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The occurrence and removal of algae (including cyanobacteria) and their related organic compounds from source water in Vaalkop Dam with conventional and advanced drinking water treatment processes

A Swanepoel
HH Du Preez
N Cloete


Cyanobacterial bloom formation in freshwaters, such as rivers, lakes and dams, is known to occur throughout the world. The Vaalkop Dam, which serves as source to the Vaalkop drinking water treatment works (DWTW), is no exception. Blooms of cyanobacteria occur annually in Vaalkop Dam as well as in dams from which Vaalkop is replenished during low-rainfall periods. These blooms during the summer months are associated with the production of cyanotoxins and taste and odour compounds such as geosmin and MIB. The Vaalkop DWTW uses a combination of conventional and advanced water treatment processes to deal with the cyanobacteria and their related organic compounds in the source water. The overall objectives of this study were to: (i) investigate the occurrence of algae (including cyanobacteria) and cyanotoxins in the Vaalkop Dam; (ii) establish which environmental variables are responsible for the development and onset of algae, and (iii) determine whether the Vaalkop DWTW is able to eliminate the influence that algae (including cyanobacteria) may have on the drinking water. Multivariate statistical analyses revealed seasonal variation in algal assemblages in the raw water. The risk of cyanobacteria bloom formation proved to be especially high during the summer months as the nutrients needed for cyanobacterial growth are available and the temperature range is optimal, causing the production of geosmin, MIB and microcystin. The presence of Ceratium hirundinella (O.F. Müller) Dujardin, in the source water appears to exacerbate the negative effect that cyanobacteria have on the drinking water treatment process. When Ceratium hirundinella is present, floc formation is inhibited, causing more of the problematic algae to penetrate into the drinking water. Even though advanced treatment options such as ozone and granular activated carbon filters are used at Vaalkop DWTW, the effects of the organic compounds produced by cyanobacteria are not entirely eliminated during the treatment process.

Keywords: potable water treatment, geosmin, MIB (2-methylisoborneol), microcystin, granular activated carbon (GAC), ozone

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1816-7950
print ISSN: 0378-4738