Development of methods for the separation and characterization of natural organic matter in dam water.
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This project arose out the need for a simple method to analyse NOM on a routine basis. Water samples were obtained from the Vaal dam, which is one of the dams used by a hydroelectric power station. Analysis was preceded by separation of NOM into the humic and non-humic portions. The humic portion was separated into two fractions by employing a non-ionic resin (DAX-8) to separate humic acid from fulvic acid. High performance size exclusion chromatography (HPSEC), equipped with an Ultraviolet( UV) detector and an Evaporative Light Scattering (ELS) detector connected in series, was used to obtain molecular weight distribution information and the concentration levels of the two acids. Mixed standards of polyethylene oxide/glycol were employed to calibrate the selected column. Suwanee River humic acid standard was used as a certified reference material. The molecular weight distributions (MWDs) of the isolated fractions of humic and fulvic acids were determined with ELSD detection as weight-average (Mw), number-average (Mn) and polydispersity (ρ) of individual NOM fractions. The Mw/Mn ratio was found to be less than 1.5 in all the fractions, indicating that they have a low and narrow size fraction. An increase in Mn and Mw values, with increasing wavelength for all three humic substances (HS) examined was observed. The HS, isolated from the dam water, was found to be about the same molecular weight as the International Humic Acid Standard (IIHSS). For the fulvic acid standard, the molecular weight was estimated to be around 7500 Da. Characterization of NOM was done to assist in the identification of the species present in the water. FTIR-ATR was used to as a characterization tool to identify the functional groups in the structure of the humic and fulvic acid respectively present in the Vaal Dam. Analysis of the infrared (IR) spectra indicated that the humic acids of the Vaal dam have phenolic hydroxyl groups, hydroxyl groups, conjugated double bond of aromatic family (C=C), and free carboxyl groups. The isolation method has proved to be applicable and reliable for dam water samples and showed to successfully separate the humic substances from water and further separate the humic substances into its hydrophobic acids, namely, humic and fulvic acids. It can be concluded that the Eskom Vaal dam composes of humic substance which shows that the technique alone gives a very good indication of the characteristics of water. The HPSEC method used, equipped with UV and ELSD was able to identify the molecular weight range of NOM present in source water as it confirmed that the Eskom Vaal dam contains humic substances as humic acid and fulvic acid and these pose a health concern as they can form disinfectant byproducts in the course of water treatment with chemicals. FTIR characterization was successful as important functional groups were clearly assigned. Lastly, the use of the TOC and DOC values to calculate SUVA was also a good tool to indicate the organic content in water. It is recommended to use larger amounts of water must be processed to obtain useful quantities of the humic and fulvic acid fractions.