The complementary techniques of solid-state 13G nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy and chemical degradation were utilized to examine the lignin/phenolic substructure of an isolated aquatic fulvic acid capable of producing upon aqueous chlorination a number of organohalides typically found in municipal drinking water. Results indicate that while phenolic moieties are present in the fulvic acid, they account for only a minor fraction of the total carbon. A sequential chemical degradation experiment utilizing aqueous chlorine and CuO demonstrated that the lignin/phenolic substructure was attacked by the chlorine. It is concluded that while phenolic ring rupture mechanisms appear to be important in organohalide generation, other aqueous chlorination mechanisms involving aliphatic and other types of aromatic structures should also be considered. ?? 1987 American Chemical Society.