Effectiveness of Disinfectant Residuals in Distribution Systems


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Virginia Tech


In many drinking water systems in the United States, disinfectant is added to water as it leaves the plant to maintain a residual concentration in the distribution system. The disinfectant residual is maintained to inactivate contamination that enters the distribution system, to control biofilms, and to act as a sentinel for contamination in the distribution system. A model was developed to evaluate the potential effectiveness of the disinfectant residual at inactivating contamination. The model was used to examine contamination of a hypothetical distribution system through backpressure at a cross-connection under different operating conditions. The dilution and pathway of the hypothetical contaminant were examined as the contaminant moved through the system. Disinfection and inactivation kinetic relationships were used to model the inactivation of the contaminant in the system by the amount of disinfectant present. The model showed that both chlorine and chloramines in each decay and inactivation condition considered provided some benefit over no disinfectant at all when examining susceptible organisms. Chlorine, under medium and low decay conditions, provided the best inactivation. Where 29.8% of total node time steps received a contamination of concern in the absence of disinfectant residual, as low as 4.8% of total node time steps received a contamination of concern in the presence of disinfectant residual. Chloramines was found to persist longer in the distribution system, but resulted in much lower inactivation compared to chlorine. Disinfectant doses typical of common distribution system operation were able to reduce the impact of contamination once it entered the distribution system but, except for four cases, were unable to prevent contamination from spreading within the distribution system. Therefore, it was concluded that presence of a disinfectant residual will reduce the total number of exposure opportunities from a contamination event, but cannot be relied upon to eliminate the chance of exposure resulting from contamination.



Disinfectant, Model, Distribution System, Outbreak, Contamination, Cross-connection, Backflow, Chlorine