Chloramines Questions

woeisme(z7b NC)July 26, 2010

I was wondering what is the target ratio of chlorine to ammonia in chloramines?

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cweathersby

Target rate is 3.5 to 4 chlorine to ammonia. As chlorine dissipates the ammonia is left. So even if the chloramine level at your residence is fairly low, the ammonia is still there.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2010 at 5:07PM
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drh1(z4b/5a)

One of the more interesting aspects of chloramine usage is the problem water municipalities have in maintaining a long-term chloramine residual. It turns out that one of the factors resulting in the destruction of chloramines is the presence of nitrifying microbes in the water mains...they consume chloramines converting them to nitrates. So guess what happens to chloramines if you add them to the water just prior to your biofilter???? If you'd like I can post a couple of technical articles here if you're interested. 'Tis why I recommend folks add water to their pond by putting it in prior to their biofilter. Spraying it into the air does very little to drop the chloramine concentration ... a process some use for reducing chlorine levels (so-called "free chlorine").
---David

    Bookmark   July 26, 2010 at 5:50PM
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cweathersby

Yep. Nitrifying bacteria is one of our main concerns. We spend lots of time trying to keep it out of the water system. And chloramines aren't as easy to get rid of by spraying.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2010 at 7:13PM
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woeisme(z7b NC)

drh1 - I would like to see those articles. Post them, e-mail them or put the web addresses up and I can copy and paste them. Whatever is easiest for you.
Question: Putting in the water prior to the bio-filtration. Just so I am understanding you clearly, a scenario. A person is refilling their pond with a hose. You are saying to direct the flow of water closest to your bio-filters input and/or directly into the filter itself?
and
Would you use a dechlor/dechloraminator also?

To be clear -What you are saying is the ammonia in the chloramine is converted by the nitrifying bacteria in the water mains into nitrate which is also in the water. So what we are doing is adding Nitrate, Ammonia and Chlorine back in?

Cweathersby - 3.5 - 4 ppm chlorine to how much ammonia? or,
If there is 4.0ppm chlorine, how much ammonia should there be?

My chlorine test kit only gives me increments of every 1.5ppm roughly, so I have to guess between 1.5 and 3.0 and would say that mine out of the tap is about 2.0 ppm free chlorine - Combined Chlorine is 5.0ppm / Total Ammonia 1.0 -2.0 ppm,

    Bookmark   July 27, 2010 at 9:26AM
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cweathersby

I think he's saying that if you add it without dechlor it should be added as far away from the bio filter as possible.
The reason nitrifying bacteria is a nightmare for the water company is because the chlorine kills the nitrifying bacteria, leaving us with no chlorine residual.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2010 at 10:17AM
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drh1(z4b/5a)

Nope. He's not saying any of that. The reason you don't have a chloramine residual in the presence of nitrifiers is that they consume the chloramine (hence your chloramine or combined chlorine residual goes down). Therefore when you add water containing chloramines and/or ammonia you want to slowly feed the water directly into the intake of your pump going directly to your biofilter. The biomass in there will take the chloramines and ammonia and do its thing: convert them to nitrates...just what it does all the time when the fish consume food and excrete ammonia (mostly from the breakdown of the protein in the food). In municipal water systems chloramines are used to establish residual disinfectant levels to maintain disinfected water throughout the mains. Some of the mains may take as long as a day or two for water from the treatment plant to reach the end of the main and therefore it is very important for them to keep a minimum level of disinfectant in place. However, it turns out that sometimes nitrifiers can colonize the pipes and sit there consuming the chloramines....sort of like serving them breakfast in bed! At that point the companies have to go in, flush the main and then super-chlorinate that section, re-flush the main, etc.
As to the effectiveness of what I've mentioned above? I've got access to a few toys that allow me to detect lower levels of free chlorine/combined chlorine, etc. To date I've not been able to detect ANY levels coming out of the biofilter. But the total system looks like this: water from hose bibb enters a timer (set to go on every other day 5:00 AM to 8:00 AM); water (when on) passes through a whole-house activated carbon filter (this knocks out any free-chlorine residual as well as provides approximately a 50-60% destruction of chloramines); water enters the skimmer through a float valve (think old fashioned toilet float...so if no water is needed nothing enters). Maximum flowrate is...based on measurements I've made...approximately 0.5 gal/min. ALL of the water then passes through one of two biofilters. Currently running approximately 1500 sq.ft. of surface area so more than enough to deal with limited fish load plus any chloramine loading. I do NOT bother with dechlorinators. I have some ChlorAmX on hand but only use it in the late winter if I see ammonia levels creeping up there (biofilters aren't running then). Haven't had to use any for about six years!!!!
I will move the the articles later today or tomorrow onto a file on a server which should be open at all times. But first I have to go out and play for a bit in the sun this afternoon. Nothing like a bit of heat exposure to help fry the old brain!!
So what caveat would I add? If you're running a very heavy fish load for your pond, feeding them several times a day and have a minimal sized biofilter for your setup you might see some issues. But....the biota in your pond will get rid of chloramines fairly rapidly, it's just the short term spike (if your setup can't handle it) which might be detrimental to your fish. If you're in a hurry to top off your pond and you've decided to a 25% water change that day and you take the hose, open it wide, let'er rip.....yep, you're probably looking forward to seeing some problems. I like my slow and easy (and VERY lazy) way of doing it. It works for me.
Articles to follow.
---David

