Date of Award

Fall 9-2014

Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Civil and Environmental Engineering


Jeanne VanBriesen


Source water quality plays a critical role in maintaining the quality and supply of drinking water, yet it can be negatively affected by human activities. In Pennsylvania, coal mining and treatment of conventional oil and gas drilling produced wastewaters have affected source water quality for over 100 years. The recent unconventional natural gas development in the Marcellus Shale formation produces significant volumes of wastewater containing bromide and has the potential to affect source water quality and downstream drinking water quality. Wastewater from coal-fired power plants also contains bromide that may be released into source water. Increasing source water bromide presents a challenge as even small amounts of bromide in source water can lead to carcinogenic disinfection by-products (DBPs) in chlorinated finished drinking water. However, bromide is not regulated in source water and is not removed by conventional drinking water treatment processes. The objective of this work is to evaluate the safe bromide concentration in source water to minimize the cancer risk of trihalomethanes - a group of DBPs - in treated drinking water. By evaluating three years of water sampling data from the Monongahela River in Southwestern Pennsylvania, the present analysis reached three conclusions. First, bromide monitoring for source water quality should be taken at drinking water intake points. Water sample types (river water samples vs drinking water intake samples) can lead to different water quality conclusions and thus affect regulatory compliance decision-making. Second, bromide monitoring at drinking water intake points can serve as a predictor for changes in heavily brominated trihalomethanes concentrations in finished water. Increasing bromide in source water can serve as an early warning sign of increasing formation of heavily brominated trihalomethanes and their associated cancer risks in drinking water. Finally, this work developed a statistical simulation model to evaluate the effect of source water bromide on trihalomethane formation and speciation and to analyze the changing cancer risks in water associated with these changing bromide concentrations in the Monongahela River. The statistical simulation method proposed in this work leads to the conclusion that the bromide concentration in source water must be very low to prevent the adverse health effects associated with brominated trihalomethanes in chlorinated drinking water. This method can be used by water utilities to determine the bromide concentration in their source water that might indicate a need for process changes or by regulatory agencies to evaluate source water bromide issues.