A lack of real-time monitoring capabilities for treated water once it leaves the plant has many utilities scrambling to manage nitrification, which can appear abruptly and then be difficult to contain. Fortunately, advanced testing tools are available so water plant operators can take a proactive approach to the hazardous condition in their distribution systems.
Nitrification occurs when water disinfected with chloramine travels across the long set of pipes in a distribution system on its way to customers. Several variables — including temperature, water age, and excess free ammonia — contribute to the occurrence of nitrification. Excess ammonia present during chloramination serves as food for the ammonia-oxidizing bacteria (AOB) that grow in clusters and tend to accumulate in sediment and along pipe walls.