Water Contaminants

Alkalinity

Source

Alkalinity is caused by the presence of bicarbonates, carbonates, and hydroxides in the water.

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Treatment Systems

Additional Information

Alkalinity moderates or buffers pH change. Excessive alkalinity produces a "soda" taste and it has a drying effect on the skin. No Federal limit:

  • Low Alkalinity < 30 mg/l
  • High Alkalinity > 300 mg/l

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Arsenic

Source

Discharge from semiconductor manufacturing; smelters; glass; petroleum refining; wood preservatives; animal feed additives; herbicides; erosion of natural deposits.

Recommended Test Kits

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Treatment Systems

Whole House Systems:

Additional Information

Arsenic sometimes occurs naturally in water and can be found in public and private water supplies. Arsenic is a semi-metal element in the periodic table. It is odorless and tasteless. It enters drinking water supplies from natural deposits in the earth or from agricultural and industrial practices. It is a poison that can pose a health risk for people and animals. Arsenic contamination of water can result from mining operations, semiconductor manufacturing, use of wood preservers, and pesticide application.

Arsenic is often found in ground water or mineral water at levels over 100 times the safe drinking water limits as established by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Arsenic has been linked to lung and skin cancer, and in some cases, to death. Non-cancer effects can include thickening and discoloration of the skin, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting; diarrhea; numbness in hands and feet; partial paralysis; and blindness. Arsenic has been linked to cancer of the bladder, lungs, skin, kidney, nasal passages, liver, and prostate. Consequently, anyone who has a private well should test their water for arsenic at least annually. The World Health Organization safe standard for arsenic is 10 parts per billion (ppb).

The EPA has set the arsenic standard for drinking water at .010 parts per million (10 parts per billion) to protect consumers served by public water systems from the effects of long-term, chronic exposure to arsenic. Water systems must comply with this standard by January 23, 2006, providing additional protection to an estimated 13 million Americans.

Possible health effects include skin damage, circulatory system problems, and increased risk of cancer. Maximum Contamination Level (MCL) = 0.01 mg/L or ppm.

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Barium

Source

Pigments; epoxy sealants; spent coal; erosion of natural deposits.

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Treatment

Whole House Systems:

Additional Information

Possible health effects include increase in blood pressure.
Maximum Contamination Level (MCL) = 2 mg/L or ppm

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Cadmium

Source

Corrosion of galvanized pipes; erosion of natural deposits; discharge from metal refineries; runoff from waste batteries and paints.

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Treatment

Whole House Systems:

Additional Information

Possible health effects include kidney damage.
Maximum Contamination Level (MCL) = .005 mg/L or ppm

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Chloramines

Source

Added disinfectant

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Treatment

Additional Information

Chemical complexes formed from the reaction between ammonia and chlorine being used to disinfect many municipal water supplies. Unlike chlorine, chloramines do not combine with organics in the water to form potentially dangerous trihalomethanes (THMs).

Water containing chloramines may not be used for fish or for kidney dialysis applications. Possible health effects can be an allergic reaction causing rashes to form on the body and respiratory problems if breathed in as a water vapor (in a shower).
Maximum Contamination Level (MCL) = 4 mg/L or ppm

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Chlorine (Cl2)

Source

Added disinfectant

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Treatment

Additional Information

A gas widely used in the disinfection of water and as an oxidizing agent for organic matter. Chlorine is known to react with organic matter in the water to form trihalomethanes (THMs), a suspected carcinogen.
Maximum Contamination Level (MCL) = 4 mg/L or ppm

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Chromium (III)

Source

Discharge from steel and pulp mills, mining, electroplating, pigments, erosion of natural deposits

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Treatment

Whole House Systems:

Additional Information

Possible health effects include allergic dermatitis.
Maximum Contamination Level (MCL) = 0.1 mg/L or ppm

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Coliform Bacteria

Source

Fecal waste

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Treatment

Additional Information

A particular group of bacteria primarily found in human and animal intestines and wastes. These bacteria are widely used as indicators organisms to show the presence of such wastes in water and the possible presence of pathogenic (disease producing) bacteria. Escherichia coli (E. coli) is one of the fecal coliform bacteria widely used for this purpose.
Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) = 0 mg/L or ppm

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Color

Source

Natural deposits, tannins, iron, copper, and manganese

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Treatment

Additional Information

Visible tint in your drinking water. Recommended color level < 15 color units.

