Water supply: "Chlorine Burn-out"? How to proceed with water changes? - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 11 (permalink) Old 10-07-2014, 02:48 AM Thread Starter
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Water supply: "Chlorine Burn-out"? How to proceed with water changes?

Hello, I noticed this notice (copied and pasted below, sorry its long, I just wanted to keep all the explanation together) on my city's water department web page.
I need to do a water change on my tank, which has plants and fish… but this notice is making me a bit wary. I mean, Prime should take care of the Chlorine right? I guess the part that has me worried is the Manganese and rust particles… doesn't seem like that would be good for my tank?

Any advice?

From October 1 – October 31, 2014, Water Supply Corporation will perform a routine chlorine burn out to the water system which will help prevent discoloration, odor and taste in the city’s water.

Every month, staff can be seen flushing fire hydrants to ensure the water we serve is safe and fresh. Water distribution staff is tasked to ensure that water in all points of the system is acceptable to our customers.

There are times that the water is discolored to a yellow, orange or even brownish color. This discoloration is caused by cast iron or steel water mains and private plumbing and at times manganese. Manganese is naturally present in water sources but can increase in years of heavy rains on the watershed. Manganese is not harmful at the levels found but can be a nuisance by discoloring the water. Over time, manganese will attach itself to the pipes andrelease when there are extreme changes in the velocity or pressure similar to when there is a main break or during an annual fire department testing of the hydrants. Nitrification can also occur in water systems that use chloramine for their residual disinfectant. Nitrification is a microbial process that converts ammonia and similar nitrogen compounds into nitrite (NO2–) and then nitrate (NO3–). The key to stopping nitrification is to starve the nitrifying bacteria of nitrogen. WSC is currently experiencing this problem in some of their areas and
will be performing a chlorine burn out on their entire water system to treat the problem.
Remedy: Normally the water is treated with a disinfectant called "chloramine" which is a long-lasting disinfectant that ensures the safety of the water. The "burn out" is a change in the treatment process from chloramines to free chlorine. WSC will perform a free chlorine shock October 1 – 31, 2014.

There will be extensive directional flushing of the system during this time. This process should help remove iron, manganese and other constituents in the mains; provide a key component to stop nitrification; and improve water quality with no associated health risks. Free chlorine is the disinfectant of choice when performing a system-wide maintenance flush. It will help
clean the lines, stop nitrification and ensure that the water continues to be safe to drink.

Potential inconveniences: During these efforts to improve water quality as a whole, there will be times of lower water pressure, odors and taste that are abnormal. Possible particles seen in the water should be rust particles from the iron mains with manganese attached. Each water system will attempt to flush the particles,color and odor from the mains with directional flushing.
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post #2 of 11 (permalink) Old 10-07-2014, 03:48 AM
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I wonder if it would be a good idea to treat some water yourself?


Set up a garbage can for water (I use Rubbermaid Brute garbage cans).
Set up a filter with fairly large capacity. A pump in an open sort of box dropped in the garbage can, a small canister, an Aquaclear HOB...
Then stuff the filter (or the box) with things that attract and trap the various materials:
Pretty much any dechor will deal with the chlorine. Just warming the water and circulating it for 24-48 hours will deal with the chlorine. It is the metals that I would worry about.

Add Chelator to the water, and activated carbon to the filter.
A water treatment that says something like 'neutralizes heavy metals' might do the trick. EDTA is a chelator.
Add fine floss to the filter, or even get a diatom filter to get rid of particles.
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post #3 of 11 (permalink) Old 10-07-2014, 04:17 AM
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As Diana pointed out, any dechlorinnator, such as the Prime you mentioned, will take care of the chlorine. Chlorine is actually a lot easier to neutralize than chloramine because it is unstable and breaks down on its own.

Prime is not a chelator, but does act as a reducing agent to detoxify metals to a limited degree. It should be sufficient unless the water is toxic to humans, or you have some incredibly sensitive species.

Rust particles, as long as they aren't crazy, shouldn't be a big deal. Yes, having a lot of fine particles swirling around in your tank water could be bad, if only from an abrasive action causing gill damage. However, rust is iron oxide, and likely to fall out of suspension on its own. Letting the water stand in a bucket should cause it to settle out, or using nearly any sediment filter should remove it.

