Tuesday, July 23

Asheboro Water Switching To Chlorine, What You Need To Know

Photo by Scott Pelkey / Acme News

ASHEBORO NC – The City of Asheboro will be switching to chlorine to treat its public water system starting on July 26th, so here’s what you need to know. 

A notice on the city’s website says the “change in treatment is necessary to ensure optimum water quality.” The city says some customers may initially detect a slight increase in chlorine taste or smell as the switchover in treatment processes occurs. The change won’t affect the majority of customers, but some customers that use city drinking water for special purposes (including kidney dialysis) may need to make adjustments.

So what is chlorine and is it safe to use to treat public water systems? Chlorine was discovered in 1774 and its use as a disinfection product dates back to the early 1900s. It works by exchanging atoms with other compounds, such as the enzymes in bacteria. When those enzymes come in contact with chlorine, their hydrogen atoms are replaced by chlorine which causes the bacteria to die.

Chlorine is generally considered safe for use in drinking water systems, so long as water treatment facilities take steps to remove organic compounds like methane that are normally found in water. Chlorine can react with these organic compounds and form disinfection byproducts or DBPs so their levels need to be monitored.

The EPA established rules to regulate the level of disinfectants and the byproducts they form in public water systems. These rules set maximum contaminant levels and maximum residual disinfectant levels. In English, when you put chlorine in water, it will kill bacteria but also react with organic compounds normally found in the water to form those DBPs. However, you also can’t add too much chlorine, it’s a balancing act. To ensure that everything is balanced correctly, the EPA set rules about the maximum level of byproducts allowed in drinking water and the maximum amount of leftover chlorine that didn’t react with anything. 

The city normally uses chloramine to treat water. Made by reacting ammonia with the active ingredient in chlorine bleach, chloramine is not as effective at killing bacteria as chlorine. It is more stable making it less likely to react with organic compounds in water to form DBPs.

According to the EPA’s Water System Violation reporting data, inspectors have visited Asheboro City’s fifteen treatment facilities a total of 89 times since 1980. From those 89 visits, Asheboro has only been cited for three violations, placing it 6th in the top ten public water systems in the area (based on the number of violations). 

ViolationsPublic Water SystemCustomersFacilities
Data from EPA Safe Drinking Water Information System

Serving over 25,000 customers, Asheboro’s public water system is the only one on the list that serves more than 400 customers.  

This change in treatment will last several weeks after which the city will switch back to its normal chloramine treatment process. The city says they will continue to ensure optimum water quality by flushing the water mains by releasing water from fire hydrants. If anyone has any questions about the change they are encouraged to call the Water Treatment Plant Manager at (336) 626-1215.

UPDATE 8/18/21: On August 16th 2021, the City of Asheboro announced they will be switch back to chloramine.

The City of Asheboro will resume standard water treatment practices using chloramines on August 30, 2021.  This means that customers should no longer notice a slight chlorine odor or taste, such as they may have experienced over the past month.

Each year the City uses a pure chlorine water treatment to help ensure a high level of disinfection in the water mains.  During the remainder of the year, a chloramines treatment is used.  This is a compound of chlorine and ammonia that results in water with little odor or taste.

Both treatment methods meet all requirements set by the NC Department of Environment and Natural Resource. The City’s annual water quality report (which is mailed to every City household and made available on-line) details water treatment and testing standards.  Customers with special health concerns, such as those on kidney dialysis, are encouraged to seek advice about drinking water from their medical professional. Please call the Water Treatment Plant Manager at 626-1215 for questions related to the water treatment process.

Statement – City of Asheboro Website