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Dissolved Organic Carbon (DOC) in natural water systems has been changing in certain regions for the past three decades, which may be attributed to several factors, including global climate change and land use change.
The substance, a product of the natural breakdown of plants and animals, is made up of many different chemical substances, some of which may contain phenolic compounds, which can produce potentially harmful chemicals when combined with chlorine at drinking water treatment facilities.
Using a novel multidimensional fluorescent spectroscopy technique, Todd Pagano, associate professor and director of the laboratory science technology program at NTID, and Christy Tyler, assistant professor in the School of Life Sciences, are analyzing DOC dynamics in natural watersheds within the Finger Lakes region to identify sources and composition of DOC.
The research involves using chemometric techniques in the analysis of many water samples to assess the characteristics of the DOC and its phenolic content. In addition, they are studying the use of aquatic plants to serve as a bioremediation tool to remove phenolic DOC compounds from the water prior to treatment. This will reduce the potential formation of harmful disinfection by-products at drinking water facilities.
"This work allows us to make observations of a potential consequence of climate change from a different perspective—by looking, at a molecular level, at how the characteristics of DOC varies across regions and over time," says Pagano.
"We hope to both advance our understanding of dissolved organic matter's role in fresh water systems and develop potential biological solutions to the problem," adds Tyler.
The research team also includes Morgan Bida, a master's student in environmental science, and Ryan Spector and James Macisco, students in the laboratory science technology program at NTID. The group presented initial findings at the 2011 Finger Lakes Research Conference, sponsored by the Finger Lakes Institute, and at the 2011 National Meeting of the American Chemical Society.