June 2 storm causes sewage spill into river
The Water Utilities Department learned June 3 of a second spill of sewage into the Concho River that happened at the same time as a previously reported leak Sunday. FMI: http://bit.ly/2ETKuB3
Water disinfecting method to change June 1-30
The City of San Angelo’s Water Utilities Department will change how it disinfects the public water supply from June 1-30.
The Water Department normally uses chloramine, a mix of ammonia and chlorine, to disinfect water. In June, the Water Department will use only chlorine, also known as “free chlorine.” The yearly temporary conversion from chloramines to free chlorine – a common practice for municipal water systems – ensures water safety in pipelines by ridding mains of residual microscopic organic particles. That yields the highest quality of drinking water.
Citizens may see more flushing of fire hydrants in June. Water lines with low flow must be flushed more often to keep free chlorinated water moving through the system.
Free chlorine is a stronger disinfectant than chloramine. Water users may note a slight change in the smell, taste and look of their water. This may include a “chlorine odor” and slight discoloration. Most symptoms should lessen after a couple of weeks; they do not affect the safety of the water.
The Water Utilities Department encourages kidney dialysis patients to talk with their equipment supplier; different equipment may have varying needs and require adjustments. The City has contacted local hospitals to alert them of the change.
Some reverse osmosis systems are not designed to work with water that has free chlorine. Owners of RO systems should check their operation manuals or system manufacturers to ensure they will not be adversely affected by the change.
The process most fish tanks have for removing chloramines from water should do the same with free chlorine and need no adjustments. Fish tank operators should confirm that with their equipment supplier. Pet stores have also been told of the conversion.
The Water Department will monitor chlorine levels and water-quality standards in the distribution system on a daily basis to ensure all regulatory standards are met.
Free chlorine FAQs
Why is our water system making these changes to our disinfection process?
Our water system normally uses ammonia and chlorine as the main means to disinfect water. Mixing these two chemicals forms chloramine, the most common disinfectant used in the United States for water systems that use lakes and rivers as their source. Occasionally, these systems must return to free chlorine as their disinfectant for a brief time to properly maintain the distribution system. Free chlorine works better than chloramine to control thin biofilms of organics and microbes that can build up in pipelines over time. This is common preventive maintenance used by most water systems that use chloramine as their main disinfectant.
When will this start and how long will it last?
The conversion will start June 1 and last approximately four weeks.
Will I need to do anything differently during this change?
No action is necessary. You may drink and use your water normally.
What changes to the water quality will I notice during this period?
Initially, you may notice more of a chlorine taste and smell to your water, especially in showers and sinks. Water also may also be slightly discolored in areas with low flows in water mains. These symptoms should lessen after a couple of weeks, but may be present (though less noticeable) during the four-week span.
I have a fish tank. How will it affect my fish?
We recommend you check with your equipment supplier. The process you have in place to remove chloramines in the water should also remove free chlorine. No change or adjustment should be needed.
I’ve heard this can affect kidney dialysis machines. Is this true?
We recommend you check with your equipment supplier. Different equipment may have different needs or adjustments.
Will the City do anything to lessen the taste and odors we might experience during this change?
Yes, the City will implement procedures to reduce effects as much as possible. However, changes will likely occur and may persist. We will monitor free chlorine levels throughout the system each day to ensure they are at correct levels. You may also see more flushing of fire hydrants. Water lines with low flow must be flushed more often to keep free chlorinated water moving through the system. The Water Utilities Department does not like doing this during drought restrictions, but in some areas it will be required.
Is there a possibility of free chlorine bleaching my clothes?
Free chlorine is a stronger disinfectant than chloramine. Even though it may have more of a chlorine smell, the disinfectant residuals in the system will actually be lower than they are currently. We don’t expect problems with bleaching of clothes. If you have brand-new clothes that have never been washed, you might wash them first in cold water to let their colors “set” before using a hot water wash.
Will this process improve the quality of my water once it is completed in four weeks?
Typically after a change to free chlorine and then back to chloramine, less disinfectant is needed to maintain residuals in the distribution system. So if you are sensitive to the taste and smell of chloramine, you should see an improvement in water quality after the conversion.
