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High-performance size exclusion chromatography with a multi-wavelength absorbance detector study on dissolved organic matter characterisation along a water distribution system

Huiping Huang , Emma Sawade , David Cook , Christopher W.K. Chow , Mary Drikas , Bo Jin


Received July 27, 2015,Revised December 08, 2015, Accepted December 10, 2015, Available online February 01, 2016

Volume 28,2016,Pages 235-243

This study examined the associations between dissolved organic matter (DOM) characteristics and potential nitrification occurrence in the presence of chloramine along a drinking water distribution system. High-performance size exclusion chromatography (HPSEC) coupled with a multiple wavelength detector (200–280 nm) was employed to characterise DOM by molecular weight distribution, bacterial activity was analysed using flow cytometry, and a package of simple analytical tools, such as dissolved organic carbon, absorbance at 254 nm, nitrate, nitrite, ammonia and total disinfectant residual were also applied and their applicability to indicate water quality changes in distribution systems were also evaluated. Results showed that multi-wavelength HPSEC analysis was useful to provide information about DOM character while changes in molecule weight profiles at wavelengths less than 230 nm were also able to be related to other water quality parameters. Correct selection of the UV wavelengths can be an important factor for providing appropriate indicators associated with different DOM compositions. DOM molecular weight in the range of 0.2–0.5 kDa measured at 210 nm correlated positively with oxidised nitrogen concentration (r = 0.99), and the concentrations of active bacterial cells in the distribution system (r = 0.85). Our study also showed that the changes of DOM character and bacterial cells were significant in those sampling points that had decreases in total disinfectant residual. HPSEC-UV measured at 210 nm and flow cytometry can detect the changes of low molecular weight of DOM and bacterial levels, respectively, when nitrification occurred within the chloraminated distribution system.

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