Title page for ETD etd-10092010-145042

Document Type Doctoral Thesis
Author Ncube, Esper Jacobeth
Email encube@randwater.co.za
URN etd-10092010-145042
Document Title Selection and prioritization of organic contaminants for monitoring in the drinking water value chain
Degree PhD
Department Health Systems and Public Health
Advisor Name Title
Prof H du Preez Co-Supervisor
Prof K Voyi Supervisor
  • screening
  • drinking water value chain
  • adverse human health effects
  • selection and prioritization
  • organic contaminants
  • pool of contaminants
  • protocol
Date 2010-09-02
Availability unrestricted
The occurrence of organic contaminants in the drinking water value chain (from source to tap) is a growing concern for the Drinking Water industry and its consumers given the high risk these contaminants can cause to the general public. These adverse health effects include such as endocrine disruption, toxicity teratogenicity, mutagenicity and carcinogenicity. Some of these organic contaminants are included in national and international drinking water quality guidelines or standards. However, although there are similarities in the list of organic contaminants used by each organization or country, the organic contaminants are never the same given the local conditions. There are also noticeable differences in the concentration limits set as targets or criteria for organic contaminants for public health protection via the use of drinking water. A further question requiring the response from drinking water regulators was whether the standards listed in the international literature would be applicable in other countries like South Africa. Complicating this decision is the fact that the South African National Drinking Water Standard (SANS 241) does not adequately address this component of drinking water quality management. The current standard only provides for dissolved organic carbon (DOC), total trihalomethanes (TTHMs) and phenols. However, the standard contains a statement which specifies that if there is a known organic contaminant, that may pose a health threat, it should be included in the monitoring programme and evaluated against World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines. To safeguard Drinking Water industry customers, it was deemed necessary to investigate this matter and establish a tool to assist with the identification of a list of organic contaminants to be monitored in the drinking water value chain.

To achieve this a specific procedure/protocol needed to be developed, hence the aim of this study which was to develop a generic protocol for the selection and prioritization of organic contaminants for monitoring in the drinking water value chain (from source to tap). To achieve this, a critical evaluation and synthesis of the available literature on the approaches for the selection and prioritization of organic variables of priority to the drinking water industry was undertaken as a first step. From the literature review it was evident that there are currently many selection and prioritization approaches which are characterized mainly by the purpose for which the exercise has been conducted for. Approaches that prioritize chemicals according to their importance as environmental contaminants have been developed by government agencies and private industries such as the Health Canada’s Canadian Environmental Protection Agency (CEPA), the United Kingdom’s Institute for Environmental Health (IEH), the European Community’s Oslo and Paris (OSPAR) convention exercise for the protection of the Northeast Atlantic marine environment and the European Union (EU)’s combined monitoring based and modelling based priority setting scheme (EU-COMMPs). A few approaches such as ones published by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), address the needs of the Drinking Water industry and there is no generic approach to the selection, prioritization and monitoring of organic contaminants in the drinking water value chain.

From the review of selection and prioritization approaches, a generic model was developed. The model consists of three main steps, the compilation of a “pool of organic contaminants, the selection of relevant parameters and criteria to screen organic contaminants and finally the application of criteria to select priority organic contaminants. It was however realized that these steps were not enough if the protocol to be develop will serve its purpose. Selection and prioritization approaches are typically intended to be fairly simple and quick methods for determining the health and environmental hazards posed by the use and release of chemical substances into different environmental systems. This was taken into account during the development of the current protocol. Understanding that a protocol is a predefined written procedural method in the design and implementation of tasks and that these protocols are written whenever it is desirable to standardize a method or procedure to ensure successful reproducibility in a similar set up, a generic protocol was developed based on the model. The protocol developed in this study, operates as a multidisciplinary contaminants management and proactive protocol, thus exchanges toxicological, water quality, agricultural, chemical and public health information. The protocol uses previous or readily available information as a point of departure. It seeks to address the challenge facing the water industry in managing the current and emerging organic contaminants that are relevant to public health protection via the use of drinking water.

