Beginning June 27, 2005 the Blacksburg-Christiansburg-VPI Water Authority will change its method of disinfecting drinking water, from free chlorine to chloramination, a process in which ammonia is added to chlorinated water. Water supplied to customers at Virginia Tech, and the Towns of Blacksburg and Christiansburg, will be affected by this change, as well as some Montgomery County residents on public water systems that purchase water from the towns. Chloraminated water is perfectly safe for drinking, cooking, bathing, and all daily uses.
Chloramination can affect the way people treat disinfected water. Specifically, two groups of people will need to take special care with chloraminated water: kidney dialysis patients and owners of fish, other aquatic animals, and reptiles (including operators of seafood tanks at grocery stores, restaurants and dining centers). Although drinking the chloraminated water is safe for kidney dialysis patients, persons who use dialysis machines at home should contact their physician or their local kidney dialysis center for guidance on possible modifications to dialysis machines or procedures.
Owners of fish and aquatic animals should contact their supplier or a local pet store for supplies and information. Dechloraminating water for use in aquariums is a somewhat different procedure than dechlorinating water. Products for dechloraminating water are commercially available.
The change to chloramination is being made to continue to comply with increasingly stringent federal and state regulations on levels of disinfection by-products (DBPs) in drinking water. These regulations require water suppliers to reduce the disinfection byproducts such as Haloacetic Acid (HAA) that are produced when chlorine is used by itself as a disinfectant. Although chlorine has traditionally been used as a disinfecting agent in the water supply industry because of its effectiveness, the disinfection byproducts are now being recognized by federal and state agencies as a possible health risk over a lifetime of exposure. To reduce this risk and to continue to provide high quality drinking water, the water authority must make this change.
Hundreds of water suppliers, including the City of Richmond, and most of the Tidewater area of Virginia have successfully switched to chloramination.
Commonly asked questions and additional information about the switch over to chloramination will soon be available at http://www.h2o4u.org.