Sources and properties of natural organic matter (NOM) in water along the Dongjiang River (the Source of Hong Kong's drinking water) and toxicological assay of its chlorination by-products.Arch Environ Contam Toxicol. 2008 May; 54(4):597-605.AE
The Dongjiang River is the major source of the drinking water supply for Hong Kong and also other parts of the Pearl River Delta in China, and the deterioration in the water quality of this river and the excessive levels of trihalomethanes (THMs) in the tap water of some districts in Hong Kong have become a matter of public concern. The main objective of the present study is to investigate the distribution patterns of natural organic matter (NOM) and their association with THM production in the Dongjiang River. We examined the physicochemical and biological properties of the river water and the corresponding sediment elutriate collected from four sampling sites along the Dongjiang River from upstream to downstream and chlorination experiments were conducted. Algal bioassays were performed in order to test the chlorination effects. The results showed that: (1) upstream NOM was derived from terrestrial input, while that at mid- and downstream was most likely derived from phytoplankton; (2) phytoplankton is a major contributor to NOM in the sediments, whereas sediments seem to be the site for major microbial degradation of NOM, biogeochemical recycling of nutrients and a potential NOM pool for the overlaying water during sediment resuspension; (3) dissolved organic carbon (DOC) in surface water is a good indicator for THM production, whereas ultraviolet (UV) absorbance at 254 nm (UV(254)) is a better predictor for THM formation in the elutriates; (4) the bioassay results showed that toxic compounds other than THMs in the chlorinated water are the major factors causing algal growth inhibition.