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Copper

Source

Corrosion of household plumbing systems; erosion of natural deposits; leaching from wood preservatives

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Treatment

Additional Information

Visible tint in your drinking water. Recommended color level < 15 color units.

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Fluoride

Source

Natural deposits; fertilizer; aluminum industries; drinking water additive

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Treatment

Additional Information

A naturally occurring constituent of some water supplies, an excess of which (over 2.0 ppm) can cause discolored teeth (mottling). Skeletal fluorosis, a serious crippling bone disorder resembling osteoporosis, can develop from many years of exposure to drinking water with more than 4.0 ppm of fluoride.

Effects:
  • Tooth discoloration (over 2.0 ppm)
  • Bone disease (pain and tenderness of the bones)
  • Children may get mottled teeth (4.0 ppm).
Maximum Contamination Level (MCL) = 4 mg/L or ppm

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Giardia Lamblia and Cyptosporidium Cysts

Source

Human and animal fecal waste

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Treatment

Additional Information

A type of cyst found in the intestines of mammals and in water contaminated by mammal droppings. The giardia lamblia cyst, common and frequently carried by water, is capable of causing a contagious waterborne disease characterized by acute diarrhea. This disease is referred to as beaver fever because beaver droppings can contain giardia lamblia.
Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) = 0 mg/L or ppm

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Haloacetic Acids (HAA5)

Source

Drinking water chlorination by-products

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Treatment

Additional Information

Possible health effects include cancer and other effects.
Maximum Contamination Level (MCL) = 0.06 mg/L or ppm

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Hard Water

Source

Natural deposits causing calcium (limestone) and magnesium salts in raw water

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Treatment

Additional Information

Water containing total hardness in the amount of one grain per U.S. gallon (or more) measured as calcium carbonate equivalent. Whitish scale deposits in pipes, water heater, and tea kettle. No limits. Problems can occur with the water pressure after excessive build up. Iron (red, brown, yellow, and orange staining) is NOT hardness.

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Iron Bacteria

Source

Microorganisms that utilize oxidation of ferrous iron or ferric iron in metabolic processes

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Treatment

Additional Information

Bacteria which thrives on iron and are able to actually use ferrous iron (as found in water or steel pipes), in their metabolic processes, to incorporate ferric iron in their cell structure, and to deposit gelatinous ferric hydroxide iron compounds in their life processes. Iron bacteria can cause staining, plugging, and taste and odor problems in a water system.

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Iron, Ferrous Iron, Ferric Iron

Source

Natural deposits in ground water

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Treatment

Ferrous iron (clear water iron) is readily converted to ferric iron (red water iron) in the presence of any air or oxidizing material. Ferrous iron would be treated with the MetalMaster™ / Arsenic Treatment System. If iron bacteria is present, the Inline Chlorinator™ is necessary to break down iron bacteria and allow the MetalMaster / Arsenic Treatment System to work properly. When the Inline Chlorinator is used, always use a carbon filter to remove the chlorine.

Additional Information

A very common element often present in groundwater in amounts ranging from 0.01 to 10.0 ppm (mg/L). Iron can be found in three forms:

  1. Soluble form as in ferrous bicarbonate
  2. Bound with a soluble organic compound
  3. As suspended ferric iron particles

The effects can be: rusty color sediment, metallic taste, reddish or orange staining.

Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) = 0.3 mg/L or ppm

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Lead

Source

Corrosion of household plumbing systems; erosion of natural deposits; plumbing solder; brass alloy fixtures.

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Treatment

Additional Information

A heavy metal that is hazardous to health if breathed or swallowed. Its use in gasoline, paints, and plumbing compounds has been sharply restricted or eliminated by federal laws and regulations.

