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Ammonia in Drinking Water

Ammonia is a colorless, pungent gaseous compound of hydrogen and nitrogen that is highly soluble in water. It is a biologically active compound found in most waters as a normal biological degradation product of nitrogenous organic matter (protein). It also may find its way to ground and surface waters through discharge of industrial process wastes containing ammonia and fertilizers. Ammonia has been used in municipal treatment systems for more than 70 years to prolong the effectiveness of disinfection chlorine added to drinking water. The addition of ammonia enhances the formation of chloramines (which may create objectionable tastes), and it reduces the formation of chlorination by-products which may be carcinogenic. Partial adsorption of chloramines (from city supplied water) by GAC may liberate ammonia.


Contaminant  In Water As Maximum Contaminant Level*
           

Ammonia (NH3)

pH dependent:
NH4+
NH3

No US EPA action levels or WHO guidelines have been established.

Sources of Contaminant

Disinfection with chloramines
Wastes, fertilizers & natural processes

Potential Health Effects

None proposed for human but toxic for aquatic life.

Treatment Methods

Point-of-Entry (POE)
Point-of-Use (POU)

Ion Exchange with zeolite
Sodium alumino silicate zeolites
Distillation

*Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) - The highest level of a contaminant that is allowed in drinking water. MCLs are set as close to MCLGs as feasible using the best available treatment technology and taking cost into consideration. MCLs are enforceable standards.


Click here to open WQA's Technical Fact Sheet on Ammonia.

Click here to access all of WQA's Technical Fact Sheets.