Anions-Other Constituents of Concern in Water, Chemistry tutorial


Depending on their levels in a specified water source and the utilize for that the water is proposed, anions as chloride (Cl-), fluoride (F-), sulphate (SO42-) and phosphate (PO43-) and residual chlorine, nitrogen, iron and manganese, oil and grease, and volatile acids, can all comprise sources of worries. It is factual that several of them take place as expected in the ecological compartments, but they can pose stressful situations on humans and the biota whenever their natural background levels are exceeded in water bodies.

Common Anions in Natural and Wastewaters

Chloride (Cl-)

Chloride happens in all natural waters in fluctuating concentrations. The chloride content normally enhances as the mineral content amplifies. Upland and mountain supplies are generally quite low in chloride, whereas river and ground waters usually have a considerable amount. Chloride levels in sea and ocean waters are extremely elevated.

Chloride content in a water sample can be computed via Mohr Method, Mercuric Nitrate Method and Ferricyanide Method.

In reasonable concentrations, chloride isn't injurious to humans. At concentrations above 250 mg/L, it provides a salty taste to water that is objectionable to many people. The USEPA Secondary Standard for chloride in drinking water is 250 mg/L, the similar value enclosed in the WHO guidelines. Evapotransportation tends to enhance the chloride and salinity at the root zone of irrigated plants, making it hard for crops to take up water due to osmotic pressure differences. As these, chloride and total salinity concentrations at or below the drinking water standards are normally specified for waters utilized to irrigate salt-sensitive crops.

Fluoride (F-)

The monitoring  of  the  presence  and  level  of  fluoride  ion  in  water requires greater  vigilant efforts than is given to chloride ion. This is because of the health implications of fluoride ion especially in humans. Approximately one mg/L of fluoride ion is desirable in public waters for optimal dental health. At decreasing levels, dental caries becomes a serious problem, and at increasing levels, dental fluorosis (mottled enamel) becomes a problem. In the recent times, a higher level of fluoride is being implicated for liver problems as well.

The principal forms in which fluoride is added to public water supplies are sodium fluoride  (NaF), calcium fluoride (CaF2), hydrogen fluoride (HF), sodium silicofluoride (Na2SiF6), hydrofluosilicic acid (H2SiF6) and ammonium silicofluoride [(NH4)2SiF6]. All such compounds dissociate in water to yield fluoride ion. At the concentrations of about one mg/L included in water treatment, hydrolysis of the fluosilicate ion is fundamentally complete.

SiF62- + 3H2O 949_aro.jpg  6F- + 6H+ + SiO32-

On this basis, the fluoride in silicofluorides can be computed via any process that is sensitive to fluoride ion for example the electrode method, colorimetric procedures and ion chromatography. Excess fluoride in water can be removed by passing of water through diverse kinds of defluoridation media such as tricalcium phosphate, bone char and bone meal. Activated alumina was established to accomplish fluoride removal by a combination of ion switch and sorption. Fluoride can as well be eliminated during lime softening through co-precipitation with magnesium hydroxide or by alum coagulation.

Sulphate (SO42-)

Sulphate ion is one of the major anions occurring in natural waters. It has a cathartic effect upon humans when it is presents in excessive amounts in public water supplies. The USEPA Secondary Standard for sulphate is 250 mg/L in waters intended for human consumption. Sulphate is important in both public and industrial water supplies because of the tendency of waters containing appreciable amounts to form hard scales in boilers and heat exchangers.

Sulphate is of considerable concern since it is indirectly responsible for serious difficulties of odour and sewer-corrosion consequential from the reduction of SO42- to H2S under anaerobic conditions.

SO42- + organic matter bacteria 949_aro.jpgS2-+ H2O + CO2

S2- + H+1069_reverse bond.jpg   HS-

HS- + H+    1069_reverse bond.jpg    H2S

Bacteria of the genus Thiobacillus are ubiquitous in nature and are capable of sulphide oxidation to sulphuric acid at a pH as low as 2 under the aerobic conditions normally prevailing in sewers.

H2S + 2O21069_reverse bond.jpg (bacteria) H2SO4

Being a strong acid, H2SO4 attacks the concrete in the sewer. H2SO4 formation in this way is particularly serious in the crown, where drainage is at a minimum. Drainage running through abandoned coal mines and other exploited mineral-bearing deposits can be a source of elevated sulphate concentrations in addition to low pH situations in the streams inside the vicinity. The sulphide minerals are oxidised through bacterial and chemical actions to create sulphuric acid

2FeS2 + 7O2 + 2H2O 949_aro.jpg (bacteria) 2Fe2+ + 4SO42- + 4H+

The lowered pH and high iron content procedure added harm to water quality. Combustion of fossil fuels leads to formation of gaseous oxides of sulphure that hydrolyse when dissolved in rainwater to form sulphuric acid. Analysis of SO42- in a sample of wastewater can be carried out using gravimetric, turbidimetric and automated methylthymol blue analysis.

