You are on page 1of 11


Since municipal effluents are an identifiable source of pathogenic contamination and

disinfection processes themselves can create hazards to human health and the aquatic environment, the
decision to disinfect or not disinfect is a very complicated one that must be made on a site-specific basis.
It is therefore, impossible to establish universal policies on wastewater disinfection requirements.
Resolution of the need for municipal wastewater disinfection at a particular site involves the
investigation of receiving water uses and the associated risks to human health, an assessment of the
options that are available for control of fecally-contaminated discharges, and an evaluation of the
environmental effects that control measures may create.

Figure 3-1 presents an approach for the type of rationalization that can be involved in assessing
the need for, and consequences of, disinfecting municipal wastewaters. In general, Figure 3-1 indicates
that human health risks are the initial concern, and upon establishing the level of risk involved and the
potential for reducing or eliminating the risk, the environmental considerations determine the
applicability of the proposed control measures. Development of an option, chlorination or an alternative
disinfectant that satisfies both the human health and environmental concerns at a specific site is the
next step.

Selecting a Disinfection Alternative

As many as 25 disinfection alternatives could be considered and have been previously identified
from the literature without regard for physical or operational constraints. The major factors that must
be considered when evaluating disinfection alternatives are summarized in Table 3-1. The first four
factors, effectiveness, use cost, practicality, and pilot study requirements relate to the disinfection
process itself. The fifth factor, potential adverse effects, relates to effects of the disinfectant on the
receiving water another environmental concerns and considerations. Evaluation and thorough
consideration of all the criteria relative to practical, physical, and operational constraints of municipal
wastewater disinfection reduces the available alternatives to chlorination, chlorination/dechlorination
with sulfur dioxide, chlorine dioxide, bromine chloride, ozone, and ultraviolet light.

To properly evaluate and select alternative disinfection systems two levels of review are
required. In the first level of review, a number of non-monetary factors are considered. This qualitative
assessment is comprised of three primary components, including the previously described technical
factors, environmental impacts, and safety. In order to assess the disinfection alternatives with respect
to their nonmonetary factors, a qualitative matrix approach, as, shown Table 3-2, can be used. A relative
ranking of the alternatives based on this qualitative assessment can also be made, as shown in Table 3-
3. The ranking scale is based on a scale of one to five, with one indicating the least impact or best degree
of confidence. From these types of analyses, the number of appropriate alternatives can be narrowed,
and some alternatives may be completely eliminated.
Figure 3-1. Assessment for the appropriate disinfection approach
The remaining acceptable alternatives can then be evaluated in a second more detailed level of
review. In this second level of review, a preliminary design can be developed, cost estimates performed,
and an economic analysis comparing the alternatives on an inequitable basis can then be evaluated.
Detailed capital and operation and maintenance costs can be developed for each alternative disinfection
system. Capital costs include structures, process equipment, major auxiliary equipment, special
foundation requirements, electrical and instrumentation, site work, miscellaneous process and piping,
construction contingencies, engineering, project administration, and interest during the estimated
period of construction. The operation and maintenance costs are annual costs and include labor,
electrical power, chemicals, routine equipment maintenance, and materials and supplies. The specific
details required for performing the second level of review are addressed in the respective design
chapters for each of the disinfection alternatives.

The predominant advantages and disadvantages of these disinfection alternatives are well
known and commonly cited in the literature. Some of the more obscure elements have not been
emphasized or have been considered secondary or insignificant. A brief review of the pertinent factors
associated with each of the alternatives is presented in the following sections of this chapter.

From Tables 3-2 and 3-3, it may be possible to select an alternative disinfection system, as
demonstrated in the following situations. Examples follow where ozone, ultraviolet light, and
chlorination/dechlorination alternatives were selected for different specific applications.

The cost of installing and operating an ozone disinfection process is dependent on many
variables. Major factors include size, flexibility, local construction costs, energy costs, energy efficiency
and power consumption, ozone dose requirements, and site specific constraints. The cost for producing
ozone is normally higher than the alternative disinfection methods; however, the other advantages
associated with ozone disinfection (Tables 3-2 and 3~3), may outweigh cost considerations in some
cases. The following example is cited where ozone would be selected as the disinfectant of choice based
on site specific constraints; however, this situation may be unique since ozone would be cost

Chlorine has not been required by EPA for inclusion in States' nonconventional pollutant
standards, but approximately 15 states have taken steps to develop specific criteria for determining the
impact and adverse effects of chlorine on aquatic life. Most states have not adopted site-specific criteria
to determine the need(s) and adverse effects of disinfection using chlorine. As a result, there has been
limited success in ensuring that public health and aquatic wildlife are adequately protected.

