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Posted on: June 12, 2019

Water Quality Concerns FAQs

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The Town of Harrisburg is aware of the earthy, pond-like odor and taste experienced by our water customers, and we are continuing to monitor the water quality on a daily basis. We have provided the following information to address frequently asked questions received from residents. If you have any questions about the information below, please contact our Customer Service Department at 704-455-5614.

What’s causing the problem?

The odor and taste issues are a result of an algae bloom at the Tuckertown Water Reservoir in Albemarle, North Carolina. The algae bloom is likely the result of what is referred to as “lake turnover,” which occurs naturally throughout the year during changes in water temperature. Due to the large amounts of rainfall we experienced in early spring, followed by an extended dry spell with higher than average temperatures, the “lake turnover” effect was more significant this year than it has been in years past.

The reason an algae bloom in a water reservoir many miles away from Harrisburg is affecting our system is due to the fact that the Town of Harrisburg buys 95% of its water from the City of Concord. The City of Concord, in turn, buys a bulk amount of water from Albemarle, so Harrisburg effectively receives some portion of its water from the Tuckertown Water Reservoir.

The odor and taste issues are not being caused by stagnation of water in the system, or any other potential factors such as chemical intrusion, bacterial contamination or water line breaks.

Who is affected?

The Town’s water distribution system is all interconnected, so it is possible that any Harrisburg water customer may experience the odor and taste issues. The problem has been most prevalent along the southern portion of our water distribution system (south of the railroad tracks) due to it being the closest water distribution point to the City of Concord’s water treatment facility.

City of Concord water customers are also affected by this issue and should contact the City of Concord if they have any questions.

Is the water safe to drink?

We want to ensure that residents are aware that the Town tests the water on a daily basis, as does the City of Concord. To date, the water quality has not violated any state permitting standard and does not present a safety concern to consumers. We understand that the water odor and taste is not ideal, but it is an aesthetic issue with the water and does not pose harm to consumers. If the water quality violates our permitting standards, the Town is required to notify consumers within 24 hours. There is no test we can perform for taste or odor, only for safety concerns related to bacterial contamination.

If you have questions, please contact our Customer Service Department at 704-455-5614.

What is being done by the Town?

The Concord Water Treatment plant treats the water with chlorine to address algae contamination, which eliminates the health concerns associated with it; however, the chlorine treatment does not effectively treat/remove the odor and taste issues associated with algae. The City of Concord has made operational changes to reduce the amount of water put into the system from the City of Albemarle until the algae bloom is under control. This should allow for a quicker resolution to the water odor and taste issues.

The Town has also increased its daily water testing from three times a day to five times a day to ensure we meet our permitting standards. But beyond that, we simply must wait for the issue to be resolved at the water reservoir.

When will the issue be resolved?

We are hopeful that a combination of the operational changes made by the City of Concord, along with the recent rainfall, will help to reduce the algae bloom at the water reservoir. We expect to see improvement within the next few days; however, it may take longer for all of the effects to be fully eliminated from our system.

What can I do as a resident to address the taste and odor issue?

If residents desire, they can filter the water to remove the taste and odor issue. There are various levels of water filtration systems available, so it is important to ensure that the filtration system you use addresses odor and taste (aesthetics). Otherwise, your filter may not improve the issue.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has produced minimum contamination reduction standards that are applied to each filter/filtration system you may use. Each filter is different and provide different levels of contamination reduction. Look for the following NSF standards on your filtration system:

  • NSF 42 addresses aesthetic effects such as taste and odor, chlorine and particulates.
  • NSF 53 addresses health effects such as chemical, pesticide and herbicides and particulate matter
  • NSF 401 addresses emerging compounds and incidental contaminants such as prescription drugs, detergents, plastics, etc.

Why doesn’t Harrisburg have its own water source?

The Town of Harrisburg does not currently have access to a water reservoir, a necessity for producing enough water to serve our system. We do have several wells throughout Town, but those produce less than 5% of our water needs for the community and come with their own water quality issues. The Town has invested in these wells over the years to allow us to treat the well water and then blend it into the general water system of the Town. Short of the Town making a multi-million-dollar investment in acquiring land to construct a water reservoir and treatment facility, our most efficient and effective solution to providing water to our community is through partnership with the City of Concord.

The Town also has an emergency connection with the City of Charlotte, but due to inter-basin transfer restrictions, we are only allowed to use that water source in the event of an emergency. An inter-basin transfer refers to the water basin that water is pulled from and then distributed back to once it has been treated as wastewater. State permitting laws do not allow for significant crossover between water basins, as it can cause environmental strains and water quality issues for the respective water basins.

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Posted on: June 20, 2019