Home Scan Inspections, LLC offers water quality testing and are capable of testing for the following water quality parameters:
Total Dissolved Solids (TDS)
Color of Water
These parameters are meant to characterize a home’s water quality at any point in time. They determine both raw water quality and the interaction with a home’s plumbing materials that may cause leaching of heavy metals. Additional testing may be required or recommended based on the test results. Water quality can vary seasonally or when certain events occur (e.g., treatment plant changes, source water changes, heavy rains, flooding, industrial accidents, wildfires, etc.). Test results may indicate the need for remediation using filtration or purification, or water treatment (e.g., softening). Hardness, alkalinity, TDS (Total Dissolved Solids), and color are high-level parameters comprised of a combination of species in the water. Further testing can uniquely identify these various species if required but that is rarely required. Lead, copper, chlorine, chromium, iron, nitrate, and nitrite are specific, individual water contaminants and cannot be broken down further.
The EPA regulates more than 90 drinking water contaminants. These “primary” or regulated contaminants are legally enforceable and specific limits must be met by public water suppliers. “Secondary” or unregulated contaminants mainly impact water aesthetics (taste, odor, and appearance) and are not enforceable by law. They may or may not have specific recommended levels and achieving these levels is left to the discretion of the public water supplier. Home Scan Inspections measures six (6) regulated contaminants, lead, copper, chlorine, chromium, nitrate, and nitrite. While chlorine is deliberately added to public drinking water as a disinfectant, we consider it a contaminant for the purpose of this testing. Hardness, alkalinity, pH, TDS, iron, and color are unregulated contaminants, but recommended levels are given by the EPA.
We employ a variety of test methodologies including test strips, analyzers, and meters to measure the different water quality parameters. Test strips provide a quick approximate range or measure of a contaminant. Meters are more accurate but take longer to give a reading and may require reagents to be added to the water sample. The lead analyzer uses an EPA-approved method (Method 1001) based on cyclic voltammetry for detecting lead as low as 2 ppb. Colorimeters measure color or a color change caused by adding reagents to the water sample – the color change is proportional to the amount of contaminant in the sample. In general, meters should be used for contaminants below 5 parts per million (ppm) whenever possible. Test strips are useful for higher levels of contaminants or when an absolute number is not important (e.g., hardness or alkalinity). At lower levels, test strips lose accuracy and are affected by the water matrix (all the different species dissolved in the water), which can cause interferences. The combination of test methodologies used gives a good balance of accuracy, speed, and value.
Water Parameter Details
pH (test strip)
pH is a measure of how acidic/basic water is. The range goes from 0 - 14, with 7 being neutral. A pH of less than 7 indicates acidity, whereas a pH of greater than 7 indicates a base. pH is really a measure of the relative amount of free hydrogen and hydroxyl ions in the water. Water that has more free hydrogen ions is acidic, whereas water that has more free hydroxyl ions is basic. Since pH can be affected by chemicals in the water, pH is an important indicator of water that is changing chemically. pH is reported in "logarithmic units". Each number represents a 10-fold change in the acidity/basicness of the water. Water with a pH of five is ten times more acidic than water having a pH of six.
The corrosion of pipes and plumbing fixtures can cause a bevy of problems with your water. Corrosion is the gradual decomposition or destruction of a material by oxidation or chemical actions, often due to an electrochemical reaction. Corrosion starts at the surface of a material and moves inward. Corrosion of iron or steel is commonly called rusting. Several factors will accelerate corrosion, including:
• Acidity (low pH)
• High mineral concentrations
• Stray current electrolysis
• Galvanic corrosion caused by dissimilar metals
• Dissolved oxygen content
• Water temperatures
Hardness (test strip)
Hard water is a common quality of water which mainly contains dissolved compounds of calcium and magnesium – typically carbonates (e.g., calcium carbonate). Scale deposits are a typical indicator of hard water. The term hardness was originally applied to waters that were hard to wash in, referring to the soap-wasting properties of hard water. Hardness prevents soap from lathering by causing the development of an insoluble curdy precipitate in the water. It typically causes the buildup of hardness scale (such as seen on faucets and showerheads). Dissolved calcium and magnesium salts are primarily responsible for most scaling in pipes and water heaters and cause numerous problems in laundry, kitchen, and bath. Hardness is usually expressed in grains per gallon (or ppm) as calcium carbonate equivalent.
