Gerstel: Intelligent Automation for GC/MS and LC.MS

Automated Solutions for Drinking Water Analysis

How one consumer facing water supplier went from waiting 2 Days to 2 Hours for MIB-Geosmin results.

Recently, there have been 12 separate news reports of people in cities around the United States complaining about the smell and taste of their drinking water as a result of the compounds MIB and Geosmin. In parts of South Carolina, humble citizens have resorted to giving their dogs bottled water as many dogs in the area resist drinking tap. Families in San Francisco and San Gabriel California assumed that there was a problem with the city's plumbing.  People in Florida complain that they can’t take showers due to the overwhelming odor of the water coming out of the shower head. In Hawaii, citizens are concerned that the most recent MIB/Geosmin bloom will negatively affect the taste of locally sourced fish. From Tempe to Los Angeles, Sacramento, and parts of Colorado – MIB/Geosmin is causing havoc to water suppliers and water testing facilities.


MIB (2-methylisoborneol) and Geosmin (trans-1, 10-dimethyl-trans-9-decalol) are caused from blue-green algae and actinomycetes that grow in surface water supplies and reservoirs.  These bacteria produce odorous chemicals inside their cells and when they die, they release MIB and Geosmin into the water along with an earthy and musty odor.  They are detectable by many people at concentrations of 5 to 10 parts per trillion and during an algae bloom, these chemicals can increase to levels above the detection threshold and cause taste and odor problems. These compounds are harmless to humans, and pose no health risk when water containing them is consumed or when people are exposed to their odor

Water with high levels of MIB and Geosmin can be treated by using granular activated carbon (GAC) filters, but water providers are still tasked with the issue of how to detect these compounds and remove them before they effect consumer facing water supplies. 

It’s become increasingly important for water providers to find less costly, and more time effective ways to prevent events that can cause a high number of consumer complaints.

Cary/APEX Municipal Water lab went from waiting 2 days to 2 hours to get their MIB Geosmin results on-site with a GERSTEL Water Analysis Platform. This quick detection time also decreased site costs of granular activated carbon filters due to the ability to accurately assess the amount of GAC carbon needed to neutralize the odorous compound the same day as the water comes into the facility.

GERSTEL Water Analysis Platforms helps water testing facilities rapidly reduce the cost and time spent on sample analysis while minimizing the need for samples to be sent to independent labs for testing. Aside from the traditional SPME method, GERSTEL Labs worldwide have developed 3 innovative methods to identify and quantitate MIB GEOSMIN levels in municipal water as part of the GERSTEL Water Analysis Platform.

Top 3 Automated Platforms to Detect MIB-Gesomin

1 - Analysis of Odor Compounds in Water by Stir Bar Sorptive Extraction (SBSE)

Stir Bar Sorptive Extraction (SBSE) is a solventless extraction procedure which can be used for trace level analysis of organic compounds in water. It is performed using a GERSTEL Twister® which is a PDMS coated stir bar. It is simply placed in a water sample, stirred, removed from the sample, dried and placed on the instrument for analysis by thermal desorption GC/MS.

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GERSTEL Twister extraction allows for single digit parts per trillion detection of MIB and Geosmin on a single quad MSD as well as simple and “green” extraction with no solvents, salts or other additives. Multiple samples can be processed simultaneously for increased throughput using the GERSTEL 20 stir plate. SIM data is used for quantification of MIB and Geosmin and full scan data can be used to identify other unknown contaminants.


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2 - A Fully Automated Liquid-Liquid Extraction for 2-Methylisoborneol and Geosmin in Water

Our partners at Anatune recently developed a completely automated solution, using the QuickMix and CF-200 centrifuge options which miniaturized and speeds up sample turnaround.


This work shows how extraction of MIB and Geosmin compounds can be miniaturized and automated using the Gerstel MPS. This can be accomplished whilst achieving the required limits of detection needed, allowing the sample preparation to be carried out robotically. It also ties in with other previously released APP notes AS168, AS170 and AS171 demonstrating how a system with the same set up can be used for multiple methods.


