic compounds that are toxic and very persistent in
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
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
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
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
Frequency: The interval between the collection of successive samples
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.
Risk Assessment: A risk assessment performed with few data and many assumptions to identify
exposures that should be evaluated more carefully for potential risk.
Organic Compounds: Organic compounds that volatilize slowly at standard temperature (20 degrees C
and 1 atm pressure).
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.
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.
Suspended Solids (TSS): A measure of the suspended solids in
wastewater, effluent, or water bodies, determined by tests for "total suspended
stable, low boiling-point colorless liquid, toxic if inhaled. Used as a solvent
or metal degreasing agent, and in other industrial applications.
Storage Tank (UST): A tank located at least partially underground and designed to hold gasoline, or
other petroleum products or chemicals.
Detection Limit: The largest concentration that an instrument can reliably detect
substance that evaporates readily.
Liquids: Liquids which easily vaporize or evaporate at room temperature.
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
to the presence in water of enough harmful substances to damage the water's
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