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Common Water Problems

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Common Water Problems


The first indication of water problems often begins with its appearance. Is the water discolored in any way coming out of the faucet? Is there any indication of reddish/brown or bluish/green tint to the water? These are usually signs of underlying water conditions which should be treated.


Water should have NO detectable odor. Odor can be caused by organisms, gases, metallic or organic compounds in the water. A common odor problem in water is “sulfur smell”, sometimes described as “rotten egg odor”. This type of problem is often associated with hydrogen sulfide gas caused by rotting vegetation and is sometimes found in wells in lower lying areas near wetlands. This gas reacts with many things changing their chemistry and color, such as changing silver to black and the taste of food and water.

Particulate Matter:

Water should have NO visible suspended materials (sediment). Particles of sand, rust, plastic, organic matter, pipe scale, manganese or other introduced matter are sources of this problem. This type of condition raises havoc with controls on today’s modern appliances and utilities, causing clogging of screens, solonoids, sprinkler heads, faucet aerators, and boiler controls.


Water should generally have a “neutral” flavor so taste is often an indicator of underlying problems.


Is the measure of acidity or alkalinity of water. Neutral water is 7.0. Lower is acid, higher is alkaline. The range is 0 to 14, like the ‘Richter Scale’ in earthquakes, it is geometric. This means that water with a pH of 5.0 is ten times more acid than water that is 6.0. Water with a pH of 4.0 is 100 times more acid than that of 6.0. Alkaline water is hard on the skin, hair or any appliance. Acid water slowly dissolves metals such as copper, lead, aluminum, iron and zinc, which are used or have been used in plumbing systems. Symptoms of corrosive water are blue-green stains. Correction is recommended for any pH below 6.5 or above 8.5.


Hard water has dissolved limestone in it. Limestone is mostly calcium carbonate. Calcium carbonate is everywhere, and of which, teeth, bones, seashells, pearls, mother of pearl. Stalactites and stalagmites, the “White Cliffs of Dover”, marble and the “Carlsbad Caverns”, for example, are made. When hard water is heated, it causes scale to form inside pipes, causing constriction. Hard water reacts with soap causing soap scum, the stuff of which bathtub rings are made. It coats your skin, your hair, your appliances, your dishes and flatware. It can cause dry skin, rashes and acne. Correction is recommended for any reading over 3.5 grains per gallon, and pays for itself in cost savings.

Iron & Manganese:

This is easily one of the most prevalent problems on eastern Long Island and the most recognizable to water users. As little as 0.3 parts per million (ppm) of iron causes orange stains. Just 0.050 ppm of manganese causes black smoky stains. Water high in Manganese will often manifest itself when water is heated and will stain the inside of the dishwasher and the backs of dishes. Iron and manganese give water a bad taste and odor and will cause staining of laundry and plumbing fixtures.


Here in Suffolk County, municipal water supplies chlorinate their water resulting in residuals of from 0.1 to 2.0 ppm to kill microbiology. Chlorine is very effective in destroying bacteria, viruses and other organisms. Unfortunately, it is a two edged sword. In the early 1970’s it was discovered that the chlorine reacts with common organic substances in the water to produce chemicals called trihalomethanes (THM’s). THM’s are cancer-causing substances and have recently been linked to increased risk of colon and rectal cancer. Naturally, these substances should not be in the water with which we drink and cook.

Nitrates & Nitrites:

Usually the result of over-fertilizing in agriculture or signs of a failed septic system, nitrates & nitrites are a serious health concern that, like lead and other toxic heavy metals, affect brain growth and development. It is known as a neurological dysfunction agent. Thus it is more severe to the young. Infants and the unborn are more affected than adults are. Correction for contamination near and above 10 ppm is strongly recommended.

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