Water treatment change may affect taste

By Melissa Silverberg

Champaign residents may have noticed a slight change in the taste of their drinking water recently, but officials say there is nothing to be alarmed about.

Illinois American Water, the water provider for the Champaign-Urbana area and many other communities around the state, has temporarily changed its method of water treatment to ensure that residents receive high quality water.

The change began Jan. 7 and will continue through Jan. 31. Lisa Reisen, communications manager for Iowa and Illinois American Water, said that water in Champaign is usually disinfected with a chlorine substance mixed with ammonia. She added that during the three-week change, water in the city will be treated with “free chlorine,” or chlorine without ammonia.

“The change is a normal process (conducted) annually or twice a year to maintain the high water quality,” Reisen said.

Illinois American Water said in a press release that the temporary change may cause a slightly noticeable chlorine-like taste or smell in Champaign tap water. The supplier added that this change is nothing to be alarmed about.

“We just want to let people know we are doing something differently,” Reisen said.

However, some residents may not notice a difference in the taste of their water at all, while others may be more sensitive to it, she added.

“I don’t think I would have noticed until someone told me there was a difference,” said Ryan Laurenti, freshman in Business, who said he regularly drinks Champaign tap water while on campus.

Illinois American Water also said there will be no interruptions in water service. The company said the switch in treatment was implemented over a week ago and a minimal amount of problems and concerns have surfaced. Champaign residents who have lived here a few years are used to the switch because Illinois American Water performs this type of treatment periodically.

“The change was really more noticeable in the first few days, especially in shower water, but we are now in the second week of the treatment process,” said Brent O’Neill, a project manager at Illinois American Water.

While the water in Champaign is being treated differently over the next few weeks, Illinois American Water explained that it is not due to any past problem, but just a way to keep the water as clean and fresh as possible.

O’Neill said that this change in water treatment is also a prerequisite for further cleaning and flushing of the water mains to keep the Champaign water tasting its best.

At the end of January, Illinois American Water said they will switch back to treating and disinfecting water with chlorine containing ammonia. They added that residents will not taste a difference when the switch back to the original method of water treatment is made.

“What we want to stress most is that the water is safe and clean so residents don’t become alarmed if they do notice the change,” Reisen said.