Water Quality Q & A
From time to time, our customers have questions related to their water service. Below are the some of the most frequently asked water quality questions and answers. Please see the corresponding answer below the list of questions.
Fluoride in Drinking Water
Questions and Answers
These are the some of the most frequently asked water quality questions and answers that we receive from our customers.
1. What is pure water?
Pure water means different things to different people. We know that all life is dependent on water and that water exists in nature in many forms. However, strictly speaking, pure water does not exist for any appreciable time in nature. Even while falling as rain, water picks up small amounts of gases, ions, dust, and particulate matter from the atmosphere. Then, as it flows over or through the surface layers of the earth, it dissolves and carries with it some of almost everything it touches, including that which is dumped into it.
These added substances may be classified as biological, chemical (organic and inorganic), physical and radiological impurities. They may include industrial and commercial solvents, metal and acid salts, sediments, pesticides, herbicides, plant nutrients, radioactive material, road salts, decaying animal and vegetable matter, and living organisms such as algae, bacteria, and viruses. Many of these impurities are removed or rendered harmless during the water treatment process in potable drinking water plants.
One means for establishing and assuring the purity and safety of water is to set a standard for various contaminants. A drinking water standard is a definite rule, principle, or measurement which establishes safety by a governmental authority.
2. Is my water safe to drink?
In this context, "safe" is a relative term that must be considered based on each individual's health and overall well being. Drinking water can reasonably be expected to contain at least small amounts of some impurities. As long as those contaminants are at levels no higher than those set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or NJ Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) drinking water standards, the water is considered safe to drink for healthy people. People with severely weakened immune systems or other specific health conditions should consult with their personal physicians to discuss their drinking water needs.
Those who wish to take extra measures to avoid waterborne illnesses due to pathogens can bring their drinking water to a boil for a full minute
3. How do I determine the quality of my water?
At New Jersey American Water, we routinely sample and analyze our source water, water quality throughout our treatment process and throughout our distribution system to deliver water service that meets all the drinking water standards established by the state and federal regulations. Summaries of our test results are distributed to our customers annually in a Consumer Confidence Report.
Customers who wish to have further testing may opt to pay to have their water tested by a state-certified laboratory.
4. Where can I get my water tested?
If you are concerned about a contaminant, you may choose to have your water tested by a state-certified laboratory. State certified private laboratories will collect and analyze samples for a fee depending on the type of test. Water samples should only be taken under their direction.
A list of certified drinking water labs can be found on the NJ Department of Environmental Protection website or in the yellow pages of your phone directory.
5. Why must chlorine be added to the water?
Chlorine is added to the water for the customer's protection. It is a disinfectant that is used to provide continuous protection against microbial contamination. Regulations require minimum chlorine residual to be present in the water at the furthest point of the distribution system. Consequently, customers who live or work closest to the facility may experience higher levels of chlorine. Read more...
6. Why is my drinking water discolored? (See various descriptions listed below)
7. My drinking water often looks cloudy when first taken from a faucet and then it clears. Why is that?
The cloudy water is caused by tiny air bubbles in the water similar to the gas bubbles in soda. After a while, the bubbles rise to the top and are gone, this cloudiness occurs more often in winter when the drinking water is cold and the home, along with its plumbing is heated.
8. What makes ice cubes cloudy?
Air that is trapped in the ice gives it a cloudy appearance. Commercially made ice is stirred as it is frozen. Household ice is not. Without mixing, many more ice crystals form and air is trapped in the ice. Light rays are distorted by these crystals and air, and this distortion gives home frozen ice a cloudy appearance.
9. How do you get rid of the black film around the toilet?
This film can be a result of many factors, some internal to the home, such as a water softener or plumbing. It may also be related to the condition of the water coming in to the premise. Hard water can leave deposits on toilets and dishwashers which are the mineral salts left behind as the water evaporates. Rings on baths, and showers, can also be scum left behind as the water evaporates or from soap or shampoos reacting with hard water. Black slime is usually mold/mildew that thrive in moist areas like bathroom toilets and tiles where it is wet and warm. The film that develops on sink stoppers is again non-harmful bacteria and residue build up. Usually, the customer will need to clean the area with a commercial cleaner that contains a disinfecting agent, such as chlorine bleach.
