URGENT: Boil Water Alert for Residents in Washington, D.C.

The District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority (DC Water) issued a Boil Water Advisory today after a 20-inch water main broke in Upper Northwest D.C. on Wednesday, May 8, affecting water pressure for 4,800 customers. DC Water considers this advisory a precaution for customers in the impacted area due to water of unknown quality entering the system. Residents in these neighborhoods are encouraged to boil any water intended for consumption until follow-up tests confirm that it is safe to drink.

Guide for Those Who Do Not Own a Reverse Osmosis Systems:

DC Water advises customers to confirm whether they’re in the impacted area by using the interactive map on the organization’s website or by calling the 24-Hour Command Center at (202) 612-3400. Customers within the affected region should adhere to the following advice:

  1. Boiling and Storing Water:
    • Bring water to a rolling boil for one minute before cooling and storing it in a clean, covered container.
    • Boiled or bottled water should be used for drinking, cooking, brushing teeth, washing produce, preparing infant formula, making ice, and giving water to pets.
  2. Discarding Contaminated Beverages:
    • Discard any beverages or ice prepared after 10:30 a.m. on May 8.
  3. Running Cold Water:
    • If water is discolored, run cold water until it clears before boiling.
    • If lead sources are known to be present, run cold water for two minutes before boiling. Use a lead-certified filter first, then boil.
  4. Filtering Precautions:
    • Do not rely on home filtering devices as a substitute for boiling or using bottled water.

Neighborhoods Affected

  • Upper Chevy Chase
  • Ft. Reno
  • American University
  • Spring Valley
  • Friendship Heights
  • Westover Place
  • Wakefield
  • North Cleveland Park
  • Palisades
  • Wesley Heights
  • Foxhall Crescent
  • Foxhall Village
  • Hawthorne
  • Barnaby Woods
  • Chevy Chase

Background and Potential Risks

A broken 20-inch water main on May 8 led to significant system pressure loss. DC Water received multiple calls from customers in the 4th high-pressure zone experiencing reduced or no water pressure. As of 11:30 a.m., DC Water had restored pressure in most areas except for a zone near the break. Testing commenced to confirm water quality.

Loss of pressure may have enabled contaminants to enter the water system through backpressure or backsiphonage. This poses a potential health risk due to the entry of bacteria or other harmful pathogens. DC Water assures residents that the advisory remains a precaution, as there’s no confirmed contamination yet.

Symptoms of waterborne diseases include diarrhea, cramps, nausea, and headaches. If symptoms persist, consult a medical professional. Vulnerable groups such as infants, children, elderly individuals, and those with weakened immune systems should seek guidance from healthcare providers regarding water consumption.

DC Water will collect water samples and lift the advisory once tests over two consecutive days show no bacterial contamination. This may happen by Friday, May 10.

Why Get a Reverse Osmosis and Water Conditioner System?

Reverse osmosis (RO) filtration offers an effective safeguard against microbial contamination by forcing water through a semipermeable membrane that removes most contaminants. Whole-home water conditioners soften hard water by replacing calcium and magnesium ions with sodium or potassium ions. These systems will filter out contaminated water, removing the need to boil your water when something goes wrong. If you do not have these filtration units and live in the affected area, it is advisable to follow the boil water guide above.

Source: DC Water