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Three common Problems in your Drinking Water
Corrosion can occur when water reacts with metal plumbing. Dissolved oxygen, low pH (acidic water), and low mineral content in water are common causes of corrosion. Corrosion can cause unsafe levels of lead and copper to dissolve into your drinking water. It may eventually cause leaky pipes, faucets, hot water heaters, or other plumbing fixtures. You can have your water tested to find out the saturation index (how corrosive your water is).
Lead is a toxic metal once used in solder, pipes, and plumbing fixtures. Lead solder (50/50 tin/lead) was used to join copper pipes until 1984 when it was banned in Wisconsin. High lead levels in the body can damage many body organs and systems. Lead can be especially dangerous to young children, infants, and the unborn. A child's mental and physical development can be irreversibly affected by lead exposure.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has established an action level of .015 milligrams per liter (mg/L) for lead in drinking water. Public water supplies above this level are required to find ways to reduce the lead levels.
Risk factors for lead in drinking water include:
Some faucets contain lead as a component of brass.
Some public water supplies, even if they do not have lead service lines, may have lead service connections where the line to the home meets the water main in the street.
Submersible pumps in private wells may contribute small amounts of lead to water in their first month of operation.
Some private water well screens (pre-1991) contain lead or a lead packing collar.
Shooting the well point with a gun to clear the drive point could contribute lead and is not recommended.
Some parts of the lead-zinc mining region of southwestern Wisconsin have naturally occurring lead in groundwater.
Some groundwater near existing or former cherry orchards in Door County may contain lead because of pesticide use.
Copper is the metal commonly used to manufacture water pipes. Too much copper in drinking water may cause vomiting, stomach cramps, diarrhea, and nausea. Some cases of formula intolerance in infants may be caused by high copper levels in water. Loss of copper from your pipes into drinking water may also eventually cause leaks in the pipes.
Blue or green stains on porcelain fixtures indicate that significant corrosion problems exist and copper is being lost from your pipes. Copper corroded from pipes may cause metallic taste in drinking water.
Infants and children are particularly sensitive to elevated copper levels in water. The U.S. EPA has established an action level of 1.3 mg/L. Long term exposure to high copper levels may cause kidney or liver damage in infants.
Options for preventing corrosion-related problems include:
Replace metal pipes and fixtures with plastic.
Flush pipes before consuming the water to limit your exposure to lead and/or copper.
Increase the hardness or alkalinity of the water with a water treatment device in the home, such as a neutralizer.
Water softeners remove nearly all the calcium and magnesium from the water, so no scale buildup can occur. When there is no scale formation, the metal plumbing may become more susceptible to the dissolving action of the water passing through it.