The paper is a review of previous research on secondary effluent disinfection by peracetic acid (PAA) integrated with new data about the effect of a preliminary flash-mixing step. The process was studied at bench and pilot scale to assess its performance for discharge in surface water and agricultural reuse (target microorganisms: Escherichia coli and faecal coliform bacteria). The purposes of the research were: (1) determining PAA decay and disinfection kinetics as a function of operating parameters, (2) evaluating PAA suitability as a disinfectant, (3) assessing long-term disinfection efficiency, (4) investigating disinfected effluent biological toxicity on some aquatic indicator organisms (Vibrio fischeri, Daphnia magna and Selenastrum capricornutum), (5) comparing PAA with conventional disinfectants (sodium hypochlorite, UV irradiation). PAA disinfection was capable of complying with Italian regulations on reuse (10 CFU/100 mL for E. coli) and was competitive with benchmarks. No regrowth phenomena were observed, as long as needed for agricultural reuse (29 h after disinfection), even at negligible concentrations of residual disinfectant. The toxic effect of PAA on the aquatic environment was due to the residual disinfectant in the water, rather than to chemical modification of the effluent.

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