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Changes in chlorine levels likely affecting taste of water

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QUESTION: Lately my family, friends and I have noticed that Honolulu water doesn’t taste as sweet as it used to. I live in lower Manoa. I’m used to drinking it out of the tap, but it now tastes like something’s been put in or taken out. Is it still safe? Why does it taste different — a little like swimming pool water?

ANSWER: That’s chlorine you’re likely tasting.

The Board of Water Supply has been chlorinating its water since the mid-1940s to make sure it is both safe to drink and meets regulations, according to spokeswoman Tracy Burgo.

"The use of chlorine is one of the most common and widely accepted methods to disinfect drinking water from bacterial contamination," she said.

The BWS routinely adjusts the amount and frequency of chlorine added to its deep-water wells, tunnels and reservoirs as the water system grows, and to meet increasingly stringent drinking water regulations, Burgo said.

"For the past three years, we have been making such changes in response to a new regulation called the ‘Ground Water Rule,’" she said.

The rule was established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2006.

Although the changes are described as small, Burgo said it might be noticeable because some areas of Oahu historically have had little or no chlorine in the water.

While safety is foremost, she said the board’s "policy is also to preserve water aesthetics by adding only that amount of chlorine that is actually necessary."

You can find out more about your water supply by checking the annual Water Quality Report sent to all residents (see the July 16 "Kokua Line").

The lower Manoa area receives chlorinated water from the Beretania and Kaimuki pumping stations, Burgo said.

Water supplying homes in the higher elevations of Manoa Valley come from Manoa Tunnel III and Manoa Well II, both sources also chlorinated, she said. (The last report to upper Manoa residents erroneously showed Manoa Well II as not being chlorinated. That has since been corrected online, Burgo said.)

"Because of the dynamic nature of our system, chlorine concentration will vary from place to place depending on the blending and mixing of water coming from different sources," Burgo said.

QUESTION: The Ala Moana Post Office mail boxes lists 8 a.m., 10 a.m., etc. as pickup times. The Main Airport Post Office lists 2:30 p.m. as its earliest pickup. Does the time mean anything? Does Ala Moana mail have priority over the airport in going to the neighbor islands?

ANSWER: Mail picked up from Ala Moana Center does not have priority in processing or reaching the neighbor islands, said U.S. Postal Service spokeswoman Lynne Moore.

Within Honolulu, trucks take mail from the mail processing facility to the various post offices, then bring collected mail from the post offices back to the processing facility, she said. Pickup times reflect when the mail is gathered from collection boxes.

Collection boxes at the Main Airport Post Office are located at the mail processing facility, so are not dependent on truck schedules.

Therefore, the airport mail "can be collected in alignment with the operation that processes the mail," Moore said.


To the city: Why do they run the sprinklers on Nanakuli beach from 11 a.m. to whenever, when common sense and TV ads tell everyone to water early in the morning or late in the afternoon? Doesn’t the city heed its own ads? — Peggy

Write to "Kokua Line" at Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu 96813; call 529-4773; fax 529-4750; or e-mail


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