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500 days of swimmers: the chemical water quality of swimming pool waters from the beginning

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Abstract

Many studies of disinfection by-products (DBPs) in pools have focused on haloacetic acids, trihalomethanes, and chloramines, with less studies investigating the occurrence of other DBPs, such as haloketones, haloacetaldehydes, haloacetonitriles, halonitromethanes, and haloacetamides. Furthermore, while many studies have achieved a broadscreen analysis across several pools, fewer studies have followed the water quality of pools over time, with information regarding the production and fate of DBPs in pools over extended periods (e.g. > 1 year) being limited. This study reports the occurrence of 39 DBPs and several general water quality parameters in two newly built and filled swimming pools over 15 months, where investigations began prior to opening. DBP concentrations measured in this study were generally similar to or higher than those previously reported in chlorinated pools, with concentrations of chloroacetic acid, dichloroacetic acid, trichloroacetic acid, and chloral hydrate (trichloroacetaldehyde) in some samples being higher than previously reported maximum concentrations. Considering both pools, lower concentrations of DBPs were measured in the pool where a steady state non-purgeable organic carbon concentration was achieved, highlighting the importance of the establishment of a steady state balance of mineralisation versus addition of organic carbon to reduce precursors for DBP formation in pools. Pools were found to exhibit significantly higher estimated cytotoxicity than their filling water, which reflects the significantly higher concentrations of DBPs measured in the pools in comparison to the filling water. Chloral hydrate accounted for up to 99% the total estimated cytotoxicity and was found to be correlated to the number of pool entries, suggesting that swimmers may be a potential source of chloral hydrate precursors in pools. The presence and subsequent peak of non-purgeable organic carbon and DBPs prior to, and soon after, opening suggest that the building process and/or new pool infrastructure may have had a significant impact on the chemical water quality, particularly on DBP formation. This study includes the first quantification of bromochloroacetaldehyde, bromodichloroacetaldehyde, bromochloronitromethane, and dichloronitromethane in chlorinated swimming pools, and provides important new knowledge on the long-term trends of DBPs in pools.

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Acknowledgements

This work was supported by Water Research Australia, ChemCentre, Curtin University and the Australian Government (through a Research Training Program Stipend Scholarship to R. Carter). The authors would like to thank the Department of Health (Western Australia) and the local pool operators for their assistance.

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Correspondence to Cynthia A. Joll.

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Carter, R.A.A., Allard, S., Croué, JP. et al. 500 days of swimmers: the chemical water quality of swimming pool waters from the beginning. Environ Sci Pollut Res 26, 29110–29126 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-019-05861-0

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