Since the publications of Rook and Bellar & Lichtenberg in the early 70s we’ve been acutely aware of the presence of organic disinfection byproducts (DBPs) in finished drinking waters. It is now well accepted that these compounds are associated with bladder cancer and other adverse health effects in the public. For the past 30 years, the research community has been studying methods for control of DBPs and implementing changes in water treatment, all aimed at reducing the concentration of regulated compounds; trihalomethane (THM) and haloacetic acid (HAA). However, recent insights into the nature and toxicology of the other, unregulated, DBPs has led us to the conclusion that we should pay much greater attention to these compounds. In addition, new data on impacts of home water heating shows that DBP concentrations at the point of human exposure can be very different from the monitored concentrations in the distribution system.
Research at UMass has focused on the occurrence of non-regulated DBPs such as halonitriles, halopropanones, haloamides, halobenzoquinones as well as related parameters such as TOX. We are currently working with a dozen utilities across the US, representing a wide range of disinfection scenarios and raw water qualities. Our objective is to characterize the range of concentrations, degradation rates, ultimately leading to a better understanding of the impacts of treatment, distribution system characteristics and raw water quality and the public’s exposure to non-regulated DBPs. As part of this work we are also exploring the changes in formation rate and degradation that occurs in home water heaters.