Ecological niche and in-situ control of MIB producers in source water

Min Yang , Ming Su , MD. Suruzzaman , Yiping Zhu , Jinping Lu , Jianwei Yu , Yu Zhang


Received March 10, 2021,Revised , Accepted March 10, 2021, Available online March 26, 2021

Volume 33,2021,Pages 119-128

Odor problems in source water caused by 2-methylisoborneol (MIB) have been a common issue in China recently, posing a high risk to drinking water safety. The earthy-musty odorant MIB has an extremely low odor threshold (4–16 ng/L) and is hard to remove via conventional processes in drinking water plants (DWP), and therefore could easily provoke complaints from consumers. This compound is produced by a group of filamentous cyanobacteria, mainly belonging to Oscillatoriales. Different from the well-studied surface-blooming Microcystis, filamentous cyanobacteria have specific niche characteristics that allow them to stay at a subsurface or deep layer in the water column. The underwater bloom of these MIB producers is therefore passively determined by the underwater light availability, which is governed by the cell density of surface scum. This suggests that drinking water reservoirs with relatively low nutrient contents are not able to support surface blooms, but are a fairly good fit to the specialized ecological niche of filamentous cyanobacteria; this could explain the widespread odor problems in source water. At present, MIB is mainly treated in DWP using advanced treatment processes and/or activated carbon, but these post-treatment methods have high cost, and not able to deal with water containing high MIB concentrations. Thus, in situ control of MIB producers in source water is an effective complement and is desirable. Lowering the underwater light availability is a possible measure to control MIB producers according to their niche characteristics, which can be obtained by either changing the water level or other measures.

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