PerspectiveWater Treatment

Replace contamination, not the pipes

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Science  15 Aug 2014:
Vol. 345, Issue 6198, pp. 734-735
DOI: 10.1126/science.1257988

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Wastewater from urban settlements contains—among a multitude of other substances—sulfate (SO42−). Under anaerobic conditions, SO42− can be biologically converted into toxic hydrogen sulfide gas (H2S) and further to corrosive sulfuric acid (H2SO4), which results not only in noxious odors but also health issues and damage to sewer systems. This “sulfide problem” in sewers has long been recognized, but until recently, efforts have focused only on mitigation strategies for sulfide emissions in sewers. On page 812 of this issue, Pikaar et al. (1) provide an alternative to current technical measures—source control. They argue that by using substitutes for SO42−, which is often used as a coagulant in the treatment of water, the SO42− concentration in the wastewater can be reduced such that H2S no longer affects sewer infrastructure.