There’s a reason Carrollton’s water now has a ‘swimming pool’ smell

Published 2:40 pm Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Isle of Wight residents on county water may have noticed discoloration and a “swimming pool” smell coming from their faucets this month.

According to a public notice published in The Smithfield Times, the change is tied to a temporary switch from chloramines to chlorine, and is nothing to worry about.

From March 8-29, Norfolk, Chesapeake, Portsmouth, Suffolk, Virginia Beach and Isle of Wight County have switched their methods of disinfecting drinking water to facilitate “routine maintenance” on their water systems, the notice states.

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Chloramine, according to Norfolk’s website, is formed when chlorine and ammonia are added to the treatment plant to create a long-lasting disinfectant. The Western Tidewater Water Authority, formed from Isle of Wight and Suffolk, purchases water from Norfolk via the 2009 Norfolk Water Deal. 

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, chlorine is a “highly effective” method of disinfection but can produce chemicals referred to as disinfection byproducts if the source water has higher levels of dirt or germs that may react with chlorine. Chlorine is also used up quickly. Chloramine can last longer in water pipes and produces fewer byproducts. According to Norfolk’s website, the region used chlorine prior to October 2000, when it switched to chloramine.

The chlorine smell and any discoloration is normal, and the discoloration should diminish as the change continues, the notice states. According to Norfolk’s website, the amount of chlorine used will range from 2.5 to 3 parts per million.


Who’s affected?


The change will primarily affect areas of Carrollton and the Benn’s Church area served by the WTWA. Smithfield operates its own water system, which uses a series of wells and a town-owned reverse osmosis water treatment plant to remove contaminants.

Windsor also operates two municipal wells and doesn’t treat its water. Residents who have private or communal wells should be unaffected.

Chlorine and chloramine are both toxic to fish, reptiles and amphibians, but are safe for other household pets like dogs and cats, the CDC states. Chlorine can be removed from water by letting the water sit for a few days, or using a carbon filter. Aquarium supply stores also typically carry products to remove chloramine from water.

Kidney dialysis patients should follow their doctor’s recommendations, Norfolk’s website states. Medical centers that perform dialysis typically remove chloramine or chlorine from water.

Under the Norfolk Water Deal, a nearly 40-year agreement, Isle of Wight is obligated to increase its purchase of water from Norfolk every year. As of 2022, the county’s allotment was roughly 4 million gallons per day. The deal is intended to wean Isle of Wight and Suffolk off their dependence on groundwater, which Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality says has reached unsustainable demand.