On April 25, New Jersey American Water will resume using chloramines in water treatment plants that service customers in Essex, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Morris, Somerset, and Union.
In mid-February, as part of an annual routine maintenance program for its water distribution system, New Jersey American Water temporarily changed the water treatment process at North Jersey treatment plants from a chloramine residual to a free chlorine residual.
On April 25, NJ American Water will resume using chloramines in water treatment at its Raritan-Millstone and Canal Road Water Treatment plants. These plants serve residents in Essex, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Somerset, Union, and Morris counties.
The two-month changeover to free chlorine residual enables NJ American Water to perform routine annual maintenance. During the transition to free chlorine residual, some customers may have noticed a slight chlorine taste and odor in their water. With the resumption of the chloramine process, the taste and smell of chlorine will subside.
The treatment change applies to New Jersey American Water customers in the following communities:
(Communities with an asterisk purchase water from New Jersey American Water.)
Essex County: Irvington, Maplewood, Millburn
Hunterdon County: Flemington Borough*, Raritan Township, Readington Township, and Tewksbury Township
Mercer County: Hopewell Borough*, Hopewell Township, Lawrence Township*, Princeton Borough, Princeton Junction, Princeton Township, Trenton*, and West Windsor Township
Middlesex County: Cranbury Township, Dunellen Borough, Edison Township, Jamesburg Borough, Middlesex Borough, Monroe Township, North Brunswick*, Piscataway Township, Plainsboro Township, South Brunswick Township and South Plainfield Borough
Morris County: Chatham Township, Florham Park Borough, Long Hill Township, Mendham Township Mendham Borough
Somerset County: Bedminster Township, Bernards Township, Bernardsville Borough, Bound Brook Borough, Branchburg Township, Bridgewater Township, Far Hills Borough, Franklin Township, Green Brook Township, Hillsborough Township, Manville Borough, Millstone Borough, Montgomery Township, North Plainfield Borough, Peapack & Gladstone Borough, Raritan Borough, Rocky Hill*, Somerville Borough, South Bound Brook Borough, Warren Township and Watchung Borough
Union County: Berkley Heights Township, City of Rahway*, Clark Township, Cranford Township, City of Elizabeth (Liberty)*, Fanwood Borough, Garwood Borough, Hillside Township, Kenilworth Borough, Linden City, Mountainside Borough, New Providence Borough, Plainfield City, Roselle Borough, Roselle Park Borough, Scotch Plains Township, Springfield Township, Summit, Union Township, Westfield Township and Winfield Park Township*
What is chloramine?
Chloramine is a disinfectant used to treat drinking water. It is formed by mixing chlorine with ammonia.
Although it is a weaker disinfectant than chlorine, it is more stable which extends its disinfectant benefits throughout a water utility’s distribution system (a system of pipes that delivers water to homes).
Chloramine has been used by water systems for almost 90 years, and its use is closely regulated.
Why do public water suppliers add disinfectants to my drinking water?
Disinfecting tap water is critical to protect the public from disease-causing microorganisms.
Drinking water is disinfected to kill bacteria, viruses and other organisms that cause serious illness and death.
Disinfecting drinking water has improved public health by lowering the rates of infectious diseases spread through untreated water (for example, typhoid, hepatitis and cholera). Common disinfectants used in water treatment include chlorine and chloramines.
What are the advantages of using chloramine?
Since chloramine is not as reactive as chlorine, its use can reduce the formation of cancer-causing disinfection byproducts, such as trihalomethanes and haloacetic acids.
Because chloramine residual is more stable and longer-lasting than free chlorine, it provides better protection against bacterial growth in water distribution systems.
Chloramine does not tend to react with organic compounds, and as a result, many customers may notice fewer taste and odor complications.
Chloramine technology is relatively easy to install and operate. It also is among the less expensive disinfectant alternatives to chlorine.
What are the disadvantages of using chloramine?
Chloramine levels are more complicated to regulate than chlorine levels. Failure to properly control and monitor chloramine treatment can cause undesirable chemical reactions such as corrosion of pipes or nitrification in the distribution system.
Corrosion can cause the leaching of lead and copper from pipes and solder. Nitrification can cause a loss of disinfectant residual. Proper operation and management of the treatment system and disinfectant levels prevent these potential drawbacks to the use of chloramines.
In addition, chloramine deteriorates natural rubber products like toilet tank “flapper values” faster than chlorine. (Alternative synthetic products are available in plumbing and hardware stores if rubber deterioration becomes a problem in your home.)
How many people use drinking water treated with chloramine?
Approximately one-third of all public water systems in the United States use chloramine for disinfecting drinking water.
In a 1998 national survey, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimated that water systems treated with chloramine serve more than 68 million people across the country.
Does chloramine cause skin rashes or irritate the lungs when showering or bathing?
According to the EPA, drinking water with chloramine levels that meet EPA standards is associated with minimal to no risk and should be considered safe.
According to Dr. Jeffrey K. Griffiths at the Tufts University School of Medicine, “There is no scientific literature to support the contention that chloramine or ammonia exposures of any significance occur because of respiration. The levels of ammonia found in chlorinated water do not act as a skin irritant given their very low levels, and the levels of ammonia found in chloraminated water are dwarfed by the amounts of ammonia found in foodstuffs.”
Irritation to the eyes and nose, stomach discomfort, or anemia can occur by drinking water containing chloramines well in excess of the Maximum Residual Disinfectant Levels. High levels would occur with improper operation of the water treatment and distribution system.
Does chloramine increase lead levels in my drinking water?
In some instances, water systems have experienced elevated lead levels immediately after converting to chloramine. These problems were usually attributable to unique circumstances and are avoidable if the conversion process is monitored and managed properly.
For dialysis patients…
Dialysis centers and hospitals are notified before a water system converts to chloramine. Like chlorine, chloramine residuals need to be removed from water that is used for dialysis machines.
As part of their standard test procedures, technicians check for total chlorine residuals (due to chloramine) to ensure the residual is zero. Some machines may need modifications depending on the method of chlorine removal that is currently used.
A change in the disinfectant used to treat the water should not impact or require any change in the normal operation of dialysis machines.
Home dialysis users should consult their physician or dialysis machine manufacturer for instructions.
Lastly, for aquarium and fishpond owners…
Chloramine residuals need to be removed from water that is added to aquariums and fishponds.
You can obtain an inexpensive conditioner and a test kit from a local pet store or aquarium supply store. Alternatively, aquarium owners may purchase a carbon filtration system that is designed to remove chloramine.
Pond owners may need to purchase a conditioner or ammonia binder in bulk quantities if more than one percent of the total water volume in the pond is replaced at one time.
Chloramines have been used as a safe and effective disinfectant for drinking water in the following cities:
- Washington, D.C.
- San Francisco
- St. Louis
- Portland, OR
- Kansas City, MO
- San Diego
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