Possible Health Effects:

  • Infants and children: Delays in physical or mental development
  • Adults: Kidney problems; high blood pressure

Maximum Contamination Level (MCL) = 0.015 mg/L or ppm

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Legionella

Source

Found naturally in water; multiplies in heating and cooling systems.

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Treatment

Additional Information

Over 26 species of bacteria, such as Legionella pneumonia, which can cause the pneumonia-like illness called "Legionnaires' Disease" (after the American Legion convention at which the disease first drew attention). These bacteria are known to thrive at about 100 degrees F and are believed to live in infected humidifiers, cooling tower water, and shower rooms. Infection is by inhalation.
Maximum Contamination Level (MCL) = 0 mg/L or ppm

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Manganese

Source

Natural deposits

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Treatment

Additional Information

An element sometimes found dissolved in groundwater usually in combination with - but in lower concentrations than iron. Manganese is noticeable because in concentrations above 0.05mg/L it causes black staining of laundry and plumbing fixtures.
Maximum Contamination Level (MCL) = 0.05 mg/L or ppm

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Mercury

Source

Erosion of natural deposits; discharge from refineries and factories; runoff from landfills and cropland; batteries; electrical switches

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Treatment

Additional Information

Possible health effects include kidney damage.
Maximum Contamination Level (MCL) = 0.002 mg/L or ppm

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MTBE

Source

Additive to gasoline

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Treatment

Additional Information

Since MTBE was incorporated in the mid-1980s into gasoline mixtures as an antiknock replacement for aromatics and as an "oxygenator" to reduce carbon monoxide emissions, it has increasingly appeared in groundwater due to spills of reformulated gasoline and leaking underground storage tanks at gasoline stations. It is highly water soluble and its appearance typically marks the leading front of a contamination plume. The molecular weight of MTBE (C5H12O) is 88.15.

In terms of non-carcinogenic effects, it has low oral toxicity, but at the gasoline pump and in the automobile, symptoms such as airway and eye irritation have been reported. In water, MTBE has a noticeable odor at 20 to 40 ug/L (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 1997). Though MTBE is not mutagenic/genotoxic, exposure to high levels by inhalation (8000 ppm) or by ingestion (1000 mg/kg) was associated with the development of lymphoma and leukemia, as well as liver, renal, and testicular cancers in rodents (Burleigh-Flayer et al., 1992; Belpoggi et al., 1995).

The relevance of these cancers to human health is not clear, but "weight of evidence suggests that MTBE is an animal carcinogen. Concentrations in the range of 20 to 40 ug/L are about 20,000 to 100,000 (or more) times lower than the range of exposure levels in which cancer or non-cancer effects were observed in rodent tests." (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 1997). Thus, the USEPA says "protection of the water source from unpleasant taste and odor will also protect consumers from potential (MTBE) health effects."

MTBE is adsorbed onto activated carbon similar to chloroform, but with a use rate of 2-3 times that of chloroform, i.e., the life of the activated carbon may be only 1/2 to 1/3 of that for chloroform when MTBE will begin to break through. For concentrations of MTBE greater than 100 ug/L or parts per billion, pretreatment with an atmospheric air stripping system with pressurization is recommended prior to activated carbon adsorption.

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Nitrate

Source

Runoff from fertilizer use; leaching from septic tanks; sewage; erosion of natural deposits

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Treatment

Whole House Systems:
Point of Use Systems:

Additional Information

A natural nitrogen compound sometimes found in well or surface waters. In high concentrations, nitrates can be harmful to young infants.
Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) = 1 mg/L or ppm

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Odor

Source

Hydrogen sulfide septic pollution; iron or sulfate bacteria; methane gas in water causes a garlic like taste and odor; synthetic organic chemicals

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Treatment

Additional Information

Musty, garlic, or chemical smell; distinctive rotten egg odor caused by hydrogen sulfide (N2S) as low as 0.5 mg/l

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Pesticides, Insecticides, Herbicides

Source

Farm and garden runoff

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Treatment

Additional Information

Can be very hazardous to your health in large doses.
Maximum Contamination Level (MCL) = 0 mg/L or ppm

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pH (potential of hydrogen)

Source

Balance of acids

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Treatment

Additional Information

A measure of the degree of the acidity or the alkalinity of a solution as measured on a scale ("pH scale") of 0 to 14. The midpoint of 7.0 on pH scale represents neutrality, that is, a neutral solution is neither acid nor alkaline. Numbers below 7.0 indicate acidity; numbers above 7.0 indicate alkalinity. It is important to understand that pH is a measure of intensity, not capacity. That is, pH indicates the intensity of alkalinity in the same way temperature tells how hot something is but not how much heat the substance carries.

