Water’s earthy taste, changed smell won’t hurt you, Md. provider says

Algae in the Potomac River is making water taste and smell different for some Maryland residents — but the water company says it’s temporary and harmless.

Residents in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties who get their water from the Potomac River may notice an earthy taste, according to a news release from Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, which services the area.

The water meets the Environmental Protection Agency’s Safe Drinking Water Act standards, WSSC Water said.

Warm weather and low water levels in the river are making for an increase of Geosmin — causing odor and taste issues with drinking water. The compound is naturally occurring and WSSC Water said it “has no health effects at the current concentration.”

The changes come after the Potomac River’s water flow recently dropped below that threshold triggers hourly drought monitoring.

What the water company is doing?

Boiling the water or flushing water lines won’t change the taste or smell. But WSSC Water said it’s made changes to the water treatment process at the Potomac Water Filtration Plant.

“While these changes won’t eliminate all taste and odor issues, they are expected to improve,” WSSC Water said in a news release.

If drought conditions continue, the company said filtration adjustments won’t help in the short term.

WSSC Water said its monitoring levels of Geosmin.

Who’s impacted?

All of Montgomery County and most of Prince George’s County get drinking water from the Potomac.

Some parts of Prince George’s County get a blend of water from the Potomac and Patuxent rivers. Areas near Laurel only receive Patuxent water and are unaffected by the algae.

You can check if your area is impacted with WSSC Water’s online map.

Customers can reach the company’s Emergency Call Center at 301-206-4002 or report a water quality concern online.

Jessica Kronzer

Jessica Kronzer graduated from James Madison University in May 2021 after studying media and politics. She enjoys covering politics, advocacy and compelling human-interest stories.

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