    Bookmark   July 27, 2010 at 12:48PM
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corrie22

woe, you haven't said what you are trying to do?
A partical water change? empty and fill the whole pond at one time?
What's your alk/kh and pH?

If you are doing a small enough water change, and your buffer and pH are high enough, you probably don't need to add anything at all.

Doing a partical water change on a fairly dirty pond, the organics will eat up the chlorine almost immediately.

If you're getting a total ammonia reading of 2 ppm, a 25% water change will add .5PPM ammonia. If your pH is high enough, that won't matter and your biological filter will also take care of that fast.

If you're draining the whole pond, or doing a large water change, add Cloram-X. Or use sodium thiosulfate/hypo for the chlorine, and one drop per gallon of formalin to bind the ammonia.

That's what I do.
Corrie

    Bookmark   July 27, 2010 at 1:12PM
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drh1(z4b/5a)

Nope. He's not saying any of that. The reason you don't have a chloramine residual in the presence of nitrifiers is that they consume the chloramine (hence your chloramine or combined chlorine residual goes down). Therefore when you add water containing chloramines and/or ammonia you want to slowly feed the water directly into the intake of your pump going directly to your biofilter. The biomass in there will take the chloramines and ammonia and do its thing: convert them to nitrates...just what it does all the time when the fish consume food and excrete ammonia (mostly from the breakdown of the protein in the food). In municipal water systems chloramines are used to establish residual disinfectant levels to maintain disinfected water throughout the mains. Some of the mains may take as long as a day or two for water from the treatment plant to reach the end of the main and therefore it is very important for them to keep a minimum level of disinfectant in place. However, it turns out that sometimes nitrifiers can colonize the pipes and sit there consuming the chloramines....sort of like serving them breakfast in bed! At that point the companies have to go in, flush the main and then super-chlorinate that section, re-flush the main, etc.
As to the effectiveness of what I've mentioned above? I've got access to a few toys that allow me to detect lower levels of free chlorine/combined chlorine, etc. To date I've not been able to detect ANY levels coming out of the biofilter. But the total system looks like this: water from hose bibb enters a timer (set to go on every other day 5:00 AM to 8:00 AM); water (when on) passes through a whole-house activated carbon filter (this knocks out any free-chlorine residual as well as provides approximately a 50-60% destruction of chloramines); water enters the skimmer through a float valve (think old fashioned toilet float...so if no water is needed nothing enters). Maximum flowrate is...based on measurements I've made...approximately 0.5 gal/min. ALL of the water then passes through one of two biofilters. Currently running approximately 1500 sq.ft. of surface area so more than enough to deal with limited fish load plus any chloramine loading. I do NOT bother with dechlorinators. I have some ChlorAmX on hand but only use it in the late winter if I see ammonia levels creeping up there (biofilters aren't running then). Haven't had to use any for about six years!!!!
I will move the the articles later today or tomorrow onto a file on a server which should be open at all times. But first I have to go out and play for a bit in the sun this afternoon. Nothing like a bit of heat exposure to help fry the old brain!!
So what caveat would I add? If you're running a very heavy fish load for your pond, feeding them several times a day and have a minimal sized biofilter for your setup you might see some issues. But....the biota in your pond will get rid of chloramines fairly rapidly, it's just the short term spike (if your setup can't handle it) which might be detrimental to your fish. If you're in a hurry to top off your pond and you've decided to a 25% water change that day and you take the hose, open it wide, let'er rip.....yep, you're probably looking forward to seeing some problems. I like my slow and easy (and VERY lazy) way of doing it. It works for me.
Articles to follow.
---David

    Bookmark   July 27, 2010 at 1:48PM
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cweathersby

