When Water Gets Ugly

When Water Gets Ugly -

Questions And Answers About Rusty Water Events


The City of Broadview Heights Fire Department will be flushing water mains and fire hydrants from approximately May 1, 2014 through June 30, 2014. This work will be done as part of the Fire Department’s ongoing preventative maintenance program. Generally this work will be done during the hours of 9:00 A.M. until 4:00 P.M. Monday through Friday. Please look for rusty water going into your washing machine before you put white clothes in to be washed.

From time to time, water users in certain parts of Broadview Heights may experience a temporary reddish or brownish coloration to their tap water. Here are some answers to questions most frequently asked by water users about such events and what can be done about them:

Q: Where is the rust coming from?

A: Sometimes water main pipes are sloughing off rust. Normally this rust and sediment lies harmlessly on the bottom of the water main and does not cause any concerns. Areas of town most susceptible to rusty water are the older parts where unlined cast iron pipes are still common. Water main pipes are typically 6, 8, 10, 12, or 16 inches in diameter. Water lines entering your home are typically 3/4" to 1" in diameter.

Q: What causes a rusty water "event"?

A: Any occurrence which causes a change in water pressure in the city's drinking water distribution system may dislodge rust and sediment that normally lies on the bottom of a water main. Such occurrences can be caused by the use of fire hydrants, construction projects, or heavy water use in particular areas. The fast flow of water and turbulence through the main, stirs up the sediment causing discoloration in your water.

Q: What can be done by a water user to make rusty water go away?

A: Running several cold water taps at full force for a short period will usually flush out rusty water. A general recommendation is to flush for 20 minutes, then if the water is not clear, wait for half an hour before flushing for 20 minutes again. Running water in the garden hose is often an effective way to flush your system, and you can water your landscaping at the same time.

We also recommend that you do not do laundry during the rusty water event as the rust can stain clothing. It is also best not to use your hot water to avoid pulling this sediment and rust into your hot water heater. If you do, the hot water tank may have to be flushed!

Q: Is rusty water safe to drink?

A: Testing has shown no evidence of increased levels of coliform bacteria in drinking water during rusty water events. Remember, this rust and sediment is always present on the bottom of the water pipes. It normally mixes with drinking water in microscopic amounts all the time. However, due to the unpleasant taste, it is recommended that water users wait until the water has cleared before drinking it.

Q: Why is hydrant flushing necessary?

A: Hydrant flushing enhances water quality by flushing sediment from the mainline pipes, verifies the proper operation of hydrants and valves, and maintains firefighting capability.

Q: What should I do when the Fire Department is flushing hydrants in my area?

A: If you see a crew flushing a hydrant on your street, avoid running tap water and using the washing machine or the dishwasher until the flushing is done. you may want to keep bottled water on hand for use during times when flushing will occur. If you see hydrant flushing crews working in the area, please drive carefully and treat them like any other road construction crew.

Q: My clothes have been discolored from the rust, what should I do?

A: If you notice rust or iron stains on clothes when taking them from the washer, don't dry them in the dryer before treating the stains. Heat sets the stains and makes them difficult or impossible to remove. Here are some things to try: 1) rewash the clothes immediately in clear water with a heavy duty detergent. If the water in your water system is still discolored, do re-laundering at a coin-operated laundry or at another residence where the water is clear.

Caution: Do not dry stained items in a dryer, do not iron them before treating the stains, and do not use chlorine bleach. Heat and chlorine bleach make the problem worse.

If the stain is not removed by the first method, try a more drastic treatment.

2) Launder with a commercial rust remover (such as RoVer®, Rit Rust Remover®, Iron-Out®, Miracle-Rid-Iron®, or Whink®). The important ingredient in these compounds is an acid-usually oxalic or hydrofluoric acid. The remover ingredients combine with the iron and loosen it from the fabric, then hold it in suspension in the wash water. The compounds are poisonous if ingested. Use them carefully according to the manufacturers' directions, and rinse the clothes thoroughly. Acid remaining deteriorates fabrics.

Commercial rust removers are intended for use only on white or colorfast fabrics. Test colored clothes for colorfastness before attempting to remove rust stains with commercial removers. Caution/Danger: Commercial Rust Remover Products contain oxalic or hydrofluoric acids or other chemicals which can cause skin or eye irritation, burns, or poisoning. Use with care and according to the product package.

A bottle of rust remover can be obtained free of charge from the Fire Department. Call 440-526-4493