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Detection of equimolar EDTA and DTPA in spiked wastewater effluents

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Ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA) and diethylenetriamine-pentaacetic acid (DTPA) are water ‘softening’ agents that are present in numerous household and industrial detergents. Since these particular chelating agents are not significantly degraded during conventional wastewater treatment processes, wastewater treatment plant (WTP) effluents can contain up to 19 µM of EDTA and 7 µM of DTPA. Little, however, is known about the release of EDTA and DTPA from WTPs to rivers. To gain insight, we here report on the development of a cost-effective analytical method. This method is based on the chromatography of a humic acid-cadmium (HA-Cd) complex on a size-exclusion chromatography column (SEC, Sephadex G-15) while using WTP effluents from Lethbridge, Banff and Canmore which contained 10 mM Tris-buffer as the mobile phase (pH 8.2). The intact HA-Cd complex is detected by means of a flame atomic absorption spectrometer (FAAS). The addition of equimolar EDTA and DTPA up to 10 µM allowed us to observe a concentration-dependent increase of the retention time of the main Cd-peak. This behaviour was qualitatively comparable between the WTP effluents and was rationalised by the EDTA/DTPA-mediated mobilisation of Cd from the HA-Cd complex. The signal intensity that corresponded to the mobilised Cd was used to establish calibration curves with corresponding correlation coefficients in the range of 0.950–0.978. Therefore, the developed method yields robust results for realistic concentrations of equimolar EDTA/DTPA in real WTP effluents. The developed method can now be applied to analyse real WTP effluent for the presence of chelating agents, whose concentrations may be expressed as being equivalent to a particular equimolar EDTA/DTPA concentration.
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Keywords: DTPA; EDTA; Water quality; chelating agents; pollution quantification; water-reuse

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Chemistry and BSc Environmental Science Program, University of Calgary, Calgary/AB, Canada

Publication date: May 3, 2019

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