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  • Chemicals are used during wastewater treatment in an array of processes to expedite disinfection. These chemical processes, which induce chemical reactions, are called chemical unit processes, and are used alongside biological and physical cleaning processes to achieve various water standards.
  • Chemical processes use the addition of chemicals to the wastewater to bring about changes in its quality. They include pH control, coagulation, chemical precipitation and oxidation.


  • Waste water from industries is rarely pH neutral. It is therefore necessary to adjust the pH in the treatment process to make the wastewater pH neutral.
  • This is particularly important if biological treatment is being used, as the microorganisms used in biological treatment require a pH in the range of 6-8 and will be killed by highly acidic or alkali wastewater.

Various chemicals used for pH control

  • For acidic wastes (low pH) sodium hydroxide, sodium carbonate, calcium carbonate or calcium hydroxide, may be added among other things.
  • For alkali wastes (high pH) sulphuric acid or hydrochloric acid may be added. Acids can cause corrosion of equipment and care must be taken in choosing which acid to use.
  • Hydrocholoric acid is probably better from an environmental view point but can corrode stainless steel therefore plastic or appropriately coated pumps and pipes must be used.


  • Coagulation is a complex process but generally refers to collecting into a larger mass the minute solid particles dispersed in a liquid. Chemical coagulants such as aluminium sulphate (alum) or ferric sulphate may be added to wastewater to improve the attraction of fine particles so that they come together and form larger particles called flocs.
  • A chemical flocculent, usually a polyelectrolyte, enhances the flocculation process by bringing together particles to form larger flocs, which settle out more quickly Flocculation is aided by gentle mixing which causes the particles to collide


  • Dissolved air flotation (DAF) is a water treatment process that clarifies wastewaters by the removal of suspended matter such as oil or solids. The removal is achieved by dissolving air in the water or wastewater under pressure and then releasing the air at atmospheric pressure in a flotation tank or basin. The released air forms tiny bubbles which adhere to the suspended matter causing the suspended matter to float to the surface of the water where it may then be removed by a skimming device.
  • Dissolved air flotation is very widely used in treating the industrial wastewater effluents from oil refineries, petrochemical and chemical plants, natural gas processing plants, paper mills, general water treatment and similar industrial facilities.
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