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Does the Water Smell Funny or Is It Just Me?


Starting on March 1 through the end of March, residents in and around Clayton may notice the scent of chlorine coming from their tap water.

This is normal.

Your water will still be safe to drink and to use for cooking, bathing and all other household purposes. If you are especially sensitive to the taste and odor of chlorine, try keeping an open container of drinking water in your refrigerator. Keeping the water container open, with no cap or lid, will enable the chlorine to dissipate, thus reducing the chlorine taste. Change out the water in your refrigerated container every 4-6 days for best quality.

So what’s going on?

All year long, Johnston County, which provides Clayton's drinking water, treats its systems with a blend of chlorine AND ammonia. Chlorine helps to kill bacteria. Ammonia, which has been used in municipal treatment systems for more than 70 years, helps to prolong the effectiveness of that chlorine.

But once a year, state and federal law requires water systems to change up their water-treatment mixture – from the usual blend of chlorine AND ammonia – to a chlorine-ONLY treatment. This helps ensure our drinking water is safe from bacteria that may have adapted to the presence of ammonia. Again, customers may smell chlorine all year round in our water because chlorine is used all year in Johnston County. The ammonia that's used actually helps to mask the chlorine odor, so when the ammonia is removed during this annual required treatment that chlorine odor may become more noticeable. 

This treatment applies to residents who buy their water from the Town of Clayton, as well as Aqua & Carolina Water Service customers.

During this annual treatment, you will also see our Town of Clayton personnel doing our annual spring water hydrant flushing. This is to flush out sediment in the water lines, to move the chlorine treatment through the lines more quickly and help to maintain the high water quality of our water lines. Our Town of Clayton employees all drive trucks marked with our Town seal and wear uniform shirts with our seal as well. Flushing may result in temporary discoloration and the presence of sediment in your water. These conditions should only last a very short time.

Does this apply to the Riverwood area in the satellite area of our Town limits?

Town of Clayton residents in the Riverwood area may ignore this notice because your water receives a chlorine-only treatment all year round.  Most everyone who lives in Johnston County who is not on well water is served by Johnston County's water system. Johnston County's system is divided into two separate systems...both treated differently.

Johnston West serves the majority of Clayton residents. 

Johnston East serves the Riverwood area (the tan area of the map). Again, the Riverwood area is treated with chlorine-only all year and does not go through this annual disinfection. Only Johnston West (the area in white) is affected by this change in annual treatment.

Does this mean my water will smell like a swimming pool?

Probably not. In fact, most customers won’t notice any difference at all. A few customers may detect some change in the taste, scent and/or color of their water. Again, this is normal, and the water is still safe – We’ll be running regular tests to make sure.

What if I’m on dialysis?

Kidney dialysis patients should know that chlorine would be toxic in dialysis water since during the dialysis process, water comes in contact with the blood across a permeable membrane. Medical centers that perform dialysis are responsible for purifying water used in dialysis machines. Customers with home dialysis equipment should contact their doctor and continue the usual precautions they take before using tap water.  Again, Town of Clayton residents (with the exclusion of Riverwood area Clayton customers (with the  who use kidney dialysis machines should be aware that the water will contain more chlorine for about five weeks and will return to a chlorine and ammonia mixture on or about April 1st.  

What will the water do to my tropical fish tank?

Fish also take chloramines and chlorine directly into their bloodstream. That's why those chemicals should be removed from water used in fish tanks, ponds and aquariums.  Individuals and businesses who keep fish or other aquatic animals should ask their pet supply company about removing excess chlorine. There are many common water-treatment products readily available to handle this. 

What can I do about the smell, taste or color?

Here’s a few home remedies:

  • Run your water through a charcoal filter. Water-filtering pitchers are available at most major retailers.
  • Boil your water for one minute to evaporate the chlorine.
  • Pour water into an open container and let it sit in the refrigerator for a few days. This will allow the chlorine to bubble out of the water.
  • Add a few lemon slices to a pitcher of water. The ascorbic acid in the lemons will neutralize the chlorine.

If your water is discolored, try flushing your water lines. You’ll especially want to check before washing whites. To flush your system, start by turning on all the taps outside your house – such as the spigot for your garden hose. It should only take a minute or so for the water to run clear, and then you can turn off the spout. Next go inside, remove any filters from your faucets, and then turn each of them on one by one. Since you already flushed your outside lines, it should only take a few seconds for the inside lines to run clear. Replace any filters when you’re done.

Click here for our most recent water quality reports.  Click here for a one-page information sheet. 

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