Prechlorination Increases Nitrosamines and Formation Potentials

Chen WH, Wang CY, Huang TH. Formation and fates of nitrosamines and their formation potentials from a surface water source to drinking water treatment plants in Southern Taiwan. Chemosphere. 2016 Jul 29;161:546-554. doi: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2016.07.027.

Nitrosamines are toxic and emerging disinfection byproducts. In this study, three drinking water treatment plants (DWTPs) in southern Taiwan treating the same source water in Gaoping River with comparable technologies were selected. The objective was to evaluate the formation and fates of six nitrosamines and their formation potentials (FPs) from a surface water source to drinking water. Albeit decreased further downstream in the river, four nitrosamine-FPs were observed in the source water due to anthropogenic pollution in the upstream areas. In the DWTPs, nitrosamines were formed and NDMA was the main species. While high organic carbon concentrations indicated elevated nitrosamine-FPs in the source water, NDMA formation in the DWTPs was more positively associated with reductions of water parameters that quantify organic matters with double bonded ring structures. Although precursor removal via pre-oxidation is a viable approach to limit nitrosamine formation during post-disinfection, this study clearly indicates that a great portion of NDMA in treated water has been formed in the 1st oxidation step of drinking water treatment. The pre-oxidation simulations in the lab demonstrated the impact of pre-chlorination on nitrosamine formation. Given the limited removal in conventional treatment processes, avoiding nitrosamine-FPs in sources and/or nitrosamine formation during pre-oxidation become important issues to control the threats of nitrosamines in drinking water. Under current circumstance in which pre-oxidation is widely used to optimize the treatment effectiveness in many DWTPs, its adverse effect by forming nitrosamines needs to be carefully minimized and using technologies other than pre-chlorination (e.g., pre-ozonation) may be considered.

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