Dear PoP – Why does a swimming pool come out of my faucet?

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Photo from PoPville flickr user hellomarkers!

“Dear PoP,

I’ve noticed for the past few months that the water in my apartment smells very very strongly of chlorine. When I take a shower, it smells like I got out of the pool, when I cook with the water straight from the tap, my food tastes off. I’m now filtering all the water I use for drinking and cooking, but the brita filter’s not strong enough to remove the chlorine smell. At first my roommate and I thought it was just us, but I’ve noticed it at friends’ houses, and now one of my co-workers who also lives in northwest just mentioned it at his place.

Is this a sign of something horrendous in the DC water supply that they’re trying to cover up with chlorine? An attempt to destroy the city’s sense of smell? Is it dangerous to be ingesting this much chlorine?

Does anyone know the reason for it?”

I know folks have been mentioning this in some random reader rant and/or revel posts. But I can’t recall – did anyone ever figure out the reason? WASA?

I’ve heard folks talking about this Adams Morgan, Columbia Heights and Dupont but I haven’t noticed it in Petworth. Is this phenomena city wide?

47 Comment

  • “Washington Aqueduct Announces Temporary Disinfectant Change”

    “Jan 11, 2010 — WASHINGTON — Beginning on Feb. 1, and continuing through May 17, 2010, the Washington Aqueduct will temporarily change the disinfectant used in its water treatment process from chloramine to chlorine.”

  • Exactly – Daniel provided the answer in the rants/revels from 2/12. On a side note, it was bothering my roommate so much that she bought a filter for our showerhead — I didn’t know such things existed, but she swears the high chlorine levels were causing her skin to break out and it’s better now with the filter.

    • Not to be too gross, but the chlorine levels are making my winter eczema even worse. A showerhead filter sounds like a great idea.

  • I thought I was crazy – good to know. If this were permanent I would by a shower filter too – that smell is awful.

  • I can’t answer directly to water treatment, but it’s worth noting that with all this snow melting, and still so much more snow atop mountain ranges in neighboring states that will melt well into Spring and Summer, there’s a plethora of abundant fresh water in all our aquifers and raised water tables for everyone.

  • Grumpy your roommate is right. The chlorine is horrible for skin and hair. It leaves this nasty film behind on your skin. Shower filters are a wonder.

  • This is breaking new ground for PoP. I’m looking forward to even more challenging and esoteric questions.

    “Dear PoP,
    Can you explain a credit default swap?”

  • I’m in Petworth up on Taylor Street. I noticed this smell a couple of months ago when I was filling my Britta or tea kettle. I thought I was crazy for a while until my neighbors confirmed they also smelled it.

  • I know it’s only temporary but it’s making my skin dry out. And it tastes pretty bad. I’ve started buying bottled water because even the filtered water tastes chlorinated to me.

  • In case you wanted to know why, it’s to prevent the growth of chloramine-resistant organisms from growing in the water supply.

  • WASA does this every year. it’s nothing new, and it’s equally gross every year. my Pur and Brita both seem to filter out the smell very well.

  • Beginning February 1 through May 17, 2010, drinking water disinfection is temporarily switching from chloramine to chlorine. This switch is part of a routine, annual program to keep water pipes clean and free of potentially harmful bacteria throughout the year.

    During this time, you may notice a change in the taste and smell of your drinking water. DC WASA is routinely testing water samples throughout the city to ensure chlorine levels continue to meet our target levels and federal drinking water standards. You can view monthly chlorine levels on our website at

    If you are experiencing a chlorine taste and odor, we recommend running your cold water taps for 5 to 10 minutes. We also recommend collecting cold tap water in an open pitcher and refrigerating for a few hours to allow the taste and odor to disappear. If you choose to use a filter, be sure to purchase a treatment device certified by NSF International. You can search the NSF International website for certified water treatment devices at

    For more information, contact DC WASA’s Water Quality Division at (202) 612-3440, or visit

  • Warning: Be careful if you have a fish tank. Do not refill or top off your tank with this water. It will kill all your fish, I know from experience. A simple tap water filter won’t do the trick – you need an RODI unit. Or buy distilled water for a couple months.

