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Frontiers of Environmental Science & Engineering >> 2014, Volume 8, Issue 3 doi: 10.1007/s11783-013-0558-4

A red water occurrence in drinking water distribution systems caused by changes in water source in Beijing, China: mechanism analysis and control measures

School of Environment, Tsinghua University, Beijing 100084, China.Beijing General Municipal Engineering Design and Research Institute, Beijing 100082, China.Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Construction, Beijing 100037, China.Beijing Water Works Group, Beijing 100192, China

Available online: 2014-05-19

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A red water phenomenon occurred in several communities few days after the change of water source in Beijing, China in 2008. In this study, the origin of this problem, the mechanism of iron release and various control measures were investigated. The results indicated that a significant increase in sulphate concentration as a result of the new water source was the cause of the red water phenomenon. The mechanism of iron release was found that the high-concentration sulphate in the new water source disrupted the stable shell of scale on the inner pipe and led to the release of iron compounds. Experiments showed that the iron release rate in the new source water within pipe section was over 11-fold higher than that occurring within the local source water. The recovery of tap water quality lasted several months despite ameliorative measures being implemented, including adding phosphate, reducing the overall proportion of the new water source, elevating the pH and alkalinity, and utilizing free chlorine as a disinfectant instead of chloramine. Adding phosphate was more effective and more practical than the other measures. The iron release rate was decreased after the addition of 1.5 mg·L orthophosphate- P, tripolyphosphate-P and hexametaphosphate-P by 68%, 83% and 87%, respectively. Elevating the pH and alkalinity also reduced the iron release rate by 50%. However, the iron release rate did not decreased after replacing chloramine by 0.5–0.8 mg·L of free chlorine as disinfectant.

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