Orangeburg the town, I’m sure, is lovely. Orangeburg pipes, however, are not.
Orangeburg pipe was first invented in the mid-1800s, and used all the way up until 1970. Even today, a lot of areas of the U.S. rely on Orangeburg pipe to supply water. There’s only one problem– it’s basically cardboard.
Back before plastics were a thing, Orangeburg pipe was pretty rad. It’s layers of wood pulp covered in pitch, and pipe sections could be pretty much just smushed together. It’s lightweight, can be cut with a handsaw, and not terribly expensive. Unfortunately, when you run water through pitch-covered cardboard for decades, bad things begin to happen. Pipes get punctured by tree roots, lose their shape, and even collapse.
Right now, we have filters on pretty much every tap in our apartment. We generally don’t get the full use out of them, though– filters designed to last three months end up dying after one. When I go to change them, they’re always covered in bits of black grit and tiny fragments of wood. Honestly, I’m really, really glad we decided to go with filters, but it does suck that they end up croaking prematurely because the pipes in this area are literally crumbling. I don’t even want to think about how much water gets wasted, or about all of the filter waste. I purposefully chose ones that are recyclable, but still.
The other issue here is that DC’s tap water is both hard and high in chlorine. EPA guidelines say that tap water should have at least “detectable” amounts of chlorine in them for sanitation reasons. That means over 2 ppm. While I am totally in favor of coping with chlorine instead of, say, pseudomonas (Warning: graphic) or shigella, it still makes life difficult for someone who gets contact dermatitis from showering. I’ve tried everything, from reducing the number of baths I take, to hypoallergenic soap, to alternatives to soap, to just washing with plain water. Filtering helps for awhile, until the filter begins to reach the end of its life (about the three week mark). The worst part is that chlorine and chloramine concentrations tend to go up during cold weather, since the cold keeps them from breaking down as easily, so my problems are likely to get worse for the next few months.
I remember when I worked for an environmental lab, an airport was trying out a new protocol for removing chlorine from their wastewater. They applies cartridges of ascorbic acid to their hydrants, and it worked well. That form of vitamin C can be a little rough on the pH, however, so I’m hoping that sodium ascorbate will work just as well. I just need to work how how much I’d need per bath for water with a 4 ppm chlorine concentration, and hopefully I’ll be good.
Fingers crossed that I don’t end up using baby wipes to bathe all winter.