HABITEC Home and Building Inspections, LLC   
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Water Quality Analysis

Water Quality Analysis

HABITEC provides water quality analysis for Nashville and Middle Tennessee. Common drinking water contaminants can include chlorine, nitrates, nitrites, iron, iron bacteria, copper, microbials, coli form bacteria, lead, fuel oxygenates, radionuclide (such as radon) and sulfate. See the definitions of these contaminants below.
Contaminants found in drinking water can come from the water source, tap water via corrosion of plumbing materials, or from improper construction of plumbing. Regardless of the cause, the first step in identifying water contaminants is sampling the water. That is what we do at HABITEC. Water sampling is conducted in accordance with the manufacturer's and/or laboratory instructions and then sent to the lab for analysis, if applicable. A detailed written report is prepared for the Client.
HABITEC offers a variety of tests to evaluate water quality. The basic water quality analysis for municipal water provided by HABITEC is an on-site evaluation for chlorine, nitrates, nitrites, iron, iron bacteria, water hardness, water acidity (pH), copper, alkalinity, and hydrogen sulfide. Should the on-site evaluation show a positive result HABITEC recommends that a sample be taken for a laboratory analysis. All sites served by private well water should have samples processed by a laboratory.
Evaluating for lead, bacteria or radon in drinking water requires a sample to be process by a laboratory. HABITEC has the methods and procedures available for timely processing of these samples.

HABITEC Inspectors are trained in the process of sampling water, processing the water to test for contaminants, and providing a written report to our Clients with the results of the test. Please use the CONTACT US link to schedule your home or building for water contaminant sampling. Like all Environmental Services, water contaminants sampling can be scheduled in conjunction with a home or commercial building inspection.
Definitions of the water quality issues mentioned above are as follows:
Total Chlorine consists of both free chlorine and combined (already reacted) chlorine. Free chlorine affects the taste and odor of your water and may irritate your skin and eyes. Chlorine is used to disinfect water in both private and public water systems. However, during the disinfection process, excessive amounts of chlorine may react with decaying organic matter to form trihalomethanes, which can cause cancer.

Nitrate/nitrite is a chemical that seeps into our drinking water from fertilizer, sewage, feed lots and other geological elements. Nitrate over 10 ppm and nitrite over 1 part per million reduces the amount of oxygen available to the fetus in pregnant women causing “Blue Baby Syndrome”. It is also considered an immediate threat to children 6 months to 1 year old, and is a major health threat to adults.

Iron is a mineral found in the ground which can also be found in drinking water. Iron is essential to good health, however, iron levels above .3 parts per million can cause brown, orange, or yellow color stains to your plumbing fixtures and laundry.

Iron bacteria are another form of iron that may be present in a water system. Iron bacteria are commonly found in toilet flush tanks as a brown, slimy residue.

Copper is a metal which is commonly found in drinking water. Small amounts are generally not a problem. However, copper levels above 1 ppm can cause jaundice, pancreatic disfunction, poisoning of the red blood cells, gastrointestinal problems and anemia.

Hydrogen sulfide is a gas that can be detected by its rotten-egg odor.

Bacteria microbials in water are always a concern. The EPA has regulated that the presence of any fecal bacteria in potable water (>1 colony/100ml) must be purified so that sample analyses indicates that there is no longer any bacteria present (1 cfu or a “negative” result). Some means of purification include boiling for at least 5 minutes, chlorination, or ultra violet light. All of these are sufficient to kill bacteria and reducing the related health risks.

Total coli form bacteria are a collection of relatively harmless microorganisms that live in soil, water, and the digestive system of animals. Fecal coli form bacteria, which belong to this group, are present in large numbers in the intestines of man and warm- and cold-blooded animals. These bacteria aid in digestion. A specific group of this type of fecal bacteria, and the most common member, is Escherichia coli (E-coli). These organisms may be separated from the total coli form group by their ability to grow at elevated temperatures and are associated only with the fecal material of war-blooded animals.

The presence of fecal coli form bacteria in aquatic environments indicates that the water has been contaminated with the fecal material of man or other animals. At the time this occurred, the source water may have also been contaminated by pathogens or disease producing bacteria or viruses which can exist in fecal material. The presence of fecal contamination is an indicator that a potential health risk exists for individuals exposed to this water. Fecal coli form bacteria may occur in ambient water as a result of direct discharge from mammals and birds, from agricultural and storm runoff carrying wastes from birds and mammals, and from domestic sewage overflow into the water.
Lead is a heavy metal that is one of the greatest health threats given that an estimated 55 million homes still have plumbing and/or lead solder in use. Lead contaminated water from lead pipes, fixtures or solder contributes to lead poisoning in over 40 million homes. Additionally, EPA estimates that approximately 33million homes likely have concentrations of lead present in the drinking water that exceeds the 15 ppb regulatory level. Even legally “lead-free” homes may contain up to 8% lead. The most common problem is with brass or chrome-plated brass faucets and fixtures which can leach significant amonts of lead into the water. Elevated levels of lead have been shown to cause blindness, retardation, comas, and, in extreme cases, death. Pregnant mothers that ingest (drink) high levels f lead also run the risk of affecting the baby’s development.
Fuel Oxygenates are fumes and liquids containing fuel products. Fuel oxygenates can enter the water supply by water run-off or migration through soil.
Radionuclide includes radon gas which is an odorless and invisible gas occurring naturally and is caused by the breakdown of uranium in rocks found in soil. Tennessee is in an EPA designated Zone 1, or High Risk, area for radon. Over 17,000 homeowners are affected by water borne radon according to the EPA. Although not as pervasive as radon from soil gas, radon from water (usually well water) can lead to cancer of the digestive tract and the stomach.

Sulfate is a substance that occurs naturally in drinking water. According to EPA, health concerns regarding sulfate in drinking water have been raised because of reports that diarrhea may be associated with the ingestion of water containing high levels of sulfate.

Water hardness is a measure of calcium and magnesium in your water. Hard water over 125 parts/million tends to form scales inside pipes creating a barrier between lead solder and the water itself, thereby helping to prevent lead from entering into your drinking water. Hard water can leave white calcium deposits on plumbing fixtures that are unsightly and may impair their operation. Homeowners with hard water may wish to consider installation of a water softening system. Low hardness (soft water), less than 54 parts/million, can be corrosive to your plumbing. This should only be a significant problem if the structure has lead soldered pipes.

Water acidity (pH) is a measure of the acidic or basic character of water. Results below 7 indicate acidity and above 7.5 indicate alkalinity. A desirable reading is therefore between 7 and 7.5. Water with low pH can be corrosive to plumbing fixtures and hot water systems and may release harmful amounts of lead into your water from solder joints and pipes. Water with low pH may leave red stains on galvanized pipe or blue-green stains on copper.

Total alkalinity is the ability of water to resist change in pH. A low total alkalinity may contribute to high acidity and may cause your water to appear cloudy and contribute to scaling. When the total alkalinity is too high, the drinking water may have an objectionable “soda” taste and may have the effect of excessive drying of the skin by removing natural oils.

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