WATER QUALITY AND TREATMENT FAQs
Most frequent questions and answers
A Boil Water Advisory (BWA) is a safeguard to protect Paducah Water customers in the event of a main break or installation of new water mains. If you receive a BWA, boil your water for three minutes before consuming. Paducah Water personnel will notify you when the BWA has been lifted. The usual BWA time is 24-48 hours due to analysis and incubation of samples.
In summer months, sunlight, nutrients, and warmer temperatures create an ideal environment for algae growth in rivers and lakes. Certain species of algae can produce nontoxic, odorous chemicals (Geosmin and 2-Methylisoborneol) inside their cells. The treatment process kills the algae, causing the chemicals to be released, which in turn produces an “earthy” taste. These chemicals are so potent that they can be detected by the human palate at 5-10 parts per trillion! If you are experiencing this strange flavor in your water, try to offset the taste with an acid such as lemon or vinegar.
Cloudy or milky looking water is caused by tiny air bubbles similar to those in carbonated drinks. Under certain conditions, water can become saturated with air. This is especially true during the winter months, as cold water tends to retain large quantities of air. As the water temperature rises or when water pressure decreases, the air rushes out of the water, leaving a cloudy appearance. Don’t worry, the water is safe for consumption.
PW utilizes “Conventional Treatment.” This method combines multiple treatment techniques to produce clean, safe drinking water. Steps include:
1. Pretreatment: Sodium Permanganate is added to raw water as it is drawn from the river to oxidize algae and bacteria.
2. Flocculation– The coagulant Aluminum Sulfate is added bind impurities for removal.
3. Sedimentation– Coagulated solids from the flocculation step settle out of the water. In the warmer months, powder activated carbon is added to remove taste and odor compounds.
4. Disinfection– Sodium Hypochlorite (aka chlorine, bleach), generated onsite, is then added to inactivate potential disease-causing microbial contaminants.
5. Filtration– Tiny impurities still present in the water after coagulation and sedimentation are removed.
6. Post-Disinfection– Sodium Hypochlorite is added again to inactivate potential disease-causing microbial contaminants within the distribution system.
7. Fluoridation– The addition of Fluoride elevates the natural fluoride level in the water to the optimum value of 0.70 mg/l for dental cavity prevention.
8. Corrosion Control– Sodium Ortho-Polyphosphate is added to minimize the corrosion of plumbing lines.
PW uses chlorine (bleach) as its primary treatment plant disinfectant. The average residual chlorine level for water leaving PW’s treatment plant is 1.50 – 2.50 ppm, which meets regulatory requirements.
The EPA and most professional health organizations recommend the addition of fluoride to water systems according to strict regulatory guidelines. The American Dental Association states, “More than 70 years of scientific research has consistently shown that an optimal level of fluoride in community water is safe and effective in preventing tooth decay by at least 25% in both children and adults.” (source: https://www.ada.org/en/public-programs/advocating-for-the-public/fluoride-and-fluoridation).
Water source information is available by calling the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission (ORSANCO) at 513-231-7719 or by visiting their website at www.orsanco.org. Additional information for McCracken County is available for inspection at the Purchase Area Development District office. Call 270-247-7171.
Discolored water can be the result of natural sedimentation in pipes when they are disturbed. Increased water flow in the pipes due to a main break or an open fire hydrant can also cause discoloration. Usually the problem can be solved by allowing cold water to run until the water is clear. If this does not solve the problem and the water remains discolored, please call our Water Quality Department for further help. Discoloration does not present a health hazard. However, it is not advisable to wash clothes while the water is discolored because of the possibility of garments being stained.
We recommend using cold water. Hot water straight from the tap is more likely to contain dissolved metals such as iron, copper, and lead picked up from household plumbing and the water heater tank. A better idea is to allow cold water to run for a few seconds to flush the water lines and interior household plumbing before using it for cooking and other consumption purposes.
You may think the water coming from your faucet has an unpleasant odor. However, the smell actually occurs when that water meets your drain. Bacteria from the materials washed down the sink sits in your drain causing a heavy gas to fill the drain near its opening. When the water is turned on, the gas is forced upwards and into the air making it seem like smell is coming from the water itself. In some instances, the odor may only occur when using hot water. If this is the case, the smell is likely originating from bacteria growing in your water heater. This can happen if your water heater temperature is too low or if it is turned off for long periods of time, like when you go on vacation. Flushing out the water heater may correct the problem. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for maintenance on your water heater. Also, go to your favorite home repair and maintenance website to discover the best ways to clean the drains in your sinks.
Average hardness for water treated at PW is 100-140 mg/l or 6 -8 grains. Total hardness is defined as the sum of calcium and magnesium ion concentrations, expressed as mg/l calcium carbonate. It is the measure of the capacity of water to precipitate soap. Hard water will make lathering difficult or “hard” to achieve, hence the term.
The black particles in water from a specific faucet could be the result of a black washer or gasket inside the faucet itself that has degraded over time. The particles may also come from the disintegration of the black rubber portion of the faucet’s flexible, stainless steel supply hoses. Another possibility is that corrosion inside the water heater is depositing the debris that breaks away and flows through pipes in your home. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for maintenance on the water heater. Flushing out the water heater, as well as the faucet water lines, may get rid of the particles.
Serratia marcescens bacteria is common in many environments, especially bathrooms, where moisture and dampness are nearly always prevalent. If you were to view this microorganism under a microscope, you would see it is red or pinkish in color. Besides toilet bowls, it can often be seen in shower/tub corners, on tile grout and even in your dog’s water dish.
Toilet bowls provide a welcoming environment for Serratia marcescens bacteria. That’s because this type of bacteria is found in human feces and thrives in moisture. It also feeds on products containing phosphorus (a chemical found in most shampoos). To eliminate or control this red residue, clean toilets, showers and tubs on at least a periodic basis, and with a bleach solution. Follow the suggestions below:
- Clean up soap and shampoo residues
- Clean toilet bowls with a chlorine-based cleaner. Using chlorine solutions also works extremely well in killing the bacteria off, though you’ll probably never completely eliminate it. Unfortunately, once it establishes itself, it’s more about control measures.
- Thoroughly clean the toilet bowl and then spray it with chlorine bleach. Put about a 1/4 cup of bleach in your toilet’s tank at the same time. Let it sit in the bowl for about 15 to 20 minutes. Then flush the toilet a few times.