Phosphate (PO43-)

The inorganic compounds of phosphorus of significance in environmental chemistry are the phosphates or their molecularly dehydrated forms (polyphosphates) or condensed phosphates. Organically bound phosphorus is usually a minor consideration. Phosphorus compounds commonly encountered in environmental science generally are orthophosphates such as trisodium phosphate (Na3PO4), disodium phosphate (Na2HPO4), monosodium phosphate ((NaH2PO4) and diammonium phosphate ((NH4)2HPO4), and polyphosphates such as sodium hexametaphosphate (Na3(PO3)6), sodium tripolyphosphate (Na5P3O10) and tetrasodium pyrophosphate (Na4P2O7).

Polyphosphates are employed in several public water supplies as a means of controlling corrosion. They are as well utilized in various softened waters for stabilization of calcium carbonate to remove the need for recarbonation. Both nitrogen and phosphorus are necessary for the development of algae and cyanobacteria. Limitation in amounts of such elements is generally the factor that controls their rate of expansion. Where both nitrogen and phosphorus are plenty, algal blooms take place that might create a variety of nuisance conditions. The critical level for inorganic phosphorus in water has been put at approximately 0.005mg/L (5 µg/L).

Phosphorus occurring as orthophosphate (H3PO4, H2PO4-, HPO4, PO4) can be computed quantitatively via gravimetric, volumetric or colorimetric process. Polyphosphates are first changed to orthophosphates via boiling acidified sample for 90 minutes or more. Organic phosphorus is 1st digested before the phosphorus measurement is carried out.

Residual chlorine

The prime purpose of disinfecting public water supplies and wastewater effluents is to put off the swell of water-borne illness. The practice of disinfection through chlorine has become so widespread and usually admitted as if no problem is connected through the practice. In more recent years, chlorination has been originated to create trichalomethanes and other organics of health concern. Therefore, the employ of alternative disinfectants, these as chloromines, chlorine dioxide, UV radiation and ozone, which don't cause this particular difficulty, is rising. One significant limitation is that chlorination alone isn't adequately protective against several disease-causing protozoa these as Giardia lamblia and Cryptosporidium paevum; good filteration is as well needed. Chlorine is utilized to disinfect water in the form of free chlorine or as hypochlorite. In either form, it acts as a potent oxidizing agent. Chlorine combines by water to form hypchlorous and hydrochloric acids. The hydrochlorous acid shaped is a weak acid and is very badly dissociated at pH < 6.

Cl2 + H2O 1069_reverse bond.jpg HOCl + H+ + Cl-

HOCl 1069_reverse bond.jpg H+ + OCl-

The nature of the reactions is dominated via the free Cl2 through the consequential development of obnoxious compounds such as tri-chloramine, NCl3. to minimise these effects, high-quality water is often used as chlorinator feed water. Hypochlorite is employed in the form of solutions of sodium hypochlorites and the dry form of calcium hypochlorite.

Solution of Na hypochlorite is popular where large amounts are necessary these as in wastewater disinfection, while Ca hypochlorite is popular where bounded amounts are needed or intermittent usage are dictated. Both compounds ionize in water to yield hypochlorite ion, OCl-. Free chlorine tends to reduce the pH, whereas hypochlorite tends to increase the pH.

NaOCl Na+ + OCl-

Ca(OCl)2   Ca2+ + 2OCl-

Reactions of Chlorine and Hypochlorous acid with Substances in Water

Reactions with NH3: Ammonia reacts with chlorine or hypochlorous acid to form monochoramine, dichloramine and trichloromaine depending on the relative amounts of each, and to some extent, on the pH.

NH3 + HOCl949_aro.jpg NH2Cl + H2O


NH2Cl + HOCl 949_aro.jpg NHCl2 + H2O

Dichloramine   NHCl2 + HOCl 949_aro.jpgNCl3 + H2O


In water chemistry, chlorine, hypochlorous acid and hypochlorite ion are said free chlorine residuals while chloramines are termed combined chlorine residuals.

Reactions by reducing agents: Chlorine combines through a wide variety of reducing agents such as H2S, Fe2+, Mn2+ and NO2-.Their require for chlorine must be satisfied before chlorine becomes available to complete disinfection.

Cl2 + H2949_aro.jpg  2HCl + S.

Reactions with unsaturated organic compounds: Organic compounds that possess unsaturated linkages will add hypochlorous acid and enhance the chlorine demand

H2C=CH2 + HOCl 949_aro.jpg H2C(OH)CH2(Cl)

Reactions with other halogens: Chlorine as well reacts by other halogens in water for example hypochlorous acid reacts through bromide to form hypobromous acid.

