Document Type


Publication Date

January 1989


Introduction: Groundwater is aprimary source of drinking water for about 50 percent of the population in the U.S. This source of drinking water has been generally regarded as safe from contamination. Several papers indicate that numerous underground storage tanks containing petroleum products may be leaking and contaminating public water supply wells across the U.S. (Matis, 1971; Ferguson, 1979; Woodhull, 1981; Burmaster and Harris, 1982; Lehman, 1984; Dowd, 1984; OTA, 1984). A study conducted by the Utah Cureau of Solid and Hazardous Wastes in 1985 concluded that there are at least 2,314 underground steel tanks, most of which are used to store gasoline and diesel fuel, in Utah which are more than 20 years old and may be leaking. Contamination of well water by petrolium products from leaking underground storage tanks (LUST) is a matter of increasing concern. LUST pose a serious threat to the groundwater and public health. Leaks of petroleum products from LUST at industrial plants, commercial establishments (e.g., automobile service stations), and other operations could be expected to increase the types and concentrations of petroleum products in groundwater used for drinking and exposure of humans to the toxic effects of these chemical compounds. Petroleum products are persistent and highly mobile contaminatns which are difficult to remove from groundwater. In addition, many of these chemicals are known or suspected carcinogens or mutagens which can pose undesireable human health risks (e.g., cancer, birth defects, and other chronic conditions) at 10 ppb and below (Council on Environmental Quality, 1980). There is a need for more research on the types and concentrations of petroleum products (e.g., benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene) found in public water supply wells used for drinking water and the immunotoxic and neurotoxic effects of these organic compounds. The objectives of this research project were: 1. To characterize petroleum products in raw water from wells used for drinking water in selected areas (industrial, commercial, and other) of Utah. 2. To evaluate the toxicity of selected petroleum products in experimental animals, with emphasis on the following: a. Immunotoxic and hypersensitivity effects. b. Neurotoxic and behavioral effects.