Water Quality Tips- Colored Particles in Drinking Water

From time to time the Water Quality Department gets calls about colored particles showing up in a customer’s drinking water. If there hasn’t been a water main break or routine flushing on the water mains in the area it’s very likely the source is somewhere inside the house. Here’s some information to help you determine the particle source.

Brown, black, or orange particles are usually small pieces of rusted steel that have broken off the inside of your water pipes (particularly if your house has aging galvanized iron). These particles are very hard and irregular in size and shape. They consist of mostly iron and are not a health hazard. They can however become a nuisance if they clog your washing machine screens, shower heads, and/or the aerators at the ends of your faucets. Black particles can also be the result of a broken water filter, degrading faucet washer or gasket, or disintegrating black rubber from an old flexible supply line hose.

If the particles are very hard, similar in size and shape, and might be described as large coffee grounds, they are most likely granular activated carbon (GAC) from the inside of a water filter. Replace the filter cartridge according to the manufacturer’s specifications. If the particles are oily or sooty in texture they most likely the result of an aging flexible supply line hose. Over time the rubber breaks down, replace the hose with another that has a water disinfection resistant lining or change to a different style of hose that is not made of black rubber.

Still not sure? Give us a call at the Water Quality Depart (503-722-9241) and we’ll be happy to help you out!