Issue 5, 2019

Waterworks-specific composition of drinking water disinfection by-products


Reactions between chemical disinfectants and natural organic matter (NOM) upon drinking water treatment result in formation of potentially harmful disinfection by-products (DBPs). The diversity of DBPs formed is high and a large portion remains unknown. Previous studies have shown that non-volatile DBPs are important, as much of the total toxicity from DBPs has been related to this fraction. To further understand the composition and variation of DBPs associated with this fraction, non-target analysis with ultrahigh resolution Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometry (FT-ICR MS) was employed to detect DBPs at four Swedish waterworks using different types of raw water and treatments. Samples were collected five times covering a full year. A common group of DBPs formed at all four waterworks was detected, suggesting a similar pool of DBP precursors in all raw waters that might be related to phenolic moieties. However, the largest proportion (64–92%) of the assigned chlorinated and brominated molecular formulae were unique, i.e. were solely found in one of the four waterworks. In contrast, the compositional variations of NOM in the raw waters and samples collected prior to chemical disinfection were rather limited. This indicated that waterworks-specific DBPs presumably originated from matrix effects at the point of disinfection, primarily explained by differences in bromide levels, disinfectants (chlorine versus chloramine) and different relative abundances of isomers among the NOM compositions studied. The large variation of observed DBPs in the toxicologically relevant non-volatile fraction indicates that non-targeted monitoring strategies might be valuable to ensure relevant DBP monitoring in the future.

Graphical abstract: Waterworks-specific composition of drinking water disinfection by-products

Supplementary files

Article information

Article type
11 Jan 2019
22 Mar 2019
First published
04 Apr 2019
This article is Open Access
Creative Commons BY license

Environ. Sci.: Water Res. Technol., 2019,5, 861-872

Waterworks-specific composition of drinking water disinfection by-products

A. Andersson, M. Harir, M. Gonsior, N. Hertkorn, P. Schmitt-Kopplin, H. Kylin, S. Karlsson, M. J. Ashiq, E. Lavonen, K. Nilsson, Ä. Pettersson, H. Stavklint and D. Bastviken, Environ. Sci.: Water Res. Technol., 2019, 5, 861 DOI: 10.1039/C9EW00034H

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