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Analysis of the key intermediates of RDX (hexahydro-1,3,5-trinitro-1,3,5-triazine) in groundwater: occurrence, stability and preservation

NRC Biotechnology Research Institute; National Research Council Canada
Published in:
Journal of Environmental Monitoring
Pages :
NPArC #:
Hexahydro-1,3,5-trinitro-1,3,5-triazine (RDX) is a widely used explosive that is present in soils at a number of military sites, including training and testing ranges. Because of its relatively weak adsorption to soil, RDX frequently migrates through the unsaturated zone and causes groundwater contamination. In the environment, RDX can transform to produce mono-, di-, and tri-nitroso derivatives (MNX, DNX, and TNX) and the ring cleavage products methylenedinitramine (MEDINA) and 4-nitro-2,4-diazabutanal (NDAB). The present study was undertaken to analyze RDX and its products in groundwater samples taken from various US military sites. The stability of some of the common transformation intermediates of RDX, including the nitroso derivatives, NDAB and MEDINA, under typical conditions in a groundwater aquifer is not well understood, and appropriate preservation methods for these compounds have not been established. Therefore, we studied the inherent stability of these compounds in deionized water and in groundwater, and evaluated various preservation techniques, including adjustment of pH, temperature, and salinity. NDAB and nitroso derivatives were stable under typical ambient environmental conditions, but MEDINA was highly unstable. The addition of sea salts (10% w/v) was found to stabilize MEDINA when the samples were stored at 4 °C. Using appropriate preservation techniques, we detected nitroso derivatives and NDAB, but no MEDINA, at some of the sites investigated. Stabilizing RDX intermediate products in field samples to allow detection is important because the presence of any of these chemicals can indicate past contamination by RDX and provide insight into the occurrence of in situ natural attenuation.
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