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Development and Research: Simplified Method for Detecting Tritium Contamination in Plants and Soils


pipeline rupture

Collecting plant foliage for water extraction by solar distillation, Amargosa Desert Research Site, Nevada

pipeline rupture

Plant foliage samples being placed in direct sunlight for water extraction by solar distillation. Water vapor released from the foliage condenses as liquid on the inside surface of the sample bag.

Plant samples

Close-up view of the solar distillation sample bags at the Amargosa Desert Research Site, Nevada

crude oil spray area
Collecting solar-distilled plant water by pipet for transfer to a sample bottle.
Processing samples in a lab
Laboratory processing of solar-distilled plant water to remove constituents that can interfere with subsequent tritium analysis. Interference removal is accomplished by passing the plant water through a filter and a graphite-based solid-phase extraction column.
Image of test sample bottles
Solar-distilled plant water that has gone through various levels of laboratory preparation to remove constituents that can interfere with subsequent tritium analysis. A 2-gram solid-phase extraction column was necessary and sufficient for accurate determination of tritium concentrations in water from test plants (creosote bush, Larrea tridenatata).


Andraski, B.J., Sandstrom, M.W., Michel, R.L., Radyk, J.C., Stonestrom, D.A., Johnson, M.J., and Mayers, C.J., 2003, Simplified method for detecting tritium contamination in plants and soil: Journal of Environmental Quality, v. 32, no. 3, p. 988-995, doi:10.2134/jeq2003.0988.

Importance and Use of Plants in Evaluating Water Flow and Contaminant Transport in Arid Environments, by B.J. Andraski, M.W. Sandstrom, R.L. Michel, J.C. Radyk, D.A. Stonestrom, M.J. Johnson, and C.J. Mayers, A poster presented at the American Geophysical Union's Fall 2002 Meeting, December 6-10, 2002.

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