Washington DC and VA water may taste/smell different, but it’s safe


The temporary use of chlorine to treat water in Washington, D.C. and Northern Virginia is part of the annual “spring cleaning.”

ARLINGTON, VA — We use it to wash our hands, brush our teeth, bathe, wash dishes — but even our tap water needs to be cleaned, and that’s exactly what’s happening in parts of the DMV right now.

Chloramines are the chemicals that normally treat our household water, but during the annual flushing of pipes for some cleaning and maintenance, once-through aqueducts switch to chlorine.

Chlorine flushing can give tap water a little “funky” taste and smell for a few weeks. So we are verifying if this affects water safety.

Related: Live in Washington, D.C., Arlington or Fairfax County?Here’s why your tap water may taste and smell weird for a while


Is temporary chlorinated tap water in DC, Fairfax, and Arlington counties still safe to use at home?


This is true.

Most people can continue to use tap water as usual, but they may want to treat it to neutralize odors and tastes.


what we found

The CDC considers chlorine levels as high as 4 milligrams per liter of water to be safe to drink. Based on water survey data, DC Water estimates the median level for the entire 2021 year to be between 2.5 and 3.5 milligrams. During spring cleaning months, it happens to be close to 2.5.

“It’s definitely a safe, industry-standard process that meets all EPA and state requirements,” Golkin said. “It’s just one of the things we do to keep the system in top shape.

Related: Validation: Where Are the Lead Pipes in Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia?

Some healthcare facilities may need to take extra precautions during the transition, but most people can use water as normal, DC Water said.

“That’s a much lower percentage than you’ve encountered in any kind of public swimming system,” Gorkin said. “It’s obvious because for the rest of the year it’s not that noticeable difference.”

If you can’t even taste the slight “pool” smell in your home, DC Water has some suggestions for neutralizing the chlorine taste and smell.

  • Run the faucet for at least two minutes before using the water.
  • Keep a can of boiling water in the refrigerator: the taste and smell will disappear within a few hours.
  • Try a filtration system, such as a water tank with a replaceable filter.

Of course, this is all temporary, as the tap water will return to normal after the treatment process ends on May 9.

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