10. Why do I get blue-green stains on sink and tub fixtures?
The blue-green stain that you sometimes find on the surface of sinks and bathtubs is a copper compound. The compounds that usually cause this discoloration are dibasic copper carbonate and dibasic copper sulfate. The stain will form when there is copper content in the water and water is able to stand and evaporate. The most common circumstances that result in a stain are a dripping faucet and the presence of copper plumbing. The stain will form faster when there is a porous surface, such as an older sink or bathtub, for the copper compounds to adhere to. The water supplied to New Jersey American Water customers does not contain any measurable amount of copper. But the water can pick up copper from the copper pipes and fixtures of the household plumbing.
The stain can be removed by treating the stained surface with a rust remover or a mixture of retail toilet cleaning crystals (Saniflush or Vanish) and water. These crystal toilet bowl cleaners contain sodium bisulfite, which will dissolve the stain away in minutes. The trouble with porous surfaces is that the stain will reappear sooner than it will on a smooth surface, and will need to be cleaned more often. An abrasive cleaner won't do a very good job of removing copper or iron stains because these cleansers contain oxidizing agents -- as opposed to the reducing agents found in crystal bowl cleaners. Also, the uses of abrasive cleaners make the fixture surface become more porous, which causes the stain to reappear faster.
11. What is the rust stain?
Different factors may be causing the rust stain. There may be a discolored water event in an area due to fire hydrant use. Also, high iron levels in the water will leave rust stains behind as the water evaporates and the iron oxidizes, leaving the red iron tinge. People with galvanized steel service lines and/or internal plumbing may see rust stains and particles periodically in the water in their sinks and toilet bowls or on the aerator screens in faucets. This is the result of corrosion in the plumbing and not the water supplied.
12. What is the 'pink" stain?
People sometimes see a pink ring develop on the flat surfaces of their shower, in their pet's water bowls, or toilets that are not used frequently. This is a colored organism that is present in the air that does grow in these areas. It is a harmless bacterium and exists in moist/humid conditions. The customer can remove the pink ring by cleaning the area periodically with a commercial cleaning product that contains bleach.
13. Why does water sometimes taste/smell funny?
14. How can I improve the taste of my water?
The taste of water can be improved simply by refrigerating your drinking water in a pitcher or container. To remove any chlorine taste or odors simply shake the covered container and allow it to sit in the refrigerator over night. The chlorine will dissipate.
15. Why does my water smell like rotten eggs or sewage?
Sometimes customers report that their tap water smells septic, swampy moldy or like sewage or sewer gas, or sometimes sulfur or rottem eggs. These odors are often caused by gases forming in the household drain. These gases are formed by bacteria which live on food, soap, hair and other organic matter in the drain. These gases are heavier than air and remain in the drain until the water is turned on. As the water runs down the drain, the gases are expelled into the atmosphere around the sink. It is natural to associate these odors with the water because they are observed only when the water is turned on. In this case, the odor is not in the water, it is simply the water pushing the gas out of the drain. This can be verified by taking a glass of water from the tap and walking away to another area to smell the glass of water. If it still smells, please contact our Customer Service Center at 1-800-652-6987.
If you determine it is the drain, to eliminate this type odor, the bacteria must be killed by disinfecting the drain. Effective disinfection can be achieved by following these six steps.
Caution: do not mix any drain cleaners or detergents with bleach; certain combinations can create toxic fumes.
If the odor is detected only in your hot water supply, it may be an indication that there is an issue with your hot water heater. A sulfurous or rotten egg-like odor in the hot water is caused by bacteria growing in the water heater. This usually happens when the water heater is turned off while on vacation, when the hot water has not been used for a long time or when the temperature setting on the heater is set too low. The bacteria in the water heater are not a health threat; however, they must be eliminated to stop the odor problem. You should consult your owner's manual or contact a licensed plumber.
16. What are those white flaky particles in my water?
Customers often call to report white particles clogging their shower heads, faucet aerators or floating in the bath tub or water glasses. These particles are often described as resembling eggshell fragments, scale or oatmeal. In many instances our laboratory has determined that these particles are plastic and that the source was limited to the hot water. It was further determined that the source of these particles is the failure of the plastic dip tube located inside the hot water heater in the home.
Water heaters sold under a number of other brand names may have been manufactured by one of these 6 companies.
