Would you dip your cup into the lake and drink it? Probably not! Carrboro and Chapel Hill’s raw water comes from University Lake and Cane Creek Reservoir. It goes through a comprehensive treatment process at OWASA’s plant – including a series of steps to disinfect the water – before it reaches people’s taps. Chloramine, a compound of chlorine and ammonia, is used to disinfect water throughout the year except in March when we use chlorine only. OWASA customers may notice a slight chlorine taste or odor in their tap water. This is temporary for the month of March and water remains safe to drink.
The month-long change is recommended by the NC Department of Environmental Quality and is standard practice among water providers including neighboring utilities. To ensure the chlorine reaches all of the pipes in our service area – 400 miles of water pipes across Carrboro and Chapel Hill – OWASA will “flush” the system. We will move the chlorinated water from our treatment plant throughout the pipes, and will sometimes release water from fire hydrants along the way. The flushing may cause some discoloration in water (discoloration can occur due to air bubbles, or when iron and manganese particles that settle in water pipes over time are unsettled by the flushing). If discoloration occurs, run the water for a few minutes until it becomes clear. If the discoloration does not clear after a few minutes, please call OWASA at 919-968-4421.
Throughout the change, water will remain safe to drink. However, we understand some customers may wish to neutralize the chlorine taste. To do so, customers can consider storing water in the fridge in an open container for later use; chlorine taste and odor dissipates after sitting for a few hours. Adding a few lemon slices will help too; the lemon has ascorbic acid which neutralizes chlorine. Filtering the water with activated carbon is also an option; water pitchers with activated carbon filters are sold locally. Lastly, customers may boil water for one minute and the chlorine will evaporate.
Dialysis patients and aquarium owners should continue to take special precautions to remove traces of ammonia and chlorine from the water prior to use. Learn more about the community’s water supply and treatment here.
OWASA is Carrboro-Chapel Hill’s not-for-profit public service agency. Our diverse team works across the community to deliver high quality water, reclaimed water, and wastewater services. We invest regularly to upgrade infrastructure and increase system resiliency. Together, with the community, we conserve, protect, and sustain this vital resource.
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