City of Bartlesville to begin free chlorine conversion September 25

September 11, 2023

The City of Bartlesville will conduct a temporary switch from its current water disinfection system to free chlorine later this month.

Known as a Temporary Free Chlorine Conversion, the six-week process, which will begin Sept. 25, will result in the entire system being flushed and may cause some taste and odor issues for local water customers, Water Utilities Director Terry Lauritsen said today.

“Temporary Free Chlorine Conversion is a common industry standard and is routinely scheduled by some water providers using chloramine disinfection in an effort to ensure water quality throughout the distribution system,” Lauritsen said. “It involves switching from chloramines, which is what we normally use for disinfection, to free chlorine, which is a stronger and faster-acting disinfectant.”

Lauritsen said the City’s constant testing of water quality in the distribution system recently produced indicators in the southern portion of the system that the conversion may be warranted.

“We closely monitor the distribution system for biological activity and recently discovered that the southern portion of the distribution system, starting at Rice Creek Road and U.S. Highway 75 going south, are indicating the beginning stages of increased biological activity,” he said.

“While this activity is not pathogenic and does not create a health concern, we believe that a temporary full conversion is the best way to proceed.”

Water is safe to drink and use

Free chlorine conversion is endorsed and supported by both agencies that oversee water quality in Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Department of Environment Quality (ODEQ) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

“It is important to note that the water is currently safe to drink and use, and it will continue to be safe to drink and use during the conversion process,” Lauritsen said. “We continue to meet all standards for water quality set forth by both the ODEQ and the EPA. This conversion is simply a precautionary measure to ensure that we continue to meet those standards going forward.”

Lauritsen said there are no other portions of the distribution system exhibiting the characteristics of increased biological activity. He said issues in the southern portion of the system are likely the result of the system not being flushed as it normally would have been due to the ongoing water shortage. He said the conversion will mitigate any problems caused by the lack of flushing.

“Due to the suspension of flushing operations over the past year to preserve water during the drought, we believe a temporary full conversion is necessary as a preventative maintenance item to ensure the integrity of the water throughout the distribution system and at the service points for the surrounding communities and rural water districts,” he said.

What you may notice

The public and local water customers may notice open fire hydrants or flushing valves during the project to allow flushing of the system, which helps distribute the change in disinfectant.

“The temporary change may cause some discoloration or cloudiness in the water, minor pressure fluctuations and a strong chlorine odor and taste,” Lauritsen said. “If this is experienced, running water may help minimize the effects. Fire hydrant and valve flushing should remove a majority of the color and odor, but some will reach customer lines during the process.”

He said the increase in the chlorine concentration in the water system may cause customers to experience eye or skin irritations and other possible effects similar to swimming pools with a high dose of chlorine.

“Customers who use tap water for kidney dialysis at home should contact their doctor to determine if any changes are necessary in their residual disinfectant neutralization procedures. Customers utilizing the water for aquariums should monitor the chlorine residuals,” he said.

What to do

What if I have no water or low pressure?

If you’re completely out of water, or have extremely low water pressure, contact the City of Bartlesville Water Utilities immediately at 918.338.4100.

If your water pressure is just lower than normal but is adequate to carry out your daily routine, please be patient as this pressure drop will likely be short-lived. Water pressures should return to normal after flushing has been terminated in your area and subsequent to the termination of the conversion.

What if I have discolored water?

Flush toilets, bathtubs and faucets until your water clears. If it doesn’t clear with minor indoor flushing, contact the City of Bartlesville Water Utilities at 918.338.4100, so that they can determine whether additional flushing in your area is warranted.

What if my water has a strong odor of chlorine?

A chlorine smell is very normal during the conversion period, as the disinfectant is transitioning from chloramines to free chlorine. Chlorine concentrations maintained during the conversion will be well within Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality and Environmental Protection Agency standards and will be entirely safe to consume and use as normal.

What if I have a fish tank?

Processes in place to remove chloramines in water will remove free chlorine. No change or adjustment should be needed. However, the City of Bartlesville recommends that you contact your equipment supplier.