N-Nitrosamines and halogenated disinfection byproducts in U.S. Full Advanced Treatment trains for potable reuse

Teng Zeng, Michael J. Plewa, William A. Mitch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

173 Scopus citations


Water utilities are increasingly considering indirect and direct potable reuse of municipal wastewater effluents. Disinfection byproducts (DBPs), particularly N-nitrosamines, are key contaminants of potential health concern for potable reuse. This study quantified the concentrations of N-nitrosamines and a suite of regulated and unregulated halogenated DBPs across five U.S. potable reuse Full Advanced Treatment trains incorporating microfiltration, reverse osmosis, and UV-based advanced oxidation. Low μg/L concentrations of trihalomethanes, haloacetic acids, dichloroacetonitrile, and dichloroacetamide were detected in the secondary or tertiary wastewater effluents serving as influents to potable reuse treatment trains, while the concentrations of N-nitrosamines were more variable (e.g., <2-320 ng/L for N-nitrosodimethylamine). Ozonation promoted the formation of N-nitrosamines, haloacetaldehydes, and haloacetamides, but biological activated carbon effectively reduced concentrations of these DBPs. Application of chloramines upstream of microfiltration for biofouling control increased DBP concentrations to their highest levels observed along the treatment trains. Reverse osmosis rejected DBPs to varying degrees, ranging from low for some (e.g., N-nitrosamines, trihalomethanes, and haloacetonitriles) to high for other DBPs. UV-based advanced oxidation eliminated N-nitrosamines, but only partially removed halogenated DBPs. Chloramination of the treatment train product waters under simulated distribution system conditions formed additional DBPs, with concentrations often equaling or exceeding those in the treatment train influents. Overall, the concentration profiles of DBPs were fairly consistent within individual treatment trains for sampling campaigns separated by months and across different treatment trains for the same sampling time window. Weighting DBP concentrations by their toxic potencies highlighted the potential significance of haloacetonitriles, which were not effectively removed by reverse osmosis and advanced oxidation, to the DBP-associated toxicity in potable reuse waters.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)176-186
Number of pages11
JournalWater Research
StatePublished - Sep 15 2016


  • Advanced treatment trains
  • Halogenated disinfection byproducts
  • N-Nitrosamines
  • Potable reuse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Ecological Modeling
  • Pollution
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Civil and Structural Engineering


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