City of Ithaca working on widespread brown water issue

The City of Ithaca’s Water & Sewer Division is working on resolving an issue with brown tap water throughout the city, especially in downtown and northside neighborhoods, that’s lasted over a week, according to Common Council member Seph Murtagh.

Safe but not very pretty. Photo courtesy of David McKinley.

Safe but not very pretty. Photo courtesy of David McKinley.

In general, discolored tap water is safe to shower or bathe with and even to drink. Area residents should hold off on doing laundry, though, and many are understandably hesitant to drink or cook with the water. Some residents say they’ve been reporting problems for weeks or months.

“It’s kind of scary looking, but it’s harmless,” Murtagh said in a newsletter for Second Ward residents last week. “It happens because the velocity of the flow in the city’s water mains has increased, producing a scouring effect on the mineral deposits — iron, calcium, and manganese — that have built up in the pipes over the years.”

The City of Ithaca’s annual drinking water quality report for 2016 is available at

“The only concern with rusty water is that it might stain whites in the laundry, and it can also be an issue for folks with dietary restrictions,” Murtagh added. “While not a health risk, it’s good to report it to the city’s Water and Sewer Division because it’s often the city’s first indication of high flows related to a water main break or unauthorized large draws of water. You can call Water and Sewer directly at 607-272-1717.”

For more, follow on Facebook and Twitter.