Hillsborough to disinfect water, flush lines

Feb. 21, 2013 @ 08:57 AM

The Town of Hillsborough will use chlorine instead of a combination of chlorine and ammonia to disinfect public drinking water in March.

In addition, town employees will flush and perform basic maintenance to fire hydrants in the town’s water system, beginning March 4 and continuing through the end of the month or possibly into early April.

State regulations require utilities that normally use chloramines — a compound of chlorine and ammonia — for disinfection to use chlorine for one month each year. The annual change helps ensure a high level of disinfection in water mains as chlorine is a more intense disinfectant than chloramines. The City of Durham, Orange Water and Sewer Authority and other municipal public water systems in the region also typically use chlorine instead of chloramines for disinfection in March.

Some customers may notice Hillsborough’s drinking water will have a chlorine taste or odor in March. However, the water will be safe to drink. To remove chlorine taste and odor from water, you can:

-- Filter the water with activated carbon. Water pitchers with such filters are sold locally.

-- Let the water sit in an open container in the refrigerator for a day or so.

-- Boil the water for one minute to evaporate the chlorine.

-- Add a few lemon slices to a pitcher of water. The lemon’s ascorbic acid will neutralize the chlorine.

Customers who use Hillsborough water for special purposes or for processes involving careful control of water characteristics are encouraged to seek advice from an appropriate technical source — such as a filter vendor or service company — about whether and how to make adjustments to their use of Hillsborough water during the one-month period of chlorine disinfection.

 The town began using chloramines instead of gaseous chlorine for disinfection in July 2005. Disinfection with chloramines has improved the taste, odor and overall quality of the town’s drinking water.

Hydrant Flushing

Customers also may see Hillsborough crews releasing water from fire hydrants and some water system valves in March. This flushing of the water mains ensures chlorine flows through the entire system. The flushing also helps remove sediments, improving the water system’s circulation and water quality.

The town typically flushes hydrants twice a year. Staff will open and lubricate each hydrant and identify any follow-up repair needs. During the process, town personnel may be required to trim plantings or remove other items to ensure that adequate access to the hydrants exists for emergencies and maintenance.

Citizens may be asked to relocate plants and other items in street rights-of-way where necessary to provide a clear, 3-foot-wide area around a hydrant. Plants relocated in the right-of-way should not interfere with the visibility of vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists and traffic signs and should not interfere with utilities or street drainage. Property owners should obtain permission from the town before making landscape improvements within the street right-of-way.

Opening the hydrants might cause some temporary cloudiness or discoloration of water. Discoloration can occur because small particles of iron and manganese that have settled in a water main may be stirred up. The discoloration does not make water unsafe to drink, but it could discolor fabric. Similarly, when air bubbles enter the water system during the hydrant flushing, they may cause cloudiness in drinking water.

If discoloration or air bubbles appear in the water, customers should run cold water in a bathtub for a few minutes until the water and/or air bubbles clear. If the water does not clear within five minutes, contact the town at 919-732-2104 during normal business hours or at 919-732-3621 for emergencies during nights and weekends.

More Information

Customers are invited to contact the town with any questions or comments about the use of chlorine in March and about the characteristics of Hillsborough’s drinking water. Contact Water Plant Superintendent Russell Bateman by e-mail or phone at 919-732-3621.