Disinfection byproduct precursor dynamics and water treatability during an extreme flooding event in a coastal blackwater river in southeastern United States

Ruecker A., Uzun H., Karanfil T., Tsui M., Chow A.

Chemosphere, vol.188, pp.90-98, 2017 (SCI-Expanded) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 188
  • Publication Date: 2017
  • Doi Number: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2017.08.122
  • Journal Name: Chemosphere
  • Journal Indexes: Science Citation Index Expanded (SCI-EXPANDED), Scopus
  • Page Numbers: pp.90-98
  • Keywords: Disinfection byproducts, DOM properties, Major flooding, Mercury, Water quality
  • Istanbul Technical University Affiliated: No


Coastal blackwater rivers, characterized by high concentrations of natural organic matter, are source water for millions of people in the southeastern US. In October 2015, large areas of coastal South Carolina were flooded by Hurricane Joaquin. This so-called “thousand-year” rainfall mobilized and flushed large amounts of terrestrial organic matter and associated pollutants (e.g. mercury) into source water, affecting water quality and safety of municipal water supply. To understand the dynamics of water quality and water treatability during this extreme flood, water samples were collected from Waccamaw River (a typical blackwater river in the southeastern US) during rising limb, peak discharge, falling limb, and base flow. Despite decreasing water flow after peak discharge, dissolved organic carbon (DOC) levels (increased by up to 125%), and formation potentials of trihalomethanes and haloacetic acids (increased by up to 150%) remained high for an extended period of time (>eight weeks after peak discharge), while variation in the N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA) FP was negligible. Coagulation with alum and ferric at optimal dosage significantly reduced concentrations of DOC by 51–76%, but up to 10 mg/L of DOC still remained in treated waters. For an extended period of time, elevated levels of THMs (71–448 μg/L) and HAAs (88–406 μg/L) were quantified in laboratory chlorination experiments under uniform formation conditions (UFC), exceeding the United States Environmental Protection Agency's (USEPA) maximum contaminant level of 80 and 60 μg/L, respectively. Results demonstrated that populations in coastal cities are at high risk with disinfection by-products (DBPs) under the changing climate.