Brown water at your house this week? Not to worry.

It’s the last week in April and that means it’s time for the annual flushing of the hydrants in Southborough. I found out it was happening thanks to the stream of brown water I encountered when I went to brush my teeth this morning.

The hydrants are flushed once a year to maintain water quality. DPW Superintendent Karen Galligan says it takes about 4-1/2 days to do the entire town, so the work will continue for most of this week.

Brown water may not be so pleasant to look at, but Galligan says it’s perfectly safe to drink. That may be true, but I’m sure not going to give it a try.

Here’s some information Galligan provided last year on why hydrant flushing is important and what to do if your water runs brown:

Even though the water system is designed so that water has several routes to reach any location, generally speaking, most mains tend to flow in one direction. Water travels slowly through the water mains and sediment settles at the bottom of the main. The flushing  program reverses the flow of the water in the main. The reverse in flow direction flushes the sediment from the system through the hydrants. We flush the hydrant until the water runs clear.

When a resident uses their water while the main on their street is being flushed they bring the discolored water into their home. The discoloration is just the sediment and it is safe to drink, it just isn’t too appealing (the sediment does have bits of rust, in it). The best way to purge a service of the discolored water is to run cold water until the water runs clear. I suggest using the bathtub faucet because it flows more water. The water should run clear in 10-20 minutes, unless your service is very long, then it may take longer.

If you have aerators on your faucets you might want to rinse them out in case the screen caught any debris. If your hot water is discolored, it means that you pulled the sediment into the water tank. You should flush out your service with the cold water faucets and then, when you are sure you have purged the pipes in your home and everything is running clear, you should run your hot water and try to clear that up.

(Photo posted to flickr by Editor B)

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Kathryn Korostoff
13 years ago

Thanks Susan! I just saw some icky water and googled “Southborough water” and your site came up! Thanks for making this info so easy to access!


13 years ago

I wish I had realized this was happening in my neighborhood before I threw in a load of wash. My daughter and I just had to hand wash 5-10 items of clothes that ended up looking like they had ben dragged through a mud puddle. It may be safe to drink but it’s not safe for your laundry. I ran the load twice before moving to hand washing. Now I’m running those items through for a third time in hopes that “three’s the charm”. Something to watch for when this happens once a year. Does the town announce this so we can be on the lookout for it?

Jack 77845
12 years ago

What’s weird, we have a garden faucet in the side yard. We never turn it on. Last night,
(May 31) we turned it on. the water was brown because of rust! It’s so weird!

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