The water will also probably have more dissolved iron than normal. Prime should neutralize any toxic effects and make it plant available. You might want to ease up on iron-containing fertilizers, if only to avoid massive excess.

Manganese? As long as it isn't at toxic levels it should act as a plant nutrient. Cosmetic issues as noted.

In general, I wouldn't be too terribly worried, use prime, let it stand in a bucket for a while (overnight if you can) and try not to dump any sediment that forms into your tank. You could use a filter to trap the sediment (although you'd need a pretty fine pad), but if you can pour carefully filtration seems like a bit of overkill.
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post #4 of 11 (permalink) Old 10-07-2014, 08:21 AM
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What Diana said ! If possible, pre-prepare your water by adding Prime and let it stand at least overnight. An airstone or water circulation pump would help aerate the water so any leftover chlorine would be de-gassed.

Humans may rule the world...but bacteria run it..
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post #5 of 11 (permalink) Old 10-07-2014, 09:58 AM
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They do this twice a year in my neck of the woods, and I simply add enough Prime to treat the entire volume of water the tank holds rather than only the amount I remove during weekly water changes.
Was nice of them to alert their customers.
They seldom bother alerting us and only clue is slight discolor of water (carbon cleans it up) and heavier chlorine smell.
Has been going on for the last couple weeks here.
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post #6 of 11 (permalink) Old 10-07-2014, 02:51 PM
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How big is your tank? If its a small one, might want to just buy water for the month of the 'burn out'
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post #7 of 11 (permalink) Old 10-07-2014, 03:23 PM
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I would guess that you will see very little in the water other than color. Any rust passing through to your tank will be very small due to all the filters it has to pass on the way. Several things are involved that are not mentioned. For the concern about extra iron, we might keep in mind that the water and iron are already together full time in the system and pipes. There will be no more iron than normal. Just that some of the iron will be freed from the pipe walls and may move toward your faucet. They will be doing all the flushing they mention to clear this from the pipes before it reaches your faucet. That is why they mention possible low water pressure. They open enough spots to flush out the rusty water and it can "starve" you of the normal pressure. Not enough to cause a problem but a sprinkler system may not reach out as far?
The tiny bits of rust that are missed by the flushing will have to be small enough to go through the filters built into the system. One is at the meter and others are in your home system. And most faucets will have a filter at the end. You may have found this filter if you use a Python-type filler. If it gets past this filter, it is not likely to be large enough to see.
Keeping in mind that this is a very routine process that is done in many cases may relieve some nerves. The difference is that your supplier has gone the extra step of letting you know in advance.
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post #8 of 11 (permalink) Old 10-07-2014, 04:40 PM
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Prime, just all of the prime man. And its nice they told you....because my 75 is what happens when they don't tell you *cries into the night*

If anything though, for extra caution, store the water and prime it, let it sit overnight and filter it or whatever.

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post #9 of 11 (permalink) Old 10-07-2014, 06:54 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks to all who replied! It seems that it may not be that big a deal. I think I may proceed with very small water changes this month and just watch closely how things go.

My tank is a 75 gallon, I had thought about potentially going to the LFS and getting a ~20 gallons of RO water.

HybridHerp - that's awful to hear about your tank, I'm so sorry

Is there such a thing as over-dosing Prime?
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post #10 of 11 (permalink) Old 10-08-2014, 01:28 AM
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Just use it per label directions. I think the label states how much over dose is OK, for example in case of elevated chlorine, chloramine or ammonia levels.
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post #11 of 11 (permalink) Old 10-08-2014, 03:38 AM
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Originally Posted by Melancakes View Post
Is there such a thing as over-dosing Prime?
You can dose up to 5x recommended dosage in case of emergency, but beyond that it becomes toxic for fish as it will reduce oxygen levels. You may want to look up your cities water report to see how much chlorine is added, and just figure twice that during the "burn out"; maybe even triple, just to be safe. For reference, one capful (5 mL) of Prime neutralizes 3.3 mg/L of chlorine.
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