Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

MS in Environmental Engr. (M.S.E.V.)

Degree Granting Department

Civil and Environmental Engineering

Major Professor

Jeffrey Cunningham, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Qiong Zhang, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Abdul Malik, Ph.D.


SPE, endocrine disrupting compounds, gas chromatography, mass spectrometry, bisphenol A, estradiol


Organic and inorganic compounds are present as contaminants in varying concentrations throughout our water cycle. Examples of these contaminants include the endocrine disrupting compounds (EDCs) bisphenol-A (BPA) and 17β-estradiol (E2) from plastics and pharmaceutical use. It can be necessary to obtain the concentration of these compounds within the water cycle for analysis by interested parties such as research groups, regulatory agencies, and private organizations. These concentrations, however, can be too dilute within the initial sample for analysis. Therefore it is necessary to concentrate the compound of interest (analyte) prior to analysis. One such way to do this is by way of Solid Phase Extraction (SPE).

SPE uses a small cartridge which contains chromatographic packing material to chemically extract analytes from a water sample onto a solid phase. To increase concentration, these analytes are then transferred (eluted) to a substantially smaller volume of organic solvent for eventual analyses. These commercially available cartridges are relatively inexpensive, approximately $5 each. However, these cartridges are labeled as single use. In large-scale analyses, this can quickly add up to a sizable percentage of the analysis budget. Additionally, sizable waste volumes can be generated from these analyses in the form of non-degradable polypropylene plastic. If these cartridges can be re-used, material costs as well as waste volumes can be substantially reduced. However, little is known regarding how the quality of analysis degrades with cartridge re-use. The objective of this project is to evaluate the number of times SPE cartridges can be reused without compromising the results of the subsequent analyses.

Based on a review of prior literature, I identified and developed protocols for extracting analytes (BPA and E2) from water via SPE, then analyzing them with gas chromatography and mass spectrometry (GC-MS). These protocols have been developed to mimic those employed by research labs, industry, and other entities for which the results of this study would be most applicable. The only deviation is the re-use of the cartridge rather than disposal and replacement. One type of commercially available SPE cartridge (Oasis HLB, Waters Inc., Milford, MA) was used and two water types were tested. The water was spiked with fixed concentrations of BPA and E2, and then analyzed by way of SPE/GC-MS. For both water types, I performed multiple SPE runs on 10 cartridges each. I tracked the history of GC-MS peak areas, which indicate apparent analyte concentration. Peak area data were analyzed as a function of the number of analyses performed (run number), and evaluated for statistically significant changes as well as overall trends. Statistically significant change and/or trends would indicate that the cartridge had exceeded the maximum allowable number of re-uses and would thereby identify the number of times the “single-use” cartridge can reliably be re-used.

Peak area history for 20 SPE runs per cartridge for pure water samples and 10 SPE runs for wastewater effluent showed no statistically significant changes or trends on peak area. This indicates that cartridges can be re-used at least 10 times without compromising the integrity of water sample analysis for the EDCs considered in this study.

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