Dioxane drinking water occurrence data from the third unregulated contaminant monitoring rule

Authors: D. Adamson, E. Piña , A. Cartwright , S. Rauch, R. Anderson, T. Mohr , J. Connor
Published: April 2017 in Science of the Total Environment.

Abstract

This study examined data collected from U.S. public drinking water supplies in support of the recently-completed third round of the Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR3) to better understand the nature and occurrence of 1,4-dioxane and the basis for establishing drinking water standards. The purpose was to evaluate whether the occurrence data for this emerging but federally-unregulated contaminant fit with common conceptual models, including its persistence and the importance of groundwater contamination for potential exposure. 1,4-Dioxane was detected in samples from 21% of 4864 PWSs, and was in exceedance of the health-based reference concentration (0.35 μg/L) at 6.9% of these systems. In both measures, it ranked second among the 28 UCMR3 contaminants. Although much of the focus on 1,4-dioxane has been its role as a groundwater contaminant, the detection frequency for 1,4-dioxane in surface water was only marginally lower than in groundwater (by a factor of 1.25; p < 0.0001). However, groundwater concentrations were higher than those in surface water (p < 0.0001) and contributed to a higher frequency of exceeding the reference concentration (by a factor of 1.8, p < 0.0001), indicating that surface water sources tend to be more dilute. Sampling from large systems increased the likelihood that 1,4-dioxane was detected by a factor of 2.18 times relative to small systems (p < 0.0001). 1,4-Dioxane detections in drinking water were highly associated with detections of other chlorinated compounds particularly 1,1-dichlorethane (odds ratio = 47; p < 0.0001), which is associated with the release of 1,4-dioxane as a chlorinated solvent stabilizer. Based on aggregated nationwide data, 1,4-dioxane showed evidence of a decreasing trend in concentration and detection frequency over time. These data suggest that the loading to drinking water supplies may be decreasing. However, in the interim, some water supply systems may need to consider improving their treatment capabilities in response to further regulatory review of this compound.