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Live in DC, Arlington or Fairfax County? Here's why your tap water might taste and smell funny for a while

The pipes undergo an annual chemical cleanse. Consider it your water system's spring cleaning.

WASHINGTON — It's an annual rite of spring. The cleaning of the pipes. And with it, that funky taste and smell from the water coming out of your faucet.

Each year, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers temporarily switches the disinfectants it uses to clean the water distribution system served by the Washington Aqueduct. It's considered an industry-standard practice, and there is no interruption in service. But the switch from chloramine to chlorine can slightly, but noticeably, alter the taste and smell of tap water.

The aqueduct serves thousands of customers in the District of Columbia, Arlington County and northeastern Fairfax County. This year, the cleaning procedure runs from March 21 through May 9.

To reduce the taste or smell of chlorine, DC Water offers some recommendations:

  • Run the cold water tap for two minutes. Run it for five to 10 minutes when water is not used for several hours.
  • Refrigerate cold tap water in an open pitcher. Within a few hours, the chlorine taste and odor will disappear.
  • Consider using a water filter. Some filters may reduce the chlorine taste and smell. DC Water recommends using pitcher-style filters or devices installed at the faucet.

Individuals and business owners who take special precautions to remove chloramine from tap water, such as dialysis centers and medical facilities, should take the same precautions during the temporary switch to chlorine. Most methods for removing chloramine from tap water are also effective in removing chlorine. Individuals with special health concerns should consult a health care provider.

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The Environmental Protection Agency regulates the safe use of both chloramine and chlorine. In addition, DC Water routinely collects and tests water samples to monitor for chloramine and chlorine levels throughout the city. You can view the latest test results here

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According to Arlington County, the region's drinking water continues to meet or exceed all safety standards established by the EPA and the Virginia Department of Health. For more information on Arlington County's water system, you can visit the county website here.

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