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Algal production and trihalomethane formation potential: an experimental assessment and inter-river comparison

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Trihalomethanes (THMs) are byproducts produced during the disinfection of drinking water. We combined survey and experimental approaches to identify factors that influence THM formation potential (THMFP) in the Ohio River drainage basin. Two surveys of the Ohio River and its five principal tributaries were conducted to characterize spatial variation in THMFP in relation to algal abundance and suspended organic matter. We performed three experiments by placing Ohio River water in 2000-L outdoor mesocosms and manipulating algal senescence and bloom development by shading. Increases in THMFP among high- and low-light and dark tanks suggest that algal production, algal senescence, and possibly photolysis increased THMFP by as much as 50% over 3–6 days. Comparable yields of THMs (per unit of chlorophyll) were observed in both survey and experimental settings. Comparison of input waters with outputs indicates that the Ohio River at times acts to attenuate downstream transport of THM precursors. Our findings suggest that both watershed-scale and internal processes regulating THMFP should be considered as utilities develop strategies to meet new drinking water guidelines.

Les trihalométhanes (THMs) sont des produits secondaires générés durant la désinfection de l'eau potable. La combinaison d'inventaires et d'expériences nous a permis d'identifier les facteurs qui influencent le potentiel de formation de THM (THMFP) dans le bassin hydrographique de l'Ohio. Deux inventaires de l'Ohio et de ses cinq principaux tributaires ont servi à caractériser la variation spatiale du THMFP en fonction de l'abondance des algues et de la matière organique en suspension. Nos trois expériences consistaient à placer de l'eau de l'Ohio dans des mésocosmes extérieurs de 2000 L et à manipuler la sénescence et la prolifération des algues au moyen de l'ombrage. L'augmentation du THMFP dans les mésocosmes exposés à la lumière forte ou faible, ou gardés à l'obscurité, semble indiquer que la production d'algues, la sénescence des algues et peut-être aussi la photolyse augmentent le THMFP d'une valeur pouvant atteindre 50 % sur une période de 3–6 jours. Des quantités comparables de THM (par unité de chlorophylle) ont été observées dans les inventaires et dans les expériences. La comparaison des eaux à l'arrivée et à la sortie montre que l'Ohio peut quelquefois atténuer le transport vers l'aval des précurseurs des THM. Nos résultats indiquent que, lorsque les services publics mettront au point des stratégies pour se conformer aux nouvelles normes régissant l'eau potable, ils devront tenir compte tant des processus qui agissent à l'échelle du bassin hydrographique que de ceux qui fonctionnent au niveau interne dans la régulation du THMFP.[Traduit par la Rédaction]

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 2002

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  • Published continuously since 1901 (under various titles), this monthly journal is the primary publishing vehicle for the multidisciplinary field of aquatic sciences. It publishes perspectives (syntheses, critiques, and re-evaluations), discussions (comments and replies), articles, and rapid communications, relating to current research on cells, organisms, populations, ecosystems, or processes that affect aquatic systems. The journal seeks to amplify, modify, question, or redirect accumulated knowledge in the field of fisheries and aquatic science. Occasional supplements are dedicated to single topics or to proceedings of international symposia.
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