Removal of natural organic matter and trihalomethane formation potential in a full-scale drinking water treatment plant

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A multidisciplinary approach was applied in this work to characterise natural organic matter and evaluate the performance of a full-scale waterworks treating organic-rich surface water. It was shown that the combination of the treatment processes considered efficiently removed the dissolved organic matter, including its specific fractions. Most of the dissolved organic carbon and nitrogen (DOC and DON), biodegradable DOC and DON, as well as assimilable organic carbon were removed by coagulation/sedimentation. However, the coagulation process was not likely to be optimised for the removal of all molecular weight compounds. The breakdown of high molecular weight compounds into others of low molecular weight, as well as the production of biodegradable organic matter during ozonation, proved to enhance their removal efficiency by subsequent biological activated carbon filtration. The specific trihalomethane formation potential decreased during treatment, indicating a decrease in reactivity of DOC with chlorine across the treatment train. Fractionation experiments demonstrated that high and medium molecular weight organics were likely to be the main precursors for the formation of trihalomethanes. However, other disinfection by-products (such as haloacetic acids) should also be controlled, as the chlorine demand pattern did not necessarily follow that of trihalomethane formation.

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