Use your senses as first hint of water quality issues

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Your senses are your first and best diagnostic tools. You can see, taste, smell, and feel water quality issues.

Water that is red, orange, yellow, brown, or cloudy can signal iron, rust, or other contaminants in the mains or your household plumbing. Tannins from decaying vegetation and leaves can also give water a yellow or brownish hue.

The main perceptible signs of water issues include:

• Scale deposits: Spotty glassware, dishes and shower doors.

• Staining of whites in the laundry.

• Bad taste and smell: Chlorine, rotten egg odor or earthy smell or taste.

• Cloudiness and discoloration: Ice cubes, drinking water or laundry results.

Foul-smelling or bad-tasting water are signs of impurities. Here are common water odor or taste problems you might encounter:

• A rotten-egg or sulfur smell or taste suggests the presence of hydrogen sulfide. That's often caused by a certain type of bacteria in the water.

Sulfates can also cause the water to taste salty. Investigate further to pinpoint the source, such as bacteria growing in drains, water heaters, wells, or on the inside of pipes.

• Musty, earthy odors and tastes might signal dissolved solids. Such aromas and tastes might be caused by decaying organic matter in the plumbing or even in the source water itself.

• Then there's the smell and taste of chlorine. It's there for disinfection to make water safer to drink and originates during the normal chlorination treatment process. However, to enjoy the taste you might want to get rid of the chlorine.

• Metallic smells and tastes might be a sign of mercury, lead, copper, arsenic, or iron in the water. Manganese and zinc can also cause a metallic smell or taste. These chemicals might come from the pipes.

Your senses might be the first diagnostic tool in discovering water quality issues, but it is always best to have your water tested by a professional.

Chris Lane is the owner of Culligan Water Conditioning of the Low Country, serving Beaufort, Jasper and Hampton counties. culliganhhi.com

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