What You Should Know About Your Public Water Treatment System Part 2: Nitrates / Nitrites

August 23, 2019

What You Should Know About Your Public Water Treatment System  Part 2: Nitrates / Nitrites

You heard it here first folks. Typically, this topic is discussed in the rural/agricultural communities threatened by nitrate/nitrite from agricultural run-off entering private wells and municipal water sources.  If you think the nitrates/nitrites issue is solely a concern in communities where people get drinking water from agricultural areas, then you need to read this blog.


Here at Western Water we are working with a large municipal school district which has installed 4200 of our filters in their school water fountains. These schools, who are served by the municipal water system discovered that the city’s water treatment process had been recently “upgraded” by using a disinfection compound called chloramine. This compound consists of chlorine and ammonia and is commonly used to reduce the production of chloramine levels which are a function of chlorine interacting with organics in the water.


Incidentally, when we did our first test of the 4200 installed filters to monitor their effectiveness in reducing the lead content to a safe level, nitrates/nitrites were not an issue. However, in the next quarter a second round of testing was conducted and the schools were surprised to find excessive levels of nitrates/nitrites in the water. These excessive nitrates/nitrites were determined to be a result of the municipal water treatment authority adding ammonia in the form of “Chloramine” as their primary disinfectant. The accepted safe limit of nitrates/nitrites is 10 mg/L (10 milligrams per liter). Small children and animals are most at risk from exposure to nitrates/nitrites. Excessive nitrates in drinking water can cause “blue-baby syndrome” or methemoglobinemia. 


Since children spend a major portion of their day at school, it is reasonable to conclude that they consume most of their daily drinking water at school. Many school systems use carbon-based filters to address issues with lead and many other toxic substances in their drinking water. These filters can create an environment that encourages the formation of nitrates/nitrites in the water by way of background bacteria interacting with the added ammonia in areas that promote bacterial growth such as water filters. Nitrates/nitrites are on the list of tested chemicals as identified on the EPA’s Primary Chemical list but are not usually expected to be found outside of agricultural communities.


Aquaspace has determined, by rendering its product to be bacteriostatic that we are able to eradicate the production of nitrates/nitrites. (A bacteriostatic agent or bacteriostat, abbreviated Bstatic, is a device or biological or chemical agent that stops bacteria from reproducing, while not necessarily killing them otherwise.) [1]  


Can the filters be adjusted after the initial discovery of the nitrates/nitrites?

After discovery of the formation of nitrates/nitrites, we tested multiple rendering variations in our effort to render our filters bacteriostatic. After implementation we tested all 4200 filters. Only 6 of the 4200 indicated any presence of nitrate/nitrite and the highest nitrite level of those 6 units was only 5mg/l.


Is your filtration system prepared to handle the inadvertent production of nitrate/nitrite due to the background bacteria in your water interacting with the ammonia which was added to the system to address other issues?


 All Aquaspace water filters are being adjusted to meet this new threat. We would also advise that you contact your school administrators to understand what steps are being taken to protect your children from lead and nitrates/nitrites in their drinking water.


[1] Wikipedia

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