WSSC ensures discolored tap water is safe, may continue longer than expected

- People in Montgomery and Prince George's counties continue to have discolored tap water flowing in their homes and the issue is expected to persist for weeks.

The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) says the water is safe to use and drink.

"This is definitely an aesthetic issue only, this is not a public health issue," said J.C. Langley, director of production for WSSC. "Your water is safe to consume. I stake my reputation on it."

FOX 5 visited WSSC’s lab to find out what is being done to ensure that residents’ water is safe. The lab has been doing four times as many tests per day since the discoloration became a widespread issue.

Since the beginning of August, more than 700 complaints have been made to WSSC. While the problem began in Montgomery County, it's now spread to southern Prince George's County.

According to Langley, the problem lies in the water source – the Potomac River, or, more specifically, what recent rain has washed into it.

"Things like river grasses, twigs, leaves," Langley said.

Increased organic matter from those materials reacts with chlorine used to disinfect the water and causes contaminants. Because of that, WSSC has reduced the amount of chlorine it is using.

The water discoloration comes from manganese, a natural mineral found in waterways, that is typically wiped out by chlorine.

"Manganese is not a health hazard and is not regulated by the EPA as a drinking water contaminant," WSSC said in a statement. "EPA considers manganese a secondary contaminant for aesthetic reasons only. The EPA level for manganese, for aesthetic purposes, is 0.05 mg/l. WSSC’s current manganese levels are around 0.01 mg/l to 0.02 mg/l. Although below EPA’s aesthetic level, it can still cause discoloration."

If you are experiencing discolored water, you can report it to WSSC by calling 301-206-5002 or emailing emergencycallcenter@wsscwater.com.

Despite the water being safe to drink, brown or yellow water can stain clothes being washed. However, WSSC is giving away Rit Rust Remover kits used for laundry. To request this kit, email communications@wsscwater.com.

You can also issue a claim if clothes are damaged or if you want to try to get a rebate on your water bill. To file a claim, call 301-206-7095 or go to wsscwater.com/claims.

For more information, go to https://www.wsscwater.com/discoloredwater

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