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[APD] Re:Ammonia and soil substrates

Message: 8
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>

Roger said

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
 can do."
     -- T. Sowell

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