Orange Water and Sewer Authority will start disinfecting Orange County drinking water with chlorine March 1. This annual switch from the more neutral chloramines lasts for one month out of each year in order to give the water infrastructure in the area a deep cleaning.
OWASA alerted customers in a press release last week that they can expect drinking water to have a slightly chemical taste and odor, and in some cases the water will be discolored or opaque.
“When we use chloramines and they mix with ammonia, there is a much more pleasant smell,” said Ken Loflin, OWASA water supply and treatment manager. “When we use chlorine, customers often call in about the water tasting like a swimming pool, but there are no health effects whatsoever.”
The discoloration isn't from the transparent chlorine, but from a process done during this special disinfecting period called flushing, Loflin said. OWASA’s distribution crews will flush old water out of fire hydrants and other public water sources, releasing some iron and manganese into the system that has built up inside the pipes. This can turn some customers’ drinking water a light orange or brown color, but it is still safe to drink.
“The state recommends that we do this switchover once a year,” Loflin said. “Chlorine is a much stronger disinfectant that will kill any bacterial growth that could have built up.”