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Changes in Dissolved Organic Matter during the Treatment Processes of a Drinking Water Plant in Sweden and Formation of Previously Unknown Disinfection Byproducts

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journal contribution
posted on 04.11.2014, 00:00 by Michael Gonsior, Philippe Schmitt-Kopplin, Helena Stavklint, Susan D. Richardson, Norbert Hertkorn, David Bastviken
The changes in dissolved organic matter (DOM) throughout the treatment processes in a drinking water treatment plant in Sweden and the formation of disinfection byproducts (DBPs) were evaluated by using ultra-high-resolution mass spectrometry (resolution of ∼500000 at m/z 400) and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR). Mass spectrometric results revealed that flocculation induced substantial changes in the DOM and caused quantitative removal of DOM constituents that usually are associated with DBP formation. While half of the chromophoric DOM (CDOM) was removed by flocculation, ∼4–5 mg L–1 total organic carbon remained in the finished water. A conservative approach revealed the formation of ∼800 mass spectrometry ions with unambiguous molecular formula assignments that contained at least one halogen atom. These molecules likely represented new DBPs, which could not be prevented by the flocculation process. The most abundant m/z peaks, associated with formed DBPs, could be assigned to C5HO3Cl3, C5HO3Cl2Br, and C5HO3ClBr2 using isotope simulation patterns. Other halogen-containing formulas suggested the presence of halogenated polyphenolic and aromatic acid-type structures, which was supported by possible structures that matched the lower molecular mass range (maximum of 10 carbon atoms) of these DBPs. 1H NMR before and after disinfection revealed an ∼2% change in the overall 1H NMR signals supporting a significant change in the DOM caused by disinfection. This study underlines the fact that a large and increasing number of people are exposed to a very diverse pool of organohalogens through water, by both drinking and uptake through the skin upon contact. Nontarget analytical approaches are indispensable for revealing the magnitude of this exposure and to test alternative ways to reduce it.