Is there a way to reduce or remove the chlorine taste and smell during this period?
Yes. A carbon filter is effective at removing free chlorine taste and smell, as well as chloramines. If you have an existing carbon filter on your faucet, reverse-osmosis system or cartridge under the sink, these should remove any additional taste and odor during this period. These are available at local retail stores. Some are inexpensive and easy to install.
Does the taste and odor from chlorine affect everyone the same?
No. The taste and smell of chlorine in drinking water does not affect some people at all. Others with a higher sensitivity to smells could be affected. Free chlorine can give water a “swimming pool” smell.
City IDs, pursues next water supply
The City of San Angelo has identified the leading option for its next water supply and taken the first step toward its development.
The Concho River Water Project is a move to extend San Angelo’s sources beyond its lakes and the Hickory Aquifer. It will do so by adding a reliable and sustainable source that will help meet water needs for decades to come.
The project involves releasing highly treated water from the City’s wastewater treatment plant into the Concho River. After it has flowed down that “natural pipeline,” the water will be recouped farther downstream. From there, it will be piped to the water treatment plant, where it will be treated to drinking standards.
“This is water San Angelo already has,” said attorney Jason Hill, the City’s special counsel for water. “We’re just able to make better use of it. It’s a win-win for the community.”
On Sept. 18, the City Council unanimously agreed to pursue state permits that will ensure the water is treated to adequately high standards before its release into the river.
Prior to recommending the Concho River project, engineers and City staff studied 24 possible water supplies. Those included surface water, groundwater and direct reuse. The experts and City officials concluded the Concho River Water Project is a reliable and cost-effective source, will produce water with an improved taste, can be developed relatively quickly, and utilizes proven science. Cities have long released their treated wastewater downstream into streams, rivers and lakes. Treated wastewater from Ballinger, Robert Lee and Winters, for instance, flows into San Angelo’s primary water source, Ivie Reservoir.
“We are releasing it into the Concho so we have what we call an environmental buffer,” said Scott Hibbs, principal water resource engineer with eHT, an Abilene engineering firm. “So we’re letting Mother Nature take care of some of the treatment aspects.”
Securing state permits could take as little as two to three years. Completing the entire project could take about five years and will cost about $120 million dollars. That includes upgrades to the water and wastewater treatment plants. Those improvements would be needed regardless of which new water source was chosen.
When completed, the Concho River Water Project will produce about 7.5 million gallons per day. By comparison, the Hickory Aquifer is currently capable of producing 8 million gallons per day, although that is being expanded to 12 million gallons. San Angelo averages about 12 million gallons of daily usage.
Work continues by the West Texas Water Partnership to develop a long-term source that can serve San Angelo, Abilene and Midland. The Concho River Water Project will help meet local water demands for about the next 50 years.
“This takes San Angelo a long ways down the road of water security,” Hill said. “And when I say a long ways, I’m talking generationally … 2060, 2070.”
The project will also diversify San Angelo’s portfolio of water sources. Because the City will not be dependent upon any one source of water, San Angelo will be better able to weather times of drought.
This mission is accomplished through the cooperation of various City operations, including the water treatment plant, the wastewater treatment plant, and the Water and Wastewater Collections and Distribution divisions.
The Water Quality Division was formed in 1997 after the consolidation of three separate City laboratories, including the water treatment plant laboratory, the wastewater treatment plant laboratory, and the City/County Health Department laboratory. Consolidation of these three labs provided for more efficient analyses, as well as better cross-training for laboratory personnel. The laboratory was awarded NELAC Accreditation for bacteriology in 2008.
Information and resources
- Water chemistry explained
- Coliform bacteria information
- Household water treatment alternatives
- Conventional municipal water treatment methods
Current drought level
San Angelo is in standard conservation, which restricts outside watering to twice every seven days at no more than 1 inch per week. Watering from noon to 6 p.m. is prohibited, as is runoff of more than 150 feet down any street, gutter, alley or ditch.
Do your part; be water smart!