Maryland residents in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties are contending with brown tap water as a result of treatment process changes, and the problem could last for weeks.
“Carla Reid, general manager of the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC), said the discolored water is safe to drink and use but called it unacceptable from an aesthetic standpoint. She said the problem stems from changes required in the disinfection process due to an unusually large amount of organic matter — decayed leaves, grass and other vegetation — that has washed into the Potomac during recent heavy rainstorms,” The Washington Post reported.
Serving nearly 2 million customers, the utility is among the top 10 biggest water providers in the country. WSSC set up a page on its website to educate customers about the discolored water issue. Utility messaging instructs customers against doing laundry in discolored water because of the potential for stains.
“Patience is key right now. Customers can try running their cold water lines for a few minutes to see if the discoloration can be flushed out. However, most customers currently experiencing discolored water are seeing the change as a result of the water coming into the Potomac Water Filtration Plant from the river. Flushing likely will not help in this situation,” the website said.
WSSC also sought to explain what’s going on with its treatment process, noting a dramatic increase in manganese and organic matter at its Potomac Water Filtration Plant intake.
“This plant uses chlorine to disinfect the water and make it safe for drinking. Chlorine also controls manganese levels to prevent discoloration. However, chlorine also reacts with organic material to form disinfection byproducts. Disinfection byproducts are a public health concern, and as such, are highly regulated by the U.S. EPA. Levels cannot exceed the EPA limit as an annual average. Fortunately, WSSC is well below the EPA limit,” the utility explains.
The utility has also stressed that the water is safe to drink.
"This is definitely an aesthetic issue only, this is not a public health issue," said J.C. Langley, director of production for WSSC, per Fox 5 DC. "Your water is safe to consume. I stake my reputation on it."
For similar stories visit Water Online’s Drinking Water Disinfection Solutions Center.
Image credit: "wssc," daniel lobo © 2007, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/