Frequently Asked Questions
These are the most common questions we receive. If you didn’t find the answer to your questions here, please contact us.
Q: What can I do about low water pressure?
A: St. Michael, Albertville, and Hanover actually have very HIGH pressure in comparison to many water systems. It ranges from 60 to 90 psi depending on what elevation your home is at. If you have pressure problems and you live in a low area (i.e., Hanover or The Preserve), you may have a pressure-reducing valve on your incoming water line to protect your appliances against too MUCH pressure. This valve can fail, and if you believe this maybe the case you should contact a plumber, as it may need to be replaced or reset.
Q: There is a blue-green stain where my water drips into my sink. What causes this?
A: This stain comes from the chemical copper. The copper is likely present in your home plumbing and is being dissolved into the drinking water. The water from our water supply is slightly corrosive, so we add what is called a PHOSPHATE to the water to provide a coating in the pipes (main lines and household plumbing). This coating can take some time to develop, so if you have a new home, you may be more likely to see this blue-green staining. To clean the sink or tub, check with your local hardware store for stain-removal products.
Q: Will I lose the benefits of fluoride in my drinking water if I install a home treatment device or drink bottled water?
A: Certain types of home treatment devices will remove 85 to more than 95 percent of all the minerals in water, including fluoride. The devices that do this are reverse osmosis, distillation units, and deionization units (not water softeners as those leave fluoride in the water.) If you use one of these types of devices, consult with your dentist about fluoride and possibly your doctor about iodine supplements.
The situation with bottled water is less clear. One recent study at the University of Texas’ Dental Branch in Houston showed many bottled waters contained very little fluoride, although a few contained adequate amounts. Unfortunately, even in those products, the fluoride level dropped to about 25 to 50 percent of the original value over a two-year sampling period, without a change in product name or label. If you are drinking bottled water, most likely you are not getting much fluoride. Remember if you are using bottled water to make formula for your baby, be sure to talk to your doctor about using fluoride supplements.
Q: Is water with chlorine in it safe to drink?
A: Yes. Many tests have shown that the amount of chlorine found in treated water is safe to drink, although some people object to the taste and/or odors. The chlorine is necessary, however, to prevent bacterial growth in the pipes, including household plumbing.
Q: Why does my drinking water look cloudy when first taken from a faucet and then it clears up?
A: The cloudy water is caused by tiny air bubbles in the water similar to the gas bubbles in beer and carbonated soft drinks. After a while, the bubbles rise to the top and are gone. This type of cloudiness occurs more often in the winter, when the drinking water is cold.
Q: Should I install a water softener in my home?
A: If you are bothered by a sticky, gummy soap curd deposit in your bathtub or by the buildup of white deposits (called scale) on your cooking pots and coffee maker, a water softener can help with these problems. The Joint Powers Water Board water is considered “hard” at 22 grains per gallon. The higher the hardness number, the more a water softener will help. If it is more than 120 milligrams per liter, abbreviated mg/L – sometimes called 120 parted per million or 7 grains per gallon – then you might consider a water softener to reduce the formation of scale in your hot water system and to make washing easier.
The water softener replaces the nontoxic “hardness” minerals with sodium or potassium. The amounts of these elements are relatively insignificant in comparison to what you get in food and should not be a problem, unless your doctor has put you on a special restricted diet.
Whether to put the softener on your main water line or just the hot water line is a complicated issue. Softening only the hot water has some cost and environmental advantages related to regeneration, which is a process by which the softening materials (called resins) inside the softener can be used over and over again.
Water softeners are regenerated with salt. After the salt is used, it goes down the drain and into the environment – so the less salt used the better. Using less salt also saves you money. If you soften only the hot water, less water goes through the softener, so it needs regeneration less often, meaning less salt is being used. Also, regenerating a softener after a selected amount of water has gone through it rather than on a particular time schedule is better, as this prevents wasting salt by regenerating too soon or using the softener after it has stopped softening.
Finally, some people think bathing in completely soft water (both hot and cold water softened) is unpleasant – it feels like the soap won’t rinse off. You may be surprised to learn, however, that rinsing is actually more complete in soft water than in hard water. Although you can’t see it, when you bathe or wash your hair in hard water, some of the same stuff that causes the bathtub ring gets on your body or in your hair. With soft water this material does not form, so rinsing is more complete.
Softening only the hot water has two disadvantages. First, if you wash your clothes in cold water, you won’t get the benefit of soft water; however, you can buy products to add to your wash to help if this is a problem. Second and more important, if your water is very hard – more than twice the numbers mentioned above – when you mix the hot and cold water together, the water will still be hard and you won’t see much benefit from the softener. Softening only the hot water will also not help with the scale floating on your coffee.
Concern has been expressed by some about whether the installation of a water softener may raise the lead and copper content of drinking water in homes that are experiencing problems. Probably not, but the US Environmental Protection Agency is conducting research to investigate these matters.
Q: What is the white stuff that appears in my glass when ice cubes from my freezer melt?
A: Ice cubes freeze from the outside, so the center of the cube is the last to freeze. Since ice is pure water (only H2O), as the ice cube freezes, all of the dissolved minerals, like the hardness minerals, are pushed to the center of the ice cube. When the ice cube is near the end of the freezing there isn’t much water left in the center of the cube, so these minerals become very concentrated, and they form the “white stuff”. The technical name is precipitate. The hardness minerals that cause the “white stuff” are not toxic.
Some commercial ice cubes are “cored” after they freeze to remove this material.
Q: How do I get rid of the white stuff in my coffee pot, on my showerhead and on my glass shower door?
A: Minerals dissolved in water tend to settle when water is heated or left behind when it evaporates. These minerals are white and accumulate in coffee pots, on showerheads and on glass shower doors.
To remove these minerals, fill the coffee pot with vinegar and let it sit overnight, or soak the showerhead overnight in a plastic bowl filled with vinegar. Slowly adding 1 tablespoon of muriatic acid to 1 quart of vinegar will help, but is not necessary. Be careful not to spill this mixture. When you are done, carefully discard the contents of the plastic bowl down a drain, and flush the container and sink drain with plenty of water. NOTE: Rinse the coffee pot or showerhead thoroughly after treatment and before use. Pouring the excess hot liquid out of your coffee pot when you are finished with it will help somewhat in preventing this problem.
White spots on glass shower doors are difficult to remove with vinegar because the spots dissolve very slowly. A better idea is to prevent the spots from forming by wiping the glass door with a damp sponge or towel after each shower.
NOTE: Some commercial establishments use untreated water for irrigation to save on tap water. If this is groundwater, it may be high in minerals and if this water sprays onto your car, it can leave spots. Vinegar will remove them. Rinse with good water after using the vinegar.
Q: Why does my dishwater leave spots on my glasses?
A: The spots that may appear on glassware after it is washed and air-dried are caused by nontoxic minerals that remain on the glass when the water evaporates. Commercial products are available that allow the water to drain from the glassware more completely.
Q: What is the hardness of the water?
A: 22 grains per gallon (or 375 mg/l). NOTE: When setting your water softener, you do NOT want to remove ALL the hardness, as a little bit of hardness provides some corrosion protection in your household plumbing. Try setting your softener to 20 or 21.
Q: Why is my meter reading estimated? (It has an “E” next to the current reading.)
A: You either did not submit your meter reading on time (if at all) or we did not receive it on time. NOTE: We also have a drop box near the front door of the Water Plant. You may also call anytime to leave your reading with one of our staff or simply leave it on the voicemail if after hours (be sure to leave your address, too.)
Q: Green Hair! What’s the matter with my water?
A: Copper. The copper in your hair is coming from the plumbing in your home and there are four major causes for the copper plumbing to deposit itself in your hair. Colored hair is the most susceptible due to the fact that it is pre-treated in order to accept color in the first place. Three of the four causes of copper getting into your water are what can be termed aggressiveness in the water. The first type of aggressiveness is acidity. When we think of acidity, we think of vinegar or orange juice. Your water, if acidic, is nowhere near as acidic as vinegar or orange juice, but the inside of your copper pipe is exposed to an almost relentless flow of slightly acidic water. The acidity dissolves the copper pipe from the inside and the dissolved copper is carried until it deposits itself in your hair and now that it is exposed to air, it oxidizes and turns blue/green.
The next type of aggressiveness is oxidation, and it is usually caused by chlorinated community water. The chlorine or chloramine will oxidize the inside of the copper pipes and the oxidized molecules peel off and are carried with the water until it deposits in your where it is already blue/green even before it is exposed to air.
The next major cause is natural copper in your well. It will deposit in your hair and turn it blue/green. The last major cause is improper grounding involving the plumbing. Most plumbing systems are grounded by the electrician who does the original electrical work in the home. Sometimes, a grounding clamp is removed for repairs and not replaced, or a phone, cable, electric fence, or other electric device is connected to the plumbing for a ground. Other times, there is a galvanic reaction between many different metals installed in the plumbing and they act in unison as a very low voltage battery. The stray current caused by these issues will suspend copper molecules which will eventually find their way to your hair, oxidize, and turn your hair blue/green.
An experienced water treatment technician can test your water and determine the cause for the greening. While some may not think this is an important thing to worry about since it is “only hair,” you should know that the green hair portends something much worse on its way, that is, thinned out plumbing and broken pipes with flooding. Think of your hair as an alarm, telling you to get your water fixed before major damage is done.
The earth on your house should read less than 1 ohm from any power socket to ground. The earth connection should be made via a dedicated earth cable from your consumer unit to ground via a buried metal spike. If you can feel a tingle (it’s safer to use a multi-meter tester) when you touch your water pipes, this is due to the voltage leak going to earth via your pipes rather than the correct route through the earth wire. Try switching off each mains fuse trip one at a time until you locate the circuit that is responsible for the voltage leak (tingle should disappear). Once you have located the offending circuit, unplug each appliance on that circuit until the leaky appliance is identified and have it repaired. You should then have your earth connection checked out.
Source: Plain Talk About Drinking Water: Questions and Answers About the Water You Drink Symons, James M. 3 rd Ed. American Water Works Association, Denver CO
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