photo WSSC headquarter building in Laurel

WSSC Customers Reporting Discolored Water

Some homeowners in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties are reporting that their water is discolored and Washington Suburban Sanity Commission officials say they believe it is a by-product of the  harsh winter.

photo WSSC headquarter building in Laurel

WSSC headquarters in Laurel, Maryland

According to a news release, WSSC is receiving a heavier than normal volume of customer calls noting they are experiencing discolored water.

In March alone 1,000 customers reported brownish water, according to WSSC Spokesman Jerry Irvine.

“That is three times the normal amount of calls,” Irvine said. There was an uptick in calls in January and February too, he said.

WSSC said in the release there “is no reason to believe there is a public health risk.”

However, customers with compromised immune systems (such as cancer patients undergoing treatment, HIV positive individuals, transplant recipients, seniors, and infants) should take the same precautions they normally take with regular tap water and/or seek advice from their physician before consuming discolored water, according to the company.

According to the release, WSSC officials believed the discolored water is a by-product of the harsh winter but staff is researching the situation.

Customers who believe their water is discolored are asked to call or email WSSC to report it. The number is 301.206.4002 and is open 24/7 or send an email to

Discolored water is caused when iron deposits in the pipes are released. This sediment is not harmful and can be stirred up by sudden changes in water flow, according to the commission.

Water discoloration may be caused by:

  • Temporary increases in the water flow disturbing sediment.
  • Closed WSSC valves may disturb the water flow of nearby mains causing a temporary increase or reversal of flow stirring up sediment.
  • Fully opening a fire hydrant for firefighting purposes can cause a sudden increase in flow, which may temporarily cause discoloration.
  • New water mains might cause a change in established flow patterns and cause temporary discoloration.

When WSSC receives calls about discolored water it is common for crews to open a fire hydrant or a couple hydrants in the area to flush out the water lines. The flushing, which can last as long as several hours, often resolves the problem, according to the news release. Customers will see a lot of water flowing down the street when hydrants are opened for flushing.

WSSC does not recommend using discolored water to do laundry. If clothing gets stained, immediately wash the clothes again using a rust remover product. This type of product is available in most supermarkets or you can contact WSSC at 301.206.4001 or contact WSSC online and request a stain remover. For better results, do not let the clothes dry.

Throughout the year, WSSC tests the water more than 500,000 times at water treatment plants and throughout the distribution system, allowing WSSC to guarantee that the safest water reaches customers.

Additional information on discolored water can be found by visiting our FAQ page. Customers can also read our latest Water Quality Report at

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Krista Brick

About Krista Brick

Krista Brick is a multi-media journalist with Montgomery Community Media.


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