We report the results of using the excitation–emission matrix (EEM) method combined with parallel factor analysis (PARAFAC) to investigate the characteristics and occurrence of dissolved organic matter (DOM) in an urban stream impacted by effluent from a wastewater treatment plant (WWTP). The PARAFAC model divides the bulk EEM spectra into six individual fluorescent components with three humic-like components (C1–C3), two protein-like components (C4 and C5) and a wastewater-derived component (C6). In general, intensities of fluorescent components are abundant in WWTP effluent impacted samples, thus showing that such an effluent is a major source of DOM in urban rivers, but C5 is considered to have autochthonous sources within the stream. In areas where the effluent is released, the fluorescent intensity from components (except C5) gradually decreases as these components are transported downstream. However, concentrations of dissolved organic carbon remain almost constant downstream of the release area. These results would be attributed to degradation and/or modification of fluorophore. Photolysis experiments confirmed that fluorescent intensities can decrease with increase of irradiation times. C6 particularly showed a rapid photodegradation, remaining only 24.1% after 48 h photolysis. These findings would be important when assessing DOM source and water quality in aquatic environments by EEM-PARAFAC.

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