Mystery of the high chlorine consumption in disinfecting a chemically enhanced primary saline sewage

Wanxin Li, Xiangru Zhang*, Xiaoyan Li, Joseph HW Lee

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)


Stonecutters Island Sewage Treatment Works is one of the largest sewage treatment plants in the world and consists mainly of a chemically enhanced primary treatment (CEPT) unit and a disinfection unit. It has long been realized that most of the dosed chlorine (15 mg/L) is lost at the beginning part of the disinfection unit during disinfection of the CEPT effluent. Lab-scale tests were therefore conducted in this study to determine the causes. Because ferric chloride is used in CEPT, ferrous iron in the CEPT effluent (from the reduction of ferric iron) was initially thought to be the main chlorine consumer. However, the chlorine consumption by ferrous iron was found to be 1.2 mg/L at most. Suspended solids and sulfide also did not contribute significantly to the chlorine consumption. Batch tests were therefore conducted to evaluate the effects of mixing condition and chlorine stock solution concentration on the chlorine consumption. Less chlorine was consumed upon increased mixing. Using a high-concentration chlorine stock solution (25000 mg/L) resulted in a 3-times-higher chlorine consumption in the absence of mixing than using a low-concentration chlorine stock solution (2500 mg/L). By correlating the losses of ammonia and total nitrogen with the chlorine consumption, we hypothesized that the use of a high-concentration chlorine stock solution under poor mixing leads to a localized high ratio of chlorine to ammonia, resulting in breakpoint chlorination and an unusually excessive chlorine consumption. A novel apparatus was developed to quantify the nitrogen gas generated during chlorination of a simulated wastewater, and the mass balance of nitrogen-containing species (i.e., ammonia, nitrogen gas, nitrite and nitrate) during the chlorination was inspected. The good fit between the measured chlorine consumption and that back-calculated from nitrogen-containing species verified our hypothesis. Finally, it needs mentioning that the high chlorine consumption and the breakpoint chlorination may occur during chlorine disinfection of any sewage effluents with relatively high ammonia levels; thus it is suggested that either not-too-high concentrations of chlorine stock solutions or sufficient mixing should be applied during disinfection of the sewage effluents.
Original languageEnglish
JournalWater Research
Publication statusPublished - 2018
Externally publishedYes


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