What is Lurking in Your Water?
By: New Jersey Home Inspector Michael Del Greco
What is Lurking in Your Water?
Submitted by: Michael Del Greco, New Jersey Home Inspector Lic GI 0121, President of Accurate Inspections, Inc, a New Jersey home inspection company
Have you ever wondered what might be lurking in the water you\'re drinking?
There are millions of different bacteria, chemicals, minerals and toxins in the water we drink. However, they are at trace levels and are, for the most part, tolerable.
Your best protection is to learn about your water and test it regularly. Water labs will be able to give or direct you to a source that will outline the acceptable parameters or tolerances of the compositions or conditions that may be found in your tap water. A local lab should also be a good source of information for the most common problems found in your area. Public water systems are required to test their water periodically by State regulations.
Here is an overview of a few of the dangerous concerns found in some water:
1) Coliform bacteria. This is waste from animals or humans. This situation can develop in areas where there are large populations of humans or animals. Surface water may be washed into wells or their underground aquifers. In older communities, cesspools were much deeper in the ground and closer to water tables. New community requirements put on-site water systems closer to the surfaces and farther from the water tables. There is no acceptable coliform bacteria level for water that is to be consumed.
2. Nitrates. These chemicals may cause neurological problems.
3. Pesticides. These are found in areas where foliage is sprayed or dusted. Rain washes the pesticides to the surface and possibly to wells or underground aquifers.
Proper balanced water is 7.0 PH. When the PH is below 7.0, the water is acidic. With levels above 7.0, the water is alkaline, or base. It is very common to see water with low or acidic PH, especially in municipal water supplies or densely populated areas.
Low PH can be recognized at sinks and tubs after a few years by the greenish stain at the drain. This stain is caused by the chemical reaction of the acidic water and the copper piping. The acidic water causes copper to be depleted from the pipes to the point of failure, or leaking. Advanced stages of this activity can be evidenced by small, round, green stains on the pipes. This is an indication that the pipe is newspaper thin and will leak at any time.
Limits of acidic PH are typically 6.5 to 8.5. The levels are measured on a logarithmic scale. High levels of minerals will manifest themselves by leaving brownish stains at the sink and tub drains and in the toilet tanks.
Here is a partial list of maximum contaminant levels (MCLs) for Safe Drinking Water:
Component/Condition MCL Component/Condition MCL
PH 8.5 Nitrate 10
Manganese .05 Total Dissolved Solids 500
Sulfate 250 Hardness 250
Lead .050 Copper 1
Sodium .50 Iron .03
Fluoride 2.0 Chloride 250
There is treatment equipment on the market that will address these issues and hundreds more. You should know what is in your water and the possibility of problems before you call a treatment specialist. The better informed you are, the higher the probability of purchasing a system that will be best for you, if a system is needed at all.
Information provided by Michael Del Greco, New Jersey Home Inspector Lic. GI 0121, American Society of Home Inspectors Member 102273, Pesident of Accurate Inspections, Inc. A West Paterson New Jersey Home Inspection firm.