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Skip Navigation LinksDNREC : Division of Waste & Hazardous Substances : Site Investigation & Restoration : Contaminant Information

 Contaminant Information


A brief description of contaminants that occur commonly at the sites being addressed by the Site Investigation and Restoration Section are provided along with links to sources where further information can be found: 

A worker wearing OSHA Level B safety gearArsenic (As) is a naturally occurring metal and is present widely in Delaware soils at concentrations up to 45 parts per million (ppm). The average background concentrations of As in Delaware soil is determined to be 11 ppm.  In addition to occurring naturally, Arsenic in soils can come from historic uses at tanneries and at various industries, such as foundries; from pesticides before synthetic organic pesticides were available; from fertilizer and potting soils; from arsenic treated wood and from chicken litter. Arsenic in groundwater is present in only a few sites.  Further information including health effects can be found at and

Lead (Pb) is a naturally occurring metal but is widely distributed in the nature by various human activities.  In the past lead was used in paints and in leaded gasoline, but no longer is in use. The common way people can be exposed to lead is living or working in buildings that contain deteriorated lead-based paint, eating paint chips that contain lead, by working or playing in lead-contaminated dirt. Young children face the most danger from exposure to lead because their growing bodies absorb lead more easily than do adults' bodies. Further information including health effects can be found at

Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) are a group of over 100 different chemicals that are formed during the incomplete burning of coal, oil and gas, garbage, or other organic substances like tobacco or charbroiled meat. PAHs are usually found as a mixture containing two or more of these compounds. Some PAHs are manufactured and exist as colorless, white, or pale yellow-green solids. PAHs are found in coal tar, crude oil, creosote, and roofing tar, but a few are used in medicines or to make dyes, plastics, and pesticides. Further information including health effects can be found at

Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are mixtures of up to 209 individual chlorinated compounds (known as congeners), which are no longer produced in the United States but are still found in the environment.  PCBs have been used as coolants and lubricants in transformers, capacitors, and other electrical equipment because they don't burn easily and are good insulators. The manufacture of PCBs was stopped in the U.S. in 1977 but products made before 1977 that may contain PCBs include old fluorescent lighting fixtures and electrical devices containing PCB capacitors, and hydraulic oils. Further information including health effects can be found at

Tetrachloroethylene (PCE) is a man made chemical which is also referred as tetrachloroethene, perchloroethylene, 1,1,2,2-tetrachloroethylene, and as Perc.  PCE is widely used for dry cleaning of fabrics and for metal-degreasing operations and is also used as a starting material for making other chemicals and is used in some consumer products. Further information including health effects can be found at

Trichloroethylene (TCE) is a nonflammable, colorless liquid with a somewhat sweet odor and a sweet, burning taste. It is used mainly as a solvent to remove grease from metal parts, but it is also an ingredient in adhesives, paint removers, typewriter correction fluids, and spot removers. Further information including health effects can be found at

For further information regarding various contaminants, please consult the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR)‘s website at  Also see the EPA Pollutants and Toxics website at

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