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Impact of wastewater infrastructure upgrades on the urban water cycle: Reduction in halogenated reaction byproducts following conversion from chlorine gas to ultraviolet light disinfection

October 1, 2015

The municipal wastewater treatment facility (WWTF) infrastructure of the United States is being upgraded to expand capacity and improve treatment, which provides opportunities to assess the impact of full-scale operational changes on water quality. Many WWTFs disinfect their effluent prior to discharge using chlorine gas, which reacts with natural and synthetic organic matter to form halogenated disinfection byproducts (HDBPs). Because HDBPs are ubiquitous in chlorine-disinfected drinking water and have adverse human health implications, their concentrations are regulated in potable water supplies. Less is known about the formation and occurrence of HDBPs in disinfected WWTF effluents that are discharged to surface waters and become part of the de facto wastewater reuse cycle. This study investigated HDBPs in the urban water cycle from the stream source of the chlorinated municipal tap water that comprises the WWTF inflow, to the final WWTF effluent disinfection process before discharge back to the stream. The impact of conversion from chlorine-gas to low-pressure ultraviolet light (UV) disinfection at a full-scale (68,000 m3 d−1 design flow) WWTF on HDBP concentrations in the final effluent was assessed, as was transport and attenuation in the receiving stream. Nutrients and trace elements (boron, copper, and uranium) were used to characterize the different urban source waters, and indicated that the pre-upgrade and post-upgrade water chemistry was similar and insensitive to the disinfection process. Chlorinated tap water during the pre-upgrade and post-upgrade samplings contained 11 (mean total concentration = 2.7 μg L−1; n=5) and 10 HDBPs (mean total concentration = 4.5 μg L−1), respectively. Under chlorine-gas disinfection conditions 13 HDBPs (mean total concentration = 1.4 μg L−1) were detected in the WWTF effluent, whereas under UV disinfection conditions, only one HDBP was detected. The chlorinated WWTF effluent had greater relative proportions of nitrogenous, brominated, and iodinated HDBPs than the chlorinated tap water. Conversion of the WWTF to UV disinfection reduced the loading of HDBPs to the receiving stream by >90%.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2015
Title Impact of wastewater infrastructure upgrades on the urban water cycle: Reduction in halogenated reaction byproducts following conversion from chlorine gas to ultraviolet light disinfection
DOI 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2015.04.112
Authors Larry B. Barber, Michelle Hladik, Alan M. Vajda, Kevin C. Fitzgerald, Chris Douville
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Science of the Total Environment
Series Number
Index ID 70180992
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization California Water Science Center