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Yes, your tap water is still safe to drink even if it smells a bit funky right now

The temporary use of chlorine to treat water in D.C. and Northern Virginia is part of an annual "spring cleaning."

ARLINGTON, Va. — We use it to wash our hands, brush our teeth, take a shower, do the dishes--but even our tap water needs to be cleaned, and that's what's happening right now in parts of the DMV. 

Chloramine is the chemical that usually treats our household water, but during an annual flushing of the pipes for some cleaning and maintenance, the D.C. aqueduct switches to chlorine.

The chlorine flush can give tap water a bit of a "funky" taste and smell for a few weeks. So we're verifying whether that impacts the water's safety.

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


Is temporarily chlorinated tap water in D.C., Fairfax and Arlington counties still safe to use at home?


This is true.

Most people can continue using their tap water as normal, but they may want to treat it to neutralize the smell and flavor.



The CDC considers up to 4 milligrams of chlorine per liter in water safe to drink. According to water survey data, DC Water estimates median levels between 2.5 to 3.5 milligrams throughout 2021. It happened to be closer to 2.5 during the spring cleaning months.

“Absolutely this is a safe, industry-standard process that meets all the EPA and state requirements,” Golkin said. “This is just one of those things we do to keep the system in top condition.

RELATED: VERIFY: Where are the lead pipes in DC, Maryland and Virginia?

DC Water said some medical facilities might have to take extra precautions during the switch, but most people can use water as normal.

“This is at a much lower percentage than you would encounter in any kind of public swimming system,” Golkin said. “It’s just noticeable because the rest of the year it doesn't have that noticeable difference.”

If an even slight “swimming pool” flavor isn’t palatable in your home, DC Water offers some recommendations to neutralize the chlorine taste and smell.

  • Run the tap for at least two minutes before using the water.
  • Put an open pitcher of water in the fridge: the taste and smell should disappear in a few hours.
  • Try a filter system, like a pitcher with a replaceable filter.

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

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