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[APD] Re:Ammonia and soil substrates
Date: Sun, 4 Jan 2004 15:09:05 -0600
From: "Steven Pituch" <spituch at ev1_net>
Subject: [APD] Re:Ammonia and soil substrates
To: <aquatic-plants at actwin_com>
Just a brief revisit to an older thread. Wouldn't the easiest explanation
for the late and mysterious appearance of ammonia be that the utility is
using chloramines in the Padre Island water supply?
Thanks for the reply. Actually it could be a welcome explanation. I don't
know anything about chloramines. I am guessing that when you add
dechlorinator to water with chloramines, that it neutralizes the chlorine,
but ammonia is released? Is that correct?
Only if you use an old-style hypo dechlorinator. The adverse
consequenses of this have been reported here many times. All aquaria
literature, newsgroups, mail lists, etc. have been full of it for
several years now.
A number of entire fishrooms have been wiped out completely by this
mistake. It is particularly likely with Bettas, where 100% water changes
are common. Two Grand Champions were among those who lost essentially
*all* their fish. Partial, small changes cause distress and often
sterilization, so may not be quite as obviously harmful.
If this is so can I test this by dechlorinating some tap water and then
testing it for ammonia _before_ I use it for a water change?
Maybe, but it is unlikely that you have a sensitive-enough test. Ammonia
levels as low as 0.01ppm have been known to cause permanent clubbing of
gills and stunting in young fish. If your pH is above 7.5, enough
ammonium would be converted to ammonia that anything you can even
faintly read on your LFS test kits could be very very harmful.
The city of Corpus Christi has never returned my e-mails or phone calls on
water quality, but on their web site they mention that "Corpus Christi uses
chlorine and ammonia to disinfect our drinking water."
That *is* chloramine. Use "Amquel," "Prime," or "Ammo Lock 2" to treat
your water. They tie up the ammonium until your plants or biofilter can
use it. Don't use hypo (sodium thiosulfate) compounds (dechlorinators
that claim to "break the ammonium-chlorine bond").
BTW, cities are required (by EPA) to provide you (or your landlord?) an
annual report on water quality that contains what you need to know. It
usually comes with the water bill. Their info is often wildly
inaccurate, as the tests for many substances only needs to be done every
three years. Nevertheless, no aquarist should be without this report as
a starting point for understanding the local water.
Rural folks can usually get their well tested by the county agriculture
agent. [Agriculture adds ammonium to many rural water sources, BTW.]
If you could explain the chemical process I would appreciate it.
Chlorine is added to urban water to kill some germs that can spread
cholera and other nasty human diseases. The amount is usually determined
by bacteria counts, so can change frequently. Sodium hypochlorite (same
stuff as Chlorox) is the most common material used, but some places use
chlorine gas. Typical final chlorine concentrations are 1 or 2 ppm.
It was discovered that this practice was causing an increase in cancers,
because the chlorine combined with organics collecting in the pipes to
create the carcinogenic compounds known as trihalomethanes, like chloroform.
Adding ammonium hydroxide, or even ammonium gas, quickly combines with
the chlorine to create a class of molecules known as chloramines. That
makes chlorine so stable it won't form trihalomethanes, and even
improves the bug-killing effects because it lasts much longer. The total
amounts added are usually down in the few ppm or less region, but the
chloramine lasts to the end of the longest pipe systems, so does a
better job of making the drinking water safe (for you).
By comparison, chlorine is removed from water in less than 24 hours if
aerated. Chloramine half-life is more like 5 weeks. Use "Amquel" o/e or
double-carbon filter the water until it reads no chlorine.
Wright Huntley -- 760 872-3995 -- Rt. 001 Box K36, Bishop CA 93514
"...there are only a limited number of things that government
can do more effectively than individuals or other organizations
-- T. Sowell
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