However, if you live on a dead end street, a cul-de-sac or other area where the water lines are looped together, it is difficult to get a complete flushing of the water company lines and therefore, at my house we continue to get periodic episodes of the licorice odor. A large apartment building or hotel may also be very difficult to totally flush.
4. I was concerned in my first article with chlorinated by-products and therefore requested West Virginia American Water move up its schedule for testing of Total Trihalomethanes and Haloacetic Acids under the Disinfection and Disinfection By-Products Rule. These compounds are federally regulated. I received the test results this week.
The water treatment plant and eight locations throughout the distribution system were sampled. The sample results are low and well within the federal guidelines. This is very good news.
The data confirms there were not substantial concentrations of chlorinated by-products in the water distribution system. These results can be attributed to the cold water temperature limiting microbial activity and the low level of total organic compounds in the water leaving the treatment plant. I thank the water company for providing this data.
What should we do?
1. We are very close to getting back our safe, potable water supply. I am recommending if you can still smell the licorice odor, flush your home plumbing system again. I have flushed my home system using the water company protocol and have also drained the hot water tank. From experience, I am convinced the flushing protocol from WVAWC works as well as draining the water tank.
However, the licorice odor comes back usually in the early morning. I am convinced there is still MCHM in the main water line albeit at very low concentrations. I recommend calling the water company to have the main line in your area flushed again. I live in Sherwood Forest and the lines loop around the hill. However, there are blow-offs and fire hydrants to flush the main lines. I believe if we are vigilant on getting safe water, the water company will be diligent in flushing the lines.
2. If you are using filters on your icemakers or on the tap water, you should change the filters on a regular basis. Some organic compounds such as MCHM have the ability to desorb over time. The filters are not designed to be a primary treatment device. Home filtering systems are only certified to polish the water (i.e. remove chlorine and small amounts of turbidity).
If you smelled the licorice odor after flushing your home plumbing system and installed filters to remove the licorice odor, you should replace the filters on a regular basis (as often as monthly). If there is no licorice odor, home filtration water systems are acceptable as polishing systems. Be vigilant to change the filters.
A national study showed the sale of replacement filters is very low compared to new filter system sales. The filters should be changed regularly according to manufacturer's recommendations.
As I said in the first article, West Virginians are tough and smart. We will persevere and get through this. I am very close to answering my grandchildren's question - Is the water now safe to drink?
Dayton Carpenter is a board certified environmental engineer, consulting water chemist and president of Carpenter Treatment Solutions, PLLC.