Water Quality - Questions & Answers


Water Quality

What is the hardness of my water?

Actual hardness is between 20 and 50 mg/l or 1 to 3 grains per gallon. This is considered soft water and there is no need to further soften water within individual households.

Why is my water discolored or muddy looking?

Discoloration in the drinking water does not result from mud or dirt entering the distribution system.    Following treatment, all water introduced into the system is clean and clear, and the water lines are pressurized to a point which prevents any mud or dirt from being able to enter into the piping system.  There are however, natural elements and minerals in the water that can settle in the main lines or accumulate in household plumbing over time.  Some older plumbing made from galvanized steel pipe can cause discolored water itself due to rust or corrosion forming on the inside of the piping. The two main elements that can cause the water to be discolored are iron and manganese, and are natural minerals which give Georgia clay its unique color. Neither of these minerals are harmful, and are even found in most vitamin supplements. While these minerals can accumulate on the inside of the main lines and water tanks over time, the HCWA maintains a water line flushing program and a water tank washout program to help minimize these deposits.  When pressure changes occur in the water lines from line breaks, improper flushing of hydrants, extended use of fire hydrants, filling swimming pools and any rapid use of the cold water,  then these minerals can become re-suspended in the water and make it appear discolored. This situation may be remedied at the household by flushing from outside hose spigots. If this is ineffective, contact HCWA’s Operations department at (678) 583-2490 or after hours at (770) 957-6659.

My water smells of chemicals or bleach. Are there a lot of chemicals or extra chlorine in the water?

The answer is no. Chemicals such as chlorine are always kept at within safe and regulated levels. The chlorine is maintained in HCWA’s distribution system from 0.2 to 2.5 mg/l which is about half of the maximum allowable level. (Household bleach for example is 50,000 mg/l chlorine.) Any noticeable smells and even tastes can be from a number of possible sources:

  1. The chlorine within the water can react with odors already in the air, in the drain or even on plumbing fixtures. Chlorine itself has no odor, but when it comes in contact with any organic material, it will react and give the characteristic bleachy smell. Try smelling unscented bleach in the jug (little to no odor). Then, put a drop on your index finger and smell (bleach). This is caused by a chemical reaction with your skin (an organic substance). Remedy this by cleaning sinks and drains and running enough water to diminish the smells.
  2. Chemical smells can also come from a garden hose that is connected to the house. If this hose has water left in it, the water can make its way back into the house by reverse pressure or back siphonage and effect the taste and/or odor of the water in the house.  It can also affect the taste of and ice within the household freezer. Remedy this by keeping the hose disconnected when not in use or by installing a backflow device specifically designed for hose connections.

Why does my water look milky white?

This can be caused by excessive amounts of air in the water lines. Air can get trapped at high points in household lines or even in the main  water lines. The pressurized water within the pipeline can become saturated with air, giving it the white, milky look. To test for this, try filling a clear glass with water and letting it sit on the counter. Then watch to see if the milky appearance disappears with time. This situation may be remedied by flushing from outside hose spigots to remove this trapped air. If this is ineffective, contact HCWA’s Operations department at (678) 583-2490 or after hours at (770) 957-6659

The flow of water through a faucet may also introduce air into the water and give it the milky white appearance. If a hissing sound is noticed while running the water, try increasing the flow until the sound is no longer heard and the milky appearance goes away. Water heaters can also be a suspect in the milky appearance, especially if it is noticed in the hot water only. Try the same test suggested above to see if the trapped air in the water will dissipate.

Why do my strainers keep stopping up with white particles?

This can be caused by a defective dip tube in the water heater. If this tube is defective, it sheds layers of plastic, which then makes it way through your plumbing and gets trapped in the strainers. To remedy this, contact a licensed, professional plumber or the water heater manufacturer.

Why do my toilets and sinks have black or pink rings or spots on them?

This can be caused by mold and mildew spores that may be present in the air. These spores land in moist environments and form colonies that typically are colored pink or black. These organisms are not in the water, but in the air and are not harmful. The remedy for this is to minimize these spores in the air by using allergy free filters, keeping lids down on toilets, sealing toilet tank lids and fixing leaky faucets.

Why does my water smell like rotten eggs or rotting materials?

This may be caused by a couple of things:

  1. One possible cause may be sulfate reducing bacteria in the hot water heater. These are non-harmful bacteria that can grow in extreme temperatures. They are even found in some hot springs. These bacteria take sulfate and change it into hydrogen sulfide (rotten egg smell). This can be remedied by turning the water heater all the way up for 24 hours and then flushing it and returning the hot water heater to its normal temperature. Caution: Be extremely careful of scalding water during the 24-hour period. This water will burn very quickly. Extra caution should be used around children. Click here for more information.
  2. Unpleasant smells can also come up from drains and be mistaken for being in the water. Test for this by checking to see if it is actually an odor in the water.  Fill a clean glass with the water and then take it away from the sink and smell the water in the glass right over the edge. If there is no smell, it may be the drain. Test this again by smelling close to the drain and see if objectionable odors are noticed.  If so, one remedy is to clean out the trap under the sink or simply use a commercial drain cleaner or a small amount of bleach in the drain overnight. If  customers are not comfortable with any of the above mentioned remedies  a licensed plumber may also be contacted. If the water itself has an odor, please contact HCWA’s Water Quality Section at (678) 583-3902 or after hours at (770) 957-6659 for further assistance.


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Henry County Water Authority | 1695 Highway 20 West | McDonough, GA 30253 | Phone (770) 957-6659 | Fax (678) 583-2466