Electrochemistry of Free Chlorine and Monochloramine and Its Relevance to the Presence of Pb in Drinking Water


The commonly used disinfectants in drinking water are free chlorine (in the form of HOCl/OCl-) and monochloramine (NH2Cl). While free chlorine reacts with natural organic matter in water to produce chlorinated hydrocarbon byproducts, there is also concern that NH2Cl may react with Pb to produce soluble Pb(II) productsleading to elevated Pb levels in drinking water. In this study, electrochemical methods are used to compare the thermodynamics and kinetics of the reduction of these two disinfectants. The standard reduction potential for NH2Cl/Cl- was estimated to be +1.45 V in acidic media and +0.74 V in alkaline media versus NHE using thermodynamic cycles. The kinetics of electroreduction of the two disinfectants was studied using an Au rotating disk electrode. The exchange current densities estimated from Koutecky−Levich plots were 8.2 × 10-5 and 4.1 × 10-5 A/cm2, and by low overpotential experiments were 7.5 ± 0.3 × 10-5 and 3.7 ± 0.4 × 10-5 A/cm2 for free chlorine and NH2Cl, respectively. The rate constant for the electrochemical reduction of free chlorine at equilibrium is approximately twice as large as that for the reduction of NH2Cl. Equilibrium potential measurements show that free chlorine will oxidize Pb to PbO2 above pH 1.7, whereas NH2Cl will oxidize Pb to PbO2 only above about pH 9.5, if the total dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) is 18 ppm. Hence, NH2Cl is not capable of producing a passivating PbO2 layer on Pb, and could lead to elevated levels of dissolved Pb in drinking water.




National Science Foundation (U.S.)

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