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Fields & Applications Environmental, Gas Chromatography, Liquid Chromatography, Mass Spectrometry

Testing the Water

When leaves fall into rivers and lakes, they get broken down by insects and microscopic organisms into matter that dissolves in the water. The resulting organic cocktail is mostly humic acid (up to 70 percent) - plus fulvic acid and pieces of dead bacteria and proteins from different living organisms. The water from the rivers and lakes enters your local drinking water plant and is disinfected to kill any harmful pathogens and make it microbially safe to drink. However, the organic matter in the water reacts with these disinfectants to form disinfection by-products (DBPs).

DBPs are diverse in nature. For example, coastline cities may have intrusion of sea water into freshwater supplies, which introduces sodium chloride, sodium bromide and sodium iodide into DBP formation (brominated and iodinated compounds are typically more toxic than those with only chlorine). DBPs are also effected by anthropogenic (man-made) contaminants, which are typically introduced from (inadequately) treated wastewater.

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About the Author

Susan Richardson

Arthur Sease Williams Professor of Chemistry at the University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina, USA.

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