U.S. EPA Contaminated Site Cleanup Information (CLU-IN)

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
U.S. EPA Technology Innovation and Field Services Division

Trichloroethylene (tce)

Chemistry and Behavior

TCE (CAS No. 79-01-6) is a volatile organic compound that has a high vapor pressure (69.0 mm Hg at 25º C), is sparingly soluble (1,100 mg/L), and has a specific gravity of 1.464. When released to the air, it has a 5 to 7 day residence time and degrades to phosgene, dichloroacetyl chloride, and formyl chloride. Releases to the ground will result in either evaporation or percolation into the subsurface. TCE is not expected to bind with soil particles or bioaccumulate. Since it is heavier than water and has a low solubility value, TCE is classified as a dense nonaqueous phase liquid, or DNAPL. This class of chemicals will tend to sink through the a water column (both surface and ground) until they encounter a barrier that is sufficiently impermeable to stop them. In soils they often will leave a residual in pore spaces where the capillary pressure is strong enough to keep them from flowing. Once stopped, they and any residual will become a dissolved phase source for a very long time. TCE has a relatively high Henry's Constant and will form a vapor plume in the vadose zone above a dissolved phase plume, which can be tracked using soil gas measurement techniques. TCE dissolved in surface water will evaporate with a half life of minutes to hours depending upon the water's energy.

Adapted from:

Handbook of Environmental Fate and Exposure Data for Organic Chemicals, Volume II Solvents
P. Howard. Lewis Publishers, 1991.

Adobe PDF LogoTCE Removal from Contaminated Soil and Ground Water: Ground Water Issue
H.H. Russell, J.E. Matthews, and G.W. Sewell. EPA 540-S-92-002, 1992.

Adobe PDF LogoBIOCHLOR: Chlorinated Solvent Plume Database Report
Aziz, C.E., A.P. Smith, C.J. Newell, J.R. Gonzales.
Air Force Center For Environmental Excellence (AFCEE), 78 pp, June 2000

This database of chlorinated solvent plume characteristics was compiled to identify key characteristics of parent and daughter chlorinated solvent plumes and to determine important relationships between plume characteristics and hydrogeologic and environmental variables. The results are intended to aid site managers by providing them with general plume length information, which they can use to estimate the likelihood of off-site migration and the potential effectiveness of natural attenuation for plume management.

Dense Chlorinated Solvents & Other DNAPLs in Groundwater: History, Behavior, and Remediation
J. Pankow and J. Cherry (eds.).
University of Waterloo Press, Waterloo, Ontario. ISBN: 0964801418, 522 pp, 1995.

Adobe PDF LogoDNAPL Site Evaluation
Cohen, R. and J. Mercer. 1993.
EPA 600/R-93/022. Office of Research and Development, U.S. EPA.

Adobe PDF LogoFate and Transport Modeling of Selected Chlorinated Organic Compounds at Hangar 1000, U.S. Naval Air Station, Jacksonville, Florida
U.S. Geological Survey, Water Resources Investigations Report 03-4089, 1999
Contact: J. Hal Davis,

Handbook of Environmental Fate and Exposure Data for Organic Chemicals, Volume II: Solvents
P. Howard.
Lewis Publishers, Chelsea, MI. ISBN: 0-87371-204-8, 546 pp, 1991.

Adobe PDF LogoHistorical Case Analysis of Chlorinated Volatile Organic Compound Plumes
Walt W. McNab, Jr., et al., Los Alamos National Lab.
UCRL-AR-133361, 40 pp, Mar 1999
Contact: Walt McNab,

This study of historical case data gathered from U.S. sites where ground water is contaminated by CVOCs uses a statistical perspective and data from multiple sites to evaluate the hydrogeologic, biogeochemical, and physiochemical factors affecting the extent and growth behavior of CVOC plumes in ground water.

Adobe PDF LogoIntermedia Transfer Factors for Contaminants Found at Hazardous Waste Sites: Trichloroethylene (TCE), Final Draft Report
Risk Science program, Dept. of Environmental Toxicology, Univ. of California, Davis.
Office of Scientific Affairs, Dept. of Toxic Substances Control and California Environmental Protection Agency. 33 pp, 1994.

Kinetics and Degradation Products of Trichloroethene
Gabriel Bitton, J.J. Delfino, P.V. Cline.
ESL-TR-85-70, NTIS: ADA171 872, 102 pp, 1986

Existing literature was reviewed to identify proposed or demonstrated instances of degradation of TCE by biological or abiotic mechanisms occurring in situ at TCE-contaminated sites.

Natural Attenuation of Chlorinated Solvent Ground-Water Plumes Discharging into Wetlands
Michelle M. Lorah, David R. Burris, and Linda Jo Dyer.
U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2004-5220, 203 pp, 2005.

This report describes a study to assess and compare the extent of natural attenuation of chlorinated solvents at the Aberdeen Proving Ground wetland site in Maryland to an inland forested bog in the Colliers Mills Wildlife Management Area near McGuire Air Force Base, NJ, and to demonstrate and compare different methods of sampling and analysis for collecting the site data needed to evaluate natural attenuation in wetlands.

Adobe PDF LogoTechnical Factsheet on: Trichloroethylene
U.S. EPA, Office of Water.

Adobe PDF LogoToxicological Profile for Trichloroethylene (TCE)
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, 2019

Adobe PDF LogoTrichloroethene Sorption to Wetland Soils and Lignitic Sediments from the Northern Gulf Coastal Plain
Fryar, A., C. Sweat, and J. Sachleben
Eleventh Annual V. M. Goldschmidt Conference, 2001.

Trichloroethylene Reduction Pathway Map
Mark Whittaker, David Monroe, Dong Jun Oh and Sean Anderson.
The University of Minnesota Biocatalysis/Biodegradation Database.