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SanAir Technologies Laboratory, Inc.

AIHA accredited environmental microbiology laboratory, specializing in testing for asbestos, mold, lead & metals, and bacteria. Free overnight shipping.

What to Test For When There’s Brown Water in Pipes

Low Quality Of Tap Water.

Brown tap water is more commonly faced by homeowners using a well. However, other factors can cause this problem in homes connected to a city or county water supply. 

What causes brown water?

Several issues can cause brown tap water, with the most common being high contents of iron and/or manganese. Some causes of brown water also include:

Upstream pollution

Rainwater can wash chemicals – such as runoff pesticides in agricultural communities, residue from fracking operations or motor oil that has accumulated on highways – into the surface water or groundwater that feeds your tap. This can easily result in discolored water.

Organic matter

Dirt and other naturally occurring sediments settle at the bottom of water supply lines. If something causes the water flow passing through the pipes to intensify such as a water main break, high service demand or even excessive water use in cases such as firefighting – the faster flow can stir up the sediment and cause your water to appear yellow or brown. 

Corrosion of old water lines

Many homes built before 1960 were plumbed with galvanized steel water lines. As these water lines age, they can collect a rusty sediment that comes out of the tap, resulting in brown water when rust and other pipe materials flake off. Iron and manganese produce an orange-to-brown color, while lead may make the water darker and include tiny particles. As with organic material, more pipe materials dislodge when water flows quickly through service lines. 

If the discolored water is only present at one or several faucets (but not all of them), or if your water is discolored every morning but runs clear once you’ve had the tap running for a few minutes, it’s likely that the problem is with the water lines in your home. There is also a possibility that your water heater is the problem. If it hasn’t had regular maintenance, mineral sediments can accumulate on the bottom of your tank. Although not necessarily a health hazard, these minerals can turn the hot water from clear to reddish-brown. Excess sediment can negatively impact your water heater and increase your energy bill. 

Even though brown water isn’t always a toxic hazard it is something that should be addressed. Water that’s orange or brown may contain excess iron, manganese, or lead. Or it can signal the presence of rust, and even be a breeding ground for bacteria. In many cases, a single drinking water system will contain more than just one hazardous chemical, making it difficult for individuals to evaluate the overall health risk on their own or get answers with a simple store bought test. 

It’s recommended to have any water that appears to be discolored tested by a water testing facility. You should never drink discolored water whether it has an odor or not. 

Visit SanAir Technologies Laboratory online to find out more about the services we offer. We are proud to be accredited by the AIHA Laboratory Accreditation Programs, LLC (AIHA-LAP, LLC) and a participant in the Environmental Microbiology, Lead and Industrial Hygiene Proficiency Analytical Testing program.

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