The degree of hardness standard as established by the Water Quality Association (WQA) is:
• Stiff, dingy laundry
• Mineral deposits on dishes and glassware
• High soap usage & need for fabric softeners
• Dry, itchy skin and scalp
• Extra work to remove soap curd on bathtubs & shower stalls
• High energy costs, possibly due to scale build up in pipes and on appliances
• Scale build up in sinks, tubs, faucets & appliances
Scale deposits from hardness build up affects fixtures and appliances found throughout the entire home. For this reason, hardness is typically addressed with the treatment of water for the whole house rather than just at a specific faucet. Hardness minerals can be reduced in water for the whole house to make it “softer” by using one of the following means:
• Chemical softening—lime softening, hot and cold; lime-soda softening
• Membrane separation softening—Nano filtration
• Cation exchange softening—inorganic, carbonaceous, or organic base exchangers
Alkalinity (test strip)
The alkalinity of water is a measure of how much acid it can neutralize. If any changes are made to the water that could raise or lower the pH value, alkalinity acts as a buffer, protecting the water and its life forms from sudden shifts in pH. This ability to neutralize acid, or H+ ions, is particularly important in regions affected by acid rain. Total alkalinity is affected by environmental factors; rain, acidic sanitizers, addition of fill water and other product applications can all change the alkalinity over time. Most alkalinity in surface water comes from calcium carbonate, CaCO3, being leached from rocks and soil. This process is enhanced if the rocks and soil have been broken up for any reason, such as mining or urban development. Limestone contains especially high levels of calcium carbonate and when used to decrease acidity in homes can runoff into surface waters and increase alkalinity. There is no medical evidence that proves higher alkalinity water has any health benefits, but many scams are underway to convince people otherwise, resulting in expensive unnecessary products being sold to uninformed individuals. Remineralization can be done for highly purified water (e.g., reverse osmosis or RO) to restore taste and alkalinity.
Total Dissolved Solids –TDS (meter)
Water is a good solvent and picks up impurities easily. Pure water -- tasteless, colorless, and odorless -- is often called the universal solvent. “Dissolved solids" refer to any minerals, salts, metals, cations, or anions dissolved in water. Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) comprise inorganic salts (principally calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium, bicarbonates, chlorides, and sulfates) and some small amounts of organic matter that are dissolved in water. In the United States, elevated TDS has been due to natural environmental features such as mineral springs, carbonate deposits, salt deposits, and sea water intrusion, but other sources may include salts used for road de-icing, anti-skid materials, drinking water treatment chemicals, stormwater, and agricultural runoff, and point/non-point wastewater discharges.
In general, the TDS concentration is the sum of the cations (positively charged) and anions (negatively charged) ions in the water. Therefore, the TDS test provides a qualitative measure of the number of dissolved ions but does not tell us the nature or ion relationships. In addition, the test does not provide us insight into the specific water quality issues, such as hardness, salty taste, or corrosiveness. Therefore, the total dissolved solids test is used as an indicator test to determine the general quality of the water.
Lead can enter drinking water when plumbing materials that contain lead corrode, especially where the water has high acidity or low mineral content that corrodes pipes and fixtures. The most common sources of lead in drinking water are lead pipes, faucets, and fixtures. In homes with lead pipes that connect the home to the water main, also known as lead services lines, these pipes are typically the most significant source of lead in the water. Among homes without lead service lines, the most common problem is with brass or chrome-plated brass faucets and plumbing with lead solder. EPA has established an “action level” for lead in drinking water of 15 parts per billion (ppb). Steps should be taken to reduce exposure if this level is exceeded. Any house older than 2014 may have lead in plumbing fixtures, but newer homes with fixtures from foreign countries that don’t have lead material restrictions (e.g., China) have tested for high lead.
Copper is a reddish metal that occurs naturally in rock, soil, water, sediment. It has many practical uses in our society and is commonly found in coins, electrical wiring, and pipes. It is an essential element for living organisms, including humans, and—in small amounts—is necessary in our diet to ensure good health. However, too much copper can cause adverse health effects, including vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps, and nausea. It has also been associated with liver damage and kidney disease. EPA has established an “action level” for copper in drinking water of 1,300 parts per billion (ppb) or 1.3 ppm. Steps should be taken to reduce exposure if this level is exceeded. Copper works its way into the water by dissolving from copper pipes in the household plumbing. The longer the water has stood idle in the pipes, the more copper it is likely to have absorbed. (Newer homes with copper pipes may be more likely to have a problem. Over time, a coating forms on the inside of the pipes and can insulate the water from the copper in the pipes. In newer homes, this coating has not yet had a chance to develop.) Thus, anytime the water has not been used for more than six hours—overnight, for example, or during the day when people have been gone to work or school— it should be cleared from the pipes before being used for drinking or cooking. Blue or blue-green stains in showers, tubs or sinks indicates high copper levels in the water.
