Common Water Problems in Our Area (North Carolina)

 

Arsenic

A chemical element that occurs in different minerals, the inorganic type of arsenic is toxic and has been linked to cancer.

A study funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) was published in the January 2012 issue of the journal Environment International analyzing arsenic in private well water systems in Union and Stanly counties of North Carolina. An estimated 75,000 people use well water in these two counties. The study examined over 63,000 well measurements over an 11-year period and found consistently elevated levels of arsenic. Almost 20% of the wells in Stanly and Union counties were above the Environmental Protection Agency standard, and one sample was 80 times the maximum level set by the EPA. Arsenic is a semi-metal element in the periodic table. It is odorless and tasteless. It enters drinking water supplies from natural deposits in the earth or from agricultural and industrial practices. Arsenic has been linked to cancer and many other serious noncancerous effects to the body.

 

Ammonia

A colorless, pungent-smelling gaseous chemical, ammonia is occurs naturally in groundwater and the human body. Commonly used in fertilizer, animal feed, and fiber manufacturing, as well as in cleaners and as a food additive.

 

Bacteria

Municipalities and community wells are under regulations to use chemical disinfectants such as chlorine and ammonia to remove bacteria from their water supplies before distributing the water to your home. When consistently and properly done, this keeps your water free from bacteria, although it introduces chemical tastes and byproducts to your water. Private wells for homes and small businesses are not under regulation (state or federal) to make sure the water is free from bacteria. However, the EPA recommends that home owners test their wells at least annually to make sure they are safe. This is because even if the water is safe today, the proliferation of new wells and septic systems increase the chances of bacterial contamination of well water.

Bad water taste – Bad water smell

These are signs that something may be in your water. Municipal water treatment facilities use high amounts of chlorine/chloramine which presents a very strong chemical taste. Should you have a sour, salty, bitter or metallic taste this can be a result of high levels of total dissolved solids in your water, most commonly chlorides, sulfates and bicarbonates. Signs that dissolved solids are affecting your water quality are:

 

  • Accumulation of “mineral fur” around faucet outlets

  • Bad taste to your water

  • Cloudy ice cubes

  • Scaling and spotting as water evaporates from surfaces

  • A “laxative effect” due to high sulfates

 

Chlorine Taste & Odor

A chemical element and a powerful disinfectant that is commonly used in municipal water treatment plants and swimming pools to kill bacteria and other harmful microorganisms, chlorine has a noticeable taste and odor.

 

Chloramines

A chemical compound used as disinfectants and formed when ammonia is added to chlorine to treat drinking water.

 

e. Coli

Escherichia coli (E. coli) are bacteria found in the environment, foods, and intestines of people and animals. Some kinds of e. Coli can cause diarrhea and other symptoms, and can be transmitted through contaminated water or food, or through contact with animals or persons.

 

Hard Water and Scale

Hard water is the result of mineral buildup in your city or well water, usually from calcium and lime. Hard water can reduce the quality of water in your home and may also be driving up your water bills. Hard water can cause damaging scale build up from mineral deposits in your pipes. Over time, hard water will cause your pipes to clog, and water pressure will be reduced. Water using appliances such as but not limited to: ice makers, dish washers, washing machines, shower heads, faucets, and water heaters can be damaged. Hard water and scale build-up is also a unattractive visual sign on your shower doors, on all faucets, sinks, your drinking glasses and silverware.

 

Iron - Rust Stains

If you have red or brown deposits in your sinks or drains then you most likely have a high concentration of iron in your water. This can come from your ground water supply (well), from pipes used in municipal distribution systems, or older plumbing.   An excessive level of iron is a common problem and the second most prominent behind hard water. Watch out for these signs of too much iron in your home’s water:

  • Reddish or red-brown stains on your laundry, plumbing fixtures and cooking utensils

  • Yellow or orange-colored water

 

Metallic taste to your water

Low Ph/Acid Stains – Acidic water is easily identifiable by the blue-green stains on fixtures. Many of the wells in this area are considered to be shallow which in turn makes your water more accessible to surface water intrusion and acidic rain. It is recommended that your pH be 7.0 or higher to prevent these types of issues. There are a number of methods for elevating your pH, contact us for help. The concerns associated with acidic water are:

  • It eats away at (dissolves) faucets, fittings, and copper pipes, as well as corrodes water-using appliances. Water heaters and plumbing are subject to leaks from acidic water. It is very important to balance the pH of your water to keep you from having costly plumbing repairs.

  • The “blue green” stains on surfaces are the copper dissolved from your own plumbing. They are displeasing in appearance and difficult to remove.

  • Elevated copper in your drinking and cooking water can contribute to health issues.

 

Sediment

Made up of tiny grains of organic materials like silt, sand, rust or clay, sediment is the mysterious stuff that can be seen floating in your water glass. It’s generally harmless to humans but can cause issues with pipes and plumbing systems.

 

HOW DOES WATER BECOME CONTAMINATED?

 

The way water becomes contaminated depends on the type of contaminant. Water pollutants like oil are the most well-known because of ocean oil spills, but the pipes in your home can just as easily be the source. Because of factors such as aged pipes, keep in mind that your neighbors contaminated water does not mean that your water is also contaminated. Get your water tested, whether you are on city water or well water. The results will fall into four general types of drinking water contaminates:

 

Physical contaminants primarily impact the physical appearance or other physical properties of water. Examples of physical contaminants are sediment or organic material suspended in the water of lakes, rivers and streams from soil erosion. These types of contaminants are common in city water systems.

 

Chemical contaminants are elements or compounds. These contaminants may be naturally occurring or man-made. Examples of chemical contaminants include nitrogen, bleach, salts, pesticides, metals, toxins produced by bacteria, and human or animal drugs. Well water is often at risk of these contaminants.

 

Biological contaminants are organisms in water. They are also referred to as microbes or microbiological contaminants. Examples of biological or microbial contaminants include bacteria, viruses, protozoan, and parasites. Biological contaminants can found in both well water and city water systems.

 

Radiological contaminants are chemical elements with an unbalanced number of protons and neutrons resulting in unstable atoms that can emit ionizing radiation. Examples of radiological contaminants include cesium, plutonium and uranium. Contaminants like these are typically the result of erosion of natural deposits.

 

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