HOCl + Br- 949_aro.jpgHOBr + Cl-

Reactions with phenols: Chlorine reacts by phenols to create mono-, di-,or trichlorophenols, which can impart tastes and odours to waters. Reactions with humic substances: Chlorine and hypobromous acid react with humic substances present in most halogenated products including trihalomethanes (THMs) these as chloroform, bromodichloromethane, dibromochloromethane and bromoform, and haloacetic acids. The THMs are suspected human carcinogens that are regulated in drinking water by a sum total maximum contaminant level (MCL) of 80 µg/L.


The compounds of nitrogen are of great importance in water resources, in the atmosphere and in the life processes of all plants and animals. Nitrogen can exist in seven oxidation states, and all of them are of environmental interest: NH3 (-3); N2(0); N2O (+1); NO (+2); N2O3 (+3); NO2  (+4) and N2O5 (+5). Three of these (NH3, N2O3 and N2O5) join by water to form inorganic ionized species (NH4+, NO2- and NO3-) that can reach high concentrations,

NH2 + H2O 949_aro.jpg NH4+ + OH-

 N2O3 + H2O 949_aro.jpg 2H+ + 2NO2-

N2O5 + H2O949_aro.jpg 2H+ + 2NO3-

The relevant water-soluble species shaped: ammonium, nitrite and nitrate ions are of historical ecological concern in water. Their concentrations in drinking water supplies and surface waters have been controlled for decades. In water, most of the nitrogen is initially present in the form of organic (protein) nitrogen and ammonia. As time progresses, the organic nitrogen are steadily changed to ammonia nitrogen, and later on, if aerobic situations are present, oxidation of ammonia to nitrite and nitrate occurs. Therefore, waters that enclosed mostly organics and ammonia nitrogen were considered to have been recently polluted and therefore of great potential danger. Waters in that most of the nitrogen was in the form of nitrate were considered to have been polluted a long time previously and therefore offered little threat to the public health. Waters through appreciable amounts of nitrite were of extremely questionable quality.

Water through elevated nitrate content frequently caused methaemoglobinaemia in infants as a consequence of the interaction of nitrite by haemoglobin; the nitrite being formed from nitrate reduction in the digestive system. The USEPA has set a MCL requiring that the nitrate-nitrogen concentration not exceed 10 mg/L and the nitrite-nitrogen concentration not exceed 1 mg/L in public water supplies. Nitrite can as well interact through amines enzymatically or chemically, especially when chlorinating for disinfection, to form nitrosamines that are strong carcinogens.

The formation of N- nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA) via such processes has been establish to result during wastewater treatment and has become an issue recently in wastewater reuse projects and contaminated groundwater supplies.

Iron and Manganese in Water

Both iron and manganese create serious problems in public water supplies. The troubles are most extensive and critical by underground waters, but difficulties are encountered at indeed seasons of the year in waters drawn from several rivers and various impounded surface supplies. Why some underground supplies are comparatively free of iron and manganese and others enclose so much has been a difficult explanation when viewed solely from the view point of inorganic chemistry alone. Changes in ecological situations brought about via biological reactions, are main considerations.

It is significant to consider how iron and manganese are changed to soluble forms and gain access into water since both of them are present in insoluble forms in important amounts in nearly all soils. Iron exists in soil and minerals mainly as insoluble ferric oxides and iron sulphide (pyrite). It happens in several areas as well as ferrous carbonate (siderite) that is only extremely slightly soluble. Since ground waters generally enclose important amounts of CO2, appreciable amounts of ferrous carbonate might be dissolved in a manner similar to that of calcium and magnesium Carbonates dissolution.

FeCO3(s) + CO2 + H2949_aro.jpg Fe2+ + 2HCO3-.

Dissolution of measurable amounts of iron from insoluble solid ferric compounds doesn't take place; even in the presence of appreciate amounts of CO2, as long as dissolved oxygen is present.  Under reducing (anaerobic) conditions, though, the ferric iron is reduced to ferrous iron, and solution happens with no difficulty.

Manganese exists in the soil principally as manganese dioxide that is extremely insoluble in water enclosing carbon dioxide. Under anaerobic conditions, Mn in the dioxide form is decreased from an oxidation state of IV to II, and solution happens, as by ferric oxides. When oxygen-bearing water is infused into the ground for recharge of the groundwater aquifer, it is sometimes noted that the soluble iron content of the water enhances. This observation seems to contradict the have to for anaerobic situations. The clarification is that the oxygen is devoured through the oxidation of insoluble pyrite (FeS2), leading to anaerobic conditions and the formation of soluble iron sulphate. Only under anaerobic situations are the soluble forms of iron and manganese (Fe(II) and Mn(II)) thermodynamically stable.

