The University of Massachusetts Amherst
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Kinetic analysis of haloacetonitrile stability in drinking waters

TitleKinetic analysis of haloacetonitrile stability in drinking waters
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsYu Y., Reckhow DA
JournalEnvironmental Science & Technology
Start Page11028
Date Published09/2015

Haloacetonitriles (HANs) are an important class of drinking water disinfection byproducts (DBPs) that are reactive and can undergo considerable transformation on time scales relevant to system distribution (i.e., from a few hours to a week or more). The stability of seven mono-, di-, and trihaloacetonitriles was examined under a variety of conditions including different pH levels and disinfectant doses that are typical of drinking water distribution systems. Results indicated that hydroxide, hypochlorite, and their protonated forms could react with HANs via nucleophilic attack on the nitrile carbon, forming the corresponding haloacetamides (HAMs) and haloacetic acids (HAAs) as major reaction intermediates and end products. Other stable intermediate products, such as the N-chloro-haloacetamides (N-chloro-HAMs), may form during the course of HAN chlorination. A scheme of pathways for the HAN reactions was proposed, and the rate constants for individual reactions were estimated. Under slightly basic conditions, hydroxide and hypochlorite are primary reactants and their associated second-order reaction rate constants were estimated to be 6 to 9 orders of magnitude higher than those of their protonated conjugates (i.e., neutral water and hypochlorous acid), which are much weaker but more predominant nucleophiles at neutral and acidic pHs. Developed using the estimated reaction rate constants, the linear free energy relationships (LFERs) summarized the nucleophilic nature of HAN reactions and demonstrated an activating effect of the electron withdrawing halogens on nitrile reactivity, leading to decreasing HAN stability with increasing degree of halogenation of the substituents, while subsequent shift from chlorine to bromine atoms has a contrary stabilizing effect on HANs. The chemical kinetic model together with the reaction rate constants that were determined in this work can be used for quantitative predictions of HAN concentrations depending on pH and free chlorine contact times (CTs), which can be applied as an informative tool by drinking water treatment and system management engineers to better control these emerging nitrogenous DBPs, and can also be significant in making regulatory decisions.