Current developments consist of revised water quality standards regulation and guidance
documents to ascertain the appropriateness of existing water quality standards and assess use
attainability. EPA's Office of Research and Development has completed a draft criteria ,document for
chlorine with directions on how to apply the criteria and the chemistry and fate of chlorine in natural
receiving bodies of water. It is anticipated that guidance for establishing chlorine effluent limitations for
NPDES permits will be published as well as other documents to help encourage states to consider public
and wildlife health issues. The Advanced Technology (AT) review policy requires the evaluation of
chlorine toxicity and the construction and operation of dechlorination facilities where chlorine will
exceed EPA criteria.

However, due to the toxicity of chlorine residuals

at extremely low concentrations (11 to 19 pg/I) and the
relatively high limit of detection of chlorine residual test
procedures (50 to 100 pg/I), it is difficult to control
chlorine-induced toxicity in the receiving stream.
Therefore, use of alternative disinfection processes
should be considered where aquatic toxicity is the
overriding concern.

Today, chlorination is the most used disinfectant at water and wastewater treatment plants in
the United States. Chlorine reacts very rapidly when mixed with water, and both hydrolysis and
ionization occur. Environmental factors such as temperature, pH, alkalinity, suspended solids, chemical
oxygen demand (COD), and nitrogen containing compounds influence the effectiveness of chlorine
disinfection. Chlorine reacts rapidly with ammonia and certain organic compounds to form chloramines
and chlorinated organic compounds. The combined chloramines are lower in germicidal value compared
to the free chlorine residuals, with organic chloramines in wastewater offering significantly lower
germicidal value than inorganic chloramines.

The use of chlorine disinfection of wastewater can result in several adverse environmental
impacts, especially due to toxic levels of total residual chlorine in the receiving water and formation of
potentially, toxic halogenated organic compounds. Chlorine residuals have been found to be acutely
toxic to some species of fish at very low levels. The chlorine residuals are stable and can persist for many
hours at toxic levels. Other toxic or carcinogenic chlorinated compounds can bioaccumulate in aquatic
life and contaminate public drinking water supplies.

Chlorine is normally handled in steel containers of 68 kg (150 Ib) cylinders up to 82 metric ton
(90 ton) railroad cars. Chlorine is an extremely volatile and hazardous chemical, and proper safety
precautions must be exercised during all phases of chlorine shipment, storage, and use.

Chlorine Dioxide

Chlorine dioxide has been used to disinfect potable waters, especially waters containing phenols
or other taste and odor producing compounds. It is a proven bactericide equal to or greater than
chlorine in disinfecting power, and has a higher oxidation potential. Chlorine dioxide has been indicated
to by a much more effective virucide than chlorine. The environmental impacts associated with chlorine
dioxide use as a wastewater disinfectant have not been well established. Advantages of chlorine dioxide
include its lack of reaction with ammonia and reduced halogenated organic compound formation.

Chlorine dioxide is an extremely unstable and explosive gas and any means of transport is
potentially very hazardous. Therefore, it must be generated onsite. Gaseous chlorine dioxide is normally
generated using a process that involves a reaction between sodium chlorite and chlorine. Sodium
chlorite is much more expensive than gaseous chlorine per unit weight expressed as chlorine. Chlorine
dioxide has not received a great deal of attention as a wastewater disinfectant due to its on-site
generation requirements and high chemical costs. The overall system is relatively complex to operate
and maintain compared to chlorination. Safety hazards include the handling of two dangerous
chemicals. Chlorine dioxide has been shown to be an effective wastewater disinfectant; however, few
pilot studies have been done and experience is quite limited in this country. No applications of chlorine
dioxide disinfection of municipal wastewaters are known at the present time.
Bromine Chloride

Bromine chloride hydrolyzes to hyprobromous acid very rapidly and forms monobromamines
and dibromamil1es when added to water containing ammonia- nitrogen. Bromamines have been shown
to be very effective as a disinfectant with shorter lived residuals compared to chloramines. Because
bromamines are more unstable than chloramines, shorter contact times are needed. Environmental
impacts associated with bromine chloride disinfection are less adverse than those associated with
chlorine. Contrasting results relative to the toxic effects of bromine residuals have been cited in the
literature, possibly due to the stability of the bromine residual and their rapid decay to chloride and
bromide. Other brominated organic compounds can also be formed during the disinfection process.
These compounds may not be produced in appreciable quantities; however, they may be toxic at high
enough concentrations and may bioaccumulate.

Bromine Chloride is manufactured from bromine and chlorine. It is a hazardous and corrosive
chemical and requires special transportation, handling, storage, and use precautions. Bromine chloride
is shipped in modified chlorine cylinders, or tank cars, and essentially the same safety and handling
procedures are required as required for chlorine. Bromine chloride disinfection facilities are very similar
to those used for chlorination. It is applied in much the same manner as chlorine, using a vacuum
chlorobrominator to prepare a concentrated solution, which is then mixed with the wastewater. Shorter
contact times are possible, resulting in a construction cost saving due to a smaller contactor. The use
cost is heavily dependent on the cost of the bromine chloride itself. Secondary treated wastewater
requires no special pretreatment prior to disinfection; however, bromine chloride use, for wastewater
disinfection is relatively new and a good data base and track record are presently not available. Bromine
chloride disinfection has been proven effective in field-scale applications for wastewater, but problems
with the liquid feed equipment have occurred. Brominated organics such as bromoform and mixtures of
chlorinated and brominated organics can be expected to be formed.


