Montgomery County, MD Water Quality- 5 Things to Keep in Mind

By Mengning Heil

January 14, 2022

Water Quality

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Have you ever wondered what’s in the water that comes out of your faucet? Is it just water? Does it contain anything else? And what impacts the quality of the water? Is tap water in Maryland safe to drink? Generally speaking, the factors which influence Montgomery County MD water quality are no different than what you may find regardless of where you may live.

Montgomery County MD Water Quality- WSSC Water Source

Montgomery County MD drinking water depends, at least in part, on WHERE the water is from. If your water comes from a residential well, then it’s being collected from the surrounding groundwater. Public water, on the other hand, could come from a large body of water like a lake or river. 

WSSC, the public utility that serves Montgomery and Prince Georges County in Maryland, sources its water from two rivers: the Patuxent River and the Potomac River. Residents on the west side of the county like in the cities of Rockville, Potomac, Bethesda, Kensington, Chevy Chase, downtown Silver Spring or Gaithersburg are most likely drinking water from the Potomac River which is processed at the Potomac Water Filtration Plant. Residents on the east side of the county like Laurel or Burtonsville are probably getting their water from the Patuxent River via the Triadelphia Reservoir and the T. Howard Duckett Reservoir (which is also known as Rocky Gorge) which is processed at the Patuxent Water Filtration Plant. 

Most drinking water (whether or not it is from a WSSC water source) is impacted to varying degrees by the following 4 factors: naturally occurring elements in the water, man-made contaminants in the water, pathogens in the water, and additives to the water.

Montgomery County MD Water Quality

Naturally Occurring Elements

Factor 1 – When water passes through different features of the environment, trace amounts of natural elements will leach into the water. Naturally occurring elements include iron, manganese, calcium, magnesium, and arsenic. Although these elements are from the environment, at high concentrations some elements can be destructive to your plumbing system, not to mention leave you with less-than-potable water. 

Man-Made Montgomery County Water Contamination?

Factor 2 – As water travels through the ground, overland, and through pipes, it also picks up a variety of man-made contaminants. This can include nitrates and nitrites from agriculture, lead from old plumbing fixtures, PFAF’s from plastic products, and other forms of pollution. 

Pathogens in Montgomery County MD Water?

Factor 3 – In addition to natural elements or man-made contaminants, water left untreated can contain pathogens that you would also not want to consume. Pathogens are bacteria, viruses, and microscopic organisms that can make you sick. In order to kill pathogens in the water, treatment plants and even your own well system will use chemicals and UV light. For Montgomery County and Prince Georges County residents, WSSC uses chlorine and permanganate to treat the water. In other places, chloramine is used. 

Orthophosphate Water Treatment

Water Treatment and Why Additives

Factor 4 – Additives represent the fourth factor that impacts most drinking water. As you can already see, water contains a lot more than H2O. Treatment of the water, therefore, is to some extent a necessity in most regions. Pure water is harmless in your pipes. However, the elements and chemicals mixed in with your water can be corrosive to your pipes and plumbing parts. In order to reduce wear and tear over time, WSSC puts in various additives. Lime is used to balance the PH of the water. Orthophosphate is mixed in to prevent metal pipe corrosion.  

For more information about what’s in your water, you can check out WSSC’s explanation of how they treat the water for Montgomery County and Prince George’s County residents. Another helpful resource is the EWG’s tap water database.

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