The changing contaminant pattern with travelled distance was investigated in the anaerobic groundwater plume downstream from an extended zone containing residual NAPL at a former gas manufacturing plant. With increasing distance, O- and N-heterocyclic aromatic compounds are enriched in the plume relative to the usually assessed coal tar constituents (poly- and monocyclic aromatic compounds). In a first approximation, the overall concentration decrease of the investigated compounds follows a first order overall decay. The half life distance in the plume downgradient from the source varied between 20 m for benzene and up to 167-303 m for alkyl-naphthalenes. Acenaphthene is degraded only within about 50 m downstream from the source area, then its concentration remains constant (ca. 180 microg/l) and far above the legal limit. Dimethyl-benzofurans were the most recalcitrant among all compounds which could be quantified with the analytical method available. The overall groundwater contamination in the plume is seriously underestimated if only BTEX and 16-EPA-PAHs are monitored.