A persistent problem with discolored tap water in D.C.'s Maryland suburbs has not subsided, prompting an increase of complaints to the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission.

The stained water is safe to drink, according to the WSSC, but not pretty, according to the hundreds of customers who are complaining.

The utility has been dealing with the issue since at least August 8. It has not improved with time.

The WSSC is warning that the water can cause staining of whites in the laundry. The utility said common rust-removing laundry additives will prevent staining. Customers can request samples from the WSSC by calling or through the utility's website.

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The trouble has been traced to a higher-than-normal dose of natural organic material in source water from the Potomac River, which was caused by a wetter-than-average summer, according to WSSC environmental engineer Priscilla To. The Potomac water is treated at a Montgomery County plant that serves an area from Damascus to Accokeek.

As a result, the utility has been forced to adjust the level of chlorine it applies to the raw water. The adjustment has resulted in manganese, which is a byproduct of the adjusted process. The manganese gives the water an off-color, yellowish tint.

Manganese is an essential mineral in the human diet and is common in vitamin supplements. It's not harmful in the low levels being seen in WSSC's water.

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It's possible to clear the water by readjusting chlorine, but that could result in possible health issues.

"Our top priority is the safety of the water and we do not compromise that," said To. "We had a choice and we chose safety over aesthetics."

The WSSC is not predicting when the discolored water situation will clear up. The change in seasons may help. Additional rainfall will not.