Mar 8, 2022 - News

Why Collin County's water smells like chlorine

Erin Brockovich at a podium

The real Erin Brockovich. Photo: J Pat Carter/Getty Images

Environmental activist Erin Brockovich is warning residents of North Texas not to drink water from the North Texas Municipal Water District.

Why it matters: The NTMWD serves more than 2 million people in a 10-county region, including most of the residents of Collin County.

  • The NTMWD says the water might have a chlorinated smell, but that it’s totally safe to consume.

What’s happening: Every year, the NTMWD temporarily changes the disinfectant in its water treatment process. Most of the year the disinfection is a two-step process that includes first treating the water at the treatment plant, then adding chloramine — chlorine plus ammonia.

  • During the annual change, which usually happens around March, the district stops adding ammonia and uses free chlorine in an effort to kill parasites and viruses. The absence of ammonia makes the chlorine smell more noticeable.
  • The planned maintenance will run from March 1 to March 29.

The big picture: The EPA says these chemicals are safe for drinking, cooking and bathing.

Flashback: Brockovich, who rose to fame in the 1990s by exposing water contamination in California and through the namesake movie she inspired, came to North Texas to talk about this issue in 2018.

  • The water district created a tab labeled "Brockovich situation" on its site and has repeatedly assured customers that their water is safe.

What they’re saying: "This common maintenance practice is an essential step in our advanced year-round treatment and disinfection process and does not increase the amount of chlorine in the system," NTMWD assistant director Zeke Campbell said in a statement.

  • "The water remains safe to drink and use every day, and we continue to meet or surpass safe drinking water standards."

The other side: "The North Texas Municipal Water District is not being truthful and have stabbed you all in the back," Brockovich said in a Facebook post. "The water is not safe [for] drinking, and bathing is particularly dangerous if you are pregnant."

  • She added: "You cannot fix stupid."

Tips: To minimize the chlorinated taste and odor or to mitigate skin sensitivities, the NTMWD suggests placing a pitcher of water in the refrigerator overnight or adding a slice of citrus to the water.

  • Adding a crushed 1000 mg Vitamin C tablet to bath water will neutralize the chlorine.

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