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Union Municipal Customers Take Notice Of Smelly Water

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If you live in Union County or Anson County in North Carolina, or Lancaster County in South Carolina, you’ve probably noticed a stronger smell or taste of chlorine in your water. You’re not imagining things; the municipal water system is midway through a month-long flush that customers are definitely noticing.

Late last month, Rebecca Foley noticed a change in the water at her home in Waxhaw.

"I walked into the bathroom after my husband had showered," she recalls, "and I actually thought he had cleaned the shower with bleach. It was that strong and noticeable."

She says the chlorine smell in her water is so strong that her family has stopped drinking it. And she’s not alone. Union County water superintendent Junior Honeycutt says the water department has seen a spike in the number of calls.

"Between customer service and direct calls, probably anywhere from 10 to 15 extra calls a day," he says.

The chlorine smell comes from the disinfectant the water system is flushing through its pipes and tanks. It’s called a chlorine “burnout." Over time, microbes can build up on the walls of pipes and tanks. The chlorine helps to clear out that film.

Honeycutt says the county used chlorine year-round until  2009. Then, it switched to a combination of chlorine and ammonia, which has less of a smell, but is also not quite as strong. So every now and then, chlorine is needed.

"This is the exact same water we were pumping 5 years ago," he says. "We haven’t done anything; we haven’t created a new beast of water."

But he says, now people have gotten used to the less-smelly water. The chlorine flush is scheduled to finish by March 23.