Destruction of algae-produced taste-and-odor compounds by chlorine, potassium permanganate, and chlorine dioxide

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Virginia Tech


Most taste-and-odor problems in the United States are caused by algal blooms in rivers and reservoirs. In the past, most of the attention has been focused on the formation of geosmin and MIB by blue-green algae (cyanobacteria), which cause earthy and musty odors, respectively. Little work has been performed, however, on equally obnoxious odors caused by other golden-brown and yellow-brown algae which are responsible for fishy, grassy, floral, and melon odors. Additionally, the production of odorous compounds can occur upon oxidation of a nonodorous parent compound.

The objective of this research was to determine the effect of three oxidants - chlorine, potassium permanganate, and chlorine dioxide - on solutions of pure odorous as well as nonodorous compounds and algal extracts containing a mixture of odor-related compounds. Oxidant dosages used were in the ranges expected during water treatment.

Rashash (1994) identified several odor-causing compounds in pure cultures of golden-brown, yellow-brown, green, and blue-green algae. The compounds selected for oxidation during this study were isolated by Rashash (1994) and are as follows: isovaleric acid (rancid, dirty socks), β-cyclocitral (tobacco, grape), phenethyl alcohol (roses), myristic acid (odorless), palmitic acid (odorless), linoleic acid (odorless), and linolenic acid (watermelon). All seven compounds were oxidized and evaluated by a trained flavor panel for sensory analysis.

Because the three oxidants used in this study produced substantial changes in the odors of linoleic acid and linolenic acid, test solutions buffered to a pH of 7 of linoleic acid and linolenic acid were further evaluated by Flavor Profile Analysis (FPA) for sensory determination and gas chromatography/mass spectroscopy (GC/MS) for quantitative measurement of odorous compounds. Volatile compounds produced by Synura petersenii (fishy/cucumber) were also analyzed and evaluated.

When linoleic acid (odorless) was treated with potassium permanganate (0.25 mg/L, 1.0 mg/L, and 1.5 mg/L) and chlorine dioxide (1.0 mg/L and 2.0 mg/L), a grassy odor was produced at an FPA intensity of 2-4 (weak). The compound causing this odor was confidently identified from GC/MS analysis as n-hexanal. The compound 2,4-decadienal, which exhibits a frying odor, was also identified in oxidized samples and could contribute to off-odors. Chlorine dioxide and potassium permanganate at the same doses were also effective in eliminating watermelon odors in linolenic samples. Flavor Profile Analysis of samples treated with chlorine was inconclusive since chlorine and acetone, which was used as an organic solvent, produce an alcohol odor at an FPA intensity of approximately 2 (weak) which masked other odors present.

Flavor Profile Analysis of oxidized Synura extracts indicated that the fishy odor was destroyed and cucumber or grassy odors were unmasked. Potassium permanganate at a concentration of 0.25 mg/L was effective in eliminating all odors in Synura culture samples. Chlorine and chlorine dioxide at concentrations of 2.0 mg/L and 3.0 mg/L, respectively, eliminated the fishy odor in Synura samples. In both cases, however, vegetation or grassy odors were detected at an FPA intensity of less than 2 (very weak).