Preparative isolation, fractionation and chemical characterization of dissolved organics from natural and industrially derived bitumen-influenced groundwaters from the Athabasca River watershed
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Recent analytical advances have provided evidence that groundwater affected by oil sands process-affected water (OSPW) is reaching the Athabasca River at one location. To understand and discriminate the toxicological risks posed by OSPW-influenced groundwater relative to groundwaters associated with natural oil sands deposits, these highly complex mixtures of soluble organics were subjected to toxicological characterization through effects directed analysis. A recently-developed preparative fractionation methodology was applied to bitumen-influenced groundwaters and successfully isolated dissolved organics from both industrial and natural sources into three chemically distinct fractions (F1, F2, F3), enabling multiple toxicological assessments. Analytical techniques included electrospray ionization high resolution mass spectrometry (ESI-HRMS), liquid chromatography quadrupole time-of-flight mass spectrometry (LC-QToF/MS), gas chromatography mass spectrometry (GC–MS), and synchronous fluorescence spectroscopy (SFS) methods, which did not reveal obvious differences between sources. Comparisons between fractions within each source consistently demonstrated that F3 contained compounds with greater polarity than F2, which in turn was more polar than F1. The abundance of O2 species was confined to F1, including naphthenic acids often cited for being the primary toxicants within bitumen-influenced waters. This result is consistent with earlier work on aged OSPW, as well as with other extraction methods, suggesting that additional factors other than molecular weight and the presence of acid functionalities play a prominent role in defining compound polarities and toxicities within complex bitumen-derived organic mixtures. The similarities in organic abundances, chemical speciation, aromaticity, and double bond equivalents, concomitant with inorganic mixture similarities, demonstrate the resemblances of bitumen-influenced groundwaters regardless of the source, and reinforce the need for more advanced targeted analyses for source differentiation.
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Richard A. Frank, Anthony E Bauer, James W. Roy, Greg Bickerton, Martina D. Rudy, Ruth Vanderveen, Suzanne Batchelor, Sophie E. Barrett, Craig B. Milestone, Kerry M. Peru, John V. Headley, Pamela Brunswick, Dayue Shang, Andrea J. Farwell, D. George Dixon, L. Mark Hewitt (2021). Preparative isolation, fractionation and chemical characterization of dissolved organics from natural and industrially derived bitumen-influenced groundwaters from the Athabasca River watershed. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/16973
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