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Discolored Water 101

Occasionally, we receive resident questions or complaints regarding the appearance of their drinking water, specifically iron-tinted discolored water.  There are two major sources that can cause water to be discolored; flow changes in the water mains caused by a main leak or an open fire hydrant, and/or the water pipes on your property, often from a failing hot water heater.

Iron-tinted discolored water may occur because of sediment in the pipes or rust which has built up on the inside walls of older water mains.  This sediment can be disturbed and subsequently suspended in the water due to an increase or change in water flow which may be caused by water main breaks, routine maintenance, flow direction changes or the use and flushing of nearby hydrants.  Failing hot water heaters are also a source of discolored water.  If the discoloration comes only when you run the hot water, check the condition of your hot water heater.  Discolored water from the cold water faucet usually signals an issue with the water mains in the street or the property's internal plumbing.

Discolored water is not a health threat even though it is not very appealing to drink.  Even very low levels of iron can color the water.  Discolored water can be a chronic problem in areas where there are older cast iron water mains.  Replacement, rehabilitation and cleaning of these older water mains will provide relief, however such solutions are expensive and take time.

The Water Department recommends that you flush your water until you get clear water from the water main.  If it is still discolored after several minutes of flushing, you may need to wait a couple of hours until the sediment settles, and the water in the main clears.  Then try flushing again.  If it does not clear up within a few ho ours, please call the Water Department at 269-792-0686.  The Water Department may need to flush the water main.

When water is discolored, it is recommended to NOT do laundry or run hot water (to prevent sediment getting into your hot water tank).  If it is necessary to do laundry, use a stain remover or a regular detergent with the wash.  Use of chlorine bleach is NOT recommended, as this could make the situation worse.