Yes. Free chlorine conversions are a common industry practice for preventative maintenance in drinking water distribution systems. Many utilities throughout the state and country that use chloramines for their primary distribution disinfectant periodically convert back to free chlorine to improve and maintain the highest water quality standards. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) endorse and support this procedure.
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Chloramine is a disinfectant used in drinking water to inactivate bacteria and viruses. It is typically used for water systems sourced from surface water. The city of Sugar Land uses chloramine as a disinfectant in its Main water system. Refer to the service area map.
Free chlorine is a disinfectant used in drinking water to inactivate bacteria and viruses. It is typically used for water systems sourced from groundwater. The City of Sugar Land uses free chlorine as a disinfectant in its RiverPark, Greatwood, and New Territory water systems. Refer to the service area map.
A free chlorine conversion is a process by which a water system temporarily switches its disinfection process from chloramines (a combination of chlorine and ammonia) to free chlorine (chlorine only) in order to improve the long-term quality of its drinking water.
The city of Sugar Land’s Main water system uses chloramines for disinfection. Chloramines are a better long-term choice for systems on surface water because they produce lower levels of disinfectant byproducts like trihalomethanes when chlorine mixes with natural organic substances in water. However, prolonged use of chloramine coupled with other factors that can affect water quality, such as high temperatures, may result in the growth and/or persistence of organic matter within the pipes of the distribution system. Though harmless when consumed by humans, this organic matter can introduce unwanted taste and odor, and hinder the ability to maintain an adequate disinfectant residual. A temporary conversion to free chlorine, partnered with flushing activities, clears distribution pipes of this organic matter and improves the quality of your water overall.
The duration of the free chlorine conversion will be just under 30 days. The conversion will begin on March 1, 2022, and the City will return to chloramine disinfection on March 29, 2022.
The process is entirely safe and poses no health risks to customers. The water is safe for people and animals to drink, for cooking and bathing, watering the garden, and for all other common uses.
A chlorine smell is very normal during the conversion period, as the disinfectant is transitioning from chloramines to free chlorine. Free chlorine may have a bit of a chemical odor 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. Regardless of the form of chlorine in use, concentrations maintained during the conversion will be well within TCEQ and EPA standards and will be entirely safe to consume and use as normal.
Both free chlorine and chloramines may harm kidney dialysis patients during the dialysis process if it is not removed from water before passing into the bloodstream. The city will inform dialysis centers in the city of Sugar Land about the temporary switch from chloramine to free chlorine prior to the conversion. Dialysis patients may drink water treated with either free chlorine or chloramines because the digestive process neutralizes these chemicals before they can enter the bloodstream.
The city of Sugar Land will directional flush to help maintain clear water for our customers and to ensure the free chlorine has made it to the far reaches of our distribution system. We will repeat the process when we convert back to chloramine. Flushing should significantly subside after the conversion.
Most customers will not see a drop in water pressure. If a change in pressure does occur, it is usually momentary.
The flushing process can stir up sediments and minerals in water mains that may make it into customer service lines, resulting in some short-term cloudiness or discoloration. If you encounter this condition, flush faucets, tubs and toilets until the water clears. Clothing should not be washed during times of discoloration to reduce the possibility of staining. Prior to washing clothing, customers may want to run a little water in a bathtub to check for discoloration.
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.
While free chlorine and chloramine are safe for most pets, they must be removed from tap water used for aquatic life (including fish and amphibians) in aquariums and ponds. For businesses and customers who own fish aquariums or ponds, continue to treat the tap water with a water conditioner when making water changes. Read the product label on the water conditioner that you use. Most conditioners neutralize both chlorine and chloramines, and no change will be required.
Free chlorine can be removed by boiling water, filling a container with water and leaving it to vent, or adding a bit of lemon juice (ascorbic acid neutralizes the chlorine). Note that these methods will not remove chloramine. Water purification and filtration devices to reduce chlorine levels also exist.
No. the free chlorine conversion has no connection to the coronavirus pandemic.
No, the city implemented a free chlorine conversion in April 2021. Chlorine conversions are part of the city’s distribution system maintenance strategy and will be implemented periodically in accordance with the city’s maintenance plan.
Visit the TCEQ Website at tceq.texas.gov/drinkingwater/disinfection/temporary-free-chlorine-conversion