Once the protocol was developed, it was validated in a prototype drinking water value chain. The exercise comprised of testing each step of the protocol from the selection of the “pool of organic contaminants (Step I) to recommending the final priority list of organic contaminants (Step VII). The implementation was successfully conducted in the Rand Water drinking water value chain. Emphasis of expert judgment was made as each step was validated and the opinion of key stakeholders used to shape the process. During Step III of the protocol, an intensive literature review was conducted to determine organic contaminants that have been identified in ground and surface water systems across the world. As a result of this review, major groups of organic contaminants that have been found to occur in source water resources across the world were identified. The identified groups of organic contaminants include, pesticides, polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons, per and polyfluoroorganic compounds, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, alkanes and alkenes, C10-C13 Chloroalkanes, pharmaceuticals and personal care products [PPCPs], surfactants, benzotriazoles, cyanotoxins and Carbon-based engineered nanoparticles. The risk profile of the identified organic contaminants was established using the persistence, bio-accumulation and toxicity criteria and the development of water quality monographs as an information dissemination tool. A conceptual framework for the implementation of the protocol by water utilities and relevant institutions has been developed from the experiences learnt during the validation exercise and a priority list of organic contaminants for the monitoring in the drinking water value chain to be used by Rand Water and other water utilities was identified. Some of the organic contaminants on this are currently being analyzed for in The Rand Water’s routine organic monitoring programme.

During the validation exercise, the following were noted,

  • During the identification of the “pool of organic contaminants” from the consulted information sources such as the WHO guidelines for drinking water quality, Health Canada drinking water quality guidelines, the USEPA drinking water quality standards, the New Zealand drinking water quality standards, USEPA IRIS database, the PAN-UK list of registered pesticides for South Africa, the IARC list for recognized carcinogens and the Department of Agriculture pesticides manuals duplications were observed.
  • The time allocated could not allow for the development of water quality monographs for all organic contaminants of concern but for a few selected contaminants whose information was inadequate to allow for decision-making.
  • The determination of concentration levels of organic contaminants in fish, sediment and water samples could have been limited by the failure of current analytical instruments to go down to lower levels at which they occur in the drinking water value chain.
  • Only two events could be planned, during the wet season (high flow) and dry season (low flow) based on time and budget constraints.
  • Although various experts were consulted and invited to attend workshops in order to validate the process, the attendance could not be extended to all nine provinces given the time and budget constraints.

Based on the above, recommendations were made for the dissemination and use of the products emanating from this study. For example, it is recommended that the current protocol be made available to water utilities and the process of revising the current priority list be repeated every 5 years. Further research should be conducted to obtain full coverage of organic contaminants impacting on source water quality in all ground water and surface water systems used as sources for drinking water production. Another major recommendation is the investigation of potential analytical methods that current chromatographic methods with high resolution mass spectrometry to ensure that organic contaminants can be detected at the ng/l to pg/l using a single enrichment method in order to make sure that those organic contaminants that occur at very low concentration in environmental samples can be detected. For example, the realisation that compounds such as synthetic organic polymer residues, emerging disinfectant by-products, detergent metabolites, chlorinated benzenes, alkyl phenol, polyethoxylates, their metabolites and cyanotoxins are continuously discharged into the environment via wastewater and industrial effluent discharges which increases their concentration in aquatic environment and concomitantly their potential to exert adverse health effects in water used as source for the production of drinking water necessitates that each of these groups be added to the current monitoring programme. The current water quality monographs can be used for the benefit of the Drinking Water industry. It is also recommended that a training manual on the production and use of water quality monographs is produced to facilitate their dissemination. CD-ROMs on the water quality monographs can be produced and distributed with the manual.

© 2009 University of Pretoria. All rights reserved. The copyright in this work vests in the University of Pretoria. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission of the University of Pretoria.

Please cite as follows:

Ncube, EJ 2009, Selection and prioritization of organic contaminants for monitoring in the drinking water value chain, PhD thesis, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, viewed yymmdd < http://upetd.up.ac.za/thesis/available/etd-10092010-145042 / >


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