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Radium 226 and Radium 228

Source

Erosion of natural deposits

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Treatment

Additional Information

Naturally-occurring radioactive elements (radium 226 and radium 228) created in the decay of the uranium and thorium series. Radium can be removed from water by cation exchange softening. Possible health effects include an increased risk of cancer.
Maximum Contamination Level (MCL) = 5 pCi/L

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Radon

Source

Natural deposits

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Treatment

Additional Information

A colorless, odorless, short lived radioactive gas which is produced by decay of the uranium/radium series and is soluble in water. Radon is considered carcinogenic when inhaled by humans. Radon can be removed from water by aeration or activated carbon.
Maximum Contamination Level (MCL) = 0 mg/L or ppm

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Sulfate

Source

Natural deposits

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Treatment

Additional Information

Medicinal taste laxative effect on those not accustomed to high sulfates above 500 mg/l.
Maximum Contamination Level (MCL) = 250 mg/L or ppm

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Tannins

Source

Natural deposits; heavy wooded areas; streams; rivers, lakes

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Treatment

Additional Information

Any of a group of water soluble, natural organic phenolic compounds that are produced by metabolism in trees and plants, and are part of the degradation-resistant fulvic acid materials formed during the decomposition of vegetation. Tannins occur in water in almost any location where large quantities of vegetation have decayed. Tannins can impart a faintly yellowish to brown color to water which can stain clothes, sinks, toilets, showers, and so on.

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Total Dissolved Solids (TDS)

Source

Natural deposits brackish water intrusion or salt water intrusion

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Treatment

Additional Information

With to many organic or non-organic solids dissolved in the water it can cause issues with hardness; deposits; spots on glasses, dishes, fixtures, etc.; colored water; staining; salty taste.
Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) = 500 mg/L or ppm

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Total Trihalomethanes (TTHMs)

Source

Byproduct of drinking water chlorination

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Treatment

Additional Information

A group of organic chemicals, suspected of being carcinogenic, which are formed in water when chlorine being used as a disinfectant reacts with natural organic matter such as humic acids from decayed vegetation.
Maximum Contamination Level (MCL) = 0.08 mg/L or ppm

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Turbidity

Source

Soil Runoff

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Treatment

Additional Information

Turbidity has no health effects, but can interfere with disinfection and provides medium for microbial growth.
MCL Requirements for safe water = 0.5 to 1 NTU.

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Uranium

Source

Natural deposits

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Treatment

Whole House Systems:

Additional Information

A radioactive metallic element found naturally only in combination with other substances. Uranium 238 (U-238) is the most common form, but about 0.7 percent of natural uranium is present as U-235, which is the important fissionable component in work with atomic energy. Uranium in natural water exists as anionic complexes UO2(CO3)22- and UO2(CO3)34-. Possible health effects include an increased risk of cancer.
Maximum Contamination Level (MCL) = 0.03 mg/L or ppm

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Viruses

Source

Human and animal fecal waste

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Treatment

Additional Information

A parasitic infectious microbe composed almost entirely of protein and nucleic acids, which can cause disease(s) in humans. Viruses can reproduce only within living cells. They are 0.004 to 0.1 micron in size, about 100 times smaller than bacteria.
Maximum Contamination Level (MCL) = 0 mg/L or ppm

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Volatile Organic Chemicals (VOCs)

Source

Ground water, city water, well water, rain water

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Treatment

Additional Information

Organic chemicals that turn into vapor at relatively low temperatures.

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