Date of Completion


Embargo Period



Joseph T. Bushey; Anthony A. Provatas

Field of Study

Environmental Engineering


Master of Science

Open Access

Open Access


Natural organic matter is an important driver of biotic and abiotic processes in aquatic environments. Wastewater treatment plants discharge a substantial amount of organic matter into the environment; however effluent organic matter has not been well studied. In this study, traditional organic geochemical techniques were applied to characterize effluent organic matter. Effluent organic matter was isolated by DAX8 (hydrophobic fraction) and XAD4 (transphilic fraction) Amberlite resins. Extraction efficiencies of effluent organic matter by DAX8 resins ranged from 18 to 42 percent as a result of larger content of hydrophilic organic matter than natural organic matter. Average organic matter molecular weights by size exclusion chromatography were from 450-670 Daltons with higher weights for hydrophobic than transphilic fractions. Fluorescence characterization showed both humic and fulvic like fluorescence as well as tryptophan and tyrosine like fluorescence, the latter not commonly observed in terrestrial organic matter. Fluorescence indices were between 1.5 and 1.9 with lower values for hydrophobic organic matter than transphilic. Specific ultraviolet absorbance was measured between 0.8 and 3.0 L mg-1 m-1. Together these characterization techniques indicate that extracted effluent organic matter is similar in characteristics to microbially derived organic matter. Comparisons of effluent from different plants suggest the characteristics of effluent organic matter are similar regardless of treatment plant.

Major Advisor

Allison A. MacKay