Whole house water filtration systems come in various types and sizes to address the potential water quality issues experienced in New England well water or public water supplies. Both matching the right technology and sizing the system to meet the water usage demands of your home is key after analyzing water test results. Additionally, a professionally plumbed system is critical as well as maintenance of the system throughout the years to optimize the useful life and proper functioning of your new equipment as it processes thousands of gallons of water every month.
While symptoms of water quality issues such as bad odors & taste, staining of laundry, bathroom fixtures, etc. are indicators of problems, the preferred starting point is to get a water test to identify the minerals or contaminants in the water and at what quantity they exist. This will lead to an effective system recommendation and route to providing your home with excellent water quality. While certain minerals & contaminants can be tested on-site, health threat items like radon in water, arsenic in water, PFAS, nitrates and others should be properly sampled and brought to a certified laboratory for testing that requires specialized equipment.
WATER SOFTENERS FOR HARD WATER, IRON & MANGANESE
A water softener is a type of whole house water filtration system that is designed for removing hard water minerals (magnesium & calcium) as well as dissolved iron and manganese from the water. Water is considered “hard” when it contains higher levels of dissolved calcium and magnesium. Hard water makes cleaning clothes more difficult, creates streaking on dishes and glasses, and makes cleaning your hair and skin well a challenge. Hard water can also damage your home’s piping distribution system and water using appliances if not corrected. There are high efficiency softening solutions that will remove these minerals through the proven ion exchange water softening process. For water with high levels of iron or manganese (“the stainers”), an “upflow” water softener is recommended to prevent mineral build-up in the bottom of the water softener. Also, high efficiency water softeners that are more efficient with both water and salt usage are preferred.
WHOLE HOUSE WATER FILTRATION- BAD TASTES & ODORS
There are various objectionable smells and tastes that may present themselves in drinking water supplies, where from a private well or public water supply. Homeowners on public water supplies often cite an objectionable chlorine smell & taste. Chlorination is the process of adding chlorine to drinking water to disinfect it and kill germs. It is the most common method employed by cities and towns used for this purpose. While the chemical could be harmful in high doses, when it is properly added to water it mixes and results in low levels that kill germs but are still safe to drink. The dosing levels of chlorine may vary during the course of the year. During the summer months when the water heats up, the potential for increased bacterial activity typically is countered with higher doses of chlorine. Also, depending on where your home is in the distribution system, you may have a higher level of chlorine in your water if you live closer to the water treatment plant and less if you are farther downstream.
The smell and taste given off by highly chlorinated water can be very off putting. Who hasn’t lifted a water glass in a restaurant to a heavy whiff of chlorine? A carbon filter or carbon filtration system is very effective at removing this annoying water quality issue as well as some other bad odors and tastes. For more detail on various types of odors & tastes with respective causes and whole house water filtration solutions, see the link at Bad Tastes & Odors in Water.
FISHY, MUSTY SMELL & TASTE IN WATER
If you’re noticing this bad odor in your water in the summertime, it is likely being caused by algae blooms. Lakes and reservoirs often see an increase in algae blooming on the surface of the water when there is plenty of warmth and direct sunlight. Although water treatment facilities remove the algae from the water, the particles that cause the fishy bad odor can sometimes be detected by people who are sensitive to musty or mildew like smells. The presence of these particles do not pose any direct threat to your health, but if you are on a public water supply, you may want to contact the water division of your town and get an explanation from them.
Another cause of this fishy bad smell may be the combination of chlorine and ammonia which together create a compound called Chloramine. This is often used to disinfect public water sources (as a substitute for chlorine) and can sometimes produce an unpleasant aroma in your water. Surface water sources, such as reservoirs contain organic matter that, when combined with chlorine at the water treatment plant, can cause by-product compounds called Trihalomethanes and Haloacetic Acids. These have proven to be a health threat, and as such, many towns have switched to Chloramine to avoid this. For more on Chloramine see the link at: EPA Chloramine. Whole house water filtration systems will correct this annoying water quality issue.