Well, maybe I'm wrong. I always thought that we lost our chloramine residual when there was nitrification bacteria in the water lines because the chloramine residual was lost as it encountered and killed the bacteria.
I do know that at least one time we suspected a nitrification event. The regulatory agencies recomend that the response to this is to stop using chloramines and go with free chlorine until the residual is back throughout the system - the reason being is that free chlorine is a much more rapid disinfectant. For many reasons (mainly because we are dealing with 2 different states and it's hard to get permission from both at once) we were not able to switch to free chlorine to resolve the problem. Instead, we stabilized the chloramine residual by ensuring that there was a very minimal level of free ammonia leaving the plant, and therefore very minimal levels of food for the nitrifying bacteria.
Problem solved. The chloramines got rid of the nitrifying bacteria. The state has since tested our system for nitrifying bacteria and did not find it.
If the chloramines "fed" the nitrifying bacteria then we would still be dealing with a loss of residual. As it is, our residual is very stable throughout the system.
I really could be missing something in all of this, but I have always been told by the drinking water quality regulators in both Arkansas and Texas that the free ammonia is what feeds nitrifying bacteria. We do not want to leave the water treatment plants with any free chlorine, because that is what causes the disinfection biproducts that the EPA is so worried about. So we struggle to maintain a very slight level of free ammonia.

As to how this works in the pond, I don't know. I have a well on my property and am able to refill my pond with it. I personally would not want chlorine, chloramine, OR ammonia in my pond. After all, ammonia is what we're working so hard to get rid of with our biofilters.

And the ratio: 3.5 pounds chlorine to 1 pound ammonia.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2010 at 2:15PM
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drh1(z4b/5a)

Cweathersby, it's a matter of degree. Yep, the ammonia is food for the little critters. And yes the chloramine levels will be used up as they kill the bacteria. However, if the chloramine levels are a 'tich low they survive just fine, break them down, etc. But if you strip out the ammonia or rather minimize it and supply higher levels of chloramines you can kill them as you stated. For all the population growing in our biofilters (can't even IMAGINE what a pipe would look like with that much biomasss growing in it!) there's no lack of critters to react with/breakdown the chloramines as long as one isn't using a fire hose to add 10,000 gallons in five minutes!!! So called "free-chlorine" is a much stronger oxidizing agent and as you state, reacts faster with the little buggers wiping them out.

As promised here are a couple of articles and a few abstracts that may or may not be of interest. They're a bit dated but at least provide a hint of information to play with. Enjoy. Hope all this helps!!
---David

Here is a link that might be useful: A couple of articles and a few abstracts to play with.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2010 at 4:48PM
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cweathersby

Good! Thought I was gonna have to relearn water treatment all over again! You had me worried for a bit that we'd been going at this wrong for years!

    Bookmark   July 27, 2010 at 4:56PM
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drh1(z4b/5a)

Cweathersby, actually there's a higher likelihood that I had it wrong. Something about too much sun on the ol' noggin I suspect!!! What I've always found interesting in this wonderful mess is the formation of dichloramine/trichloramine as depending on the chlorine to ammonia ratio (do we want to add the ammonia to chlorine or chlorine to ammonia ... it makes a difference). But back to the post, Corrie had it right (and probably with a LOT less verbiage!). :-))
---David

    Bookmark   July 27, 2010 at 7:12PM
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woeisme(z7b NC)

Thanks David, I can't wait to get a minute or more of peace to read these. Some very reputaple names on these, particularly Dr. Tim's.

I have never had to deal with Chloramines until the pond build I am doing in my current home. I have had well water for 10 years prior so no worries for the volume I was dealing with. Since I moved into my new home I have only dealt with enough water volume for small to large aquariums. I use a 6 stage RO/DI filter for those. Before the water gets through to the RO membrane 2 GAC filters knock out the chlorine and ammonia of the chloramine/chlorines. So I never have had to think about Chloramines personally. Dealing with this bigger volume concerned me so I have been reading up on the matter for the past month or so. One of the many things that scared me about the stuff is I did a little experimenting with my water. I keep reading these posts in other forums about people not using any dechlor, claiming that as long as you stay under 10% or 15% ( varried from forum to forum ) that this was OK. I was a little startled by this, first thing I thought of was if chlorine is minimal .2ppm at the tap and you change 10% of a 1000 gallons you have .02ppm which is enough to do some serious damage to the fish. Of course this is not instant but a gradual change where the organics in the pond have a chance to almost eliminate the chlorine so there is not much available chlorine to do damage. But what about chloramine? I really couldn't find too much about it and any ratios etc. SO I decided to play. I took 1 gallon of tap water and 9 gallons of aquarium water in a 10 gallon tank. Took an immediate test, about .06 ppm of free chlorine, an hour later, just a little bit less, after a day slightly less free chlorine Total Chlorine was still about .2ppm Ammonia stayed pretty consistant at +1.0ppm. Now, there was no biofilter to eat up the rest of the chlorine or ammonia.

