It’s no secret that well and city water supplies both have their downfalls. In Lehigh & Northampton Counties, many home and business owners are dissatisfied with their water due to a variety of factors. Common water problems in PA include hard water, iron, bacteria, lead, acidity, and sulfur. The causes of water issues can range from environmental factors to well or plumbing contamination.

A 2014 report by the American Society of Engineers pointed to increasing infrastructure problems exacerbating common water issues in Pennsylvania. The report suggested that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania should spend $13.9 billion over the next 20 years to sufficiently address water issues for PA residents. In 2017, over 18,000 people in the Pittsburgh area alone were on a boil water advisory.

The most common Pennsylvania water problems include:

1. Hard Water

One of the most common water problems in Pennsylvania, including Lehigh and Northampton Counties, is hard water. Hard Water contains a high amount of minerals like magnesium, iron or calcium. Dissolved metals such as barium, aluminum, strontium and zinc can also cause water hardness. Many people overlook common indications of hard water problems in PA because it usually does not emit an unpleasant smell. However, hard water can cause soap scum, bathtub rings, dry skin and hair, and abnormal spotting on objects like silverware, fixtures and glassware.

Because hard water causes mineral buildup, it can also shorten the life expectancy of water-using appliances, including dishwashers, water heaters, washing machines, ice machines, humidifiers, refrigerators, and plumbing fixtures.

2. High Iron Content

High iron is another common water problem that afflicts many Pennsylvania homeowners. A 2016 report found excessive iron concentrations in 17 percent of Pennsylvania’s private water supplies.

Iron and manganese both infiltrate water systems — especially deeper wells — because water has been in contact with rock for an extended period. These two minerals often occur together in groundwater, although iron concentrations tend to be higher than their corresponding manganese levels. High iron content in water is colorless and may not be apparent at first. However, one obvious sign of high iron content in PA water is the presence of orange-brown stains in sinks, toilets, and appliances.

Water should not contain more than 0.3 parts per million of iron. Water tainted with high levels of iron can cause skin problems and have negative impacts on your health. In rare cases, small bacteria that feed off iron can be harmful if digested.

3. Bacteria

The quality of groundwater in Pennsylvania is a valid concern for home and business owners with wells. Penn State, the DEP, and the EPA recommend testing well water annually for bacteria. Water Quality Indicators, or WQIs, that you should look for include total coliform and E. coli. Coliform bacteria are found in the digestive systems of warm-blooded animals, on plants, and in soil and surface water. High coliform counts in water may indicate the presence of harmful bacteria, viruses and parasites. Bacteria can lead to gastrointestinal issues, especially in children and senior citizens. Penn State University advises homeowners in Pennsylvania to test their water regularly as 50 percent of private water systems fail at least one drinking water standard.

4. Sulfur

Unlike some of the less obvious signs of contaminated water, sulfur (hydrogen sulfide) levels are immediately apparent through their “rotten egg” odor and taste. This foul-smelling gas is created by oil deposits and decaying vegetation beneath the earth’s surface. Although hydrogen sulfide does not threaten human health directly, it can cause diarrhea, dehydration or nausea. Sulfur is more likely to be found in well water than in municipal water and should be tested in-person by a professional.

5. Lead

Lead – another common water problem in Pennsylvania – also warrants the help of a trained water treatment professional. You cannot see, taste or smell lead in tap water, but it is a toxic metal that can be harmful to human health. Up to 20 percent of total lead exposure in children is attributed to consuming contaminated water, which can cause serious health issues. The health department has found elevated levels of lead in recent blood tests from PA residents, especially children. Keep your family safe by performing a routine water test.

Diagnose Your Water with a Free In-Home Water Test

While some water issues are evident at first sight, others can go unnoticed if you’re not careful. The trained service technicians at Long’s EcoWater Systems encourage a free in-home consultation and water test for Lehigh Valley inhabitants, including those in Allentown, Macungie, Bethlehem, and the surrounding regions. We know the risks involved with water contamination and are here to provide the best treatment solution for your home. Contact us today to learn more about water safety or to request a free water analysis and detailed water diagnosis.