August Mack Newsletter | April, 2018

Forensic Investigations using CSIA
by Paula Warren

Are these questions you run into during site evaluation? Environmental Forensics is the application of science and the scientific method to investigate what happened (e.g. spill of petroleum or something else?), how it happened (e.g. sudden and catastrophic?), why it happened (e.g. improper disposal?) and when it happened (e.g. who owned the property?). Using the analytical tools available provides a window to understanding what is going on at your site. When evaluating if Environmental Forensics is needed, the following questions come up:

  • Do you have co-mingled plumes on a site?
  • What is extent of degradation?
  • Have we accounted for potential contaminant sources?
  • If so, have we determined if there are other responsible parties? 

Understanding the dynamics of forensic methods and how they can be implemented for many types of contaminants is important. A basic understanding of project objectives is important. Compound Specific Isotope Analysis (CSIA) is the most widely used aspect of forensics. CSIA can be used on petroleum, chlorinated, and other contaminants by matching the carbon range and the pattern of the peaks on the chromatogram of the unknown substance to known standards.  Ratios of specific petroleum constituents have been used in an attempt to age-date petroleum releases.  

It is frequently applied to petroleum hydrocarbon released due to factors related to:

  • The chemical complexity of petroleum
  • Its weathering in the environment
  • Frequent commingling of plumes
  • Commonplace contaminant

In our upcoming webinar we will look at how CSIA measures the small changes in the isotopic ratios of each contaminant compound.  We will also look at a case study where CSIA was used to gain more information about the plume characteristics for appropriate remediation and/or monitoring determinations. To learn more about this topic, register to attend our free webinar, Forensic Investigations Using CSIA, on May 9, 2018 @ 3:00pm.

Paula Warren is a Project Manager for closure services with August Mack Environmental, Inc. She has over 12 years of experience with extensive knowledge regarding geological and hydrogeological investigations, monitoring well installation and abandonment, soil and groundwater sampling, vapor intrusion evaluation, mitigation and system design, tank management, environmental site assessments, remedial evaluation, and regulatory coordination with State and Federal regulatory programs (e.g., CERCLA, RCRA, LUST, State Cleanup, Brownfields, Voluntary Remediation).  Paula graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree from Purdue University with a major in Natural Resources and Environmental Science and a concentration in Policy.  Paula can be reached at 317.916.3136 or via e-mail at

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