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Disinfection Overview

Updated: Apr 3

Disinfection is the final part of the tertiary treatment process. It ensures that the water released back into the environment is safe for human health and the ecosystem. One common method of disinfection is chlorination. Chlorine, typically in the form of chlorine gas or sodium hypochlorite, is added to the wastewater to kill bacteria, viruses, and other harmful microorganisms. The chlorine reacts with organic matter and microbial cells, disrupting their structure and function which renders them harmless.


After chlorination, the water undergoes a dechlorination process to remove excess chlorine before it is discharged into water bodies. This is essential to prevent residual chlorine from harming aquatic life in water bodies that the wastewater flows out to. Dechlorination can be achieved through various methods, such as adding sulfur dioxide or sodium bisulfite, which react with chlorine to form harmless compounds like chloride ions.


Another disinfection method widely used in wastewater treatment is ultraviolet (UV) radiation. UV light damages the DNA and RNA of microorganisms, preventing them from reproducing and causing infections. In UV disinfection systems, wastewater flows through chambers where it is exposed to UV light emitted by lamps. UV disinfection is effective against a wide range of pathogens and has the advantage of not leaving behind harmful byproducts.


Advanced oxidation processes (AOPs) are emerging as effective disinfection methods in wastewater treatment. AOPs involve the generation of highly reactive hydroxyl radicals, which oxidize and degrade organic pollutants and microorganisms in wastewater. These processes often utilize oxidants like ozone, hydrogen peroxide, or UV light in combination with catalysts to enhance the production of hydroxyl radicals. AOPs can achieve high levels of disinfection and are particularly useful for treating wastewater containing persistent organic pollutants and emerging contaminants.



Disinfection in wastewater treatment involves the use of various methods such as chlorination, UV radiation, and advanced oxidation processes to eliminate harmful microorganisms and ensure the safety of treated water before it is discharged into the environment. Each method has its advantages and limitations, and the choice of disinfection method depends on factors such as the type of contaminants present, treatment goals, and environmental considerations.

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