2FeS2 + 7O2 + 2H2949_aro.jpg2Fe2+ + 4SO2-4 + 4H+.

As far as it is known, humans suffer no harmful consequences from drinking waters having iron and manganese. These waters, when exposed to the air become turbid and highly unacceptable from an aesthetic viewpoint, owing to the oxidation of Fe(II) and Mn(II) to Fe(III) and Mn(IV) respectively. Both iron and manganese interfere with laundering operations, impart objectionable stains to plumbing fixtures and cause difficulties in distribution systems via supporting of iron bacteria. Iron as well imparts a taste to water that is detectable at extremely low concentrations. For these reasons, the USEPA secondary standards for iron and manganese in public water supplies are 0.3 mg/L and 0.05 mg/L correspondingly.

Oil and Grease in Water

The oil and grease content of domestic and indeed industrial wastes, and sludge, is a significant consideration in the handling and treatment of such substances for ultimate disposal. Oil and grease have poor solubility in water and do divide from the aqueous phase. This trait of oil and grease complicates the transportation of wastes though pipeline, their destruction in biological treatment units and their ultimate disposal into the receiving streams. Very few processing plants have provisions for the separate disposal of waters from meat-packing industry and restaurants to scavengers or by incineration. As a result, the oil and grease which separate as scum, in primary settling tanks are normally transferred by the settled solids to disposal units. In sludge digestion tanks, oil and grease tend to separate and float on the surface to form dense scum layers. Scum problems have been particularly severe where high-grease-content wastes have been admitted to public sewer systems. The vacuum filtration of sludge is as well complicated via high grease content.

Not all the oil and grease is eliminated from the sewage via primary settling units. Appreciable amounts continue in the clarified wastewater in a finely separated emulsified form. During subsequent biological attack in secondary treatment units or in the receiving stream, the emulsifying agents are generally demolished, and the finely separated oil and grease elements become free to coalesce into grease particles that separate from the water. In activated-sludge plants, the grease often accumulates into 'grease balls' that provide an unsightly appearance to the surface of final settling tanks. Both trickling filters and the activated sludge procedure are badly influenced via unreasonable amounts of grease, which seems to coat the biological solids sufficiently to interfere with oxygen transfer from the liquid to the interior of the living cells. This is sometimes described as a "smothering" action.

Spills of crude and refined petroleum from ships used for their transport have resulted in loss of fish, mammals and waterfowl, and the fouling of beaches. Also, oil and grease leaking from automobiles result in high concentrations in storm runoff from streets, contaminating water ways into which storm water drains.

Volatile Acids in Water

The volatile-acids determination is widely used in the control of anaerobic waste treatment processes. In the biochemical decomposition of organic matter that occurs, facultative and anaerobic bacteria of wide variety hydrolyse and convert the complex materials to low-molecular- weight compounds.  Among the low-molecular-weight compounds formed are the short-chain fatty acids such as acetic, propionic, butyric, and to a less extent, isobutyric, valeric, isovaleric and caproic, are important components. These low-molecular-weight  fatty  acids  are termed  volatile  acids  because  they  can  be  distilled  at  atmospheric pressure.

An accumulation of volatile acids can have a disastrous effect upon anaerobic treatment if the buffering capacity of the system is exceeded and the pH falls to unfavourable levels. In anaerobic digestion, units that are operating in a stabilized condition, three groups of bacteria work in harmony to complete the destruction of organic matter. Subsequent hydrolysis and fermentation to compound acids, the acidogenic and dehydrogenating organisms carry the degradation to acetic acid and hydrogen. Then the methanogenic bacteria complete the conversion into methane and carbon dioxide.

When a adequate population of methanogenic bacteria is present and ecological situations are favorable, they use the finish products created via acidogenic bacteria as fast as they are formed. As a result, acids do not accumulate beyond the neutralizing abilities of the natural buffers present, and the pH continues in a favorable range for the methane bacteria. Under these conditions, the volatile acid content of digesting sludges, or anaerobically treated wastewaters generally runs in the range of 50 to 250 mg/L.

Untreated municipal wastewater sludges and many industrial wastewaters have a comparatively low buffering capacity, and when they are permitted to ferment anaerobically, volatile acids are created so much faster than the few methanogenetic bacteria present can devour them that the buffers are soon spent and free acids exist to depress the pH. At pH values below 6.5, methanogenetic bacteria are gravely inhibited, but many fermentative and acidogenic bacteria aren't until pH levels fall to about five. Under these unbalanced situations, the volatile-acids concentration continues to enhance to levels of 2000 to 6000mg/L or more, depending upon the solids content of the sludge.

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