The formation and control of emerging disinfection by-products of health concern

Stuart W. Krasner


When drinking water treatment plants disinfect water, a wide range of disinfection by-products (DBPs) of health and regulatory concern are formed. Recent studies have identified emerging DBPs (e.g. iodinated trihalomethanes (THMs) and acids, haloacetonitriles, halonitromethanes (HNMs), haloacetaldehydes, nitrosamines) that may be more toxic than some of the regulated ones (e.g. chlorine- and bromine-containing THMs and haloacetic acids). Some of these emerging DBPs are associated with impaired drinking water supplies (e.g. impacted by treated wastewater, algae, iodide). In some cases, alternative primary or secondary disinfectants to chlorine (e.g. chloramines, chlorine dioxide, ozone, ultraviolet) that minimize the formation of some of the regulated DBPs may increase the formation of some of the emerging by-products. However, optimization of the various treatment processes and disinfection scenarios can allow plants to control to varying degrees the formation of regulated and emerging DBPs. For example, pre-disinfection with chlorine, chlorine dioxide or ozone can destroy precursors for N-nitrosodimethylamine, which is a chloramine by-product, whereas pre-oxidation with chlorine or ozone can oxidize iodide to iodate and minimize iodinated DBP formation during post-chloramination. Although pre-ozonation may increase the formation of trihaloacetaldehydes or selected HNMs during post-chlorination or chloramination, biofiltration may reduce the formation potential of these by-products.


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