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Chlorination questions answered

Recent chlorination of the Park Rapids water supply has left a bad taste in some residents' mouths, but fortunately, houseplants can't tell the difference.

Recent chlorination of the Park Rapids water supply has left a bad taste in some residents' mouths, but fortunately, houseplants can't tell the difference.

The decision to permanently treat the water following the contamination episode at the end of September should not impact the health of most houseplants.

"I know there are always concerns when something is added to potable water, but chlorine has been added in a lot of places for a long time," said Hawkins Water Treatment Group branch manager Scott Kinsella. "Park Rapids was really in the minority before."

Kinsella said Park Rapids now treats its water with chlorine in ratios of less than one part per million (ppm).

Researchers at the University of Connecticut conducted a 12-week experiment monitoring the health of a wide variety of plants watered with chlorination concentrations between 0 and 77 ppm.

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According to garden columnist Mary Robson, scientists found plants only began to show adverse effects at the higher concentration levels.

"The take home messasge: chlorine from municipal water supplies is not likely to damage any of your houseplants, bedding plants or vegetable transplants," wrote Robson.

University of Minnesota Extension service master gardeners reports house plants are more likely to be harmed by water high in salts or run through a water softener.

Still, a few plants will be susceptible to the treated water, say the gardeners.

Spider plants can get tip burn from treated water, a condition where leaf ends turn brown and dry up.

The gardeners suggest collecting rainwater or melting snow as an alternate water source.

Water can also be left overnight in pitchers to dissipate the chlorine gas.

Kinsella said residents should still not use tap water to fill aquariums, as the chlorine kills fish.

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But residents may rest assured the treated water will likely have little impact on their health. Chlorine is safe to ingest at the levels found in Park Rapids.

Additionally, the Environmental Protection Agency requires regular monitoring for levels of trihalomethanes, a carcinogen sometimes formed as a reaction between chlorine and some organic compounds.

"It might be a comfort to know there are people all over the world drinking chlorinated water who are perfectly safe," Kinsella said.

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