Molecular characterization of effluent organic matter identified by ultrahigh resolution mass spectrometry

Michael Gonsior, Matthew Zwartjes, William J. Cooper, Weihua Song, Kenneth P. Ishida, Linda Y. Tseng, Matthew K. Jeung, Diego Rosso, Norbert Hertkorn, Philippe Schmitt-Kopplin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

227 Scopus citations


Effluent dissolved organic matter (EfOM) collected from the secondary-treated wastewater of the Orange County Sanitation District (OCSD) located in Fountain Valley, California, USA was compared to natural organic matter collected from the Suwannee River (SRNOM), Florida using ultrahigh resolution electrospray ionization Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometry (FT-ICR-MS). Furthermore, the two different treatment processes at OCSD, activated sludge and trickling filter, were separately investigated. The blend of these two effluents was further evaluated after it had passed through the microfiltration process of the Advanced Water Purification Facility (AWPF) at Orange County Water District (OCWD). EfOM contained 872 different m/. z peaks that were unambiguously assigned to exact molecular formulae containing a single sulfur atom and carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms (CHOS formulae). In contrast, the SRNOM sample only contained 152 CHOS formulae. The trend in CHO molecular compositions was opposite with 2500 CHO formulae assigned for SRNOM but only about 1000 for EfOM. The CHOS-derived mass peaks with highest abundances in EfOM could be attributed to surfactants such as linear alkyl benzene sulfonates (LAS), their co-products dialkyl tetralin sulfonates (DATS) and their biodegraded metabolites such as sulfophenyl carboxylic acids (SPC). The differences between the treatments were found minor with greater differences between sampling dates than treatment methods used.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2943-2953
Number of pages11
JournalWater Research
Issue number9
StatePublished - Apr 2011


  • Dialkyl tetralin sulfonate
  • Effluent organic matter
  • Linear alkyl benzene sulfonate
  • Sulfophenyl carboxylic acid
  • Surfactants
  • Ultrahigh resolution mass spectrometry


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