Wastewater disinfection: long-term laboratory and full-scale studies on performic acid in comparison with peracetic acid and chlorine.Water Res. 2020 Oct 01; 184:116169.WR
Chemical disinfection of municipal wastewater to preserve the microbiological quality of discharges has traditionally relied on chlorine, and more recently on peracetic acid (PAA). A more recent option is performic acid (PFA). This work uses laboratory and full-scale studies over a span of 15 years and five wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) in Italy, to compare the efficacy of these three disinfectants and identify the differences among peracids in a context where both can be an alternative to chlorine. The investigations focused on treatment effectiveness and bacterial inactivation kinetics using E. coli and the more resistant enterococci, as well as on PFA and PAA decomposition as the residuals may affect the downstream microenvironment. Furthermore, the potential for the two peracids to oxidize organic substances and create troublesome byproducts was also studied. Chlorine, applied as hypochlorite ("HYP") and here essentially functioning as chloramines, was used as a baseline comparison for the two peracids. Appropriate statistical tests were applied to the data from different WWTPs to account for potential interferences and compounding effects of the different matrices. Average doses of 0.8, 2.9 and 1.4 mg/L and contact times of 18, 21 and 31 min, respectively for PFA, chlorine and PAA guaranteed with a high level of assurance the 5000 CFU/100 mL E. coli limit; the order of effectiveness was PFA > HYP > PAA, refined as PFA > HYP ≈ PAA against E. coli and PFA ≈ HYP > PAA with enterococci. Similar bacterial reductions for the peracids were found at higher disinfectant doses used for the kinetic tests. PFA decayed more quickly than PAA. The first-order decay constants were 0.031 and 0.007 min-1, respectively, suggesting that disinfection residuals when PFA is used may be less of a concern than with PAA. This faster decomposition did not affect the PFA oxidation power on estrone, which was as weak as that of PAA.