Reference Guide to Common Water Problems in Connecticut
This guide is intended to help give basic knowledge of the most common problems found in well water. We encourage you to contact us for a better understanding of your water analysis results or to just answer some questions you may have.
Many of our Connecticut and New York clients have private water supplies (i.e. well water), and are responsible for the quality and monitoring of their own drinking water. If you fall in this category, we think you will find this information helpful for your own knowledge as well as determining if you have a need for water quality testing and treatment.
Simply click on any tab on the left to go directly to more information about any of the subject matters listed. Please see the footnotes below for anything requiring clarification marked by an (*).
- Lead in Water
- pH Value
- Radon Gas
Coliform / E. Coli Bacteria
Typically, test results are represented by a positive or negative count. The presence of either form is considered a non-potable water supply. Coliform is the most common bacteria and is found in approximately 28% of all samples collected. Its' presence is usually due to surface water entering the well structure (i.e. wells below the ground). When E. Coli is present, it means there is most likely a source of fecal contamination or animal decay.
Lead in Water
The presence of lead in water is ever more dangerous due to it being colorless, tasteless, and odorless. The MCL* is < 0.015 mg/L or 15 ppb*. Proper sampling procedures require that the sampling point be a faucet that has not been used for at least 6 hours, but no longer than 12 hours. Often inspectors grab samples from faucets that have not been used for days which can give you a false high reading. Running a faucet until the water is cold the night before collection would be a more accurate sample.
The primary source of lead in water comes from;
- solder joints in plumbing structures, especially in homes built before 1986.
- Main service lines to the home
When water is left to stand in pipes that have potential lead, there is a greater exposure. For instance, water from the tap in the morning, or later in the aday after no one has been home for a while, can contain high levels of lead. A good idea if you have concerns at all would be to allow water in these scenarios to run a few minutes prior to use. The EPA estimates that 10 to 20 percent of a person’s potential exposure to lead may come from drinking water. Infants who consume mostly formula mixed with lead-containing water can receive 40 to 60 percent of their exposure to lead from drinking water. Obviously, the best course of action is to have your water tested by a professional so that you may make an informed decision on mitigation options.
To learn more about the dangers of lead, we encourage you to read more.
Treatment Options for Lead in Water
Treatment options would be point of use to feed the cold side of an existing fixture or to feed a separate faucet typically installed next to the existing kitchen or bathroom sink fixture.
A blue/green stain in tubs, showers, and sinks is a typical sign of corrosion to the plumping structure. The MCL* is 1.3 mg/L.
Iron in Water
The presence of Iron in water can be detected by the formation of a brownish or reddish satin on plumbing fixtures. The MCL* is 0.3 mg/L.
Red, orange and yellow stains that develop in toilet bowls, tubs and sinks are an indication that there is iron in the water. Iron can also cause a metallic taste and odor to the water. It is not a health issue, but can permanently stain fixtures, constrict the plumbing structure and fixtures to a point where a pressure loss occurs, and stain clothes in the laundry.
How to Remedy
Depending on the form of the iron, there are typically two ways to address this issue. And with high levels of iron sometimes we use both applications. There are other applications that remove iron, but they are usually used when there is a combination of other issues present in the water.
1. There are a variety of oxidizing filter medias used typically used in a backwashing tank. The most common used filter medias are Birm, MTM, and Greensand Plus. These media are generally used to prefilter high levels of iron and when iron is in a red water (ferric) state. (See Pro Water Automatic Systems)
2. Water softeners also do a great job removing iron when it is dissolved in the water (ferrous). See water softeners.
Manganese in Water
A blackish grey stain in plumbing fixtures can indicate the presence of manganese. The MCL* is 0.5 mg/L. As a note, desirable levels would be less than 0.05 mg/L.
Black or grey residues that develop in toilets, tubs, and sinks typically indicate the presence of manganese in the water. Manganese can also cause an earthy or musty taste and/or odor to the water. Manganese mostly is an aesthetic concern but there is a health advisory level of 0.5ppm. In addition to the staining, like iron, manganese can also discolor or turn whites grey in the laundry.
The most common way to remove manganese is with a water softener. However, if the water is already soft, then other applications are chlorination-dechlorination or oxidation medias.
