Over 90% of Americans have access to clean drinking water using the public water systems that are regulated following federal guidelines.  But unfortunately, there are still structures that fail to meet water quality standards. In addition, problems inherent in private schemes can also affect the quality of tap water running in homes. Here’s how to tell if the water in your pipes is tainted or not.

Unusual Smell and Taste

One of the first things that you will notice about water coming from your faucet is its odd smell. Water may smell like rotten eggs, bleach, or sewage which making consumption difficult due to the stench. Unfortunately, this can indicate that sulfur bacteria are accumulating in the drains or there is a contaminated water source. Hydrogen sulfide gas formation that comes from the sink or faucet but not the water is likely due to the accumulation of hair, soap, and food particles in the drain that eventually gives off a sewage-like smell as they rot.  The good news is this does not mean that your water is contaminated although a smelly sink is not pleasant at all. What you can do is to clean the drains regularly with bleach or a commercial product. Periodic cleaning also prevents clogging of the sink and drains. 

On the other hand, it is possible for sulfur bacteria to accumulate in the water heater. The most likely reason is that the hot water has not been used for some time or the anode rod is corroded. To rectify this problem, flush out the water heater and replace the anode rod. It also pays to have your heating system checked by professionals at least once a year. 

Another reason for the weird smell is that there is contamination at the water source. Although the chances of municipal water being contaminated is low because it is regularly treated by chlorine, the same is not true of private wells which are likely harboring hydrogen sulfide bacteria. Furthermore, private wells are not regulated. 

Cloudy Appearance and Sediments in the Sink

Additionally, water that is bad may look foamy. A milky appearance can be attributed to air bubbles. However, the most common cause of water that is foaming is improperly installed plumbing. A simple fix is to change the aerator in the faucet. Doing so also improves water pressure. In other cases, treatment systems are unable to filter naturally occurring minerals that may give a cloudy, foamy look. If it persists, bacteria might be present and hence, your water must be tested.

Similarly, dirt or sediments that remain in the sink are signs that your water supply might be compromised. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) categorizes physical material as a drinking water contaminant. Chemicals such as nitrogen, pesticides, lead, or arsenic may get in the water distribution system or at the water source. Biological contaminants or microbes may also seep in your water from sewers and septic systems. If you suspect chemical or biological contamination, report the matter to the municipal authorities immediately.

A supply of clean drinking water is important for the health and wellbeing of the community. Vigilance in spotting the signs of a contaminated water supply can remedy the situation to avoid compromising the safety of consumers.

Guest Contributor: Alicia Rennoll


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