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Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution


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Longnecker, K. and E.B. Kujawinski, Composition of dissolved organic matter in groundwater, Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 2011, 75: 2752-2761

Groundwater constitutes a globally important source of freshwater for drinking water and other agricultural and industrial purposes, and is a prominent source of freshwater flowing into the coastal ocean. Therefore, understanding the chemical components of groundwater is relevant to both coastal and inland communities. We used electrospray ionization coupled with Fourier-transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometry (ESI FT-ICR MS) to examine dissolved organic compounds in groundwater prior to and after passage through a sediment-filled column containing microorganisms. The data revealed that an unexpectedly high proportion of organic compounds contained nitrogen and sulfur, possibly due to transport of surface waters from septic systems and rain events. We matched 292 chemical features, based on measured mass:charge (m/z) values, to compounds stored in the Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes (KEGG). A subset of these compounds (88) had only one structural isomer in KEGG, thus supporting tentative identification. Most identified elemental formulas were linked with metabolic pathways that produce polyketides or with secondary metabolites produced by plants. The presence of polyketides in groundwater is notable because of their anti-bacterial and anti-cancer properties. However, their relative abundance must be quantified with appropriate analyses to assess any implications for public health.


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