David the system you explain makes sense, first the GAC filters practically wipe out the nasty stuff if the filters fail, the low flow and biofilter take care of them. You may sacrifice a little of your bacteria farm going on in the biofilter, but that should balance in a day or so. I actually like it. Even though it seems like a PITA compared to just dumping in a little dechlor in the stream of a garden hose, I have already planned a similar system to yours. I plan on running a seperate water line and set of filters right next to the pond
just for refills. This is as long as I get the numbers I want at the hosebib next to the pond. I may even just spring for a 300 GPD RO Membrane that I found for Oh well, sorry to ramble on, just thinking "out loud". Maybe I can find some answers in that material you gave me. I'm going to print it up . Also, I need to reread your previous posts, a little tired today and I was getting confused. Thanks Again, I'm sure I'll have more to either ask or add.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2010 at 9:34PM
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drh1(z4b/5a)

The approach I've outline above seemed to be logical and cost effective to me as well as requiring essentially no intervention on my part (remember, I'm lazy!). The costs run something like this: one filter every other year - about $3/year when you buy them at half dozen at a time; two AA batteries for the Melnor water timer each year. That's the "expense" side of the ledger. But let's run through a few numbers to see what is happening:
Assume that our local municipality wasn't on the ball - they actually are very excellent! - and supplies me with water containing 8 mg/l (ppm) of chloramine. Yikes! But..the activated carbon filter knocks out - pick a lowish number - 40% (actually more like 60%) leaving a still hefty 4.8 mg/l (ppm). This flows at the rate of approximately 0.5 gal./min (and for you mass-balance enthusiasts that's approximately 8.93 mg/min of chloramines) flowing into the skimmer or intake of the pumps. Flowrate through the pumps is approximately 45 gal./min. So there is an immediate, approximate dilution of about 100:1. Actually, it figures out to give a diluted concentration of about 0.053 mg/l feeding into the biofilters. Even if the municipality decided to jump it to a ridiculous level (as if my assumed 8 mg/l wasn't already ridiculous ... actual levels are typically around 1 mg/l, just so you know) of 15 mg/l the resulting concentration going into the biofilters would be quite low and easily handled by the nitrifiers and biomass. Output from the biofilters is not detectable by any means that I've got at my disposal. Now, about the pesky nitrates...I'm the lunatic that likes to put things like water hyacinths in his pond. I even feed them with a bit of "stump remover" (aka, sodium nitrate, nitrated potash, etc.). I also have a fair "chunk" of real-estate taken up with some bog bean...they have the weirdest looking root structure, more like strands of spaghetti hanging down in the water. Result? No detectable nitrates. No detectable nitrites. No detectable ammonia.
All I have to do is remember, in the late fall, to unhook the water line, blow the water out, take the timer and the activated carbon filter into the house so they don't freeze. I do not have to worry about: gee, I hope I calculated the dosage right; gosh, did I get it all mixed well enough? Also, because of the shut-off float control valve going into the skimmer I don't have to worry about adding water when I don't need to. 'Tis about as lazy a system as I can come up with so not sure how it would qualify as PITA. If anyone can simplify this further I am absolutely open to suggestions! But I sure don't worry about chlorine, chloramines or nitrates. I do check alkalinity occasionally, and may throw in a handful of baking soda if I think I might need a bit more buffering (usually not during the summer oddly enough).
---David

    Bookmark   July 27, 2010 at 11:34PM
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woeisme(z7b NC)

I don't disagree with your system at all or cost. Either way it is very inexpensive and easy. That was the only point I was trying to make. Both are very easy and inexpensive, why would anyone just skip not dechlorinating or dechloramineating since it is so easy to do and inexpensive?
From anything I have read, and I haven't read what you provided yet, any level of chlorine over .003 ppm will cause a certain amount of stress to fish. The larger the fish (like Koi and Goldfish) the more they are suseptible to chlorine. Ammonia at any level. Besides you, from what I've read in forum posts, people that don't use any chlorine/chloramine prevention say they just put the hose in and let it rip. That's what I don't get...Why?
While the chlorine and ammonia may not have an immediate effect, the stress it causes, makes them more suseptible to other infection and disease.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2010 at 9:49AM
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