UNC campus gets tap water from the Orange Water and Sewer Authority (OWASA). OWASA’s water supply originates as rainfall within the Cane Creek and University Lake watersheds. Read more at OWASA’s Drinking Water page and use the following resources for information about campus water quality.

Water News and Links

March and Early April: Annual Change in Disinfectants

Students, Faculty and Staff

You may notice chlorine taste and odor in the water in March and early April due to annual change in disinfectants by the Orange County Water and Sewer Authority, the public, non-profit agency providing water, sewer and reclaimed water services to the Carrboro-Chapel Hill community.

OWASA uses chlorine for disinfection one month per year to ensure a high level of disinfection in the water system. Chlorine is a more intense disinfectant than chloramines, but chloramines result in lower levels of certain disinfection byproducts that would be harmful at high levels.

Chloramines are a compound of chlorine and ammonia which OWASA has used since 2002 to disinfect drinking water. Disinfecting with chloramines has improved the overall quality of OWASA water and its taste and odor. While the chlorine in the water is not harmful or unhealthy, the chlorine taste and odor can be removed by:

  • Adding a few lemon slices to a pitcher of water. The lemon has ascorbic acid, which neutralizes the chlorine.
  • Letting water sit for a day or so. (OWASA suggests keeping the water in an open container stored in a refrigerator.)
  • Boiling the water for one minute to evaporate the chlorine.
  • Filtering the water with activated carbon. Water pitchers with activated carbon filters are sold locally.

OWASA crews will release water from various fire hydrants in some areas to ensure that water with chlorine goes through the entire water system. This “flushing” may cause discoloration in the water. The discoloration consists of air and harmless sediment, which does not affect the safety of the water.

To clear up the discoloration or air bubbles, please run cold water through a spigot or faucet for 5 to 10 minutes. If this does not clear up the water, please call OWASA at 919-968-4421.

For more information, contact the OWSA representatives below or go to www.owasa.org.

  • Ken Loflin, Water Supply and Treatment Manager
    919-537-4232 or kloflin@owasa.org
  • Monica Dodson, Water Treatment Plant Operations Supervisor
    919-537-4205 or mdodson@owasa.org
  • Randy Horton, Interim Manager, Water Distribution and Wastewater Collection Systems
    919-537-4280 or rhorton@owasa.org

Additional Resources

OWASA Reports

Lead in Campus Drinking Water

Lead in campus drinking water is attributed to three sources: Lead pipe, lead solder and leaded brass fittings. Lead pipe and lead solder were banned in 1986 by amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act, promulgated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA). Also, the USEPA Lead and Copper Rule requires public water utilities (OWASA) to include corrosion control in their water treatment protocol sufficient to prevent lead leaching from pipes, solder or fittings. The rule requires OWASA to test a representative sample of buildings periodically, to prove they are in compliance. OWASA has passed all Lead and Copper Rule tests.

In 2007, UNC performed a campus-wide inspection for lead piping and found none. OWASA states that there are no lead service lines in their territory. Therefore, the only sources are lead solder and lead-containing brass fittings. UNC has experienced elevated lead levels in drinking water due to the brass fittings, specifically; newer fittings installed during recent renovations and in newly constructed buildings. Typically the problem disappears within six months of normal use. However, UNC has developed a flushing protocol upon the completion of renovations or new construction to reduce the levels below the National Primary Drinking Water Standard before the areas or buildings are occupied.