Original Research

Disinfection by-products and extractable organic compounds in South African tap water

Carien Nothnagel, Karsten Kotte, J J (Kobus) Pienaar, P G (Pieter) van Zyl, J P (Paul) Beukes
The Journal for Transdisciplinary Research in Southern Africa | Vol 4, No 1 | a170 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/td.v4i1.170 | © 2008 Carien Nothnagel, Karsten Kotte, J J (Kobus) Pienaar, P G (Pieter) van Zyl, J P (Paul) Beukes | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 07 March 2016 | Published: 11 April 2008

About the author(s)

Carien Nothnagel, North-West University’s Potchefstroom campus, South Africa
Karsten Kotte,
J J (Kobus) Pienaar, Atmospheric Chemistry Research Group in the School of Physical and Chemical Sciences at North-West University’s Potchefsrteroom campus
P G (Pieter) van Zyl,
J P (Paul) Beukes,

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An important step in urban purification of drinking water is disinfection by e.g. chlorination where potential pathogenic micro-organisms in the water supply are killed. The presence of organic material in natural water leads to the formation of organic by- products during disinfection. Over 500 of these disinfection by-products (DBPs) have been identified and many more are estimated to form during the disinfection step. Several DBPs such as trihalomethanes (THMs), which is carcinogenic, poses serious health risks to the community. There is very few quantitative data available which realizes the actual levels of these compounds present in drinking water. The levels of four THMs present in drinking water were measured. It included chloroform, bromodichloromethane, chlorodibromomethane and bromoform. Although microbiological parameters are considered to get more attention than disinfection by-products, the measurement of the levels of these compounds in South-African drinking water is essential together with establishing minimum acceptable concentration levels. The target range for total trihalomethanes (TTHMs) established by the US EPA at the end of 2003 is 0-0.08ug/mL. The aim of this paper is to create an awareness of the problem as well as presenting preliminary results obtained with the method of analysis. Preliminary results indicate that urgent attention must be given to the regulation and monitoring of DBPs in South African drinking water.


drinking water; taps; South African municipal areas; disinfection by-products DBP); organic compounds (OC); trihalomethanes; chloroform; bromodichloromethane; chlorodibromomethane and bromoform.


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