If you live within the blue area on the map above, avoid drinking your tap water unless you have a hankering for petroleum.
DC Water just issued a Do Not Drink Advisory for a portion of Shaw and Logan Circle, based on reports of a petroleum smell in the water. The water authority also cautions against using water to shower or bathe, brush teeth, or wash food within the affected area.
“We got two reports of a petroleum smell in the water,” says DC Water spokesman John Lisle. “One came from Cleveland [Elementary] School on 8th Street NW, and the other was on the 1600 block of 13th Street.”
DC Water and the District Department of the Environment are currently taking samples and assessing the water quality and the causes of the potential contamination.
“The most likely culprit would be some sort of cross-contamination,” says Lisle. “The pipes are pressurized, and the water flows in one direction.” But if the system malfunctions, it’s possible for wastewater to enter the clean-water system, potentially with contaminants like petroleum. It’s possible, Lisle says, that the situation is related to a water main break earlier today on 15th Street NW.
“If you notice a petroleum smell from your drinking water, please do not consume the water and do not use it for bathing or other hygiene activities,” DC Water cautions in an email. “PLEASE NOTE: Skin and eye irritations may occur if water is used for bathing and other hygiene activities.”
DC Water says customers outside the affected area can safely use tap water, but within the area they should use bottled water until advised otherwise. The water authority lists the water uses that are and are not safe within the affected area:
Do not use water for: • Drinking • Preparing and cooking food • Washing fruits and vegetables • Preparing infant formula • Brushing teeth • Making ice • Giving water to pets • Taking showers and baths • Washing dishes
Continue to use water for: • Washing clothes or dishes • Flushing the toilet • Watering plants
Update: DC Water expanded the advisory area at 8 p.m. to include a small area west of 13th Street NW. The map above reflects that addition. DC Water also added the advisory not to wash dishes within the affected area.
Map via DC Water