Molecular characterisation of the dissolved organic matter of wastewater effluents by MSSV pyrolysis GC-MS and search for source markers

P. F. Greenwood, L. J. Berwick, J. P. Croué

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    Microscale sealed vessel pyrolysis (MSSVpy) was used to characterise the hydrophobic (HPO) and colloid (COL) fractions of dissolved organic matter (DOM) from the effluents (EFFs) of two waste water treatment plants (WWTPs) and several primary source waters (SWs). The EFFs showed a large range of anthropogenically sourced organics - including the metabolites of industrial chemicals (e.g., dioxanes, n- and sec-alkyl substituted benzenes and long chain alkyl phenols), pharmaceuticals (e.g., N- and S-heterocycles) and human waste (e.g., S- and N-organics, steranes/sterenes) - as well as high concentrations of alkyl aromatic and N-organic products (e.g., alkyl indoles, carbazoles and β-carbolines) attributed to the treatment biota. Some anthropogenic chemicals are potentially toxic at even trace levels, whilst the N-organics may be precursors for toxic N-disinfection by-products. Much lower concentrations of just a few of the anthropogenic and N-organic products were detected by more traditional flash pyrolysis (Flash-py) of the EFF samples, reflecting the higher sensitivity of MSSVpy to many chemical functionalities. Few of these products were detected in the corresponding MSSVpy analysis of the SWs, but these samples did show relatively high abundances of lignin (e.g., alkylphenols) and carbohydrate (e.g., furans) derived products. Their lower EFF abundances are consistent with efficient removal by the water treatment procedures applied. Conversely, the detection of the anthropogenics in the treated EFFs reflects their general resistance to treatment. Their occurrence in the HPO fractions isolated by XAD resin separation suggests a potential relationship with the structurally stable macromolecular fraction of the DOM.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)504-512
    Number of pages9
    Issue number5
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2012


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