Frequently Asked Questions

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There is a blue-green stain where my water drips into my sink. What causes this?


Will I loose the benefits of fluoride in my drinking water if I install a home treatment device or drink bottled water?


Is water with chlorine in it safe to drink?


Drinking water often looks cloudy when first taken from a faucet and then it clears up. Why is that?


I heard about a water treatment device that uses an electromagnet to treat water. Does this work?


Should I install a water softener in my home?


When I put ice cubes that I’ve made in my freezer into a glass of water, white stuff appears in the glass as the ice cubes melt. What is the white stuff and where does it come from?


What is that white stuff in my coffee pot and on my showerhead and glass shower door? How can I get rid of it?


Why does my dishwater leave spots on my glasses?


What activity in my home uses the most water?


Why are there aerators on home water faucets?


What is the hardness of the water?


What does STM DIST mean on my bill?


My water pressure seems low. What can you do about that?


Q: There is a blue-green stain where my water drips into my sink. What causes this?
A: This stain comes from the chemical copper. The copper probably is present in your home plumbing and is being dissolved into the drinking water. The water from our water supply is slightly corrosive, so we add what is called a PHOSPHATE to the water to provide a coating in the pipes (main lines and household plumbing). This coating can take some time to develop, so if you have a new home, you may be more likely to see this blue-green staining. To clean the sink or tub, check with your local hardware store for stain-removal products.

Q: Will I loose the benefits of fluoride in my drinking water if I install a home treatment device or drink bottled water?
A: Certain types of home treatment devices will remove 85 to more than 95 percent of all the minerals in water, including fluoride.These are reverse osmosis, distillation units, and deionization units (not water softeners – they leave fluoride in the water.) If you use one of these types of devices, consult with your dentist about fluoride and possibly your doctor about iodine supplements.

The situation with bottled water is less clear. One recent study at the University of Texas’ Dental Branch in Houston showed many bottled waters contained very little fluoride, although a few contained adequate amounts. Unfortunately, even in those products, the fluoride level dropped to about 25 to 50 percent of the original value over a two-year sampling period, without a change in product name or label. If you are drinking bottled water, most likely you are not getting much fluoride. Remember if you are using bottled water to make formula for your baby, be sure to talk to your doctor about using fluoride supplements.

Q: Is water with chlorine in it safe to drink?
A: Yes. Many tests have shown that the amount of chlorine found in treated water is safe to drink, although some people object to the taste and/or odors. The chlorine is necessary, however, to prevent bacterial growth in the pipes, including household plumbing.

Q: Why does my drinking water look cloudy when first taken from a faucet and then it clears up?
A: The cloudy water is caused by tiny air bubbles in the water similar to the gas bubbles in beer and carbonated soft drinks. After a while, the bubbles rise to the top and are gone. This type of cloudiness occurs more often in the winter, when the drinking water is cold.

Q: Do water treatment devices that use an electromagnet to treat water work?
A: The Water Quality Association (WQA), the watchdog group for home treatment devices, has this to say: “WQA knows of no generally recognized scientific or technical evidence proving that magnetic, electromagnetic, or catalytic devices sold to treat water have any measurable physical or chemical effect on water quality.”

Q: Should I install a water softener in my home?
A: If you are bothered by a sticky, gummy soap curd deposit in your bathtub or by the buildup of white deposits (called scale) on your cooking pots and coffee maker, a water softener can help with these problems. The Joint Powers Water Board water is considered “hard” at 22 grains per gallon. (The higher the hardness number, the more a water softener will help. If it is more than 120 milligrams per liter, abbreviated mg/L – sometimes called 120 parted per million or 7 grains per gallon – then you might consider a water softener to reduce the formation of scale in your hot water system and to make washing easier.)

The water softener replaces the nontoxic “hardness” minerals with sodium or potassium. The amounts of these elements are relatively insignificant in comparison to what you get in food and should not be a problem, unless your doctor has put you on a special restricted diet.

Whether to put the softener on your main water line or just the hot water line is a complicated issue. Softening only the hot water has some cost and environmental advantages related to regeneration, which is a process by which the softening materials (called resins) inside the softener can be used over and over again.

Water softeners are regenerated with salt. After the salt is used, it goes down the drain and into the environment – so the less salt used the better. Using less salt also saves you money. If you soften only the hot water, less water goes through the softener, so it needs regeneration less often, meaning less salt is being used. Also, regenerating a softener after a selected amount of water has gone through it rather than on a particular time schedule is better, as this prevents wasting salt by regenerating too soon or using the softener after it has stopped softening.

Finally, some people think bathing in completely soft water (both hot and cold water softened) is unpleasant – it feels like the soap won’t rinse off. You may be surprised to learn, however, that rinsing is actually more complete in soft water than in hard water. Although you can’t see it, when you bathe or wash your hair in hard water, some of the same stuff that causes the bathtub ring gets on you body or in your hair. With soft water this material does not form, so rinsing is more complete.

