Something In The Water – Are Contaminants Killing Your Supply?

Despite its reputation for crisp, mountain springs and majestic stream-fed lakes, the water supplies in many areas of upstate New York contain a range of sediment that can be extremely tough on plumbing, and in some cases, even your health. Water heaters are especially sensitive to water quality, with hard, mineral-filled water often cutting the lives of NY area water heaters prematurely short.

What follows is some general information on the types of sediment and other contaminants that may be impacting your upstate NY water quality, as well as some things you can do to improve the water supply in your home.

Hard Water

The chalky, brittle buildup you see on faucets, showerheads and other plumbing fixtures is generally caused by what is known as “hard water.” This is a common condition in NY state, in which dissolved calcium, magnesium and even iron may be present in the water. Both municipal water supplies and private wells suffer from this issue. It can cause dry skin and hair, bathtub rings, spots on glass, silverware and fixtures, dull clothing, and poor performance and life expectancy of affected appliances.

Iron and Manganese Stains

Water supplies may also contain iron or manganese, which can dissolve in water and cause rusty/orange or black stains. You’ll see these stains on your clothes, fixtures, sinks, tubs, appliances and toilets.

Strange Tastes and Odors

You may notice and odd smell or taste to your water. This is likely caused by something present in the water supply. Common complaints include:

  • “Rotten Egg” Smell: Very common in the Capital Region, this is caused by hydrogen sulfide, colorless, corrosive gas which has the telltale odor of hard-boiled or rotten eggs. In high enough concentrations, it can also leave an unpleasant odor on one’s clothing and hair, and can accelerate corrosion of appliances. Although unpleasant to smell, drinking it is not harmful to health.
  • Metallic Taste: When water has a metallic taste, it is likely caused by the presence of metals like iron, copper, manganese or zinc. Iron and manganese are often naturally occurring, and are typically found naturally in groundwater. Copper and zinc, meanwhile, can come from an aging water distribution system and/or the corrosion of copper plumbing and brass fittings.
  • Earthy/Musty Taste & Odor: Most often this is caused by compounds released in the water from decayed vegetation, usually algae. While non-toxic, this still makes the water unpleasant, even at very low concentrations.
  • Chlorine Taste/Smell: The chemical chlorine has long been used to disinfectant and kill harmful bacteria in water and water pipes. Although an important part of public health practice, it has a bad taste and smell, it dries skin and hair, fades clothes and can shorten the life of appliances.

Cloudy Water

Murky, cloudy or grayish water is typically caused by dissolved or suspended solids, also called “turbidity.” Water can become turbid naturally, or from disturbances like construction, storms and runoff. Even if your water looks clear, it may still contain a high level of dissolved solids. That’s why it’s always a good idea to have your water tested.

Blue-Green Staining

Low pH in the water causes textbook blue-green stains. The stains are most obvious on white surfaces like sinks, tubs and showers, toilets and sometimes, even white clothing.

What You Can Do

There are several options available to property owners looking to combat their water quality issues. Some of the devices you can purchase (and have a qualified plumber like Empire State Plumbing install) for better water quality include:

  • Water Softener: These devices use a process called ion exchange to remove things like calcium, magnesium, iron and manganese from the water supply in your home, replacing them with sodium ions.
  • Whole-House Water Filter: A whole-house filter attaches to your water main and removes many different contaminants. It can specifically help with problems like cloudy water, rust or blue-green staining and rotten egg smell.
  • Drinking Water System: A whole-house or faucet drinking water system ensures safe drinking water in the home, especially in homes that use wells. These devices can eliminate bacteria as well as the root causes of foul odors and tastes in the water.
  • Acid Neutralizer: The blue-green staining caused by low pH can be remedied with one of these devices, which raise the pH of water from an acid level to neutral and non-corrosive. They can also filter some ferric iron, silt, dirt and sediment from the water supply.
  • Chloramine Filtration System: If your public water supply’s use of chlorine is a problem, one of these devices can help bring the chloramine present back down to acceptable levels.

***Is poor water quality getting you down? Have mineral deposits ruined your water heater? If you have any questions or would like the help of a professional in Albany and the Capital Region, call us or contact us online and we will be happy to schedule an appointment for an inspection. We’re the Albany area’s plumbing experts!