Quantification and characterization of dissolved organic nitrogen in wastewater effluents by electrodialysis treatment followed by size-exclusion chromatography with nitrogen detection
Dissolved organic nitrogen (DON) can act as a precursor of nitrogenous disinfection byproducts during oxidative water treatment. Quantification and characterization of DON are still challenging for waters with high concentrations of dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN, including ammonia, nitrate and nitrite) relative to total dissolved nitrogen (TDN) due to the cumulative analytical errors of independently measured nitrogen species (i.e., DON = TDN - NO2- - NO3- - NH4+/NH3) and interference of DIN species to TDN quantification. In this study, a novel electrodialysis (ED)-based treatment for selective DIN removal was developed and optimized with respect to type of ion-exchange membrane, sample pH, and ED duration. The optimized ED method was then coupled with size-exclusion chromatography with organic carbon, UV, and nitrogen detection (SEC-OCD-ND) for advanced DON analysis in wastewater effluents. Among the tested ion-exchange membranes, the PC-AR anion- and CMT cation-exchange membranes showed the lowest DOC loss (1-7%) during ED treatment of a wastewater effluent at ambient pH (8.0). A good correlation was found between the decrease of the DIN/TDN ratio and conductivity. Therefore, conductivity has been adopted as a convenient way to determine the optimal duration of the ED treatment. In the pH range of 7.0-8.3, ED treatment of various wastewater effluents with the PC-AR/CMT membranes showed that the relative residual conductivity could be reduced to less than 0.50 (DIN removal >90%; DIN/TDN ratio <= 0.60) with lower DOC losses (6%) than the previous dialysis and nanofiltration methods (DOC loss >10%). In addition, the ED method is shorter (0.5 h) than the previous methods (>1-24 h). The relative residual conductivity was further reduced to similar to 0.20 (DIN removal >95%; DIN/TDN ratio <= 0.35) by increasing the ED duration to 0.7 h (DOC loss = 8%) for analysis by SEC-OCD-ND, which provided new information on distribution and ratio of organic carbon and nitrogen in different molecular weight fractions of effluent organic matter. (C) 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.