Ozone is an unstable gas that is produced when oxygen molecules are dissociated into atomic
oxygen and subsequently collide with another oxygen molecule to produce ozone. The ozone molecule
can coexist as a gas with other gases such as air or oxygen, or it can dissolve in a liquid such as water.
Ozone is an extremely reactive oxidant and a very effective bactericide and virucide. Over 40 full-scale
facilities have been constructed in the United States, and an extensive amount of research and
development has been .expended to develop ozone disinfection of wastewaters.

Unlike some of the other chemical

disinfecting agents previously discussed, ozone
can exert beneficial impacts on the environment.
Since ozone decomposes rapidly to oxygen after
application, the dissolved oxygen levels in the
treated effluent can be elevated significantly,
often to saturation levels. In most, if not all cases,
the need for effluent reaeration to meet required
dissolved oxygen water quality standards can be
eliminated. Ozone residuals can be acutely toxic
to aquatic life; however, since ozone dissipates rapidly, residuals are normally not found in the effluent
by the time it reaches the receiving water. Ozonation has been shown in some instances to produce
toxic mutagenic and/or carcinogenic compounds, but little is presently known about these organic
byproducts (15). Ozone is believed to present fewer potential environmental and health hazards than

Due to the instability of ozone, it must be generated on-site from air or oxygen carrier gas. The
most efficient method of producing ozone today is by the electric discharge technique, which involves
passing the air or oxygen carrier gas across the gap of narrowly spaced electrodes under a high voltage.
Due to this expensive method of producing ozone, it is extremely important that the ozone is efficiently
transferred from the gas phase to the liquid phase. The two most often used contacting devices are
bubble diffusers and turbine contactors. With the bubble diffusers, deep contact tanks are required.
Ozone transfer efficiencies of 85 percent and greater can be obtained in most applications when the
contactor is designed properly. The contactors must be covered to control the off-gas discharges. Since
any remaining ozone would be extremely irritating and possibly toxic, the off-gases from the contactor
must be treated to destroy the remaining ozone. Ozone destruction is normally accomplished by
thermal or thermal-catalytic means.
An ozonation system can be considered to be relatively complex to operate and maintain
compared to chlorination. The process becomes still more complex if pure oxygen is generated on-site
for ozone production. Ozonation system process control can be accomplished by setting an applied dose
responsive to wastewater flow rate (flow proportional control), by residual control, or by off-gas control
strategies. Ozone disinfection is relatively expensive, with the cost of the ozone generation equipment
being the primary capital cost item, especially since the equipment should be sized for the peak hourly
flow rate as with all disinfectant technologies. Operating costs can also be very high depending on
power costs, since ozonation is a power intensive system. The important criteria for design include
maximum transfer efficiency in the contactor to maximize ozone utilization and minimize applied dose
and power consumption requirements along with efficient ozone generation equipment design.
Equipment design is presently provided by the equipment manufacturers, and they are improving and
updating their equipment to improve production efficiencies and reduce the associated operating costs.

Ultraviolet Light

The effectiveness of ultraviolet light as a

bactericide and virucide has been well established. It is a
physical disinfecting agent compared to the previously
discussed chemical agents. Radiation at a wavelength of
254 nm penetrates the cell wall and is absorbed by the
cellular nucleic acids. This can prevent replication and
cause death of the cell. Since ultraviolet light is not a
chemical agent, no toxic residuals are produced. Although certain chemical compounds may be altered
by the radiation, the energy levels used for disinfection are too low for this to be a significant cause for

Major advantages of ultraviolet light are its simplicity, lack of impact on the environment and
aquatic life, and minimal space requirements. There is a negligible likelihood of producing harmful
chemicals in the wastewater. Required contact times are very short, on the order of seconds rather than
minutes. The equipment is simple to operate and maintain, but fouling of the quartz sleeves or Teflon
tubes must be dealt with on a regular basis. Fouling is normally handled by mechanical, sonic, or
chemical cleaning. High suspended solids concentrations, color, turbidity, and soluble organic matter in
the water can react with or absorb the ultraviolet radiation reducing the disinfection performance. High
levels of wastewater disinfection (e.g., 2.2 total coliform's per 100 ml) will be difficult to achieve with
ultraviolet disinfection.

Relationships between effluent quality, effectiveness, and use costs have become better defined
in recent months. Total costs appear to be competitive with chlorination. The major operating costs are
power consumption and annual replacement of the ultraviolet lamps. The process has been proven to
be applicable with over 120 installations in the United States in small to medium size treatment plants.
This process is considered to be an effective alternative to chlorination. Increased popularity and
lowered costs have occurred due to improvements in modern lamp and system designs, increased
competition, and improved reliability and simplicity of operation.