Comparison of Toxicity-Weighted Disinfection Byproduct Concentrations in Potable Reuse Waters and Conventional Drinking Waters as a New Approach to Assessing the Quality of Advanced Treatment Train Waters

Environ Sci Technol. 2019 Apr 2;53(7):3729-3738. doi: 10.1021/acs.est.8b06711. Epub 2019 Mar 12.


Advanced treatment trains based on oxidation, biofiltration, and/or granular activated carbon (Ox/BAF/GAC) are an attractive alternative to those based on microfiltration, reverse osmosis, and advanced oxidation (MF/RO/AOP) for the potable reuse of municipal wastewater effluents, but their effluent quality is difficult to validate with respect to chemical contaminants. This study evaluated the sum of the concentrations of 46 disinfection byproducts (DBPs) after treatment by chlorine or chloramines weighted by metrics of toxic potency in 10 full- or pilot-scale reuse trains to estimate the DBP-associated toxicity of their effluents. These total toxicity-weighted DBP concentrations were compared to those measured in their local, conventional drinking waters as a benchmark for water quality receiving regulatory and widespread public acceptance. The results indicated that while the DBP-associated quality of MF/RO/AOP-based reuse waters can readily exceed that of drinking waters, that of Ox/BAF/GAC-based reuse waters can approach or exceed that of drinking waters, particularly when they are chloraminated. Unregulated, halogenated DBPs were the dominant contributors to the estimated DBP-associated toxicity. While RO/AOP treatment preferentially reduced the concentrations of the more toxic brominated DBP species, BAC and GAC treatment favored brominated DBP species by removing DOC but not bromide. Comparing the total toxicity-weighted DBP concentration between reuse and drinking waters provides drinking water as a rational benchmark for water quality comparison, explicitly recognizes that contaminants occur as mixtures, provides utilities flexibility in selecting the most efficient treatment trains to reduce estimated toxicity, and can be expanded to encompass new contaminants as toxic potency data become available.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Chloramines
  • Disinfection
  • Drinking Water*
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical*
  • Water Purification*


  • Chloramines
  • Drinking Water
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical