Chloramines are a disinfectant used in drinking water to remove bacteria and viruses.
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Annually in the Spring (mid-March), a slight change will be made in the water treatment process to facilitate an effective flushing program. The purpose of this temporary change in the process is to help ensure a high level of disinfection in our community’s network of water mains.
During this period, customers may notice a slight chlorine taste and smell in their tap water. The difference in taste and smell is the result of a switch to disinfection using free chlorine, which is a more aggressive disinfectant than the chloramines used during the rest of the year. This temporary change in the water treatment process is important because it keeps bacteria from forming resistances to the usual disinfection process.
From March through May, our crews will open hydrants throughout our service area in brief intervals in order to draw water more forcefully through the distribution system. This helps to dislodge sediment that may have collected in water mains over the past year. Crews will work each day, Monday through Friday (excluding holidays), from 7:00 a.m. until 3:30 p.m.
Customers are notified about the flushing program via bill insert and notices are posted in the local newspaper, The Free Lance Star.
To learn more about the Water Main Flushing Program, please view the Annual Water Main Flushing Program (LINK).
The Annual Water Main Flushing Program typically takes place in the Spring in the areas and subdivisions that are served by Spotsylvania County Utilities. Private water systems and mobile home parks will not be flushed as part of this program.
Flushing generally starts in March and ends in May each year. Please check the Annual Water Main Flushing Program page for the estimated schedule. Please keep in mind the schedule can change because it is never known how long a system will take to flush clean. In addition, other emergencies arise from time to time that requires the attention of the crews and will prevent them from flushing. Therefore, the flushing may be extended a couple of weeks depending on circumstances. During the flushing season, crews work each day, Monday through Friday (excluding holidays), from 7:00 a.m. until 3:30 p.m.
Customers are encouraged to check the Annual Water Main Flushing Program (LINK) for updates.
During the flushing period, a slight change is made in the water treatment process to facilitate an effective flushing program. Chlorine combined with ammonia is known as chloramines. Throughout most of the year, chloramines (also known as combined chlorine) are added to the water as the primary disinfectant. During the spring flushing program, chlorine is added in an uncombined state (commonly referred to as free chlorine). This temporary change in the water treatment process is important because it keeps bacteria from forming resistances to the usual disinfection process.
Free chlorine is quicker acting than combined chlorine, which allows it to react with sediments suspended during flushing. Chloramines tend to take longer to react, but are stable in the water for longer periods of time which is the reason that they are used the majority of the year. Colder water allows the free chlorine to stay in the water longer and it is the reason that flushing occurs during cold water periods in the Spring.
Depending on your usage patterns and location within the water distribution system, it could take up to a week for your drinking water to transition from combined to free chlorine at the beginning of the flushing program, or from free chlorine to combined chlorine at the conclusion of the flushing program.
You may notice a chlorine taste and odor in your drinking water while free chlorine is utilized. If you are especially sensitive to the taste and odor of chlorine, try keeping an open container of drinking water in your refrigerator. This will enable the chlorine to dissipate, thus reducing the chlorine taste. Remember – drinking water has a shelf life! Change out the water in your refrigerated container weekly.
Please note: If you have an aquarium or pond, always test the water you add to your aquatic environment to be sure it is free of chlorine before adding fish or other animals. Chemical additives with directions for removing either free chlorine or chloramines from water for use in fish tanks or ponds are available at pet/fish supply stores. See our Water Quality Reports (LINK) for more information.
Free chlorine is also used to disinfect drinking water, but it is stronger disinfectant than chloramines.
Spotsylvania County Utilities disinfects with chloramines most of the year. Chloramines are more stable than free chlorine and remain in the distribution system for a longer period of time. However, free chlorine kills any bacteria or viruses in the water distribution system that have developed resistances to the chloramines typically used to disinfect drinking water.
About six weeks (for the 2022 Annual Water Main Flushing Program, free chlorine will be used from March 14, 2022, to April 22, 2022).
Yes. Applied appropriately, both free chlorine and chloramines are safe and effective disinfectants. Spotsylvania County Utilities communicates regularly with the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) and strictly follows its guidelines on the minimum and maximum chlorine levels. Both forms of chlorinated water are safe for people and animals to drink, for cooking and bathing, watering lawns and plants, and for all other common uses. However, precautions must be taken to remove or neutralize chloramines and free chlorine during the kidney dialysis process, in the preparation of water for fish tanks and ponds, and for businesses requiring highly-processed water. A de-chlorination procedure optimized for removing chloramines will also remove free chlorine.
Both free chlorine and chloramines may harm kidney dialysis patients during the dialysis process if they are not removed from the water before it passes into the bloodstream. Because dialysis centers use special water treatment processes to prevent adverse impacts to patients during dialysis therapy, Spotsylvania County Utilities notifies all centers in its service area about the conversion to free chlorine each year prior to the change of disinfectant. Like everyone else, dialysis patients may drink water treated with either free chlorine or chloramines because the digestive process neutralizes these chemicals before they enter the bloodstream.
The use of free chlorine may result in a bit of a chemical odor in your water or smell slightly like water in a swimming pool. Each individual customer has his or her own sensitivity level to the taste and/or odor of free chlorine, though many detect no change at all.
Some older household plumbing and water heaters may incorporate rubber materials and parts, which can degrade over time. Ask for chloramines-resistant parts, which are readily available at hardware supply stores or from your plumber, when replacing rubber plumbing materials. Chloramines-resistant parts will be effective regardless of the type of chlorine used.
The taste of chlorine can be removed by boiling water, adding a bit of lemon juice, or filling a container with water and leaving it open to vent.
Pool owners must maintain the same chlorine level in water treated with either free chlorine or chloramines to prevent algae and bacterial growth. Pool supply stores can provide pool owners with more information.
Spotsylvania County Utilities will forcefully draw (flush) the free-chlorinated water through fire hydrants connected to its water distribution system throughout the areas that it serves. This process dislodges sediments and minerals that may have collected in water mains since the previous year’s flushing.
Most customers will not see a drop in water pressure. If a change in pressure does occur, it usually lasts for only 30 minutes or less.
The flushing process can stir up sediments and minerals in water mains, occasionally resulting in some short-term cloudiness. If you encounter this condition, please run cold water from your tap until the cloudiness dissipates. If your water looks cloudy for an extended period of time, please contact Spotsylvania County Utilities Customer Service Department at (540) 507-7300, Press Option 1, or email [email protected].
For more information, please see our Water Quality Reports page or email [email protected].