Suffolk County Water Authority

Why Does My Water Look...

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Why Does My Water Look...

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Sometimes, especially along the South Shore of Long Island, we receive telephone calls from customers saying that the water flowing from their tap is brown in color. Not very appealing, but not necessarily harmful either.

Why Does My Water Look... Questions

So what exactly is it?

How does it get there?

Is this water safe to drink?

How long will it take before the condition clears itself?

My laundry has become stained, now what?

What are you doing to remove iron from my water?

Questions And Answers

So what exactly is it?

It's iron, and it's been in the sediments below us since the glaciers dropped it off 10,000 years ago. Unfortunately, it's dissolved in the groundwater and sometimes in the customer's drinking water. Although iron presents no health hazard, high levels may cause a staining on plumbing fixtures and laundry.

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How does it get there?

Some of this "iron" settles in our water mains and can be disturbed when fire hydrants are opened. In addition, sometimes when water is turned off for repairs and back on when these repairs are completed, the water flowing from our faucets may be brown in color. Although these iron particles lie undisturbed, a sudden and forceful movement of water lifts them from the bottom of the pipe and mixes them into the water.

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Is this water safe to drink?

The Suffolk County Water Authority operates the largest, most technologically advanced groundwater testing laboratory in the United States. If our lab tests the water and concludes that the water has excessive levels of iron, we will notify you not to consume it until it becomes clear again. Iron is not normally considered harmful to health, but can cause off-taste, odor or staining problems.

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How long will it take before the condition clears itself?

Unfortunately, this is rather hard to predict, since each situation is different. Normally the water will clear in between four and eight hours.

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My laundry has become stained, now what?

Please call your Suffolk County Water Authority Call Center at (631) 698-9500 and request a package of "Yellow Out." This laundry additive will remove the iron stains from your laundry, if used properly as directed on the package.

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What are you doing to remove iron from my water?

Good question. Several years ago, we embarked on a comprehensive program to remove iron from our water in several of our service areas. Following a thorough investigation of numerous technologies, we chose an iron removal system that we have begun to install in a number of communities along the South Shore. In areas where these systems have been installed, the results have been quite impressive, and customer complaints have decreased significantly. Obviously, these iron removal systems are quite expensive, and can't be installed all at once. However, we believe the water delivered to our customers will be free of excessive iron within the next several years.

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