City + Well Water: The Details

City Water

Before diving into any issues with city water, we want to thank those who work in the municipalities and take the responsibility for providing safer, quality water delivered to our homes. That being said, here are some commonly found elements in city water.

  • Hard Water

 is a term used to describe water that contains dissolved rocks. The dissolved limestone causes mineral deposits that speckle dishes, faucets, sinks, toilets, cars — in effect all surfaces — with a microscopic film. These deposits build up inside pipes, heaters, appliances, and bathroom and kitchen fixtures. They can even stick to fibers of your clothing or linens after wash. Hard water uses four times as much soap and cleaning products as softened water.
  • Chlorine Used for the treatment of water supplies to eliminate many waterborne diseases, but can leave water with a nasty taste and smell. Chlorinating water causes multiple negative side effects which are typically listed in your local City Water Report as disinfection byproducts or DPBs. Research conducted by both Harvard University and the Medical College of Wisconsin concluded chlorinated water supplies directly caused 9% of all bladder cancers and 15% of all rectal cancers. Chlorination is still the most cost-effective way to prevent water borne illnesses. It’s kind of like buying a sack of bread; the sack keeps the bread fresh until you use it, but you don’t eat the sack. Similarly, chlorine protects the water until it reaches our home, but when it enters our home, it should be removed.
  • Trihalomethanes Strong poisonous compounds formed by organic chemicals reacting with chlorine treated drinking water. Responsible for around 10 percent of rectal & bladder cancers according to The American Journal of Public Health.
  • Lead This heavy metal finds its way into our drinking water supplies between initial treatment and point of usage from old pipes or lead solder used in joining new piping systems. Lead contaminated water poses a serious health risk to all ages, and can cause learning difficulties, behavioral problems, mental and physical retardation, hypertension, strokes, and heart disease. Lead poisoning can take years before the effects can be detected but often the damage is already done.
  • Viruses & Bacteria Coliform and E-coli are some of the most common types of bacteria found in the water supply. Some can be harmless but others can cause gastrointestinal problems.
  • Nitrates Normally traced to the use of fertilizers and/or sewage contamination, nitrate reacts with other chemicals & forms Nitrite within the digestive tract. It can then go on to form carcinogens which at excessive levels can cause Blue baby syndrome.
  • Organic Chemicals Many of these originate from pesticides, weed killers, commercial & domestic waste.
  • Aluminum There are clear links between Aluminum & Alzheimer’s Disease. Aluminum also raises the acidity of water allowing it to absorb greater levels of lead, cadmium, copper and other heavy metals from piping systems.
  • Mercury More likely to affect people who use a natural water source, it can cause ulcers, skin irritations, dental problems, internal bleeding, and liver & kidney damage.
  • Polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) Cast iron or mild steel pipelines which have been treated with asphalt or bitumen coating to prevent corrosion can leach PAHs, which are believed to be carcinogenic.

Well and Spring Water

Well water is unique from one well to the next because the contents of the ground where the well is drilled will be found in the water. When you have a private well, you alone are responsible for the water quality. Here are some commonly found elements in well water:

  • Iron and manganese cause difficult to remove stains on fixtures and clothes.
  • Hydrogen sulfide a rotten-egg smelling gas is a nuisance at very low levels
  • Microorganisms bacteria, viruses, parasites and other microorganisms often found in water. Shallow wells — those with water close to ground level — have the highest risk. Runoff, or water flowing over the land surface, may pick up these pollutants from wildlife and soils after flooding. Some microorganisms cause a variety of illnesses, with symptoms including nausea and diarrhea, that can occur shortly after drinking contaminated water. The effects could be short-term but severe (like food poisoning), frequently reoccur, or develop slowly over a long time. 
  • Heavy metals like arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead, and selenium. Frequently conducted tests consistently find arsenic levels in local wells above the EPA limit. Lead, more commonly derived from at-home plumbing materials, can be found naturally.
  • Radionuclides radioactive elements such as uranium and radium. They may be present in underlying rock and groundwater 
  • Radon gas that is a natural byproduct of the breakdown of uranium in the soil. Radon is most dangerous when inhaled and contributes to lung cancer. Although soil is the primary source, using household water containing Radon contributes to elevated indoor radon levels. Radon is less dangerous when consumed in water, but remains a risk to health. 
  • Nitrates and Nitrites caused by the breakdown of nitrogen compounds in the soil. Although high nitrate levels are usually due to human activities, they may be found naturally in groundwater. Drinking too much nitrates is particularly threatening to infants.