Dual-pre-column-based trace enrichment combined on-line with liquid chromatography-diode-array UV and tandem mass spectrometric detection was used to determine a wide polarity range of organic microcontaminants in river water. Various sorbents were studied for their extraction efficiency of (highly) polar and acidic compounds and their ability to selectively remove humic substances, which are normally co-extracted and interfere in the UV detection of polar microcontaminants. An optimised on-line dual-pre-column set-up with PLRP-S in the first pre-column and Hysphere-1 in the second pre-column was used to study the analytical performance of the procedure. Tandem MS was used for confirmation purposes and to quantify the organic microcontaminants in river water at the low-ng/l level. In addition, the influence of the type of sample (drinking and river water) on suppression of analyte responses in electrospray ionization MS was studied. Copyright (C) 2000 Elsevier Science B.V.