Cloudy, Foamy, or Milky Water?
If you are experiencing cloudiness in the cold water, hot water or both hot and cold water the cloudiness is caused by tiny air bubbles. When water temperatures are cold (<50ᵒF) extra oxygen molecules are readily accepted by the water molecule (H2O). The water and air is then held under pressure in your water pipes, much like a bottle of soda. When you turn on your tap, the pressure is released, allowing the bubbles to appear, just as removing the cap from a soda bottle causes the soda to fizz. If you allow a glass of water to stand for a few moments, the cloudiness will begin to clear at the bottom and rise to the top. This phenomenon is called entrained air and does not affect the quality of your water. The water is perfectly safe to drink.
Brown or Yellow Water?
Brown or yellow water on first draw lasting for only minute?
This could indicate an internal plumbing problem of your house. Many houses have galvanized iron pipe or galvanized fixtures, when the zinc coating on the inside wears thin, the water comes in contact with bare iron causing it to become discolored. The longer the water stays static in the pipes, the more the discolored it will become. That is why this problem is usually noticeable the first time you turn on the tap in the morning.
Flush the line for a minute or so and the water should become clear. Iron poses no health risk when consumed. Iron is an essential nutrient and is only considered an aesthetic issue.
Brown or yellow cold water?
Light yellow to dark reddish brown water is typically caused by a disturbance of pipeline sediments in the water main. The discoloration is caused by dissolved iron which is stirred up in naturally-occurring sediments that exist in all water systems.
The discolored water may be due to planned cleaning of the water main to remove pipeline sediments in your area.
Entities such as Fire Departments opening or closing of a water hydrant for pressure testing located near your home may stir sediment.
Pipeline repair work (or construction activity) in the area can also contribute.
Iron is an aesthetic issue and is not an indicator that the water is unsafe or that the integrity of the water main has been compromised. A disinfectant residual is maintained at all times to ensure that the water is safe for household use, including cooking and drinking. If you experience this type of discolored water take precautions to clear the lines to your laundry facility to prevent articles of clothing from becoming stained. Please call Public Utilities at (919) 563-3401 to report any discoloration that has not cleared within a few hours.
Black or gray water?
When water appears gray or black it is typically caused by a disturbance of sediment in the pipeline. The discoloration is caused by the presence of manganese. Manganese is naturally occurring sediment and is an aesthetic issue. The presence of manganese sediment is not an indicator that the water is unsafe or that the integrity of the water main has been compromised. A disinfectant residual is maintained at all times to ensure that the water is safe for household use, including cooking and drinking. If you experience this type of discolored water take precautions to clear the lines to your laundry facility to prevent articles of clothing from becoming stained. Please call Public Utilities at (919) 563-3401 to report any discoloration lasting longer than 24 hours with internal flushing or clears but returns every few days.
Standing water, such as in a white bathtub, will sometimes appear to have a greenish tint to it. Fluorescent lighting can also give the water a green appearance. To test this, fill a white bucket with water and take it outside, there should be no color visible in natural light. If the water still appears green please call Public Utilities at (919) 563-3401.
Black particles can come from three common sources: a broken water filter, a degrading faucet washer or gasket, or a disintegrating black rubber flexible supply line hose (for a water heater, washing machine, or kitchen faucet, etc.).
If the particles are very hard, similar in size and shape, and look like large coffee grounds, they are probably granular activated carbon (GAC) particles from the inside of a GAC water filter that you have installed. Replace the filter cartridge or consult with the manufacturer or the vendor who sold it to you.
If the particles are solid but rubbery in texture, they could be pieces of an old disintegrating faucet washer or gasket. If this is the problem, the particles would likely only be present at one faucet and that faucet is already leaking. Replace the faucet washers and the packing at the ends of the supply lines.
If the particles are small black particles that can be easily smeared between two fingers, or have a tar like consistency, they are probably from the inside of a flexible hose connected to the water heater. These black rubber hoses are covered with a braided stainless steel mesh. Over time, the chloramine in the water causes the rubber to break down. The flexible line will need to be replaced; we recommend that you contact a licensed plumber to assure that all fixtures meet local plumbing codes.
Brown or Orange Particles
Brown or orange particles can be rust particles that have broken off the inside of your water pipes or the water mains. These particles are very hard, irregular in size and shape, and can be several different colors (including black). This type of sediment is an aesthetic issue and not considered a health hazard.
Another common cause of brown or orange particles in the water is a malfunctioning water softener. The particles will be uniform in size, typically the size of fish eggs, and are brown or orange and feel spherical if rubbed between your fingers. The microbeads are contained within the softening unit by a thin membrane that over time can break, releasing millions of these microbeads into your water lines. If you can locate the by-pass valve of your softener you can temporarily resolve the issue until you can call your service agent for repairs. If the device is not in use you will want to make sure it is not connected up to your internal plumbing, even if the device is unplugged it can affect your water quality.
White or tan particles in the water usually come from internal plumbing. This material is pipe scale and is a combination of calcium carbonate and magnesium carbonate. Calcium and magnesium carbonates are naturally occurring minerals and are not a health hazard.
The water heater is another source for white or tan particles. As the water is heated, calcium and magnesium carbonates can precipitate out of the water, forming white or tan sand-like deposits. As you use the hot water, these minerals can be carried along. To keep mineral deposits from accumulating in the water heater, follow the manufacturer’s maintenance instructions of your water heater.
If the white particles are clogging the aerators of faucets, shower heads and appliances they could also becoming from the water heater. A water heater contains a plastic dip tube that takes the cold incoming water to the bottom of the tank. As the tube ages, it can disintegrate, sending white particles throughout the hot water lines. These particles are brittle and vary in size and shape. They can look like chips, shards or even plastic strips.
Chlorine or Chemical Odor?
If you detect a chlorine or medicinal odor, it is most likely the chloramine that the Water Treatment Plant uses to disinfect the water to ensure that it is safe to drink. Although the total chlorine level is a fraction of what is found in pools and spas, you may occasionally detect the smell of chlorine in your water.
Foul / Sulfur / Rotten Egg / Sewage Odor?
If the odor is a sulfur/rotten egg or sewerage smell that you only smell at the sink and not in the glass you can easily remedy this by applying a small amount of bleach into the drain trap at bedtime and let it stand through the night. Do not run the water until morning to give the bleach time to kill the bacteria (the cause for this odor) in the drain. This may take more than one application.
- If the source of the odor is the cold water please call Public Utilities at (919) 563-3401.
- If the source of the odors is the hot water only, we recommend you contact a licensed plumber.