It’s time for Fairfax Water’s annual flush, meaning the fire hydrants are flowing and the water might smell a little funny.
Every year, water companies flush their systems in order to clean out and remove sediment from water mains and pipes that have accumulated. This sediment occurs from internal corrosion as well as natural build-ups of iron and manganese.
It also ensures that chlorine contraction levels, which disinfect the water, remain steady since chlorine degrades in water over time.
The flush involves opening up fire hydrants and allowing water to flow freely. It may look like wasting water, but it ensures that sentiment, chlorine, and other materials are flushed out.
During this short period of time, Fairfax Water switches from using combined chlorine to free chlorine as their primary disinfectant.
Most of the year, combined chlorine — or chloramines — are used to treat drinking water. Produced by a chemical reaction between chlorine and ammonia, it’s not as effective as free chlorine in disinfecting water, but it can stay in the water longer.
Free chlorine acts faster than combined chloring to break up sediment, but degrades in a shorter period of time.
The use of free chlorine can also lead to the water tasting and smelling funny.
So, if you are taking a big gulp out of the tap and it tastes like pool water, that’s why.
If you or someone in your household is particularly sensitive to this taste and smell, storing an open container of drinking water in the refrigerator will allow the chlorine to dissipate.
Drinking water does have a shelf life, though, so it should be switched out regularly.
All of this flushing began at the end of March and is expected to run until June 14 for most of Fairfax County.
Nearly 2 million people in Northern Virginia get their water from Fairfax Water, including nearly all of the county and the towns of Vienna and Herndon. It is Virginia’s largest water utility company and one of the 25 largest in the country.
Both Herndon and Vienna get their water “wholesale” from the company, meaning a third party or utility has the right to distribute water but not have the capability to treat their own water.
Herndon’s Department of Public Works does participate in the annual flush as well, opening up hydrants in both residential and commercial areas.
Fairfax Water also highly encourages commercial and residential property owners to flush their system if they’ve had to shut it down for an extended period of time during the COVID-19 pandemic. A thorough flushing is needed to clean out water that may have been sitting dormant in plumbing.
Water that remains stagnant for as little as two days can have mold, leeching, and other hazards in it that can lead to illness.
Photo via Rudy and Peter Skitterians/Pixabay
Fairfax County residents struggling to pay their water bills can now apply to Fairfax Water for payment assistance.
The not-for-profit utility provider announced yesterday (Monday) that it has received funds from a COVID-19 Municipal Utility Relief Program that Virginia set up using $120 million in federal CARES Act money.
“These are challenging times for Virginia families and businesses,” Gov. Ralph Northam said when announcing the allocation of $60 million to the program in November. “We remain committed to helping them keep the electricity on and the water running.”
Residents of Fairfax County are eligible to apply for the program based on the following criteria:
- Have water and wastewater service bills between Mar. 1 and Dec. 30 are more than 30 days past due
- Have experienced economic hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic
- Have not previously received CARES Act assistance for water or wastewater bills from any other sources, including the Rebuild Virginia Grant Fund and Fairfax County’s RISE program
To apply for relief, customers must fill out an application form on Fairfax Water’s website and send it to the utility by email, fax, or mail by Dec. 30.
Fairfax Water says it can also work with customers to develop a repayment plan that would allow them to pay their overdue balance over the next six months or longer. Service would not be disconnected as long as the payments are made within the agreed-upon timeframe.
People can call Fairfax Water’s customer service department at 703-698-5800 for more information on setting up an extended payment plan.
In addition, a number of local nonprofit community organizations are offering assistance for utility bill payments. Groups in the Tysons area include Committee for Helping Others (CHO) and Share of McLean.
Fairfax County Coordinated Services Planning has also been connecting residents to social services and resources. It can be contacted on weekdays at 703-222-0880. Falls Church City residents can call the city’s Department of Housing and Human Services for assistance at 703-248-5005.
Thanks to a revised state budget signed by Northam on Nov. 18, utilities in Virginia are currently prohibited from shutting off power, water, and gas service until the state of emergency declared in March in response to the COVID-19 pandemic ends.
Fairfax Water has suspended all water disconnections due to nonpayment of bills since March, but it warns that that “is not sustainable indefinitely.” As a not-for-profit organization, rather than a government agency, it receives all funding for operations and system maintenance from customers.
