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Oxidation of Cr(III)–Fe(III) Mixed-Phase Hydroxides by Chlorine: Implications on the Control of Hexavalent Chromium in Drinking Water


The occurrence of chromium (Cr) as an inorganic contaminant in drinking water is widely reported. One source of Cr is its accumulation in iron-containing corrosion scales of drinking water distribution systems as Cr(III)-Fe(III) hydroxide, that is, Fe xCr(1- x)(OH)3(s), where x represents the Fe(III) molar content and typically varies between 0.25 and 0.75. This study investigated the kinetics of inadvertent hexavalent chromium Cr(VI) formation via the oxidation of Fe xCr(1- x)(OH)3(s) by chlorine as a residual disinfectant in drinking water, and examined the impacts of Fe(III) content and drinking water chemical parameters including pH, bromide and bicarbonate on the rate of Cr(VI) formation. Data showed that an increase in Fe(III) molar content resulted in a significant decrease in the stoichiometric Cr(VI) yield and the rate of Cr(VI) formation, mainly due to chlorine decay induced by Fe(III) surface sites. An increase in bicarbonate enhanced the rate of Cr(VI) formation, likely due to the formation of Fe(III)-carbonato surface complexes that slowed down the scavenging reaction with chlorine. The presence of bromide significantly accelerated the oxidation of Fe xCr(1- x)(OH)3(s) by chlorine, resulting from the catalytic effect of bromide acting as an electron shuttle. A higher solution pH between 6 and 8.5 slowed down the oxidation of Cr(III) by chlorine. These findings suggested that the oxidative conversion of chromium-containing iron corrosion products in drinking water distribution systems can lead to the occurrence of Cr(VI) at the tap, and the abundance of iron, and a careful control of pH, bicarbonate and bromide levels can assist the control of Cr(VI) formation.

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