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By Brendan Elmore
While most people talk about chlorinated tap water, a growing number of municipalities are implementing an alternative disinfectant - chloramine – in place of chlorine. This article on chloramine vs. chlorine discusses the advantages and disadvantages of both disinfectants, why municipalities are switching to chloramine, and what this means from a water filtration standpoint.
Chlorine: The Original Method For Tap Water Disinfection
Chlorine was the original disinfectant used in US municipalities, with Jersey City being the first city to implement a chlorine-based system in 1908. Still today, chlorine remains the primary disinfectant in the majority of municipalities in the US, because of its effectiveness and low cost. While tap water disinfection using chlorine has a long track record, there are two major downsides to using chlorine as a disinfectant altogether.
- Chlorine is volatile and can escape from tap water as it travels through water mains, which can eliminate the “chlorine residual.” Without residual chlorine, water becomes more susceptible to microbial growth.
- Chlorine can react with naturally-occurring organic compounds, creating what are known as disinfection by-products (DBPs) which are associated with kidney and liver problems.
Chloramine: A 'New' Alternative to ChlorineChloramine is an alternative disinfectant that has gained popularity with a growing number of municipalities (including Washington, DC) because it directly addresses the two major problems with chlorine-based disinfection.
- Chloramine is less volatile than chlorine, so it stays in the water longer than chlorine, which ensures that all areas of the distribution network are properly disinfected.
- As the EPA began to learn about the toxicity of DBPs, they began searching for an alternative disinfectant for chlorine. Chloramine is less reactive with naturally-occurring organic matter, so it produces lesser amounts of DBPs.
Despite these advantages, chloramine isn’t without its own shortcomings. For example, when a municipality switches over to a chloramine-based system to comply with DBP regulations, the level of pipe corrosion inhibitor needs to be increased, because chloramine-treated water is more corrosive than chlorine-treated water. Washington, DC did not properly do this when they switched over to a chloramine-based disinfection system in the early 2000s, and the city underwent a 5-year lead contamination crisis where more than 42,000 children under the age of 2 were exposed to high levels of lead, putting them under great health risk.
Even when pipe corrosion is properly accounted for, chloramine must be removed from the water when it is being used for dialysis, aquariums, baking, and even craft brewing (maybe you didn't burn your mash after all!).
What Can I Do to Remove Chlorine & Chloramine From My Tap Water?
Removing chlorine and chloramine from water involve different methods.
Fortunately, chlorine is very easy to remove from tap water to improve the taste. For example, if you fill a water jug and leave it in your fridge uncapped, within a day or two, the chlorine will volatilize and go away.Common filtration pitchers, refrigerator pitchers, and under sink filtration systems are also good for removing chlorine from water and the bad taste associated with it.
Chloramine, on the other hand is much harder to filter, and most “big name” water filters are not designed to remove it. A special type of activated carbon, called catalytic carbon, is the best tool for removing chloramine from water. High-quality custom water filters that use catalytic carbon in their filter formulation also offer broad protection against other contaminants in drinking water.
If you have any questions about chlorine or chloramine, we encourage you to take advantage of Hydroviv’s “Help No Matter What” approach to technical support, even if you have no desire to purchase a Hydroviv system. This free service can be reached by emailing email@example.com, or by using the live chat window.
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Technical Memorandum No. MERL-2013-57 Effect of Chlorine vs. Chloramine Treatment Techniques on Materials Degradation in Reclamation Infrastructure
Eric Roy, Ph.D. | Scientific Founder
If your home draws water from a well, you may have experienced rotten egg smells coming from your water. While not typically harmful, offensive odors are nuisances, and can usually be fixed. In this article, we talk about common causes of tap water odors, how we troubleshoot odor problems, and talk a bit about how the problem can be fixed with a filter.
Update: August 8, 2017: After over a year of R&D, we are happy to announce that we have launched a whole house water purifier that is purpose-built to eliminate the rotten egg smell from all of the water that enters your home!
The Likely Culprit: Hydrogen Sulfide!
Rotten egg smells in water are usually caused by volatile sulfur-based chemicals (e.g. hydrogen sulfide), which are produced by naturally-occurring bacteria as part of their metabolism. (For those who just Googled “Hydrogen Sulfide” and saw hazard warnings… keep in mind that while hydrogen sulfide is harmful at very high concentrations… it’s highly unlikely that your water could generate high enough levels in your home to cause health problems). With that said, no one wants their home to smell like rotten eggs, so it’s a problem worth fixing!
Hydroviv’s “Toilet Tank Test” For Rotten Egg Smell
The first thing we do when a customer comes to us with a smelly water problem, is have them take the lid off their toilet’s tank and take a few pictures that can be sent to us (I’m not kidding!). The toilet tank is a great observation point for us because it’s typically the most accessible place in the home where water is constantly resupplied from the source and is rarely cleaned out (though many start cleaning the tank after taking the lid off for the first time).
We examine the pictures to look for clues for what’s going on in the water. For example, if the tank has slimy, rusty deposits, there’s a good chance that the smell is being generated by iron bacteria. If there are brownish/black deposits visible, the water probably has high levels or iron and/or manganese. Based on what’s in the pictures, we can usually custom-blend filtration media to fix the problem!
A family came to us last fall because their water “smelled like farts” and they were sick of replacing inexpensive carbon filters ever week or two. While carbon filtration is a great base technology to use in a wide range of applications, inexpensive cartridges use low quality filtration media with very low capacities for hydrogen sulfide. Unfortunately, (or fortunately… depending on how you look at it), it’s obvious when a filter becomes saturated with hydrogen sulfide… because the rotten egg smell comes back…immediately… in full force.
We ended up formulating a custom water filter for this customer with an extra high capacity for hydrogen sulfide, and the difference was dramatic. Instead of switching out cheap carbon filters every 10-14 days, the customer was able to use the same Hydroviv filter for 6 months, which saved them a great deal of money in replacement filter costs, not to mention the added convenience of not having to change out a filter every 10 days! It was great to get the excited monthly email updates from the user, letting us know that the filters were still going strong! Once they were confident that we could solve their problem, the customer also purchased some shower head water filters to fix rotten egg smells in the bathroom!
Update: August 8, 2017: After over a year of R&D, we are thrilled to announce that we have launched a whole house water filter that is purpose-built to eliminate the rotten egg smell from all of the water that enters your home!
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