Orange Water and Sewer Authority will temporarily change its water disinfection process on Wednesday, March 1. This shift will last throughout the month in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro area and might affect the taste or odor of tap water — though it is still safe to drink.
The N.C. Department of Environmental Quality recommended the change. Monica Dodson, OWASA’s water supply and treatment manager, said this is a standard practice among water providers to help maintain healthy systems.
Although OWASA released a press release about the change on Feb. 15, UNC students received a campus-wide email with the same notice on Feb. 20.
“We try by every means possible to let everyone know when we’re doing this,” Todd Taylor, executive director of OWASA, said in a meeting with the Orange County Board of County Commissioners.
Taylor said in addition to notifying customers via email about the change, OWASA attached a notice to their water bills.
“Normally, OWASA uses a combination of chlorine and ammonia known as chloramines to disinfect our water throughout the year, but each March, OWASA uses just chlorine for our disinfection process,” Dodson said.
Dodson said some residents might notice the chlorine because of the change. She explained that chlorine has a stronger taste and odor than chloramines.
If customers want to mitigate the chlorine taste, OWASA recommends numerous practices that will remove any taste or odor. Adding lemon slices to drinking water, leaving water in an open container in the refrigerator and boiling water for about a minute can all neutralize the chlorine.
“Customers who have lived in our service area for a long period of time are pretty familiar with this process,” Taylor said. “Also, it’s very common. Durham is doing the same thing. We all try to coordinate at the same time of year to do this.”