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FAQ

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Why does my water taste metallic?

This is caused when excessive iron, manganese and other metals change the taste and appearance of drinking water. Metals may be naturally occurring or produced by corrosion. Although water is usually rust-free when it leaves the treatment plant, it can pick up rust and other metals from corroding pipes en route to your tap. Untreated water from private wells often contains iron and manganese in “reduced” form, which is fully dissolved until slowly oxidized by oxygen in the air. Such water will appear clear at first, turning either rusty (iron) or blackish (manganese) and cloudy in a few minutes. The same delayed reaction can happen with corrosion, if the problem is nearby.

Why does my water smell and taste musty, earthy and fishy?

These tastes and odors are caused by algae, molds and bacteria that naturally live in most water resources, such as lakes and rivers. These off-tastes and odors may be stronger during certain times of the year when algae “bloom” all at once.

Why does my water smell like rotten eggs?

This is caused by hydrogen sulfide in water. It is produced by bacteria in deep wells and in low-use stagnant water mains. When combined with iron, the iron sulfide stains become black. It is also highly corrosive to metal pipes, so other problems may accompany the smell.

Why is my water cloudy or have a brown tint?

Water that is brownish in color can be caused by the tea-like extracts of dead leaves and by corrosion by-products, such as iron and manganese. This water is unpleasant tasting and looking, and can also stain sinks and laundry. Organic color and staining usually occur in areas with poor drainage. Organic materials sometimes combine with iron to form “heme iron”, which is difficult to remove.

What are coliform bacteria?

Coliform bacteria are indicator bacteria in drinking water tests. These organisms are found everywhere in nature. However, coliform bacteria in drinking water indicate contamination of the system. There are two main types of coliform bacteria – Total and Fecal. Total coliform in drinking water can cause intestinal distress and upset in people but are rarely anything dangerous. Fecal coliform are associated with sewage or animal wastes and indicate a serious breakdown in treatment or contamination in the water system. Immediate action is required to correct the problem.

How does nitrate get in my well water?

Nitrate is a chemical found in most fertilizers, manure, and liquid waste discharged from septic tanks. Natural bacteria in soil can convert nitrogen into nitrate. Rain or irrigation water can carry nitrate through the soil into groundwater. Your drinking water may contain nitrate if your well draws from this groundwater.

Oregon Health Authority
Disinfection of Contaminated Wells
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