Potomac River

Boil Water Advisory Lifted in Washington D.C. Area After Brief Algae Scare

DC Water and Arlington County announced that water quality has consistently met U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards, despite initial concerns.

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The precautionary boil water advisory that was issued for Washington D.C. and Arlington County was lifted on July 4. The advisory had been in effect since July 3 night due to an increase in algae blooms in the Potomac River, which is the source of the area’s water supply.

The District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority (DC Water) and Arlington County officials announced that water quality had never exceeded U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) established standards, despite initial concerns. The affected areas included the entire District of Columbia, Arlington County, the Pentagon, Arlington National Cemetery, and Reagan National Airport, serving approximately one million residents.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which manages the Washington Aqueduct, reported that the advisory was due to elevated turbidity levels in the water supply. Turbidity, a measure of water clarity and cloudiness, can indicate the presence of harmful organisms such as bacteria, viruses, and parasites that may cause health issues, particularly in vulnerable populations.

In response to the algae bloom, the Army Corps implemented additional mechanical and chemical treatment solutions, including temporarily transferring all water treatment operations from the Dalecarlia plant to the McMillan plant and adding copper sulfate and sodium permanganate to the aqueduct’s reservoirs to combat the algae.

D.C. Area

During the advisory, residents were instructed to boil drinking water for one minute before using or consuming bottled water. The swift resolution of the issue came as a relief to local authorities and residents alike, especially given the anticipated influx of visitors for the Fourth of July festivities, including the annual fireworks display on the National Mall.

This incident underscores the ongoing challenges faced by aging water infrastructure in major U.S. cities. Just last month, Atlanta experienced a similar situation, with boil water advisories disrupting daily life and even affecting hospital operations. As cities grapple with crumbling pipes and outdated systems, such water quality scares serve as reminders of the critical need for infrastructure investment and modernization.

With the advisory now lifted, D.C. area residents and visitors can once again use tap water for all purposes, ensuring a smooth celebration of the nation’s independence.

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