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Dissolved organic carbon concentrations and compositions, and trihalomethane formation potentials in waters from agricultural peat soils, Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, California; implications for drinking-water quality

Water-Resources Investigations Report 98-4147

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Abstract

Water exported from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River delta (Delta) is an important drinking-water source for more than 20 million people in California. At times, this water contains elevated concentrations of dissolved organic carbon and bromide, and exceeds the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's maximum contaminant level for trihalomethanes of 0.100 milligrams per liter if chlorinated for drinking water. About 20 to 50 percent of the trihalomethane precursors to Delta waters originates from drainage water from peat soils on Delta islands. This report elucidates some of the factors and processes controlling and affecting the concentration and quality of dissolved organic carbon released from peat soils and relates the propensity of dissolved organic carbon to form trihalomethanes to its chemical composition.Soil water was sampled from near-surface, oxidized, well-decomposed peat soil (upper soil zone) and deeper, reduced, fibrous peat soil (lower soil zone) from one agricultural field in the west central Delta over 1 year. Concentrations of dissolved organic carbon in the upper soil zone were highly variable, with median concentrations ranging from 46.4 to 83.2 milligrams per liter. Concentrations of dissolved organic carbon in samples from the lower soil zone were much less variable and generally slightly higher than samples from the upper soil zone, with median concentrations ranging from 49.3 to 82.3 milligrams per liter. The dissolved organic carbon from the lower soil zone had significantly higher aromaticity (as measured by specific ultraviolet absorbance) and contained significantly greater amounts of aromatic humic substances (as measured by XAD resin fractionation and carbon-13 nuclear magnetic resonance analysis of XAD isolates) than the dissolved organic carbon from the upper soil zone. These results support the conclusion that more aromatic forms of dissolved organic carbon are produced under anaerobic conditions compared to aerobic conditions. Dissolved organic carbon concentration, trihalomethane formation potential, and ultraviolet absorbance were all highly correlated, showing that trihalomethane precursors increased with increasing dissolved organic carbon and ultraviolet absorbance for whole water samples. Contrary to the generally accepted conceptual model for trihalomethane formation that assumes that aromatic forms of carbon are primary precursors to trihalomethanes, results from this study indicate that dissolved organic carbon aromaticity appears unrelated to trihalomethane formation on a carbon-normalized basis. Thus, dissolved organic carbon aromaticity alone cannot fully explain or predict trihalomethane precursor content, and further investigation of aromatic and nonaromatic forms of carbon will be needed to better identify trihalomethane precursors.

Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Report
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Title:
Dissolved organic carbon concentrations and compositions, and trihalomethane formation potentials in waters from agricultural peat soils, Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, California; implications for drinking-water quality
Series title:
Water-Resources Investigations Report
Series number:
98-4147
Edition:
-
Year Published:
1998
Language:
ENGLISH
Publisher:
U.S. Dept. of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey ; Information Services [distributor],
Description:
vi, 75 p. :ill., maps ;28 cm.