Chlorine is familiar to most people as it is used to treat virtually all municipal water systems in the United States. Chlorine has a number of problems when used for field treatment of water. When chlorine reacts with organic material, it attaches itself to nitrogen containing compounds (ammonium ions and amino acids), leaving less free chlorine to continue disinfection. Carcinogenic trihalomethanes are also produced, though this is only a problem with long-term exposure. Trihalomethanes can also be filtered out with a charcoal filter, though it is more efficient to use the same filter to remove organics before the water is chlorinated. Unless free chlorine is measured, disinfection can not be guaranteed with moderate doses of chlorine. One solution is superchlorination, the addition of far more chlorine than is needed. This must again be filtered through activated charcoal to remove the large amounts of chlorine, or hydrogen peroxide can be added to drive the chlorine off. Either way there is no residual chlorine left to prevent recontamination. This isn't a problem, if the water is to be used at once.

Chlorine is sensitive to both the pH and temperature of the treated water. Temperature slows the reaction for any chemical treatment, but chlorine treatment is particularly susceptible to variations in the pH as at lower pHs, hypochlorous acid is formed, while at higher pHs, it will tend to dissociate into hydrogen and chlorite ions, which are less effective as a disinfectant. As a result, chlorine effectiveness drops off when the pH is greater than 8.Ordinary household bleach (such as Clorox) in the U.S. contains 5.25% sodium hypochlorite (NaOCL) and can be used to purify water if it contains no other active ingredients, scents, or colorings. Some small treatment plants in Africa produce their own sodium hypochlorite on site from the electrolysis of brine. Power demands range from 1.7 to 4 kWh per lb. of NaOCL. 2 to 3.5 lbs. of salt are needed for each pound of NaOCL. These units are fairly simple and are made in both the U.S. and the U.K. Another system, designed for China, where the suitable raw materials were mined or manufactured locally, used a reaction between salt, manganese dioxide, and sulfuric acid to produce chlorine gas. The gas was then allowed to react with slaked lime to produce a bleaching powder that could then be used to treat water. A heat source is required to speed the reaction up. Bleaching Powder (or Chlorinated Lime) is sometimes used at the industrial scale. Bleaching powder is 33-37% chlorine when produced, but losses its chlorine rapidly, particularly when exposed to air, light or moisture.

Calcium Hypochlorite, also known as High Test Hypochlorite (HTH) is supplied in crystal form; it is nearly 70% available chlorine. One product, the Sanitizer (formally the Sierra Water Purifier) uses these crystals to superchlorinate the water to insure pathogens were killed off, then hydrogen peroxide is added to drive off the residual chlorine. This is the most effective method of field chlorine treatment. The U.S. military and most aid agencies also use HTH to treat their water, though a test kit, rather than superchlorination, is used to insure enough chlorine is added. This is preferable for large-scale systems, as the residual chlorine will prevent recontamination. Usually bulk water treatment plants first dilute to HTH to make a 1 % working solution at the rate of 14g HTH per liter of water. While testing to determine exact chlorine needs are preferable, the solution can be used at the dose rate of 8 drops/gallon, or for larger quantities, 1 part of 1% solution to 10,000 parts clear water. Either of these doses will result in 1 PPM chlorine and may need to be increased, if the water wasn't already filtered by other means.

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