Wondering if you have contaminated water? Dealing with uncertainty about your water quality can be stressful and worrisome. We’ll explain how to tell if your water is contaminated so you can take the right steps to resolve your concerns.

Contamination signs may vary based on your home’s water source. City water is tested and treated to Regulatory / Government standards, and most cities routinely publish information about the quality of their water. But as water moves through the system from its origin to your tap, your water’s composition can start to vary from the city’s results. The water lines in different parts of a city can be of different ages, and organic material like roots can start to intrude. There could be construction happening that strikes a water line. That’s why city water testing is still important for any safety-conscious homeowner.

When it comes to well water, safety is the private homeowner’s responsibility. There is no agency checking or treating your water, so it’s critical to test your well water at least once a year to make sure it’s safe to drink.

Types of contaminants in water

Contaminants in water can include fecal coliform and legionella bacteria, nitrates, industrial solvents, or metals like lead or copper. These contaminants can cause gastrointestinal or neurological health problems if not detected and mitigated. Particularly if you live near heavy-use industrial or agricultural land, or areas with mining or extensive construction projects, you may want to test your water for contamination.

Common signs of contaminants in water

Do you have odd colored or cloudy water? If your tap starts dispensing orange water or brown water, or your water is cloudy, this may be a sign of contamination from iron, lead or manganese. Even rusted silverware could be a clue that something’s amiss. Yellow water can be a harmless sign that your utility is clearing the water lines, but it could also indicate a buildup of metals or even the presence of carcinogen chromium-6. And if you see blue or green stains in your faucet, make sure to take action because this indicates very high copper levels.

Strange smells and tastes can also be a giveaway. Mild sulfur smells, like a faint scent of rotten eggs, can be natural based on your water’s source even if it is not particularly appetizing. But a strong level of sulfur odor could indicate an issue. The same is true for chlorine, which can be detectable in trace amounts because of the water treatment process. This is normal, but if the smell is strong, you may have a problem. If your water tastes metallic or bitter, there could be pesticides or industrial chemicals or solvents present.

What should I do about contaminated water?

The first step is detection, so you’ve done well by noticing the issue and looking into what’s going on. The next step is to test your water to detect any issues. Element Certified offers an easy-to-use water testing kit that you can order online. You can contact your local health department for recommendations on what to do next once you have your results, whether that’s a new filtration system or additional steps.

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