Chlorine taste in your drinking water?

“If you can smell or taste chlorine in your drinking water—there isn’t enough chlorine residual in it!”

George Clifford White, from “Principles of Chlorination” in The Handbook of Chlorination (Fifth Edition)

In reference to the article “Chlorine: History and Role in the Great Debate for Water Disinfection” (Siegmund, William S., WC&P, June 2000, pp. 74), we should keep in mind that chlorine produces bacteria-free water and eliminates algae and slime. It also removes hydrogen sulfide from groundwater (wells, springs) and eliminates iron bacteria (cenothrix) associated with objectionable odor and taste. Despite these important facts, some people still object to chlorine in their drinking water. Comments like, “I don’t like the way chlorine makes my water taste” are common.

The bad taste is actually due to an insufficient residual—or lack of chlorine—in their water. The proper dosage of chlorine to maintain the required minimum residual of “free” chlorine is the important key. If the residual falls below the “free” minimum, reforming of chlororganics and chloramines (the taste and odor producing part of disinfection) occurs as a result of increased contamination (chlorine demand). This can be caused by a main break, cross connection, increased bacteria growth from a dead-end line or a combination of all of these and more.

There are some that favor switching to bottled water to avoid drinking chlorinated water. Consumers may be startled to learn some brands of bottled water contain cancer-causing chemicals in amounts exceeding federal standards. If these chemicals are found in bottled water, there are no regulations requiring the public to be notified! The Kansas Department of Health and Environment conducted a study of 80 bottled water samples collected from retail stores and manufacturers from March 21 to May 22, 1994. In 15 percent, cancer-causing chemicals were discovered. Nine contaminants were found in amounts exceeding federal limits. Results weren’t made public until 14 months later.*
When the same type of tests are given to a municipal or rural water district producing potable drinking water, the public must be informed immediately of any contaminants found in excess of EPA limits. The water district would then be tested on a more frequent basis. The customers in the affected district are encouraged to drink bottled water, but the bottled water could also be contaminated.*

Many brands of bottled water begin as tap water from a public water system—with the chlorine residual removed! After this, the bottled water is given a two-year shelf life or more. There are little or no restrictions on the environment in which the water is stored.
The complete elimination of deadly diseases such as cholera, typhoid and others is now taken for granted thanks to the effectiveness of chlorinated waters. So, why would anyone chance the return of a disease like this, or chance deaths from E. coli or other contamination. Many say, “We will wait to disinfect when we are told we have to.” Six deaths in the city of Walkerton, Ontario, in June 2000, were caused by E. coli as a result of runoff from cattle. What goes in the ground today, you’ll drink tomorrow. This is reason enough to chlorinate properly.

Chlorine has been available since the early 1900s and has overwhelmingly proven its effectiveness since then. It’s as important to pure water as the polio vaccine to children’s and adults’ health. Both continue to keep disease away from humans. Polio vaccination is mandatory for our schoolchildren and chlorine in drinking water is mandatory in most states. In the remaining states, it would seem very important to consider the benefits, cost-effectiveness and safety record of chlorine gas (the purest form of chlorine) when fed through an all-vacuum mounted chlorinator.

Water quality can be obtained by many processes and alternative means of disinfection. However, a minimum residual level of the disinfectant has to be provided at the furthest distance from the injection point. Chorine, so far, is the only disinfectant approved that provides this required measurable residual amount. Clean, efficient, pure, 100-percent chlorine is only available in gaseous form. And it has the safest accident record as a bonus. Calcium hypochlorite, at 65 percent, and sodium hypochlorite, containing 10-to-15 percent available chlorine, are perceived to be safer. However, their easy-to-use containers allow for accidents and could possibly allow contamination even during the manufacturing process.

* Hoober, Scott, “Bottled Water: Does It Meet the Test?” Lifeline, Kansas Rural Water Association, July 1995.

Ron Grage, Special Projects Director
Chlorinators Incorporated
Stuart, Fla.

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