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Common Water Problems and Answers 

We have compliled some of the most common water problems along
with simple solutions for your information. Please contact us for more
detailed analysis of your problems if you don't find the answer here.
Contact the answer man at, Alan Pelletier -
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A Little Bit About Water
PURE WATER is a colorless, odorless, tasteless liquid. Water is absolutely essential to human life; we start out babies as about 89% water and end up as adults and about 75% water. We normally require about 1½ quarts per person per day to replace water we lose. However, hot weather, excessive perspiration or diuretics such as caffeine or alcohol can greatly increase our daily requirements. In our homes we usually use about 80 gallons per person per day. Water is the most effective solvent we know. Very few substances are completely insoluble in water. Many modern societies, with high population densities and very heavy use of chemicals have polluted surface and underground water sources. The pollution occurs in varying degrees in different parts of the country. Generally, the higher the population densities, the greater the use of petroleum powered vehicles, the greater the use of agricultural chemicals, the greater the number of industrial complexes, the higher the occurrence of MAN INDUCED POLLUTION. NATURAL POLLUTION, in the form of salty water, iron, sulfur, mud, silt, bacteria, algae, viruses, gases, acidity, alkalinity, limestone and others, frequently render naturally occurring water unsuitable for human use, either for health or aesthetic reasons.
Below are some of the possible characteristics and contaminants in water and a brief explanation of what each item means to you. Since water is known as the "Universal Solvent", it is possible for countless thousands of contaminants to exist in water. Listed below are some of the more common concerns associated with water in our society.
Crystal Hills Water Systems can perform, or arrange to perform tests to verify possible problems in your water.

Common Water Problems

APPEARANCE: Water should be absolutely clear in appearance. There should be no cloudiness, turbidity or color. Tannins or dissolved matter can cause problems.

ODOR: 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 "the rotten egg smell", this odor may be caused by a number of factors and are usually microbiological in nature, resulting in the creation of hydrogen sulfide gas. 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.

TASTE: Water should have no detectable flavor. Trust your tongue, it is very sensitive to outside factors.

pH: 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. We call it "drinking your pipes". Symptoms of corrosive water are blue-green stains. Correction is recommended for any pH below 6.5 or above 8.5.

MICROBIOLOGY: Water may be contaminated by animal and vegetable matter such as bacteria, viruses, cysts, algae, fungi, spores, smut, etc. Most are harmless but some are pathogenic (harmful). Some signs of microbiological contamination are; foul odors, oily, black, slimy or fluorescent films. Contaminated water can cause unexplained illnesses and more. If in doubt, take no chances. A certified water test is essential.

HARDNESS: Hard water simply means that the water is 'hard to use'. 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: Called the "Staining Twins", as little as 0.3 parts per million (ppm) of iron causes orange stains. Just 0.050 ppm of manganese causes black smoky stains. The 'twins' are usually found together and the stain colors are usually that 'terra cotta' rust color we associate with iron. More orange or blacker tones are simply different proportions of the 'twins'. Iron and manganese give water a bad taste and odor. They make cleaning and laundry a nightmare.

CHLORINE: Free chlorine is not usually found in wells. Most 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.

RADON: Radon is a gas that is the by-product of the decay of radioactive Radium. Radium is present in granite and other igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic rock. Radon decays into its 'daughters', radioactive isotopes of polonium, bismuth and lead, which do the damage. We breathe them in and they lodge in the lungs where they radiate their harmful carcinogenic rays. Radon can be detected in water and as a result can rise through cracks and openings in the foundation of a house and as a result, be detected in air. There is yet no official maximum contaminant level for radon. The Federal EPA is considering levels as low as 300 pCu/L (Pico Curies per Liter). The last official level was 10,000 pCu/L. New Hampshire is using a 'soft' level of 2,000 pCu/L at the present time. Radon in air has a 'soft' level of 4 pCu.

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.

For further information contact us at the numbers above or read the Better Business Publication, "Tips on Water Quality Improvement". Ask for the Reader's Digest reprint, "Is your Water Safe?", or visit the Water Quality Association at

Andre J. Pelletier, Engineer - Certified Water Specialist, CWS-VI, Certified Installer

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