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
May is National Water Safety Month, and Reston Community Center (RCC) is kicking it off with a day full of important safety information, as well as help determining what level your child is at with his or her swimming skills, in order to figure out which lessons are best to sign up for.
The RCC Water Safety Day event will take place at the Ridge Heights Pool, 11400 Ridge Heights Road, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. this Saturday, May 5.
“We want all kids in Reston to be safe around water; it’s especially important in our community as Reston is justly renowned for the abundance of pools, streams and lakes available here for everyone to enjoy,” says RCC Aquatics Director Matt McCall.
RCC offers Level 1 and 2 swim classes for Reston residents ages 6 to 12 free of charge during the months of July and August. Information on the classes will be provided at Water Safety Day, and families can register their children online via WebTrac. Two- and four-week group swimming lessons are also offered beginning in June. Registration for these classes begins the week of May 7. Families can also sign up for private lessons according to their own schedules.
RCC also works with the Reston Association to offer a Drowning Education Awareness Program (DEAP) throughout the year, including two land-based water safety awareness programs for youth and civic organizations, which are offered free of charge to the community.
McCall says RCC is also working to organize CPR classes off-site. Groups of residents interested in organizing one for their neighborhood can call 703-390-6150 to arrange to have RCC staff come speak to them about the possibility.
Meanwhile, bring the kids to RCC’s Terry L. Smith Aquatics Center (2310 Colts Neck Road) anytime in the month of May to pick up a free water safety coloring and activity book and a water safety pledge.
File Photo: Ridge Heights Pool