    • I’ve never been able to keep fish in DC tap water, even if I leave it out for a day or two. When I’ve had goldfish, I’ve always had to buy distilled.

  • Odd. I was just thinking about this during my shower this morning.

  • FYI, the chlorine levels in the water are probably going to spike the lead content of the drinking water. I think the real reason for using the chloramine is to reduce the amount of lead that leaches into the system. So when they switch to chlorine, it makes the lead a problem again.

  • Any recommendations for shower filters?

  • I kind of like it. It’s very nostalgic. To me chlorine (in small doses) smells clean and summery.

  • PoP- As I’m sure you see, DC WASA was happy to answer the question in the comments. Couldn’t you have asked them directly and then posted the answer? I know it’s not the way to the most page views or whatever, but god, this is annoying. I mean, come on. Do the minimum, please.

    • do you not realize how silly that question is?

      anyway, discussion and the bitterness of commenters is way more fun that straight answers.

  • Emmaleigh504

    Apparently I have no sense of smell. I rarely notice the chlorine smell, and the water tastes the same as always.

  • I recommend Fiji water. It comes from rain that fell BEFORE the Industrial Revolution, and then naturally and slowly purified and enhanced by volcanic rock as it slowly passed through the surface and into an artesian aquifer (in this case, a huge volcanic chamber confined by the rock walls of an ancient crater on the edge of a rain forest). Besides its awesome origin, this water tastes REALLY good…very smooth 🙂

    • sure the fiji water is nice, out of that dioxin soaked plastic bottle that more times than not becomes landfill. shipping water 1000’s of miles, also great. thanks guy.

      bottled water is still for the wealthy that don’t give a shit about the rest of us.

      • Actually, Fiji water is carbon negative (look it up!) and made with one of the highest non-leaching grades of plastic. I bet you get more dioxin in your system from the clothes you wear and the air you brathe in this city. And you are such a negative person. I feel very sorry for you. I hope your life improves so that you don’t shit on other people so much.

        • ah

          Just how many trees can they plant in Fiji?

        • The production and distribution of bottled water involves tremendous resources no matter how you slice it. You can reduce the carbon footprint by using renewable sources of energy in some places and make it “negative” by using proceeds to fund carbon-reduction projects, but at the end of the day it’s much more wasteful than simply drinking tap water and using all the money you saved on planting trees or installing solar panels.

          Drinking bottled water in the name of being “green” is simply absurd, and it pains me to see that there are people who actually buy into the PR.

        • Fiji water being carbon negative is really just a marketing ploy. That company is doing HORRIBLE things to the local population–which, by the way has almost no potable water because it all gets bottled up and sent abroad.

          See this article:

  • Well, FIJI water shill, thank you for playing. Do you just search all day for water comments on blogs to earn your money from FIJI?

    On a separate note, RE:fish. I am starting a large aquarium, won’t the declorinating solution take care of this problem. I really don’t want to buy $50 gallons of distilled.

    • Pop-up:

      Those dechlorinating solutions aren’t really trusted in fish-keeping circles. If you’re serious about having fish (particularly saltwater), you’re probably going to want to buy a pricey RODI unit. DC’s water is notoriously bad. The water you put in is going to matter for algae growth, fish health, etc. It’s worth it to start with quality water. If you’re doing a freshwater tank, it won’t matter as much for fish health, but I’d make sure to wait a couple of weeks before introducing fish (you should do this anyway) so the chlorine has some time to disappear.

    • I don’t work for Fiji. It was a sincere comment. I live and work in the city.

  • I invested in a whole house filter for the incoming water supply and a triple osmosis filter at the kitchen sink. The whole project ran about $800-900 but it solves both problems. Keeps chlorine out of shower water, everything out of drinking water and doesn’t contribute to landfills. It’s an investment, but it will pay itself back quickly with money saved on bottled water. And obvious health benefits.

    • ah

      How has the whole-house filter worked? Does it reduce pressure or require constant ongoing maintenance? I’ve been thinking of one too, but worry about useability issues even more than the install cost.

  • No maintenance except replacing the filter once a year – which takes about 10 minutes. The filter is about $70. No noticeable water pressure change.

  • Do we know anything about the health impacts of the chlorine?

  • check this site and feel free to contact me there

  • Is your swimming pool have safety cover?

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