Chloramines. What are they and why are they now all the rage as an alternative to a chlorination?


With the attention from the media on Disinfection Byproducts DBPs, resulting from chlorine disinfection at water treatment facilities, many consumers have been wanting to know more about potential alternatives. One substitute is chloramination. Chloramines. What are they and why are they now all the rage as an alternative to a chlorination?

What is Chloramination? 

Chloramination is the process in which chloramines are used to disinfect drinking water to kill any waterborne bacteria. This process is gaining popularity and being actively used now in several water treatment facilities around the country as an alternative to chlorination. Chloramines are chemical compounds containing chlorine and ammonia. Monochloramine is the particular type of chloramine used for disinfection of drinking water. Monochloramine is mixed with water supplies at a level where it kills any waterborne germs, but remains safe to drink. Monochloramine is often confused with dichloramine and trichloramine, which are compounds typically used in indoor swimming pools and are linked to eye, respiratory and skin problem.  

Is Chloramine Treatment a New Development? 

Chloramination has been used in some regions of the United States since 1929 as a form of drinking water disinfection. Several major metropolitan areas including Tampa Bay Florida, Washington D.C, Philadelphia PA, San Francisco and soon Los Angeles use or will be using chloramination for the treatment of their drinking water supplies. In a 1998 EPA survey, it was calculated that roughly speaking 68 million American consumers were supplied with chloramine-disinfected drinking water. It was determined, at the time, that chloramine is a safe form of disinfectant and offers a good alternative to chlorine.   

Is There Any Danger Associated With Chloramine? 

Current research indicates that drinking water containing low levels of chloramine does provide protection against waterborne diseases and does not cause adverse health effects. The studies found that there were no observed health side effects when drinking water containing less than 50 milligrams per liter of chloramine. Customary levels of chloramine in drinking water range between 1 and 4 milligrams per liter.  If you are a home dialysis user, you will need to consult your equipment manufacturer. During dialysis, the process requires large amounts of water to clean waste products from the blood. This water requires treatment to remove all traces of chemical disinfectants whether it be chloramines or chlorine. 

Why Municipal Water Providers are Switching to Chloramine 

The EPA permits drinking water treatment facilities to use chlorine as well as chloramines to disinfect water supplies. Both of these treatment options have unique advantages and disadvantages.  

Chlorine has been used for over a century and provides a very effective disinfection process. Unfortunately, chlorination also produces DBPs if the water source contains particular compounds that react with the chlorine. There are over 600 different DBPs, and the health effects of each are not yet adequately documented. Certain DBPs have been connected to an increased risk of developing serious illnesses after long-term consumption.  

Chlorine’s advantage is also its disadvantage. It can quickly dissipate in water systems. In some cases, there is not sufficient chlorine left to kill any germs by the time it reaches your tap. Chloramine has been found to stabilize the disinfecting compound and last longer during the long journey from the water treatment plant through the water pipes to your home.  It also has been documented to produce fewer DBPs. The EPA has established standards to reduce the number of DBPs, and some water providers, like Los Angeles, are moving to chloramination to comply with these new standards. 

About The Author, Terry Reeh, EcoWater Systems of Nebraska:

With more than 25 years experience in the residential and commercial water treatment space, Terry is a WQA (Water Quality Association) certified water specialist, LEVEL 3, as well as a WQA certified sales representative. Terry currently sits on EcoWater Systems (a Berkshire Hathaway Company) national Peers committee, as a water treatment expert advising other water professionals with less experience on best trade and technology practices. EcoWater Systems of Nebraska is one of the biggest water treatment and water delivery businesses in the state.

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