Drinking water from a sink

Ok, I have a question which has been bugging me for a while. I tried to search on it, but nothing came up, so here goes. I dunno if there is an actual answer, but I am hoping someone with more knowledge than me can at least give me some ideas.

In the restroom where I work there are several sinks to wash your hands. On one of the sinks it says that the tap water is suitable for drinking. This raises two questions. 1) How come the other tap water is not safe, do they pipe it into this sink specially?
2) If it is not safe to drink, how is it safe to wash my hands in it.

For number 2, it is kind of scary. I mean, I wash my hands then I go down and eat some sandwiches for my lunch. If the water is not suitable to drink, how can this be safe.

Any thoughts or answers would be greatly appreciated.


That is kind of weird. If I were you I would stick to washing my hands in the water that is suitable for drinking until you get to the bottom of this.

Any indication that the other water really isn’t safe to drink? Maybe they just had one sign.

However, the building where I work, finished in 1990, originally had a problem with the tap water not being suitable for drinking because they used a heavy-metal containing solder in the joints.

Just a WAG, but if your building has older pipes that cause problems due to lead or other heavy metals, maybe they just decided to replace the pipes to one sink so you would have drinkable water there. It may have been too expensive to replace them all. The concentrations in the other pipes could be low enough to wash with safely but not to drink.

I see from your profile you are in the UK. If you were in some dry area I might guess that brackish ground water could be suitable for washing but you wouldn’t want to drink it.

Thanks for the input so far.

A little more info. I am in the UK, the building in about 5 years old and was purpose built (it is a call centre).

I have seen signs like this in many other places though. And, FTR, the area I live in does not suffer from water shortages (this is England, it rains all the time here :p).


“If it is not safe to drink, how is it safe to wash my hands in it. … I mean, I wash my hands then I go down and eat some sandwiches for my lunch. If the water is not suitable to drink, how can this be safe.”

I second the question. The sinks in the washrooms on the Metra (Chicago commuter system) trains are clearly marked “DO NOT DRINK”. And lots of people eat on the trains, so it’s certainly not uncommon for people to do exactly what was described: wash hands in “do not drink” water and then eat.

In that case - a closed system like on a train - the water could be so highly chlorinated or otherwise treated so you that wouldn’t want to drink it, but it might still be fine to wash with.

I mean, you wouldn’t want to drink soapy water, but it’s fine to wash your hands in.

“Metra, Chicago commuter system”? What is this? Must be something new since I moved from Il 16 years ago. From your description of sinks, it certainly isn’t the CTA. I know this is a detour from the OP, but I’m interested in this Metra.

In my town there is a large hotel near the petrochemical plants. Sometime around 1990 the EPA found out that their water well had a chemical contamination problem. The hotel had to install new plumbing and a new water system in the areas that were used for consumption by humans. The sinks, toilets, and showers did NOT have to be changed. The place had signs ‘safe to drink’ and ‘do not drink.’

The levels of chemical pollution that are acceptable for drinking and bathing are different.

Rick said

After you get this water problem solved, I would suggest you go looking for a nicer work environment. ::rolleyes::

I would guess that the water is unfit (does not necessarily mean dirty per se -iron-nitrates or other things could be out of whack per potability) to consume without filtering but is fine for handwashing. It didn’t make sense cost wise to pay for treating all water used so they only treated a few places for drinking safety.

Metra is METrapolitan RAil. It is the suburban commuter service. In the early to mid 80s the commuter rails service was in danger of being discontinued. (in fact Metra had to BUY the Illinois Central tracks and relable the line Metra Electric.)

It was a pretty good change as now people could use Metra Passes on any of the suburban lines (except the Chicago to South Bend line)

Where I work, all the water is pumped from a well on the property. Since 99.9% of the water is used for watering plants, filtering it for micro-organisms and other impurities would be a waste of money. Therefore, there’s a single filter system attached to one of the kitchen sinks which makes that water safe for drinking. The rest of the water is “drink at your own risk”, although it’s fine enough to rinse your hands off in. At least I’ve never known anyone to suffer ill effects from washing hands, etc in it in all the years I’ve worked there. Actually, it’s probably even fairly safe to drink, though I don’t see reason to tempt fate (but I’ve seen a lot of laborers drink from the hoses outside and they haven’t died yet).

A Briton would probably explain this better than I, but here we go: In the UK the (cold) water taps are not fed from the water pipe in the street, but from a tank in the attic of the house (the reason for this is inferior plumming and low water supply at times of the year, and the pressure in the water mains just isn’t high enough). This means the water could be subject to all sorts of bacteria growth and other things (ripoff from Fawlty Towers: “Basil goes to Manuel’s room to get him to remove a pigeon from the water tank and finds Manuel has been hiding something, a rat.”) before it is eventually used.

One tap, at least, in every flat, though, is fed directly from the street, usually the one in the kitchen, for drinking and cooking purposes.