WATER COLOR, TASTE, AND ODOR
Common Problems With Drinking Water Are Grouped Into Three Categories.
Particles in the Water
If the problem with your water is not described in the following information, please contact Pea Ridge Water Utilities at (479) 451-1109 and we will personally address your concerns. If your drinking water comes from a well, contact the local health department and ask to speak to the county sanitarian.
Brown, Red, Orange and Yellow Water
Brown, red, orange, or yellow water is generally caused by rust. The different colors can be attributed to the varying states of chemical oxidation of the iron (rust) and by varying concentrations of the rust in the water. There are two major sources that will cause water to be rusty: The city water main, or the water pipes in your building.
From city water mains, the rusty water occurs from sediments of rust build up on the water mains that are metal in construction and the attached metal appurtenances like joints, couplers, and even fire hydrants and valves. The rust can be disturbed and temporarily suspended in water with unusual water flows from water main breaks, maintenance, or by the use or flushing of a fire hydrant. This discolored water is NOT a health threat. When the water is discolored it is recommended to either not wash laundry or to use a rust stain remover or regular detergent but not chlorine bleach as it will react with the iron to form a permanent stain.
The other cause of brown, red, orange or yellow colored water is rusty pipes in your home or building. If old, rusty pipes are discoloring your water, consult an experienced, licensed plumbing contractor. While water being discolored by rusty pipes is not a health hazard, it is an indication that the pipes are corroding and will eventually begin to leak or maybe even burst.
The first step in solving a brown or yellow water problem is to distinguish if the problem is located in the building or property plumbing or if it is in the city water main.
Characteristics of a water main disturbance;
• Water was clear but suddenly became discolored.
• Only the cold water is discolored.
• The water is discolored at all of the indoor and outdoor faucets and does not clear after running for a few minutes.
Common characteristics of a corrosion problem within the home or building plumbing;
• The water is discolored every morning or the first time a faucet is used after sitting for several hours or even days of disuse.
• The water clears after it has been run for a few minutes.
• The discoloration is at one or a few of the faucets but not at all of the faucets in the structure.
• The discoloration is only in the hot water.
Milky white or cloudy water
Milky white water, also described as hazy, cloudy, soapy or foamy, is almost always caused by air in the water. To see if the white color in the water is caused by air, fill a clean, clear glass with the discolored water and set it on the counter. Observe the glass for 2 to 3 minutes. If the white color is air, it will begin to clear from the bottom of the glass first and then gradually clear all the way to the top. This is a natural phenomenon and is caused by dissolved air in the water that is released when the faucet is opened. When you relieve the pressure by opening the faucet and filling your glass with water, the air is now free to escape from the water, giving it a milky appearance for a few minutes. If your water is cloudy or milky in appearance, and does not clear in 5 or so minutes, contact the City of Pea Ridge Water Utilities and we will investigate the situation further.
The most common cause of green water is copper plumbing corrosion. If this is happening, the water will usually have a bluish-green tint and/or will leave a bluish-green stain on porcelain if a faucet is allowed to drip. Copper corrosion can also be caused by your electrical system being grounded to your water pipes, especially if you have a mixture of pipe material (e.g, some copper and some galvanized steel). Green water may also be present in homes with copper plumbing that is less than two years old. The presence of copper can be confirmed through analysis. For more information on copper and its relation to water, visit the EPA website.
Green water can also be caused by the dezincification of poor quality bronze alloys found in valves, water pumps and pump parts. This problem usually occurs only in high rise buildings and large industrial properties where water is pumped into storage tanks.
During warm weather, green water may be caused by green algae in water supplies served by reservoirs, such as Beaver Lake. Algae are single-celled plants that readily grow in bodies of fresh water. Algae is NOT a health threat and reservoirs can be managed and monitored to prevent or lessen the effect of algae. Algae is also addressed in the treatment process through filtering and/or chemical addition.
Having blue water is rare and the cause may be due to extreme copper corrosion. The causes listed above under the ‘Green Water’ heading, will also apply to blue water.
Taste and Odor Problems
Chlorinous, Bleachy, or Chemical Taste/Odor
There are two causes for these types of taste and odor problems.
• The addition of chlorine by the public water supplier, or
• The interaction of the chlorine with a build-up of organic material in your plumbing system.
The first step to identifying and solving the problem is determining if the problem exists in the public water supply or in the building plumbing. Like color issues, if the problem occurs in only one or more, but not all of the faucets in your building, the cause is in your building plumbing system. If the problem is in all the faucets or fixtures in your home, the issue is in the city water supply.
