Pb-binding to various dissolved organic matter in urban aquatic systems: key role of the most hydrophilic fraction
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Dissolved organic matter (DOM) from the treated effluent of a wastewater treatment plant and from the river Seine under high human pressure has been separated into three fractions: hydrophobic (containing humic and fulvic substances), transphilic and hydrophilic using a two column array of XAD-8 and XAD-4 resins. The acid base properties and the binding characteristics with respect to Pb ions (using the new electroanalytical technique AGNES, Absence of Gradients and Nernstian Equilibrium Stripping) have been studied and fitted to NICA (Non-Ideal Competitive Isotherm). We evaluated the binding potential of each DOM fraction in order to better predict the speciation of Pb and, later, its bioavailability in the river. The total binding capacity of the different fractions to Pb, as well as the total titratable charge, reaches its maximum value at the most hydrophilic fraction from the treated effluent. Specific properties of the distribution of the complexing sites within each DOM fraction have been exposed by plotting the conditional affinity spectrum (CAS). The addition of these distributions, weighted according to the respective abundance of each organic fraction, allows for a full description of the Pb binding properties of the whole DOM of a sampling site. Despite its weak aromaticity, the hydrophilic fraction from the wastewater treatment plant effluent exhibits a high lead binding affinity, so that at typical environmental pH and free Pb levels (0.1 μg L−1), Pb is mainly bound to the most hydrophilic fraction of the treated effluent (49% of bound Pb at pH 7). This feature may greatly enhance the transport of Pb and highlights that Pb speciation should also consider other fractions apart from humic and/or fulvic acids when studying surface waters under high human pressure.