Drinking the Kool-Aid With the Biofilm

Does the water taste just a hint like bleach? Don’t worry – that’s a completely normal byproduct of weakening the biofilm. From April 7th to May 7th the Washington Aqueduct Division of the Army Corps of Engineers, Arlington County’s water supplier, is using free chlorine to give the water pipes a once-yearly flush to eliminate bacterial build-up and regrowth.

From the county’s FAQ page on the process:

Temporarily converting from chloramines to free chlorine is done to help control bacterial regrowth within the water distribution system. The County will be coordinating an annual hydrant flushing program to coincide with the disinfectant switch to further control water quality.

A biological film known as “biofilm” is found in all water pipes. Over time, biofilm becomes resistant to the chloramines it encounters regularly and as a result can cause water quality problems if it is not properly managed.

Switching to free chlorine for a short period of time shocks and weakens the biofilm, rendering it safe. The system-wide process of flushing the water mains through fire hydrants combined with the disinfectant change is proven to be effective at controlling biofilm.

So if the biofilm is weakening and thus likely sloughing off into the public water supply, I certainly hope it is being treated to the point that no harm comes from it. As much as I love staying hydrated, the thought of drinking a tall glass of biofilm is not nearly as appetizing as these engineers might think.

All I can say is thank goodness for happy hour, where thoughts of water consumption are washed from our cortexes by large volumes of beer, which, like chlorine, is a wonderful sanitizing and purifying substance. At least I can pretend it is.

So what to do about water consumption? Flavor it, of course. That slight chlorine taste is harmless, after all, but not too pleasant. Go get yourself a bunch of Kool-Aid and enjoy such flavors as red, purple and orange, the last of which happens to also be the name of a fruit. Just don’t get all Peoples Temple on us in the process.

1 Comment so far

  1. Jason (unregistered) on April 8th, 2007 @ 2:08 pm

    I’ve been drinking bottled water for the last 3 of 4 days, since I noticed a clear (heh) unpleasant change in the taste of the tap water here in the District. I don’t know if I can keep that up for a month though.



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