EPA Technology Removes Ammonia From Drinking Water

EPA Technology Removes Ammonia From Drinking Water

Full-scale treatment system for oxidizing ammonia in drinking water. (Photo credit: Darren Lytle, USEPA)

Under the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets maximum contaminant levels that apply at the entry point into a distribution system rather than within the distribution system. Because monitoring contaminants is not normally conducted at the consumer’s tap, their presence can go undetected. If nitrification resulting from elevated ammonia levels in the source water occurs in the distribution system, elevated levels of nitrites and nitrate can reach the consumer.

EPA designed and patented a technology to oxidize ammonia in drinking water before it reaches the distribution system, which avoids nitrification in the distribution system and other problems associated with the presence of ammonia. Since 2014, EPA’s National Risk Management Research Laboratory in Cincinnati, Ohio has partnered with AdEdge Water Technologies, LLC, of Duluth, Georgia, to further develop and commercialize the technology. Together, the EPA and AdEdge have collaborated to evaluate a two-stage aerobic treatment system for the removal of ammonia from drinking water. The treatment approach enhances the natural nitrification process during which, in the presence of oxygen, ammonia is converted to nitrite and then to nitrate. AdEdge holds a license of this technology and has marketed it as NoMonia, an innovative water treatment technology to remove ammonia, arsenic, iron, and manganese.

Many regions in the United States have excessive ammonia in groundwater from natural and agricultural sources. While ammonia in water does not pose a direct health concern, nitrification of significant amounts of ammonia may. Ammonia in water may create high chlorine demand for disinfection (if addressed by breakpoint chlorination). In the presence of total organic carbon, excess chlorine is a concern because it creates a disinfection by-product. High ammonia levels may interfere with the removal of other regulated contaminants such as arsenic, iron, and manganese. Ammonia in raw water may also result in nitrification in the distribution systems, and can cause corrosion, poor taste, and odor issues. Legacy treatment approaches for the removal of ammonia, such as ion exchange or reverse osmosis, generate high total dissolved solids (TDS) wastewater, a challenge that the NoMonia biological treatment process eliminates. As a product of the collaboration, a pilot demonstration was concluded in August 2017 in Gilbert, Iowa. The pilot demonstration provided the city, AdEdge and the EPA with multiple data sets to further establish critical design parameters of a full-scale treatment system. AdEdge is working with the community and their engineer firm to design a full-scale system based on the pilot results. Additional pilot demonstrations are anticipated in other areas, such as Illinois and Minnesota. The technology is available for licensing by additional companies.

For its significant impact and technology transfer success, EPA's NoMonia technology was selected as the recipient of the 2017 FLC Technology Focus Award

The original success story appeared on the EPA website, to view click here