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Occurrence of swampy/septic odor and possible odorants in source and finished drinking water of major cities across China

Wang, Chunmiao, Yu, Jianwei, Guo, Qingyuan, Sun, Daolin, Su, Ming, An, Wei, Zhang, Yu, Yang, Min
Environmental pollution 2019 v.249 pp. 305-310
2-methylisoborneol, Cyanobacteria, algae, cities, dimethyl disulfide, drinking water, drinking water treatment, geosmin, lakes, odor compounds, odors, rivers, statistical analysis, water quality, water utilities, China
Swampy/septic odors are one of the most important odor types in drinking water. However, few studies have specifically focused on it compared to the extensive reported musty/earthy odor problems, even though the former is much more offensive. In this study, an investigation covering the odor characteristics, algal distribution and possible odorants contributing to swampy/septic odor, including dimethyl disulfide (DMDS), dimethyl trisulfide (DMTS), diisopropyl sulfide (DIPS), dipropyl sulfide (DPS), dibutyl sulfide (DBS), 2-methylisoborneol (2-MIB) and geosmin (GSM), was performed in source and finished water of 56 drinking water treatment plants (DWTPs) in 31 cities across China. While the musty/earthy and swampy/septic odors were dominant odor descriptors, the river source water exhibited a higher proportion of swampy/septic odor (38.5%) compared to much higher detection rate of musty/earthy odor (50.0%) in the lake/reservoir source water. The occurrence of swampy/septic odor, which was much easier to remove by conventional drinking water treatment processes compared to musty/earthy odors, was decreased by 62.9% and 46.3% in river and lake/reservoir source water respectively. Statistical analysis showed that thioethers might be responsible for the swampy/septic odor in source water (R2 = 0.75, p < 0.05). Specifically, two thioethers, DMDS and DMTS were detected, and other thioethers were not found in all water samples. DMDS was predominant with a maximum odor activity value (OAV) of 2.0 in source water and 1.3 in finished water. The distribution of the thioethers exhibited a marked regional characteristics with higher concentrations being detected in the east and south parts of China. The high concentrations of thioethers in lake/reservoir source water samples could be partly interpreted as the bloom of the cyanobacteria. This study provides basic information for swampy/septic odor occurrence in drinking water and will be helpful for further water quality management in water industry in China.