Faculty Advisor

Jeanine Plummer




Disinfectants such as chlorine are used in drinking water treatment to protect the public health from pathogenic microorganisms. However, disinfectants also react with humic material present in raw water sources and produce by-products, such as trihalomethanes. Total trihalomethanes (TTHMs) include four compounds: chloroform, bromodichloromethane, dibromochloromethane and bromoform. TTHMs are carcinogenic and have been found to cause adverse pregnancy outcomes. Therefore, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) has set the maximum contaminant limit for TTHMs at 80 ìg/L. Additional regulations require reliable drinking water disinfection for resistant pathogens and treatment plants must simultaneously control TTHMs and achieve proper disinfection. Research has shown that THM formation depends on several factors. THM concentrations increase with increasing residence time, increased temperature and increased pH. The disinfectant type and concentration is also significant: THM concentrations can be minimized by using lower disinfectant doses or alternative disinfectants to chlorine such as chloramines. Chloramines are formed by the addition of both chlorine and ammonia. The Worcester Water Filtration Plant in Holden, MA currently uses both ozone and chlorine for primary disinfection. Chlorine is also used for secondary disinfection. This study analyzed the effect of using chloramines versus free chlorine on TTHM production at the plant. Water samples were collected from the plant, dosed with chlorine/chloramines and stored for their designated residence times. The residual chlorine was then quenched with sodium thiosulfate and the samples were analyzed for TTHM concentration using a GC-MS. Experiments were conducted in December of 2001, April of 2002 and February of 2003, and examined varying residence times, pH conditions, temperatures, chlorine to nitrogen ratios and free chlorine reaction periods. The study found that as the pH increased the TTHMs increased. For the free chlorine samples, as residence time increased, the TTHMs increased. For the chloramination samples it was found that most of the TTHMs were formed in the first six hour reaction period with free chlorine before ammonia was added. Therefore, reducing this free chlorine contact period to 0 or 3 hours would reduce THM formation further. Chlorine to nitrogen ratios between 3:1 and 7:1 were all effective at reducing THM concentrations. Using chloramination at a 3:1 ratio (with a 6 hour free chlorine time) reduced THM formation by approximately 38% for a 54 hour residence time compared to using free chlorine.


Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Degree Name



Civil & Environmental Engineering

Project Type


Date Accepted





chloramines, trihalomethanes, disinfection by-products, Water, Purification, Chlorination, Trihalomethanes, Chloramines