Softening only the hot water has two disadvantages. First, if you wash your clothes in cold water, you won’t get the benefit of soft water; however, you can buy products to add to your wash to help if this is a problem. Second and more important, if your water is very hard – more than twice the numbers mentioned above – when you mix the hot and cold water together, the water will still be hard and you won’t see much benefit from the softener. Softening only the hot water will also not help with the scale floating on your coffee.

Concern has been expressed by some whether the installation of a water softener may raise the lead and copper content of drinking water in homes that are experiencing problems. Probably not, but the US Environmental Protection Agency is conducting research to investigate these matters.

Q: What is the white stuff that appears in my glass when ice cubes from my freezer melt?
A: Ice cubes freeze from the outside, so the center of the cube is the last to freeze. Since ice is pure water (only H2O), as the ice cube freezes, all of the dissolved minerals, like the hardness minerals, are pushed to the center of the ice cube. When the ice cube is near the end of the freezing there isn’t much water left in the center of the cube, so these minerals become very concentrated, and they form the “white stuff". The technical name is precipitate. The hardness minerals that cause the “white stuff” are not toxic.
Some commercial ice cubes are “cored” after they freeze to remove this material.

Q: How do I get rid of the white stuff in my coffee pot, on my showerhead and on my glass shower door?
A: Minerals dissolved in water tend to settle when water is heated or left behind when it evaporates. These minerals are white and accumulate in coffee pots, on showerheads and on glass shower doors.

To remove these minerals, fill the coffee pot with vinegar and let it sit overnight, or soak the showerhead overnight in a plastic bowl filled with vinegar. Slowly adding 1 tablespoon of muriatic acid to 1 quart of vinegar will help, but is not necessary. Be careful not to spill this mixture. When you are done, carefully discard the contents of the plastic bowl down a drain, and flush the container and sink drain with plenty of water. NOTE: Rinse the coffee pot or showerhead thoroughly after treatment and before use. Pouring the excess hot liquid out of your coffee pot when you are finished with it will help somewhat in preventing this problem.

White spots on glass shower doors are difficult to remove with vinegar because the spots dissolve very slowly. A better idea is to prevent the spots from forming by wiping the glass door with a damp sponge or towel after each shower.

NOTE: Some commercial establishments use untreated water for irrigation to save on tap water. If this is groundwater, it may be high in minerals and if this water sprays onto your car, it can leave spots. Vinegar will remove them. Rinse with good water after using the vinegar.

Q: Why does my dishwater leave spots on my glasses?
A: The spots that may appear on glassware after it is washed and air-dried are caused by nontoxic minerals that remain on the glass when the water evaporates. Commercial products are available that allow the water to drain from the glassware more completely.

Q: What activity in my home uses the most water?
A: Toilet flushing is by far the largest single use of water in a home. Most toilets use from 4 to 6 gallons (15 to 23 liters) of water for each flush. Canadian flush toilets use about 4 to 6 imperial gallons (18 to 28 liters). On the average, a dishwasher uses about 50 percent less water than the amount used when you wash and rinse dishes by hand if the dishes are not prerinsed and if only full loads are washed in the dishwasher.

Without counting lawn watering, typical percentages of water use for a family of four are:
Toilet flushing – 40%
Bath and shower – 32%
Laundry – 14%
Dishwashing – 6%
Cooking and drinking – 5%
Bathroom sink – 3%

In the United States, the National Energy Act of 1992 requires low-volume toilets in new construction or as replacements in existing homes after January 1, 1994. Businesses must comply by 1997. Ultra-low-flow (ULF) toilets are available that use only 1.5 to 1.6 gallons (6 liters) for each flush. Low volume toilets are not required in Canada, but water-efficiency plans are in place in many provinces. Plans for new construction are reviewed by appropriate officials in the government.

Q: Why are there aerators on home water faucets?
A: 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 conserve water.

Q: What is the hardness of the water?
A: 22 grains per gallon (or 375 mg/l). NOTE: When setting your water softener, you do NOT want to remove ALL the hardness, as a little bit of hardness provides some corrosion protection in your household plumbing. Try setting your softener to 20 or 21.

Q: What does STM DIST mean on my bill?
A: It means “St. Michael Distribution”. This line item on your bill is for distribution system operations, maintenance, and repair (pipes, valves, meters, hydrants, etc). These funds are tracked separately and used specifically for these purposes. NOTE: HAN DIST is the same thing except for the City of Hanover.

Q: What can I do about low water pressure?
A: St. Michael, Albertville, and Hanover actually have very HIGH pressure in comparison to many water systems (it ranges from 60 to 90 psi depending on what elevation your home is at). If you have pressure problems and you live in a low area (i.e., Hanover or The Preserve), you may have a pressure-reducing valve on your incoming water line to protect your appliances against too MUCH pressure. This valve can fail. You should contact a plumber about this, as it may need to be replaced or reset.

Source: Plain Talk About Drinking Water: Questions and Answers About the Water You Drink Symons, James M. 3 rd Ed. American Water Works Association, Denver CO

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