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Your tap water is going to start tasting different today

Tap water in Arlington (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Residents of Arlington, D.C. and part of Fairfax County will notice a different taste to their tap water today.

The Washington Aqueduct, from which our tap water is pumped across the Potomac and throughout Arlington, is starting its annual spring pipe cleaning today. The seasonal switch in the disinfectant used by the aqueduct will run through May 16.

During that time, residents will likely notice that their water smells and tastes a bit more like a swimming pool. That’s because chlorine will be used as the disinfectant rather than chloramine, which is used during all other times of the year.

The change does not affect water safety, officials say.

More from a recent Arlington County press release:

Arlington County, the District of Columbia and northeastern Fairfax County will clean out their tap water networks starting Monday, March 21, repeating a safe, annual process.

Service will continue uninterrupted during the procedure, which runs through May 16. During that time, drinking water from the tap may taste slightly different but the water is essentially unchanged thanks to the purification process.

Arlington and nearby jurisdictions receive their water from the Washington Aqueduct, operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. In an industry-standard practice, the Corps temporarily switches its system disinfectant from chloramine to chlorine to help clean pipes and maintain system flow.

The Aqueduct continues to add a corrosion inhibitor during the process to reduce the potential release of lead in regional system pipes.

During the spring cleaning, local water authorities continually monitor drinking water for safe chlorine levels as well as conduct system-wide flushing to enhance water quality. Residents may see open fire hydrants as part of the routine.

What to expect

  • This temporary cleaning can bring with it a slightly noticeable chlorine smell and taste to tap water. In response, customers can run the cold water tap for about two minutes before using, employ a filter system or let the water sit in a container for an hour or two to allow the chlorine smell and taste to dissipate.
  • Customers who take special precautions to remove chloramine from tap water during the rest of the year should continue such methods during the temporary switch to chlorine. As always, those with special concerns should consult their health care provider.

The region’s drinking water continues to meet or exceed all safety standards established by the federal Environmental Protection Agency and Virginia Department of Health.

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