“The Fairfax Water drinking water system and the wastewater system operated by Fairfax County and the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church…rely on recovering all costs from the systems’ users,” Fairfax Water says. “Fairfax Water anticipates unpaid bills could soon reach a threshold that necessitates our resumption of disconnections for nonpayment.”
Photo by Pan Xiaozhen on Unsplash
The intersection of Fox Mill Road and Monroe Street is closed due to a 12-inch water main break.
As of around 9 a.m. today (Tuesday), crews were awaiting the arrival of Miss Utility to mark roads to begin repair work. The break occurred after 5 a.m.
No one has lost water service because of the break, according to Fairfax Water.
Image via Google Maps
(This article was updated at 9:15 a.m. after additional information was received from Fairfax Water; and at 2 p.m. after repairs were completed.)
Fountain Drive was closed this morning between Baron Cameron Avenue and Bowman Towne Drive because of an overnight water main break.
Susan Miller, public affairs officer for Fairfax Water, says the break took place in the area of 1763 Fountain Drive. That’s near The Spectrum shopping center.
“It was a broken valve that caused the break there,” Miller said.
— Fairfax Co. Police (@fairfaxpolice) June 15, 2017
Miller said businesses in the building that includes HSBC bank, Verizon, Doubletake Salon and The Red Door Salon & Spa are without water as utility crews are working on the situation.
“We hope it doesn’t take all day, we’re booked.” said Chai Bui from Doubletake Salon, which sits in front of where the repairs are taking place. The staff at The Red Door Salon & Spa said they had already rescheduled most of their appointments.
Fairfax Water’s website reported repairs were completed by early Thursday afternoon.
Fountain Drive is expected to be closed for the rest of the day, Miller said.
Photos by Brooke Giles, who also contributed to reporting; map via Google
Fairway Drive between South Shore and Shagbark is closed while crews fix a large water main break.
The water main break occurred about 1:30 a.m. Friday, officials from Fairfax Water said. The break caused a large hole in the pavement.
Water service was restored to homes in the neighborhood about noon, Fairfax Water said.
As of 2 p.m., crews had stopped the leak and were working on putting pavement back in place. The road will be closed at least until this evening, Fairfax Water said.
Residents of Charlestown Lane alerted Reston Association and Fairfax Water of a water main break Wednesday morning.
The residents of the south Reston neighborhood noticed muddy water in the Glade stream, RA says.
Fairfax Water is working on fixing the break. Reston Now will update this story if the break causes any hazards or delays for residents.
In other water news, Fairfax County contractors will begin work to replace a sewer pipe in the West Cove area of Lake Thoreau within the next two weeks, RA says. The project will take 10-12 days and will begin on Aug. 17 or 24, according to a county engineering technician.
Repair costs will be borne by the county, RA said.
In June, four of the seven straps that held the pipe in place were found to be broken during a June 8 inspection of the line, causing the pipe to buckle about 18 inches near one of the manhole covers on the south side of the cove. The county found no evidence of a break or leakage into the lake.
An additional investigation done in July determined that there were two sags in the pipe (not one as initially thought) prompting the county to opt to replace the entire sewer line that goes through the lake.
Fairfax Water says the repairs should take 3 to 5 days.
The water company says it has received reports of people showing up on doorsteps or calling on the phone offering discounts or to pay the bill.
From Fairfax Water:
If you receive a call offering “discounts” or requesting account information or offering to pay your bill — this is a scam. Fairfax Water does not call asking for your account information nor do we offer discounts for service.
Fairfax Water employees have photo identification with them at all times when they are on the job. Our vehicles and field staff’s clothing bear our logo (see above). During the summer months there may be Fairfax Water summer interns in your neighborhood who do not wear uniforms, however each one will have a Fairfax Water photo identification displayed prominently.
If someone comes to your door and identifies themselves as a Fairfax Water employee, please ask for their identification or call 703-698-5800, TTY 711 to verify before letting them into your home.
Fairfax Water employees do not receive or accept any form of payments during service calls and we do not collect water-service fees door-to-door.
Most water meters are located outside of a customer’s home. Therefore Fairfax Water employees typically DO NOT require access to a customer’s home to read a meter.
If you have any questions about our service or employees, do not hesitate to call us at 703-698-5800, TTY 711.