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Characterization and fate of N-nitrosodimethylamine precursors in municipal wastewater treatment plants



Characterization and fate of N-nitrosodimethylamine precursors in municipal wastewater treatment plants



Environmental Science & Technology 38(5): 1445-1454



The potent carcinogen, N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA), is produced during disinfection of municipal wastewater effluent from the reaction of monochloramine and organic nitrogen-containing precursors. To delineate the sources and fate of NDMA precursors during municipal wastewater treatment, NDMA formation was measured after extended chloramination of both model precursors and samples from conventional and advanced wastewater treatment plants. Of the model precursors, only dimethylamine, tertiary amines with dimethylamine functional groups, and dimethylamides formed significant NDMA concentrations upon chloramination. In samples from municipal wastewater treatment plants, dissolved NDMA precursors always were present in primary and secondary effluents. Biological treatment effectively removed the known NDMA precursor dimethylamine, lowering its concentration to levels that could not produce significant quantities of NDMA upon chlorine disinfection. However, biological treatment was less effective at removing other dissolved NDMA precursors, even after extended biological treatment. Significant concentrations of particle-associated NDMA precursors only were detected in secondary effluent at treatment plants that recycled water from sludge thickening operations in which dimethylamine-based synthetic polymers were used. Effective strategies for the prevention of NDMA formation during wastewater chlorination include ammonia removal by nitrification to preclude chloramine formation during chlorine disinfection, elimination of dimethylamine-based polymers, and use of filtration and reverse osmosis to remove particle-associated precursors and dissolved precursors, respectively.

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Accession: 011846567

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PMID: 15046346


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