17. What is the difference between "hard" and "soft" water?
Hardness is a term used to describe the high level of calcium and magnesium in the water. Excessive hardness can cause scale (white spots) to be deposited in boilers, pipelines, faucet aerators and shower heads. Hard water also requires the use of large amounts of laundry soap to achieve the desired results. The use of water softeners adds sodium to the water, which acts as a softening agent. Soft water is either water that is low in calcium or magnesium, or water that has been treated in a softener. Read more...
18. Why does my dishwasher leave spots on my glasses?
The spots that might appear on glassware after it is washed and air-dried are caused by harmless minerals (usually calcium) that remain on the glass when the water evaporates. Commercial products are available that allow the water to drain from the glassware more completely. Spots on glass shower doors appear for the same reason.
In July 2010, a new law required manufacturers of dishwasher detergent to lower the phosphate levels being added to dishwasher detergents. Phosphate softens the water, allowing the soap to be more effective in removing food residue. Removing or lowering the phosphate levels may cause white powder residue on dishes and cloudy glassware at the end of the normal wash and dry cycle. For more information, see this article.
Customers who experience the white residue on glassware can periodically add a half cup of white vinegar to the beginning of the wash. The vinegar will provide enough acid to prevent hardness residue from remaining on glassware. As an added note, Consumer Reports notes that various products sold by CASCADE have been found to be the best for dishwasher use. Follow all manufacturers recommendations regarding your dishwasher use.
19. Why are there white deposits found around my showerhead?
If a particular area has hard water, it is most likely a result of the mineral deposits which form when the water evaporates. There are commercial products available in stores which will remove this build-up. Soaking the shower head in a solution of white vinegar will also dissolve the deposits.
20. Should I get a home water softener?
A water softener can improve the aesthetic qualities of your household water. For example, soap products perform better in softer water. But a water softener does not improve the safety or quality of water as it relates to health. Most water softeners exchange sodium for existing calcium and magnesium in the water and therefore, increase the sodium content of the water. The sodium increase in softened water may be a concern to you. If you are on a sodium-restricted diet, you may want to consult your physician prior to purchasing a system.
Also, there is evidence that softened water may be corrosive to certain metallic pipe materials.
The cost of softening water is another factor that must be taken into consideration. According to Consumer Reports, water softeners can consume from 15 to 120 gallons of water for every 1,000 gallons of water processed. The decision to purchase a home water softener is therefore one of personal preference.
21. Is there lead in my water?
Test results of the water quality at our customer taps and ongoing analysis of our sources have shown that the water supplied by New Jersey American Water contains no detectable lead. Our source water contains no lead. If there are lead-soldered copper pipes or brass faucets in your home, these may be acting as a source of lead in your water. The brass in most faucets (even chrome-plated faucets may be brass underneath) contains between 5% and 8% lead. To eliminate the risk of lead exposure from such faucets, take these simple precautions:
For more information, read more about lead and drinking water.
22. Do you add fluoride to the water?
New Jersey American Water is neutral on the issue of fluoridation of drinking water supplies. We consider the fluoridation of drinking water supplies to be a community-based decision. This means that any system in which we currently fluoridate, the decision to initiate fluoridation was not made by the company. Read more...
23. Will a home treatment device improve the safety of my water?
The tap water provided by New Jersey American Water meets or exceeds all federal and state drinking water standards set for public health. While some home treatment devices can remove chlorine and taste/odor constituents, home treatment devices rarely improve the safety of the water to any significant degree. Home treatment devices require regular service. When homeowners do not maintain the home treatment devises as recommended by the manufacturer, it reduces the effectiveness of these devices and possibly results in lower quality water.
Before purchasing a home water treatment unit, consider local water quality, cost and maintenance of the unit, product performance and certifications to make sure the unit will meet your needs
24. Why are their aerators on home water faucets?
When mixed with water, tiny air bubbles from the aerator prevent the water from splashing too much. Because the water flow is less, often half the regular flow, aerators also help to conserve water.
25. Why do ice cubes bulge from the top of the ice-cube trays?
Water expands when it freezes. Because the ice cube tray has a bottom and four sides that don't move, ice bulges out of the open top as the water expands. Because frozen water is expanded, it is lighter than water. Therefore, in the winter, ice floats on the surface while the water underneath stays liquid.
26. Where can I obtain additional information about my water quality?
View the Water Quality Report for your water system or contact New Jersey American Water's Customer Service Center at 1-800-652-1325.
Dated: February 2011