Direct discharge of untreated sewage to surface waters is a common practice in many parts of the world. However, relatively little is known about the behaviour of synthetic organic pollutants under these conditions. This paper describes a sampling campaign designed to track changes in water quality in a surface water system in Vientiane (Lao PDR) receiving significant quantities of untreated waste water. The study was based on following in-channel transport using a fluorescent tracer injected as a pulse, with a focus on the anionic surfactant linear alkylbenzene sulphonate (LAS) and ammonia. Water samples were collected at a number of stations with sampling times estimated to coincide with solute time-of-travel. The reduction in LAS concentration with flow-time could be approximated by first-order kinetics with a half life of about 7 h. Free ammonia concentrations decreased more slowly than LAS and remained above the level believed to be toxic for sensitive aquatic species along the entire channel. Changes in the ratios of LAS alkyl chain homologues to total LAS concentrations suggest a preferential removal of longer chain lengths. The role of biodegradation in the removal of LAS was confirmed by the presence of LAS metabolites (sulphophenylcarboxylates, SPCs) which increased systematically (as a fraction of LAS remaining) with flow-time.
- Miljövetenskap (10502)