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Improved biostability assessment of drinking water with a suite of test methods at a water supply treating eutrophic lake water

van der Kooij, Dick, Martijn, Bram, Schaap, Peter G., Hoogenboezem, Wim, Veenendaal, Harm R., van der Wielen, Paul W.J.J.
Water research 2015 v.87 pp. 347-355
Flavobacterium johnsoniae, activated carbon, adenosine triphosphate, biodegradability, biofilm, biofouling, biomass production, biopolymers, byproducts, carbohydrates, coliform bacteria, disinfectants, drinking water, eutrophication, filtration, lakes, microbial growth, particulate organic carbon, plate count, regrowth, sediments, surface water, water supply
Assessment of drinking-water biostability is generally based on measuring bacterial growth in short-term batch tests. However, microbial growth in the distribution system is affected by multiple interactions between water, biofilms and sediments. Therefore a diversity of test methods was applied to characterize the biostability of drinking water distributed without disinfectant residual at a surface-water supply. This drinking water complied with the standards for the heterotrophic plate count and coliforms, but aeromonads periodically exceeded the regulatory limit (1000 CFU 100 mL−1). Compounds promoting growth of the biopolymer-utilizing Flavobacterium johnsoniae strain A3 accounted for c. 21% of the easily assimilable organic carbon (AOC) concentration (17 ± 2 μg C L−1) determined by growth of pure cultures in the water after granular activated-carbon filtration (GACF). Growth of the indigenous bacteria measured as adenosine tri-phosphate in water samples incubated at 25 °C confirmed the low AOC in the GACF but revealed the presence of compounds promoting growth after more than one week of incubation. Furthermore, the concentration of particulate organic carbon in the GACF (83 ± 42 μg C L−1, including 65% carbohydrates) exceeded the AOC concentration. The increased biomass accumulation rate in the continuous biofouling monitor (CBM) at the distribution system reservoir demonstrated the presence of easily biodegradable by-products related to ClO2 dosage to the GACF and in the CBM at 42 km from the treatment plant an iron-associated biomass accumulation was observed. The various methods applied thus distinguished between easily assimilable compounds, biopolymers, slowly biodegradable compounds and biomass-accumulation potential, providing an improved assessment of the biostability of the water. Regrowth of aeromonads may be related to biomass-turnover processes in the distribution system, but establishment of quantitative relationships is needed for confirmation.