ROTTEN EGG SMELL IN WATER
Rotten egg smell is a common water quality issue in the New England region usually caused by Hydrogen sulfide. Hydrogen sulfide is a colorless gas that can exist naturally in groundwater. Sulfur-reducing bacteria present in groundwater use sulfur as an energy source to chemically change sulfates to hydrogen sulfide which releases a rotten egg smell in water. The bacteria use sulfur from decaying plants and other organic matter in oxygen-deficient environments. They can occur in deep or shallow wells, and reside in plumbing systems. Hydrogen sulfide can reveal itself in other ways too. Hot water heaters that have a magnesium rod used for corrosion control can chemically reduce sulfates to Hydrogen sulfide. Other than releasing a rotten egg smell in water, Hydrogen sulfide may be corrosive and can leach metals from plumbing systems into the water. The result of this corrosion of metals by Hydrogen sulfide can be a black precipitate that can stain laundry and bathroom fixtures, darken silverware, and discolor copper and brass utensils. Also, at high levels, Hydrogen sulfide can pose serious health threats. There are various technologies for removing this problem, depending on its level in your water. Ozone, carbon filtration and aeration are some methods available. For more on this topic, see the link at: OSHA H2S Link.
If you notice a bad odor or taste in your water which is like diesel or petrol, there’s a quick check you can do to work out where it may be coming from. Pour a glass or water from the tap you’ve noticed the smell or taste from. Take this into another room if possible, or as far away from the tap itself. If the smell or taste disappears, this could mean there is a problem with the drain near the tap, it may not be connected properly. If the bad odor is still there it could be because there are petrochemicals around the area of your water pipes. You should check for any fuel leaks on your driveway or on the road near your property. It is also possible that leakage from a gasoline storage tank in the area is causing this, therefore you may want to contact your town to find out if they are aware of any situations that may have affected the well where you live. This leakage could have happened a long time ago and has begun finding its way into the aquifer supplying your well. Depending on the water test and analysis, this water quality issue can be corrected with several technologies, including carbon filtration, oxidation and ozone.
RADON, ARSENIC & PFAS IN PRIVATE WELLS
Other contaminants found in New England well water include Radon and Arsenic. A water softener will not remove these health threat contaminants. Radon in water is safely removed with an aeration system that agitates the incoming well water, releasing the gas from the water in a sealed chamber. This gas is then safely vented to the outside ambient air.
Arsenic in water can be removed at the point of entry into the home by installing whole house water filtration tanks filled with arsenic specific resin that captures the arsenic before it can get into the home’s water supply. Point of use systems for drinking water can use reverse osmosis technology to effectively remove arsenic as well. Speak to a water treatment professional to decide which system is right for you.
PFAS (Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) are a group of man-made chemicals that have been manufactured and used in a variety of industries since the 1940s. Some of the more common commercial applications have been for products like Teflon, stain & water–resistant materials, paints, polishes, fire fighting foams (a major source of ground water pollution near airports, military bases and fire fighting training centers). These chemicals are being detected at dangerous levels in drinking water supplies around the country. (For removal methods see section below, “Removal of PFAS”). For more information, see the article we published in Water Technology Magazine on PFAS in water, see PFAS Water Tech Mag.
PFOA and PFOS have been the most extensively produced and studied of these chemicals. Both chemicals have a long half-life in the environment and they can accumulate in the body over time. There is evidence that exposure to PFAS can lead to adverse human health effects. As a result, these chemicals are no longer manufactured in the United States, but are still made in other countries and may be contained in products imported into the U.S.
HEALTH AFFECTS OF PFAS IN WATER
There is evidence that exposure to PFAS can lead to adverse health outcomes in humans. If humans or animals ingest it (by eating or drinking food or water), they are absorbed and can accumulate in the body. PFAS stay in the human body for long periods of time. As a result, as people get exposed from different sources over time, the level in their bodies may increase to the point where they suffer from adverse health effects. The most consistent findings from human epidemiology studies are increased cholesterol levels among exposed populations, with more limited findings related to infant birth weights and:
REMOVAL OF PFAS IN WATER
There are technologies effective in removing PFAS from drinking water, especially Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and Perfluoro octane sulfonic acid (PFOS), which are the most studied of these chemicals. The most effective technologies include ion exchange, activated carbon adsorption and reverse osmosis. For whole house filtration of PFAS, Ion exchange is proving to be a better approach. See link for more detail on removal options at https://h2ocare.com/what-are-pfas/
Reverse Osmosis, Point of Use System for PFAS in Water
This membrane based technology can be used at a point-of-use such as at a kitchen sink to feed a separate drinking water faucet as well as ice makers or refrigerator dispensers. This system can be installed under the kitchen sink or in the basement below, with a line run up to feed the separate faucet. For more on this technology, see http://reverse-osmosis.
In addition to the above systems described, there are many other types of systems to remove bad tastes & odors, sediment and many other objectionable minerals and contaminants in the water. Starting with a water test will lead to the right approach.