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3 - Determination of 2-Methylisoborneol, Geosmin and 2,4,6-Trichloroanisole in Drinking Water by Dynamic Headspace Coupled to Selectable 1D/2D GC-MS with Simultaneous Olfactory Detection.

A method for the determination of trace amounts of off-flavor compounds such as 2-methyl isoborneol (MIB), Geosmin and 2,4,6-trichloroanisole (TCA) in drinking water is described based on dynamic headspace coupled to selectable one dimensional or two-dimensional gas chromatography - mass spectrometry with simultaneous olfactory detection (DHS- 1D/2D GC-O/MS). Automated DHS using a Tenax TA packed tube as trap was performed on a 10 mL-sample containing 30 % NaCl at 80ºC, and followed by thermal desorption of the trap. Combining heart-cutting with fast temperature programming (100ºC/min) of the second column resulted in improvements in both separation and analyte limits of determination due to decreased background signal of the monitored mass ion and the increased analyte peak height. Compared to DHS-1D GC-O/MS analysis, signal-to-noise ratios (S/N) were improved by a factor of 12 for MIB, 9 for Geosmin, and 3 for TCA. The method showed good linearity AN/2011/01 - 2 over the concentration range from 1 to 100 ng/L with correlation coefficients (r2) greater than 0.9942. The limits of detection (LODs) for these compounds ranged from 0.15 to 0.22 ng/L. Simultaneous olfactory- and MS detection was successfully performed for the lowest level sample spiked at 1 ng/L.


The determination of off-flavor compounds such as MIB, geosmin and TCA in drinking water using the DHS technique followed by selectable 1D/2D GCO/MS was described. The proposed DHS method can provide many practical advantages: It is fully automated; no solvent is required for the extraction; only a small sample volume (10 mL) is needed; and it provides both high sensitivity and high selectivity. The LODs at sub-ng/L level are comparable to those of other solvent free and miniaturized methods like SPME and SBSE. The DHS approach, however, covers a broader analyte polarity range. In addition, the 2D GC separation can eliminate false positives and results in more reliable quantification. Moreover, simultaneous olfactory and MS detection is possible providing additional confirmation of the identity of the detected compound.

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The GERSTEL Water Analysis Platform can also can be used to monitor water samples for other unknowns and more hazardous organic compounds in water with a simple pre-programmed method switch in the GERSTEL Maestro Software.

New Automated Advancements in Taste and Odor Measurements for Drinking Water

To learn more about the GERSTEL Water Analysis Platform, as well as some of the innovation taking place in the Water Analysis community – click the link below to view our webinar New Automated Advancements in Taste and Odor Measurements for Drinking Water.

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New Automated Advancements in Taste and Odor Measurements for Drinking Water is presented by GERSTEL and Jeff Stubbs of Anatune. Before joining Anatune, Jeff worked for Northumbrian Water and gained eight years of experience in the analytical laboratory. At the beginning of 2014 Jeff became Anatune’s UK and Ireland Water Industry and Environmental Market Specialist. From previously working in this sector, Jeff has an understanding of how these laboratories work, along with the problems and issues they face. By collaborating with customers, the whole Anatune team and of course, key staff from suppliers, Jeff and Anatune are able to devise full solutions that solve these problems, and make a big difference to the people who work in this area.

This webinar focuses on:

  • New extraction techniques that helped a Water Testing Lab go from waiting 2 Days to 2 Hours for MIB-GEOSMIN testing results.
  • Easy to use automated analytical methods and instrumentation for taste and odor measurements of drinking water.
  • How to detect MIB-GEOSMIN below the taste/odor threshold. How to identify chemistry causing off-odors and off-flavors. 

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GERSTEL Water Analysis Platform

GERSTEL Automated Water Analysis Platforms not only detect MIB and Geosmin BELOW the taste/odor threshold allowing suppliers to prevent customer complaints, but also acts as a General Scan System (GSS) that detects unknowns in water samples - providing dual use and additional margins for safety.

To learn more about the GERSTEL Water Analysis Platform and request a live demonstration - click the box below.

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