The Tai Hu (Tai Lake) is used as a raw water reservoir for approximately ten million inhabitants predominantly in Jiangsu province, China. Algal/cyanobacterial blooms occur frequently in the eutrophic shallow lake and present a challenge for drinking water treatment. Furthermore, occasionally taste and odor (T&O) problems have been reported in drinking water. Due to the impacts of wastewater and surface water runoff, pesticides and emerging pollutants such as pharmaceutical compounds must be considered as well.
In our study, a large spectrum of emerging pollutants was analyzed in the northern part of Tai Hu. In a Zhushan Bay wetland, emerging pollutants such as perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and the pharmaceuticals ibuprofen and diazepam were detected. Additionally, pesticides were present in the lake water in concentrations of 0.1–0.5 μg/L. The occurrence of antibiotic resistances at the microbial level was examined in water and sediment samples. In particular the antibiotic resistance genes sul1 and sul2, which encode for resistance against sulfonamide antibiotics, were detected in all samples. Furthermore, the tetracycline resistance gene tet(C) was detected frequently and tet(B) in 10% of the samples. Also, the genes blaTEM and ermB were detected in Tai Hu samples encoding for resistances against beta-lactams and macrolides, respectively.
The T&O problems observed in drinking water of the Tai Hu region could not be attributed to the algae burden T&O compounds such as geosmin or 2-MIB. This study demonstrates the effects on the water treatment process caused by high amounts of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) and dissolved organic nitrogen (DON). The elevated concentration of organic compounds in raw water results in a short life span of ozone during advanced treatment. In the disinfection process, the remaining nitrogen-containing organic compounds undergo subsequent reactions. In particular, amino acids might trigger the formation of chloramine-type T&O compounds. Amino acids were detected in raw water samples taken at the inlets of the Tai Hu water treatment plants and were shown to be present in fluctuating concentrations. Most probably, lysis of algae cells during drinking water treatment due to oxidation processes such as pre-ozonation results in the release of intracellular compounds and elevated aqueous phase concentrations of DOC and DON (containing proteins, peptides, and amino acids). In laboratory experiments, it was shown that algae could be removed effectively by ultrafiltration, thus proving to be a suitable pretreatment process while avoiding cell disruption and subsequent formation of T&O compounds.
Based on analysis of Tai Hu field samples and laboratory experiments, pilot-scale proof-of-concept studies were developed. Future studies will focus on online monitoring of drinking water treatment performance including the precursors of T&O compounds. Also, the removal of emerging chemical and microbiological pollutants will be emphasized in order to ensure high-quality drinking water.
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The support of this project by the “International Science and Technology Cooperation Program of China” (2016YFE0123700) on the Chinese side and by the project SIGN funded by the Client program of the German BMBF (02WCL1336) is gratefully acknowledged, and further information is available online at www.water-sign.de.
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