Contaminated land and groundwater remediation in military waste dumping sites often necessitates the use of simple, cost-effective, and rapid tests for detecting trinitrotoluene (TNT) residues in the field along with their dinitro-analogues. A simple, rapid, low-cost, and field-adaptable (on-site) colorimetric method was developed for quantifying TNT in the presence of RDX, PETN, picric acid, 2,4-DNT (dinitrotoluene), dinitrophenol, and dinitroaniline. Most commercialized methods for TNT assay-with the exception of Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory of the U.S. Army (CRREL) method-use proprietary chemicals, and the color stability and intensity are highly dependent on the composition of the organic solution comprised of acetone or methanol. The developed colorimetric method is based on the extraction of TNT from water-acetone solution into an organic solvent mixture of dicyclohexylamine (DCHA)-isobutyl methyl ketone (IBMK) (10: 1, v/v), filtration through a filter paper into a stoppered optical cell containing anhydrous sodium sulfate, and measurement of the absorbance of the organic extract at 531 nm after 5 min. The red-violet color of the extract was due to intermolecular charge-transfer (CT) between the electron attracting TNT and electron-donating DCHA, and the molar absorptivity for TNT in final organic solution was (1.16 +/- 0.02) x 10(4) L mol(-1) cm(-1).The R.S.D. of the slope of calibration line was 0.7%. The LOD of the method in the final organic phase was 0.38 mu M TNT, and LOD values expressed on the basis of original soil TNT content were 0.5, 1.3, and 1.5 ppm (mu g g(-1)) for clay, loamy clay, and sandy soils, respectively. Unlike other spectrophotometric methods, the developed assay was basically tolerant to common cations and anions found in soil and water at 100-fold weight ratios, and to soil humic acids. Among a number of compounds that may be encountered in polynitro-explosive storage and waste reclaimation sites such as picric acid, dinitrophenol, 2,4-dinitrotoluene. dinitroaniline, RDX, PETN, and tetryl, only tetryl interfered with the developed TNT assay. Water tolerance and exploitability over a wide pH range were other superiorities over the CRREL method. The CT-complex was relatively stable, as the absorbance of the organic extract was not significantly influenced from the dilution of the water-acetone phase. Aside from the extractive-photometric procedure established for aqueous solutions, a simulated field colorimetric assay for TNT directly applicable to soil was also devised. based on direct color development in a 4:1 (v/v) acetone-dicyclohexylamine organic extract of soil at a liquid-to-solid ratio of 5 mL g(-1). (c) 2004 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.