Every spring, with the change in seasons, as the beautiful flowers bloom, and the trees start blanketing the cars and sidewalks with yellow pollen, I start feeling sick.
Yes, I have pollen allergies — birch and oak trees, specifically are known. But that’s not at all what I’m talking about — this is so beyond itchy eyes, drowsiness and sneezing.
Every year, totally out-of-the-blue, I get this horrible, horrible acid reflux. And it lasts for almost two months, and suddenly, it disappears. Completely comes and goes on its own for no reason. I also get horrible belly pains and discomfort, and have to go to the bathroom a lot.
So, medical mystery … is it the allergy meds? Is it from laying down and sleeping more? Is from me changing my diet? Am I more full of anxiety? Did my stomach pop up above my diaphragm temporarily? I mean, what the heck is wrong with me!?!
And, lo these many years of repeated bouts, I finally figured it out:
Washington, D.C. does a “flushing” of their entire water system every spring. They switch from one chemical additive, chloramine (a combination of ammonia and chlorine) to primarily chlorine, or so they say.
And every year, exactly on the date they begin doing this chlorine flush, the water smells, it tastes weird and terrible; it’s kind of “heavy” to me — just totally obvious that something is wrong with it. My partner just said he noticed it when he brushes his teeth, it tastes terrible.
But I forgot, again. 10-1/2 months go by of me feeling just fine. And suddenly, I’m back in the bed and literally and figuratively bellyaching. I’m calling everyone to tell them my goodbyes because it feels like my gut is going to explode. Half the time it feels like everything stops, and half the time it feels like I’m on the verge of the kind of loud hunger pangs you might get when you haven’t eaten for like 16 hours. I’m popping pantoprazole (PPI) and Alka-Seltzer, Gaviscon and Tums (antacids) — no help. Just burning and burning in my chest and throat. I’m changing my diet and eliminating nuts and soda and cheese — no change. And I’m drinking water … lots of water, to “flush my body.” Smart and healthy, right? No, not at all.
It’s the water. I’m not crazy. I didn’t do anything wrong. It is the city’s change in the water chemicals.
So, you might say, “Chlorinated water is normal for municipal treatment, isn’t it?”
Well, if that’s the case, then why would it be so noticeable to both of us? Why would the DC Water people post a public PDF saying hospitals, dialysis patients and fish owners should be careful with this changing water? Because it’s going to kill you and your pets, maybe! (hyperbolic reactin, I know.)
I think it’s near criminal for the agency not to text everyone in the city or to send out a direct mailing to each home to notify people. This is a potentially debilitating issue for some people who may not get the word. You’d think city water would be “safe,” but it’s not “safe” when you switch up the environment that your gut has become accustomed to.
By that, I mean — if, for example, Americans go to visit Mexico —they often complain that they got a case of “Montezuma’s Revenge” — severe diarrhea. “Don’t drink the water!” Right? But the people who live there in Cenral America have developed an “immunity” to whatever is in their water supplies to some degree, right? The immunity is the ability of gut microbes to handle the environment that is suitable for them — an evolutionary process, survival of the fittest. If you suddenly change the environment — via chemicals, pH or different additional microbes, then guess what? Your belly is going to have a fit — at least for a while till it can readjust.
So, heads up. @DCWater is flushing their water system again, and if you are sensitive to chemicals, then you may feel sick to your stomach and experience acid reflux and continuous or random discomfort.
I don’t know why more people don’t complain about this.
Read the full PDF (for 2020) here: