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Erin James Virginia Master Well Owner Network Training Water Quality Contaminants of Concern.

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Presentation on theme: "Erin James Virginia Master Well Owner Network Training Water Quality Contaminants of Concern."— Presentation transcript:

1 Erin James Virginia Master Well Owner Network Training Water Quality Contaminants of Concern

2 2 Sources of potential contaminants or issues of concern pH/corrosivity hardness nitrate fluoride TDS iron manganese sulfate chloride sodium Surface water contamination: nitrate, bacteria Source may be plumbing materials or existing water treatment device: sodium copper lead bacteria Often found in groundwater naturally, may be due to man’s activities on or below ground: well

3 Testing water quality Why test? Protect family’s health and safety Many contaminants undetectable by human senses Preventive measures often more effective and less expensive Legal protection When to test? Routine tests every 1-3 years Pregnant woman or infant in the home Recurring gastrointestinal illness Change in taste, appearance, odor of water Any services or repairs are done 3

4 What should I test for? Every year test for coliform bacteria Simple, inexpensive test ($15-20) Indicates possible contamination from human or animal waste Every three years test: pH (secondary std: 6.5 – 8.5) Total Dissolved Solids (TDS; secondary std 500 mg/L) Other contaminants based on local land uses nearby and condition of water 4

5 Understanding test results Most results provided as concentrations: mg/L (milligrams per liter) ≈ ppm (parts per million) µg/L = (micrograms per liter) ≈ ppb (parts per billion) Other units unique to test Radon, hardness, pH Compare to EPA standards: 5

6 Private Water Supply Regulations 6 Virginia Private Well Regulations o Specify application, inspection and construction requirements o No requirements for maintenance or water testing after construction of well – responsibility of the owner! EPA National Drinking Water Standards o Apply to PUBLIC systems o Primary (health) and Secondary (nuisance) o Can be used as guidance for private systems to know “how much is too much”

7 EPA Drinking Water Standards Primary Standards Also called Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) Cause health problems Enforced for public systems Over 80 contaminants For example: o Nitrate o Lead o Coliform o Most organic chemicals and pesticides Secondary Standards Also called SMCL or RMCL Cause aesthetic problems: o Staining o Taste o Odor Can naturally occur in ground water About 15 contaminants including: o Iron o Fluoride o Chloride 7

8 Tests for Specific Health Concerns 8 SituationRecommended Tests Family members or guests with recurring incidents of gastrointestinal illness Coliform bacteria, nitrate, sulfate Household plumbing contains lead pipes, fittings or solder joints or brass pH, corrosion index, lead, copper, cadmium, zinc Household with pregnant woman or young infant Coliform bacteria, nitrate Family member on recommended low-sodium diet Sodium Adapted from Household Water Testing. 2000. Blake Ross, Kathleen Parrott, and Janice Woodward (VCE pub 356-485)

9 Tests based on nearby land use 9 If you suspect or observeRecommended Tests Leaking fuel tankHydrocarbon scan Coal miningTDS, iron, sulfate, pH, corrosivity, manganese, aluminum Gas or oil drillingTDS, chloride, sodium, barium, lead, pH, corrosivity, strontium Road salt storage or applicationTDS, chloride, sodium Landfill or dumpTDS, pH, chemical oxygen demand, VOC scan, heavy metals Land application of sludgeTotal coliform, nitrate, heavy metals Septic systemFecal coliform/E. coli, nitrate, surfactants Intensive agricultural useTotal coliform, nitrate, pesticide scan, pH, TDS Adapted from Household Water Testing. 2000. Blake Ross, Kathleen Parrott, and Janice Woodward (VCE pub 356-485)

10 Nuisance Problems 10 SymptomDescriptionRecommended Tests Stained plumbing fixtures Red or brown Reddish-brown slime Black Green or Blue Chalky white Iron Iron bacteria Manganese Copper Hardness Off-color waterCloudy Black Brown or yellow Turbidity, suspended solids Hydrogen sulfide, Mn Iron, tannic acid Unusual taste or odorRotten egg Metallic Salty Septic, musty, earthy Alkali, bitter Gasoline or oil Soapy Hydrogen sulfide pH, corrosivity, Fe, Cu, Zn, Pb TDS, chloride, sodium Coliform, methane pH, TDS Hydrocarbon scan Surfactants or detergents Corrosive waterDeposits, pitting of plumbing Corrosivity, pH, copper, lead Adapted from Household Water Testing. 2000. Blake Ross, Kathleen Parrott, and Janice Woodward (VCE pub 356-485)

11 Coliform Bacteria Cannot be smelled, tasted or seen Coliform bacteria is an indicator organism – means disease-causing pathogens may be present (e.g., Dysentery, Hepatitis, Typhoid, Cholera, Giardia) Public standard is 0 colony forming units(cfu)/100 mL (ABSENT) Sources: Human and animal waste Insects, small animals in poorly sealed wells Flooding; older or shallow wells without sanitary well cap 11 Photo credits:,

12 If Coliform Bacteria are PRESENT Don’t panic! Recommend RETEST Use certified lab Follow with test for E. Coli bacteria Take this as an opportunity to examine well or spring for damage or needed improvements Consider shock chlorination Long term treatment options: ozonation, UV light, continuous chlorination 12

13 If E. Coli Bacteria are PRESENT Take immediate steps to address Shock chlorinate Retest water In the meantime, consider boiling for at least 3 minutes or use another source of water for drinking or cooking Check for potential contamination sources, examine well or spring Consider long-term treatment options: UV light, ozonation, continuous disinfection 13

14 Nitrate (NO 3 -N) Serious health concern for infants < 6 mo Methemoglobinemia or “blue baby syndrome” Nitrate  nitrite during digestion and blood cannot carry oxygen Sources include fertilizer, animal manure, sewage NO 3 dissolves and moves easily through soil Test in spring months; levels change over time BOILING INCREASES concentration of nitrates!!! Treatment: distillation, reverse osmosis, ion exchange 14

15 pH Measure of whether a substance is acidic or alkaline Scale: 0 (acidic) to 14 (alkaline) pH of 5 is 100 times more acidic than pH of 7 (logarithmic scale) Good indicator of general water quality 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 0 8 9 10 12 11 14 13 more acidic more alkaline Neutral Lemon juice Vinegar Recommended pH range 6.5 – 8.5 Milk Battery acid Ammonia Milk of magnesia Baking soda Sea water Lye Distilled water Coffee Bleach Gastric acid

16 Corrosive and Scaling Water Measure of alkalinity, TDS, and pH Corrosive (aggressive) water Corrodes metal in plumbing, causing damage, pitting Leaching of copper or lead into drinking water – health concern! EPA recommends drinking water be non-corrosive Scaling water Contains high levels of minerals Forms scale on inside of pipes and appliances, lime deposits on shower heads and taps Can lead to clogging of pipes, reduced efficiency of heaters and appliances 16;

17 Corrosive and Scaling Water Usually a measure of alkalinity, TDS, and pH; often reported as a Saturation Index (varies by lab) 17 Langelier Saturation Index (LSI) DescriptionRecommendation -5 to -3Severe corrosionTreatment recommended -3 to -1Moderate corrosionConsider treatment 1- to 1BalancedTreatment not needed 1 to 3Moderate scalingConsider treatment 3 to 5Severe scalingTreatment recommended

18 Corrosive Water Also called aggressive water Corrodes metal plumbing – can leach metals, causes pitting and leaks, reduces length of appliance life Most commonly caused by low pH; other contributing factors include alkalinity, temperature, TDS levels EPA recommends drinking water be non-corrosive Excess copper or lead in drinking water is a health concern Depending on pH, treat with acid neutralizing filter or soda ash injection 18;

19 Corrosive Water: Metals of concern Lead Many serious health effects, especially in children and infants Developmental, neurological, reproductive and renal EPA MCL is 0 µg/L with a health action level of 15 µg/L. Sources include: Pipes in older homes (pre-1930) Solder in homes built prior to 1986 “Lead-free” brass fixtures (<8%) – even in NEW homes! Copper High levels can cause nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps; infants and children particularly sensitive EPA MCL is 1.3 mg/L Nuisance effects noticeable at 1.0 mg/L 19

20 Hardness/Scaling;; 20 Hard water contains high levels of calcium and magnesium ions Dissolved into water during contact with limestone and other minerals Not a health risk – nuisance Decreased cleaning action of soaps, detergents Scale build-up in pipes and on appliances Reduced efficiency and lifespan of water heaters No EPA standard for public systems Treat using water softener

21 Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) Water is a great solvent – dissolves many compounds as it travels over and under ground TDS is a measure of all dissolved impurities < 2µm dia Natural sources: limestone, salt deposits, other minerals Man-made sources: Septic systems and sewage Run off from agricultural or urban land Road salt, industrial sources General indicator of water quality; test at least every three years EPA SMCL is 500 mg/L Treat using distillation or reverse osmosis 21

22 Fluoride Occurs naturally in varying levels Naturally high levels of F in E. Virginia groundwater (3-6 mg/L) Added to many public water systems for reduced dental caries and strong teeth and bones Health concerns: Long term exposure: links to bone cancer Shorter term exposure: dental or skeletal fluorosis EPA MCL 4.0 mg/L and SMCL 2.0 mg/L Optimum levels for public systems 0.8 - 1.2 mg/L Limited use for children up to 8 years Treatment (reverse osmosis) removes ALL fluoride 22;

23 Sodium and Chloride Low levels occur naturally; high levels usually from man-made source Road salt storage or application Sewage, fertilizers or animal waste WATER SOFTENER Sodium: EPA MCL for those onlow-sodium diets: 20 mg/L Chloride: EPA SMCL of 250 mg/L Higher levels may indicate contamination – test for bacteria or other contaminants Salty taste; increased corrosion of pipes and water heaters Treat using distillation, reverse osmosis, demineralization 23 /; /

24 Iron and Manganese Nuisance - not health concern SMCL:Iron = 0.3 mg/L Manganese = 0.05 mg/L Red-brown/black staining, particles, metallic taste Treatment depends on type/form of iron Ferrous: water initially clear  orange-brown or black solid particles Ferric: solid particles apparent immediately, or water has a tint Iron/Manganese bacteria: not a health concern; feed on Fe and Mn, forming red-brown or black-brown slime Treatment: water softener, aeration and filtration, ozonation, distillation 24

25 Hydrogen Sulfide Colorless gas; rotten egg smell Not regulated by EPA – people can detect low levels Naturally present in shale, sandstone, near coal or oil fields Sulfur-reducing bacteria produce (not a health risk) Treatment depends on concentration, so must test Only noticeable in hot water? Bacteria could be thriving in your water heater Sulfates may be converted to H 2 S chemically in your water heater during a reaction with your magnesium corrosion control rod 25

26 What do you recall about….. Iron and manganese Bacteria Hardness Corrosive and Scaling Water Hydrogen Sulfide Nitrate Sodium TDS Fluoride 26

27 Nuisance problems 27,

28 Nuisance problems 28 Photo credits:,,

29 Nuisance problems 29 Photo credits: Midland Corrosion Associates,,,

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