Water Quality

Discolored Water FAQs

At Aquarion Water Company, we take great pride in what we do, and we hold ourselves to the highest industry standards in delivering safe, high-quality, and affordable drinking water to the people we serve. That’s why we perform approximately 8,000 tests each year on the water we supply to our customers in Massachusetts. We publish test results in our annual Water Quality Reports, the most recent editions can be found at www.aquarion.com/MA/WaterQualityReports.
 
Aquarion would also like to provide more detailed information about discolored water, in case you experience a periodic episode.
 
Why is my water discolored?
 
Naturally occurring minerals (primarily iron and manganese) flowing with the water are typically the cause of discoloration. Trace levels of these minerals, which are heavier than water, can accumulate over time and settle in our water mains when water usage is low – especially during winter months. Then, when flow through the water mains increases (for example, due to spring/summer water demands, fire hydrant use, or a water main break) it can stir up these accumulated minerals, which can then flow into your household plumbing and out of your faucets when you turn them on for use.
 
What should I do if my water is discolored?
 
Customers with discolored water should call Aquarion’s Customer Service Center at (800) 732-9678 to make us aware of the issue. This will allow our staff to begin evaluating the situation and keep records of incidents to help us curtail these events in the future. Once we are aware of the issue, we will investigate the potential cause and initiate corrective actions, including dispatching a service technician if needed for assistance.  
 
The following information will assist our staff in determining the cause of discoloration:
 

1. When did you first notice discolored water?

2. How long has it been discolored?

3. Did you see any work crews in the area, or anyone using a fire hydrant in the area?

4. Are both the hot and cold water discolored? If you have noticed discolored water in your cold water, but have not checked your hot water yet, please do not turn on your hot water because it can draw discolored water into your hot water tank.

5. Is there a predominant color to the water discoloration (red, orange, brown, black, yellow, white)?

6. Have you observed any sediment or residue after use?

 
Will Aquarion test my water?
 
Yes, at your request, Aquarion will take a sample of water from your home and test it for some of the basic water quality parameters: color, iron, manganese, chlorine residual, and pH.
 
What does Aquarion do if I report that my water is discolored?
 
If your water is discolored due to a water main break, once the break has been fixed by our staff, we will open fire hydrants or “blow offs” in the area to flush discolored water from our water mains. Once the water flowing from our hydrant or “blow off” runs clear, you should then run your cold water faucets to flush any discolored water that has entered your service line or internal plumbing (as described below).
 
If the discolored water is not caused by a main break, Aquarion will first check if any other customers in your area have reported discolored water. If they have not, we will ask to visit your home to diagnose the issue, including flushing water from one of your cold water faucets. If the water does not run clear within a short time, it indicates that there is discolored water in our water mains, and we will dispatch a service technician to open a fire hydrant or “blow off” in your area to flush any discolored water from our water mains. Once the water flowing from our hydrant or “blow off” runs clear, we will then ask you to run your cold water faucets to flush any discolored water that has entered your service line or internal plumbing (as described below). If more than one customer calls us about discolored water in an area, we will dispatch a service technician to proceed directly to your area and open a hydrant or “blow off” to flush any discolored water from our water mains.
 
What should I do after Aquarion has flushed discolored water from the water mains?
 
When we experience discolored water in our water mains, some of this water can also get drawn into your service line (which connects your home to our water main), as well as into your home plumbing. If this occurs, you will need to flush that water from your service line and household plumbing. To do this, we recommend that you allow cold water to run from an outdoor hose spigot and/or bathtub faucet at full force until it is clear. During a water discoloration incident, it is best to limit the number of faucets and fixtures used to flush your household plumbing in order to minimize pulling discolored water throughout your household plumbing. It is usually best to run a faucet or hose spigot that is as close as possible to where your water service comes into your home. After the water runs clear from the spigot or bathtub faucet, you should check other inside cold water faucets and run those until the water also runs clear.  
 
If your hot water is discolored, you may also need to drain the hot water tank to clear it.
 
Can I use my water when it is discolored?
 
We advise customers not to use discolored water. Discolored water is not palatable, and its quality has changed since it left our treatment facility. Therefore, it should not be used for drinking or cooking. It could also stain laundry, discolor hot water systems, and interfere with commercial and industrial operations that rely on high-quality water for their processes. Once the water has cleared, customers can resume normal water use.
 
What should I do if I did laundry when the water was discolored?
 
Customers should delay washing laundry until their water is clear. However, if a customer used their washer before realizing the water was discolored, and then noticed the laundry was stained, they should NOT dry the clothes. Instead, please contact Aquarion’s Customer Service Center at 800-732-9678 and we will send you a container of "Red-B-Gone," a laundry detergent additive that takes discoloration out of clothing (an adult must be home to accept the “Red-B-Gone”).
 
How does Aquarion communicate with customers and public officials when there is a discolored water episode? 
 
Discolored water is a very unfortunate and in most cases an unpredictable event. In situations where we know there is a possibility that our maintenance activities (for example, “flushing” as described in the question below) could cause discolored water, we provide advance notice to customers. However, many incidences of discolored water are unpredictable. In those cases, when we learn that a number of our customers are experiencing discolored water, we put forth a significant effort to communicate with our customers and public officials during the incident. We use numerous methods to communicate, including the following:
 
  • Email - For each town that we serve in Massachusetts, we maintain an up-to-date group email list that includes public officials - local and state - and town staff.
  • Postings/notifications on the Aquarion website, Aquarion’s local Facebook page (for the Hingham/Hull/N. Cohasset system), and neighborhood and community Facebook pages. 
  • CodeRED (i.e., reverse 911) calls - CodeRED allows us to quickly deliver important phone messages to targeted areas or customers. 
 
What is Aquarion doing to address incidents of discolored water in Hingham, Hull, and North Cohasset?
 
The best way to minimize the potential for flow disturbances to stir up accumulated sediments in our mains is to periodically use controlled hydrant flushing to remove these sediments from our mains. This is done by opening fire hydrants to intentionally create a controlled flow disruption, and then keeping the hydrants open and flowing to discharge the discolored water and sediments from the hydrants.  
 
This is a maintenance activity referred to as “flushing”. In spring 2017, we flushed an isolated pressure zone of our water distribution system in south Hingham, referred to as the High Pressure Zone. This flushing program was successful, and we have not experienced any episodes of discolored water in this portion of the water system since completing the flushing.
 
Our plan is to flush the remaining portions of our distribution system in Hingham, Hull, and Cohasset throughout the summer and fall of 2017.
 
Does Aquarion notify customers about planned water main flushing that could cause discoloration?
 
Yes. When Aquarion plans to clean the mains by systematically flushing water out of fire hydrants (as described in the question above), customers receive advance notice through advertisements in local newspapers, and/or telephone notification for customers who are registered in our CodeRed system (you can join our CodeRed system by visiting our website at www.aquarion.com/MA/ and clicking the link “sign up for CodeRed”). We also send an email to public officials, and post information on our website and facebook page (as described above). 
 
Useful links:
 
https://www.epa.gov/dwregdev/drinking-water-regulations-and-contaminants
 
http://www.mass.gov/eea/agencies/massdep/water/drinking/standards/standards-and-guidelines-for-drinking-water-contaminants.html
 
http://www.mass.gov/eea/docs/dep/water/drinking/alpha/i-thru-z/mangfactsheet.pdf