A mechanical problem at one of the Palm Coast’s three water treatment plants Thursday caused the level of chlorine to go too high, prompting the city’s utility department to temporarily shut down the water plant, the city stated in a release issued this afternoon. The precise nature of the spike has not been determined, but it was brief.
Water supply in the city was not disrupted. Customers normally served by Water Treatment Plant 2 are receiving water from Palm Coast’s two other water treatment plants instead.
But customers south of State Road 100 may notice a strong chlorine odor or taste until the system is fully flushed. If that occurs, customers are advised to flush their faucets or boil their water to get rid of the chlorine. The water is safe to drink, but it would be best to remove the chlorine before consuming it. That is done by flushing the faucets or boiling the water.
Dozens of residents have been calling the city’s customer service line, whose hours will be extended tonight to answer incoming calls and concerns. “We’re prepared to be here all night to answer customers,” said Cindi Lane, the city’s spokesperson. The calls have been focused on water color and odor. There have not been reported health issues.
Lane specified that the neighborhoods are not under a boil-water notice. “But we’re advising people that if that happened to go into their house it would be good for them to run the water faucets until it’s back to normal or boil the water to get rid of the chlorine. Some areas of the system are flushing out faster than others.”
Customers may also notice lower-than-normal water pressure or discoloration in their water, but it is safe to use, the city says. (The discoloration was caused by an unrelated water main break in the F Section earlier this week, and sediment in those lines is causing that.)
The Utility Department discovered the higher-than-normal levels of chlorine at Water Treatment Plant 2 during routine water testing, which takes place every few hours. The plant, which serves the southern end of Palm Coast, was immediately taken offline, and the city is flushing about a dozen hydrants and water mains in the LL, Z and K sections. The water in the storage tank where the mechanical problem occurred has been replaced with water that has normal levels of chlorine.
“We were installing a mixer in one of the storage tanks, we think it’s related to that although we haven’t completely decided that that’s what it is,” Lane said. The mixer is an actual paddle that stirs the water.
The city is currently in a period of using free chlorine, rather than combined chlorine/ammonia (chloramines), to disinfect the system, meaning the chlorine taste and smell was already slightly higher than normal. Today’s issue at Water Treatment Plant 2 was mechanical and unrelated to the disinfection program.
The affected plant was still not operating this afternoon. Asked if that was causing undue pressure on the rest of the system, lane said: “Thankfully, our system is integrated so all the plants can support each other, but we do need all three plants.”
Later in the day Lane relayed an explanation from the Utility Department’s Jim Hogan that shed additional light on what may have led to the spike: “Our old mixer had failed, and we had just installed a new mixer yesterday. The storage tank had been taken down to about half level to allow for that installation. Because we’re in the free chlorine burnout right now, we believe what happened is the chlorine (which is heavier) had pooled near the bottom of the tank. That water is what we got the high read on. As soon as we got the reading we shut down the pumps so no more would go out. Since we aren’t on the free chlorine often, and don’t install mixers often, we had never before experienced this situation and we weren’t expecting it.”
The plant was operating again by Friday morning.
Customers who have any questions may call Palm Coast Customer Service at 386-986-2360.