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UPDATE: October 24, 2023

What You Should Know:

  • Customers served by WSSC Water’s Potomac Water Filtration Plant (Potomac River) may notice changes in the taste and odor of their tap water because of algal activity in the Potomac River.
  • This change is not harmful and is due to an increase in a naturally occurring substance, geosmin, caused by low water levels in the Potomac River. As geosmin are prone to fluctuate with rain and changing water levels, customers may notice the odor is stronger at certain times than others. This is completely normal.
  • The odors from the naturally occurring compound, geosmin, are not toxic. 
  • The odor is earthy, similar to the smell of rain on soil. Because the human nose can detect geosmin concentrations at very low levels, the unpleasant smell can cause sensitive individuals to experience nausea/headaches.
  • Despite the taste and odor issues, the water remains safe, meeting all EPA Safe Drinking Water Act standards.
  • WSSC Water frequently monitors levels of geosmin at the plant and makes treatment changes accordingly.
  • On October 24, 2023, WSSC Water began adding activated carbon to the water filtration process to reduce the taste and odor issues related to geosmin.
  • Customers who live closer to the Potomac Water Filtration Plant on River Road in Potomac will notice a reduction in taste and odor issues quickly while those who live further from the plant will notice changes within seven to 10 days as the water makes its way throughout the distribution system.
  • We perform 500,000 laboratory tests on our water every year, on samples from both of our water filtration plants and from approximately 90 different locations throughout our distribution system. If there were a reason to believe the safety of our water was compromised, we would immediately issue a public notification.  This would include web alerts, text messages*, news outlets and utilizing our social media platforms. (*Sign up for our Customer Notification System to receive alerts via text or email.)
  • Customers can reduce the temporary taste and odor issues by chilling the water and/or adding lemon.
  • Boiling the water will not improve the odor.
  • Flushing the water lines inside homes or flushing the WSSC Water mains in the impacted areas will not improve the taste and odor issues.
  • Customers can always reach us (24/7) by calling the Emergency Call Center at 301-206-4002 or complete this form to report a water quality concern.
  • We appreciate your patience.

Report a Water Quality Complaint

Last Modified: October 24, 2023, 4:55 pm EDT