Tradeoffs between pathogen inactivation and disinfection byproduct formation during sequential chlorine and chloramine disinfection for wastewater reuse

Water Res. 2018 Oct 15:143:579-588. doi: 10.1016/j.watres.2018.05.050. Epub 2018 May 31.


Treatment of fully nitrified municipal wastewater effluents with chlorine followed by chloramines (i.e., sequential chlorine disinfection) upstream of advanced treatment trains can contribute pathogen inactivation credits for potable reuse while leaving a chloramine residual to control biofouling on membrane units in the advanced treatment train. However, free chlorine exposures must be optimized to maximize pathogen inactivation while minimizing the formation of disinfection byproducts (DBPs) that are challenging to remove in the advanced treatment train. Using a pilot-scale disinfection contactor receiving fully-nitrified, tertiary municipal wastewater effluent, this study found that a 3 mg × min/L free chlorine CT (i.e., the product of the chlorine residual "C" and the contact time "T") followed by a 140 mg × min/L chloramine CT could reliably achieve 5-log inactivation of MS2 bacteriophage and reduce median total coliform concentrations below 2.2 MPN/100 mL. Free chlorine disinfection was equally effective when chlorine was dosed to exceed the breakpoint for 1 mg/L of ammonia as N. At this free chlorine exposure, regulated trihalomethane (THM) and haloacetic acid (HAA) formation remained below their Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs), but NDMA concentrations of ∼30 ng/L were above the 10 ng/L California Notification Level. Increasing the free chlorine exposure to ∼30 mg × min/L increased THM and HAA formation, with regulated THMs approaching or exceeding the MCL. Although this free chlorine exposure prevented NDMA formation during chloramination, the ∼10 ng/L background NDMA formation in the tertiary effluent remained. Increasing the free chlorine exposure also increased the formation of unregulated halogenated DBP classes that may be significant contributors to the DBP-associated toxicity of the disinfected wastewater. The results indicate that sequential chlorination can be used to optimize the benefits of free chlorine (virus and NDMA control) and chloramine disinfection (THM, HAA, and coliform control).

Keywords: Coliform; Halogenated DBPs; NDMA; Potable reuse; Sequential chlorination; Virus.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Ammonia / chemistry
  • Chloramines / chemistry*
  • Chlorine / chemistry*
  • Disinfectants / chemistry
  • Disinfection*
  • Halogenation
  • Nitrification
  • Pilot Projects
  • Trihalomethanes / chemistry
  • Wastewater / chemistry
  • Wastewater / microbiology
  • Water Microbiology
  • Water Purification / methods*


  • Chloramines
  • Disinfectants
  • Trihalomethanes
  • Waste Water
  • Chlorine
  • Ammonia