Chloroform is a common groundwater pollutant but also a natural compound in forest ecosystems. Leaching of natural chloroform from forest soil to groundwater was followed by regular analysis of soil air and groundwater from multilevel wells at four different sites in Denmark for a period of up to 4 a. Significant seasonal variation in chloroform was observed in soil air 0.5 m below surface ranging at one site from 120 ppb by volume in summer to 20 ppb during winter. With depth, the seasonal variation diminished gradually, ranging from 30 ppb in summer to 20 ppb during winter, near the groundwater table. Chloroform in the shallowest groundwater ranged from 0.5–1.5 μg L−1 at one site to 2–5 μg L−1 at another site showing no clear correlation with season. Comparing changes in chloroform in soil air versus depth with on-site recorded meteorological data indicated that a clear relationship appears between rain events and leaching of chloroform. Chloroform in top soil air co-varied with CO2 given a delay of 3–4 weeks providing evidence for its biological origin. This was confirmed during laboratory incubation experiments which further located the fermentation layer as the most chloroform producing soil horizon. Sorption of chloroform to soils, examined using 14C–CHCl3, correlated with organic matter content, being high in the upper organic rich soils and low in the deeper more minerogenic soils. The marked decrease in chloroform in soil with depth may in part be due to microbial degradation which was shown to occur at all depths by laboratory tests using 14C–CHCl3.
- Programme Area 2: Water Resources