ITHACA, N.Y. — If you live or work in the city of Ithaca, you may have noticed that tap water has recently started to smell noticeably like chlorine. A city official said Thursday morning that the smell could be here for good.
The City of Ithaca Water Treatment Plant has begun adding an additional kind of chlorine — chlorine dioxide —to the water system.
“This is a treatment we’re doing at the head of the plant as it (the water) comes in,” Chief Operator Charles Baker said. “It was part of the design from day one.”
He said the new chlorine oxidizes organic material and will reduce the color and taste of Manganese in the water. High levels of Manganese in the Ithaca water system caused issues last summer when tap water started flowing in irregular colors ranging from light yellow to dark brown.
The new chlorine is part of the latest part of the plant to “go online” and began being added to the water in mid-to-late August, Baker said.
He said that while the chlorine levels comply with the Health Department standards, it might come with unpleasant side effects.
He said new carpet and new furniture might smell like cat urine because materials in the new products react with chlorine to produce the smell.
The water shouldn’t cause damage to clothing and is safe to drink, but the chlorine smell could stick around indefinitely.
“It (the smell) may be there from now on,” Baker said. “Some people smell it really well and some people don’t.”
But Baker said a few things to keep in mind when it comes to water is that the levels of materials in water, such as chlorine and manganese, change throughout the year to account for weather and the sudden influx of students to the city.
Chief of Staff Dan Cogan said it’s possible the smell goes away in the coming weeks as the water plant tweaks the levels of chlorine it adds to the system. He said the changes in levels usually happens over the course of several days, giving the chemicals a chance to filter through the water system.
“When the levels are not totally optimized it can sometimes have that smell,” he said.