Water chlorination or disinfection is the process of adding chlorine or chlorine compounds such as sodium hypochlorite (bleach) to water. This method is used to kill bacteria and other microbes in tap water as chlorine is highly toxic. Chlorine readily combines with chemicals dissolved in the water. These components "use up" chlorine and comprise the chlorine demand of the treatment system. It is important to add sufficient chlorine to the water to meet the chlorine demand and provide residual disinfection. The chlorine that does not combine with other components in the water is free (residual) chlorine, which is what the colorimeter in your kit measures. An ideal system supplies free chlorine at a concentration of 0.3-0.5 mg/l (ppm). Higher levels will cause unpleasant taste and odor imparting a “swimming pool” smell and homeowners may choose to add filters to remove the chlorine. Private wells do not contain chlorine. However, if bacteria are detected above certain levels in a private well, hyper-chlorination (“shock treatment”) with household bleach is the most common method of remediation.
Color of Water (colorimeter)
"Clean" water should be clear with no noticeable color. High color readings (> 15 PCU) indicate water contamination and additional testing may be recommended to identify the specific contaminants creating the color. Common colors include:
1. Red or Brown Color - A red, brown, or rusty color is generally indicative of iron in your water. Disadvantages to iron in your water include stains in sinks, or discolored laundry.
2. Black Color - This coloration is generally indicative of manganese in your water. Like iron, it can cause stains in sinks, shower basins or bathtubs.
3. Blue or Green Color - A blue or green color is generally a result of copper in your water supply, or copper pipes and corrosive water. The copper can cause staining of your fixtures and your laundry. Copper can also affect taste if levels are higher than around 5 ppm. If you are using well water as your primary source of water, and copper is a concern in your area, it would be to your advantage to have your water tested for copper.
4. Cloudy White or Foamy - Cloudy water is usually due to turbidity. Turbidity is caused by finely divided particles in the water. When light hits the water, it is scattered, giving a cloudy look to the water. Filtering the particles and retesting should be done when water appears cloudy and apparent color readings are > 15 PCU.
Chromium VI (colorimeter)
Chromium VI (also known as “hexavalent chromium”) was made popular by the movie “Erin Brockovich” which addressed industrial pollutants entering ground water and causing cancer in nearby residents of a small California town. It occurs naturally in ground water but can also come from certain industrial waste processes. Hexavalent chromium is a carcinogen and a reproductive toxicant for both males and females. As a result, it was added to California's Proposition 65 list of toxic substances in December 2008. Exposure to hexavalent chromium occurs through breathing, ingestion, and contact with the skin. Although most of the known health impacts are related to inhalation, there is now strong data linking ingestion of hexavalent chromium, such as through drinking water, to severe health effects. California regulates the amount of chromium VI in drinking water to 50 ppb, while the EPA recommended limit is 100 ppb.
Nitrate/Nitrite (test strip) and Nitrite (colorimeter)
Nitrates and nitrites are a major constituent of fertilizers and have been used for many years in lawn treatments. Unfortunately, when nitrogen fertilizers are used, they can get into wells and contaminate them. Nitrates and nitrites from these fertilizers also seep into groundwater, especially shallow wells. The EPA has set a maximum contaminant level (MCL) of 10 mg/L (ppm) for nitrate and nitrite in public water supplies. Users of private water supplies should have their water tested annually, especially in areas where fertilizers are commonly used. Nitrites are cause for concern in infants under 6 months of age. They affect the blood's ability to carry oxygen. Once the nitrite enters the blood stream and binds to the hemoglobin, oxygen cannot be carried, and "blue-baby" syndrome (bluish tint to skin due to lack of oxygen) occurs, as well as shortness of breath, increased sensitivity to illness, heart attacks, and possibly death by asphyxiation. The best way to tell if your water has nitrates is to have it tested. If your water is found to be contaminated, it can be treated in a variety of ways, including filtration, distillation, or an ion-exchange system like a water softener.
Iron (test strip)
Iron can be a troublesome chemical in water supplies. As rainwater infiltrates the soil and underlying geologic formations iron is dissolved, causing it to seep into aquifers that serve as sources of groundwater for wells. Although present in drinking water, iron is seldom found at concentrations greater than 10 parts per million (ppm). However, as little as 0.3 mg/l can cause water to turn a reddish-brown color. Iron is not hazardous to health, but it is considered a secondary or aesthetic contaminant. Dissolved iron gives water a disagreeable metallic taste. When the iron combines with tea, coffee, and other beverages, it produces an inky, black appearance and a harsh, unacceptable taste. Vegetables cooked in water containing excessive iron turn dark and look unappealing. Concentrations of iron as low as 0.3 mg/L will leave reddish brown stains on fixtures, tableware and laundry that are hard to remove. When these deposits break loose from water piping, rusty water will flow through the faucet. When iron exists along with certain kinds of bacteria, a smelly biofilm can form. To survive, the bacteria use the iron, leaving behind a reddish brown or yellow slime that can clog plumbing and cause an offensive odor. This slime or sludge is noticeable in the toilet tank when the lid is removed. The organisms occur naturally in shallow soils and groundwater, and they may be introduced into a well or water system when it is constructed or repaired.