Emerging Contaminants


Emerging contaminants refer to a number of chemicals whose impacts on human health and the environment are not yet fully understood. Emerging contaminants enter the environment in numerous ways, such as from industrial discharge or consumer product use, and are found in groundwater, surface water, soils, and air. Once introduced to the environment, chemicals each behave differently and carry varying levels of risk, creating complexities in detection, fate and transport modeling, risk assessment, and remediation. Emerging contaminants pose additional challenges due to evolving technical and regulatory understandings.

Trihydro has experience with several emerging contaminants, including per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), 1,4-dioxane, ethylene oxide (EtO), microplastics, energetic compounds, and endocrine disruptors (EDCs). We provide comprehensive environmental services related to emerging contaminants, from detection to remediation to risk management to expert witness testimony during litigation activities. To stay current with emerging contaminants research and regulations, Trihydro established an internal Emerging Contaminants group, with members actively involved in industry groups and trade associations such as the Interstate Technology and Regulatory Council (ITRC), National Groundwater Association (NGWA), PFAS Regulatory Coalition, University Consortium, and the Environmental Council of the States (ECOS).

Our engineers, chemists, and emerging contaminants experts understand the unique challenges associated with emerging contaminants, such as specific sampling protocols, variability in the number of analytes, and methods used by different laboratories. Trihydro has experienced chemists who are well versed in preparing quality assurance project plans (QAPPs), data management plans, and routinely contribute to sampling analysis plans and protocols (SAPPs) and project standard operating procedures (SOPs).

Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) Contamination


PFAS is an umbrella term for a class of fluorinated organic compounds, comprising thousands of individual chemicals with varying molecular compositions. Since the 1950s, PFAS have been widely used in industries such as chemical production, manufacturing, metal-plating, and aerospace. A primary use of PFAS has been in aqueous film-forming foams (AFFF), used to extinguish flammable-liquid (Class-B) fires. Since the 1960s, PFAS-containing AFFFs have been widely used at sites that manage large quantities of fuels and flammable liquids, including U.S. Department of Defense facilities, airports, and industrial sites.



1,4-Dioxane is an industrial chemical that was used as a stabilizer for the solvent 1,1,1-trichloroethane (TCA). It is also a by-product of surfactant production and used in other specialty industrial processes, though the majority of historical use was as a stabilizer for 1,1,1-TCA. 1,4-Dioxane is typically found in groundwater at chlorinated solvent sites that have 1,1,1- TCA, 1,1-dichloroethene (1,1-DCE, which is an abiotic degradation product of 1,1,1-TCA) or trichloroethene (TCE) impacts. The co-occurrence of 1,4-dioxane and TCE could be due to the use of 1,1,1-TCA and TCE overtime at the same site.

Phase I ESA at remote Alaskan island

Phase I Remedial Investigation for PFAS at Air Force Base
Eareckson Air Station, Alaskan Aleutian Islands

On a remote Alaskan island, Trihydro managed Phase I remedial investigation tasks related to per- and polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS) contamination at a military airport, including fieldwork and conceptual site model (CSM) development.

plane taking off over air force base

Using Environmental Sequence Stratigraphy to Build More Accurate Conceptual Site Models
Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota; FE Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming; Air Force Plant Peter J. Kiewit and Sons, Colorado

Using Environmental Sequence Stratigraphy (ESS), Trihydro created conceptual site models (CSMs) for three Air Force installations to support long-term remediation decisions related to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and trichloroethylene (TCE).  

Trihydro's team has been instrumental in working through the challenges and complexities of analyzing, evaluating, and developing a plan of action for the planned water quality remediation efforts for Larimer County. Their team's expertise with emerging contaminants, excellent utilization of credible experts to solve and validate complex degradation of contaminants, and record the technical information in a working document has been impressive.

-Duane Penney, Larimer County Solid Waste Director

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