There’s something [not] in the water

And no, I’m not talking about fluoride this time. Durham is (temporarily) changing its water treatment processes, and you might notice the difference in taste or in smell over the next month.

Durham (like most other triangle cities) uses a process called chloramination to treat its drinking water. Chloramine offers purported benefits over the other allowed option (chlorine) and many municipalities have been switching to it in recent decades.

One concern with chloramination is controlling nitrification. This can be a delicate thing to deal with, and the state of NC requires plants to annually perform these “burn out” periods, during which time only chlorine (and not ammonia) is added to the system. By doing so they can ensure that nitrification is avoided.

2 thoughts on “There’s something [not] in the water”

  1. Why is nitrification a problem? Is it hazardous and why? The link doesn’t really address this, that I saw. Thanks.

    1. So, my (possibly incorrect) understanding is that over time organisms can start forming in the system that are able to break down the ammonia in the treated water and feed off of it. This process increases the nitrogen content in the system, and since they break down some of the ammonia they make overall treatment of the water less effective. These organisms are more likely to form in areas where the water doesn’t move frequently (storage tanks etc).

      The switch to chlorine only starves out those organisms that feed off of the ammonia, and ensures that when restarted the ammonia will remain effective.

      (DISCLAIMER: this is based on memory and quite possibly wrong)

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