The effectiveness of water treatment processes in removing natural organic matter varies with the nature of the natural organic matter (NOM), its molecular size, polarity and charge density, and with properties of the raw water such as turbidity and hardness. In some cases conventional alum treatment is inefficient. We have compared NOM removals achieved by conventional and polymer-based processes in bench-scale treatment of reconstituted ground and surface waters of varying colour, made from NOM isolated from the same waters. NOM isolates were fractionated by adsorption on non-functionalised resins and an anion exchanger, and characterised by size exclusion chromatography. Jar tests with the isolated NOM compared coagulation with polyelectrolytes, alum, clays and metal oxides, with each of the inorganics being in conjunction with a polyelectrolyte.

Jar tests on reconstituted waters with alum and/or cationic polyelectrolyte show synergistic benefits from combinations of the two. The more hydrophobic NOM fractions were the most easily removed by polymer. The performance of cationic polymers improved significantly with increasing charge density and molecular weight. An alum/polymer combination is the most attractive treatment option.

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