Changing regulations to lower disinfectant byproducts in drinking water is forcing utilities to switch disinfection from chlorine to monochloramine. It is generally unknown whether this will impact positively or negatively on the microbiological quality of drinking water. A utility in Florida, using water with relatively high organic carbon levels from deep wells in several wellfields, made the decision to change its disinfection regime from chlorine to chloramine in order to meet the new regulations. To assess the impacts of such a change on the microbiology of its water supplies, it undertook a number of studies before and after the change. In particular, the presence of the opportunistic pathogens Legionella and Mycobacterium, and also the composition of drinking-water biofilms, were examined. A preliminary synthesis and summary of these results are presented here. Legionella species were widely distributed in source waters and in the distribution system when chlorine was the disinfectant. In some samples they seemed to be among the dominant biofilm bacteria. Following the change to monochloramine, legionellae were not detected in the distribution system during several months of survey; however, they remained detectable at point of use, although with less species diversity. A variety of mycobacteria (21 types) were widely distributed in the distribution system when chlorine was the disinfectant, but these seemed to increase in dominance after chloramination was instituted. At point of use, only four species of mycobacteria were detected. Other changes occurring with chloramination included (a) an altered biofilm composition, (b) increased numbers of total coliforms and heterotrophs and (c) nitrification of water storage tanks. The results suggested that consideration should be given to the microbiological effects of changing disinfection regimes in drinking-water and distribution system biofilms.

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