- Associated Press - Thursday, December 18, 2014

WASHINGTON (AP) - Tap water in a section of northwest Washington was still contaminated by a petroleum product even after the system was flushed on Thursday, officials said, and a warning not to drink the water was likely to remain in effect until at least Friday.

More than 350 customers in the Shaw neighborhood just north of downtown were ordered not to drink their water on Wednesday afternoon after people noticed a petroleum smell. On Thursday, three schools in the affected area were closed.

Crews worked to flush contaminants out of the system overnight by opening fire hydrants. But John Lisle, a spokesman for D.C. Water, said tests conducted Thursday after the system was flushed indicated that the water was still contaminated. It’s believed that a heavy oil compound like motor oil has leaked into the water supply, Lisle said.

The source of the contamination remained under investigation late Thursday. Lisle said it’s possible that officials may never learn what caused the problem if it goes away after the system is flushed again. The concentration of the contaminant was about five parts per million, he said.

In addition to not drinking the water, residents were advised not to use it for bathing or cooking. Water can be used for flushing toilets and washing clothes or dishes. The utility warned that skin or eye irritations may occur if water is used for bathing.

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