Flush your water lines for a few minutes, if the problem does not clear up or get any better please contact Pea Ridge Water Utilities and we will investigate further.
Sulfurous, Decayed, or Sewage-like Taste/Odor
The two most common causes of these problems include;
• Bacteria growing in your drain.
• Bacteria growing in your water heater.
By far the most common cause of this problem is the drain. Over time, organic matter (such as soap, hair, and food waste) can accumulate on the walls of the drain and bacteria can grow on these organic deposits. The bacteria can produce a gas that smells like rotten eggs or sewage. There is nothing wrong with the water; you just need to disinfect the drain.
Another cause of the rotten egg or sewage smell in the water can be caused by bacteria growing in the water heater. This is most likely to occur if the water heater unused for a long period of time, if the water heater has been turned off for a while, or if the thermostat on the heater has been set too low. The bacteria that produce this problem are not a health threat; however, the taste and odor can be very unpleasant. A licensed plumber should be contacted to deal with issues associated with a water heater.
Musty, Earthy, Moldy or Fishy Taste/Odor
The most common causes of these odors are:
• Bacteria growing in your drain, or
• Certain types of organisms in your water supply.
By far the most common cause of this type of problem is the drain. For causes and remedies read the previous section: “Sulfurous, Decayed, or Sewage-like Taste/Odor”.
The other cause of this type of odor or taste in the water is much less common and results from certain types of algae, fungi, and bacteria growing in the water supply, especially during warm weather. Although these certain types of organisms are harmless, the human senses of taste and smell can be extremely sensitive to them, and can detect them at very low concentrations.
Gasoline, Turpentine, Fuel-like or Solvent-like Odor
Although this type of problem is extremely rare, it is potentially serious. If you experience any of these types of odors, contact Pea Ridge Water Utilities immediately.
Particles in Water
Brown or Orange Particles
Brown or orange particles in water are usually small pieces of rusted steel that have broken off of the inside of your plumbing supply lines or the city’s water mains. These particles are very hard, irregular in shape and size, and can be several different colors. They consist mostly of iron and are not a health hazard, but can become a nuisance if they clog your washing machine screens, shower heads, and/or the screens at the ends of your faucets. If the water is clear with these particles in it, they probably came from the plumbing inside the building. If the particles come from the water mains, the water will generally be discolored as well. For more details on discoloration, see the “Brown, Red, Orange, or Yellow Water” section under “Color Problems”.
Another cause of brown or orange particles in water could be a defective water softener. Inside a water softener are many small, round beads. The mechanism that keeps these beads in the tank can break, releasing the beads into your water. These beads vary in size and color vary by manufacturer, however, some commonly used beads are about the size of fish eggs and are brown or orange in color. If you see that the particles in your water are uniform in shape, size and color, and you have a water softener; contact your service agent for repairs.
Black particles can come from four common sources:
• The inside of a steel pipe.
• A broken water filter.
• A degrading faucet washer or gasket.
• A disintegrating black rubber, flexible supply hose.
Particles from the inside of a steel pipe are discussed in more detail under the “Brown or Orange Particles” section.
If the particles are very hard, similar in size and shape, and might be described as large coffee grounds, they are probably ‘granular activated carbon’ (GAC) from inside of a GAC water filter. If you have this type of filter and experience this type of problem, replace the filter or consult with the manufacturer of the unit.
White or Tan Particles
White or tan particles usually come from one of three places:
• The inside of your pipes.
• Your water heater.
• Your water softener.
White or tan particles can be a combination of calcium carbonate and magnesium carbonate; this material is often referred to as ‘pipe scale’. Calcium and magnesium carbonates are naturally occurring minerals and are found in varying concentrations in most water around the world. These minerals are not a health threat; in fact, they are beneficial to human health. The amounts of these minerals in water determine the hardness of the water, higher mineral concentrations make the water ‘harder’. Over time, these minerals can deposit on the inside of your pipes and then begin to flake off. If the water provided by the city becomes softer, or if you add a water softener to your plumbing system, the softer water can re-dissolve the minerals from the pipes and pieces may begin to flake loose. These are all common causes of pipe scale in the water and account for most customer complaints about white or tan particles in the water. Although pipe scale is not a health hazard, it can be a nuisance by clogging inlet screens on washing machines, shower heads, and aerator screens on water faucets.