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Effects of Nitrosation on the Formation of Cyanide in Publicly Owned Treatment Works Secondary Effluent

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Cyanide has been detected in the effluents of some publicly owned treatment works (POTWs) at levels exceeding the influent concentration. The presence of nitrite ion (NO2 as a common constituent in domestic wastewater effluents may play an important role in the formation of cyanide through reaction with certain kinds of organic compounds, especially aromatic compounds. Laboratory studies with seven organic compounds (aniline, p-toluidine, phenol, 1,2,4-trihydroxybenzene, L-serine, glycine, and benzoic acid) revealed that cyanide can be formed by reaction of nitrite with some of these compounds. The most substantial free cyanide (HCN, CN) production observed at 25°C was 0.15 mg/L from reaction of 0.01 mM 1,2,4-trihydroxybenze with 5 mg/L nitrite for 72 hours. Substantial free cyanide formation was also observed at pH 2-4 in experiments with POTW effluents when reactive organics and nitrite were both added to wastewater. Formation of cyanide through nitrosation was strongly pH dependent, being most significant at low pH (2 to 4) and negligible at neutral-to-high pH. This result points to nitrous acid (HNO2) as being more reactive than the dissociated NO2 ion. The reaction of these nitrite species with organics also occurs in conventional analyses for total cyanide which involve distillation under strongly acidic conditions. Sufficient sample pretreatment with sulfamic acid at the time of sampling, not at the time of analysis, is highly recommended to prevent biasing analytical measurement of total cyanide in POTW effluents.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2004-05-01

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    Water Environment Research (WER) publishes peer-reviewed research papers, research notes, state-of-the-art and critical reviews on original, fundamental and applied research in all scientific and technical areas related to water quality, pollution control, and management. An annual Literature Review provides a review of published books and articles on water quality topics from the previous year.

    Published as: Sewage Works Journal, 1928 - 1949; Sewage and Industrial Wastes, 1950 - 1959; Journal Water Pollution Control Federation, 1959 - Oct 1989; Research Journal Water Pollution Control Federation, Nov 1989 - 1991; Water Environment Research, 1992 - present.
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