Water Updates

Odor at the Tap

The City of Ithaca uses liquid chlorine dioxide as a disinfectant at the water treatment plant. Chlorine dioxide is used alongside chlorine to reduce the formation of disinfection by-products such as trihalomethanes. It is an excellent disinfectant but can cause short-term odor problems for customers. We assure you, the water coming from your tap is safe to drink! Our water is under constant monitoring and is tested multiple times a day to be sure that it meets or exceeds Federal drinking water standards.

When a water tap is opened, small amounts of chlorine dioxide diffuse into the air and combine with existing household odors. All homes have volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the ambient air. These VOC’s are produced by scented products (such as soaps, candles, and air fresheners), cleaning agents or solvents, paint, carpet, furnishings, flowers or wreaths, and many other common household items. The combined odors produced by VOCs and chlorine dioxide have been described as smelling like a swimming pool, fuel, oil, chemicals or even cat urine. Studies have not identified any health concerns associated with this combined odor.

The strongest of these combined odors are associated with installing new carpet, upholstered furniture or draperies and interior painting. The odor will continue until the level of VOCs decreases (new smell goes away). This can take from a few weeks up to several months to dissipate depending on the situation, type of materials, amount of ventilation, etc. In enclosed areas with little ventilation (such as laundry rooms, basements, and bathrooms) these compounds will accumulate, so the odor will tend to be stronger or last longer than in well-ventilated areas. Increasing ventilation by opening windows and turning on fans will help to eliminate the odors more quickly.

Alternatively, you can remove chlorine dioxide and other chlorine compounds from the water by using an activated carbon filter. This will prevent the formation of compounds that are causing unpleasant odors.

If you have any questions, please call the Water Treatment Facility at (607) 273-4680