When determining pH Value in water, it is important to understand that it is measure on a scale range of 0-14. Anything below a 7 would indicate an acid condition and anything above 7 would represent an alkaline condition with 7 being neutral. The acceptable range is between 6.4 - 10. Acid conditions in our area are more common around 5.5 - 6.7 pH. These levels can cause corrosion to the plumbing structure resulting in pin hole leaks as well as blue/green staining of copper piping.
Sodium in Water
28 mg/L is an advisory level to people on Sodium restricted diets. The MCL* is 150 mg/L. Elevated levels of Sodium are often present from the use of salt tablets in water softeners.
Elevated sodium in water is a minor health risk for persons that are on sodium restricted diets or just trying to be conscious of their overall sodium intake. The advisory level for sodium is 100mg/L. When sodium levels exceed 250 mg/L they could cause the water to taste salty and can also be corrosive to the plumbing.
The most common process to remove sodium from the water is reverse osmosis. The process is very slow, so most drinking water systems that use this process are for single point of use in the kitchen area just for cooking a drinking water.
Products of interest include;
The MCL* for Chloride is 250 mg/L. Levels of 175 mg/L can cause corrosion to plumbing. The presence of Sodium and Chlorides is not uncommon in well water. The most common source is from the over salting of roadways.
Chlorides, when elevated, can cause a salty taste to the water and can also be very corrosive to the plumbing structure. This can result in pitting of fixtures, scaling (white residue) of fixtures and blue green staining.
Chlorides, like sodium, are removed by the reverse osmosis process. If the chlorides are slightly elevated and just causing a taste issues, then we would recommend the point of use reverse osmosis units (See RO pdfs). However, if the levels are high enough to create corrosion issues then a whole house reverse osmosis system would be designed. These applications are very expensive and take up a substantial footprint in the basement area.
Since the whole house RO systems are cost prohibitive for most people, we also offer corrosion control applications. In these applications we reduce the impact of the chlorides without actually removing them. The plumbing structure is coated with a silicate product to slow the rate of corrosion.
Radon Gas in Water
Radon is a radioactive gas that has been linked to lung cancer. It enters the home in one of two ways. The most common entry is airborne and emanates through the slab or foundation of the home. The recognized limit for Radon in air is 4.0 pCi/L*. Treatment consists of creating suction beneath the slab or foundation with a fan and venting the harmful gas out of the home above the roofline.
The second source of Radon Gas in the home is via well water. The gas is released into the air when water inside the home is being used. There is no current standard for Radon in water, but 3500 pCl - 5000 pCl* or greater are typically the levels where Radon mitigation treatment should be considered. The most common treatment is using G.A.C tanks* for levels between 5000 - 10000 pCi/L. For levels above 10000 pCi/L, aeration is the suggested treatment method.
The MCL* for Nitrate is 10 mg/L and is 1 mg/l for Nitrite. The most common source for these is fertilizers or fecal decay. Nitrates/Nitrites have been linked to "Blue Baby Syndrome".
Arsenic in Water
Arsenic is a metal that has no smell or taste. Arsenic is naturally present in bedrock in many places throughout Connecticut. Depending on local environmental conditions, arsenic can leach from soils or mineral deposits into groundwater. The MCL* for Arsenic is 0.01 mg/L. Research indicates that people living in areas where arsenic water concentrations are very high are more likely to have bladder, lung, or skin cancer. They are also more likely to have problems with their skin, cardiovascular, immune, and neurological systems. These toxic effects of Arsenic exposure developed after many years of exposure mostly through ingestion. Common acceptable methods of removal are point of use Reverse Osmosis or Entry Anion Systems.
Uranium in Water
The mcl* for Uranium is 30 ppb*. Uranium is a naturally occurring element in groundwater in some areas of Connecticut. Uranium gets into drinking water when groundwater dissolves minerals that contain Uranium. The amount of Uranium in well water will vary depending upon its' concentration in bedrock. Most ingested Uranium is eliminated from the body; however, a small amount can be ingested and carried throughout the bloodstream. Studies show that elevated levels of Uranium in drinking water can affect the kidneys. Bathing and showering with water that contains Uranium is not a health concern. Common acceptable methods of removal are Point of Use Reverse Osmosis or Point of Entry Anion Resin Systems.
- MCL - Maximum Contaminant Level
- Mg/L - Milligrams per Liter
- PCi/L - Pico Curies per Liter