Gunk in Water Supply: Help!

Here’s the situation: On occasion when I’m filling the bath up I’ll notice a clump of some unidentifiable material come out of the faucet and into the tub along with the water. It is a gray color, no smell. Most of it is suspended as a mist in the water but on occasion little balls of the material form and sink to the bottom of the tub. If I pick them up they dissolve on my fingers kind of like pencil lead leaving a streak of blackish material.

This has been isolated to the bathtub but today my wife emailed me to say its happening in the kitchen now. I drink this water, shower in it, and my kids bathe in it…I’m freaked out. This is an older house (about 30-40 years old) in decent condition in Levittown PA. I have not found any info on the web about widespread water problems in Levittown.

Does anyone have any idea what I can do? I’d like to have a sample tested but have no idea what kind of organization might do something like that. My fear is that it is some kind of treated solid waste that is somehow making it into the water system. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

It sounds like you’ve got some carryover of flocculating agents designed to help remove turbidity from drinking water. Could you check with the water department to see if they’re using flocculants?

Seems like your local water department/water treatment plant would be a good place to call.

Your water provider should be sending you an annual water quality report. For example, City of Tuscon’s. That would tell you more about the source of the water and what treatment it goes through before it comes to you.

I doubt that treated solid waste is contaminating your water supply. Stranger things have happened, so I agree with the above advice to contact the supplier. The entity should be listed on your bill.

The gunk you mention sounds like scale, which builds up inside water lines over time. This could be from the piping in your home, or from the main lines out in the system. Has it been an ongoing thing? Always been there? Sometimes this is more apparent after work has been done on the main, or after hydrant flushing.

Anectdotally, one lady here in our municipality started getting black crumbly gunk in her water. The city discovered that a well which was supposed to keep her pond full had accidentally been connected to their household system (by the pond contractor). Ew.

Private well?

Municipal water?

Where do you live?

I do recall seeing one or two water quality reports over the years but nothing signifigant was in them, we had a clean bill of health. I’ve discovered that it is most like a company called Aqua America that supplies my water so I’ve asked my wife to call them. I’m worried that they are going to give me the run around though…no one wants to accept blame for problems like this.

Anyoen know of a lab where I could get a sample tested? Home test kits are ok but will only cover a narrow range of possible contaminents. I need to know what my kids have been exposed to. Thank you everyone for your comments and advice so far!

Right, this is a municipal water supply for Levittown PA. Levittown is a very large suburban community with over 50,000 people just outside of Philadelphia. It was built in the 50’s and 60’s. No private wells around that I know of.

Here’s the Wisconsin DNR site.

Have you checked with your State Department of Health?

PA EPA has a list of laboratories here, by county.

I’ll give the labs a call next. So far we’ve called a bunch of mulicipal water agencies and all had nothing useful to say.

My last post was started before you posted location. I didn’t link that after seeing your location.

You just wanted to show everyone how clean YOUR water is. :wink:

It’s still a good link, 'cause it illustrates the kind of thing he should be looking for in PA. Every state will have something similar.

OP, does your house have any steel or galvanised piping?

Possibly but I’m not sure how I would know. The pipes I can see appear to be standard copper.

At first I thought this was a result of shoddy work by the guys that redid my bathroom…that’s where this was isolated to until yesterday. Now its showing up in the kitchen now. To think I’ve been drinking some kind of mystery gunk in the water really turns my stomach.

The water can run back and forth between rooms; i.e. what is in the water line in your bathroom could migrate to the kitchen faucet.

Someone else can probably tell you what things might have been done (or not done properly) with the bathroom work which might cause loose material to show up in the water.

Do you still have your receipt for the repair work? Possibly it might list what type of material was used (per Carson’s post).

Good point. Nothing to be found on our receipt, it just shows a total for the work an no line items.

Let me ask this: it seems to be isolated to the hot water. Is it possible the water heater can do this? From what I understand it simply heats a pipe where the water passes through (oil heat) so I’m not sure if this is even possible.

My reason for asking about ferrous piping is from seeing similar phenomena in domestic water supplies using the material, usually of advanced age. Unlikely to be used in recent addition or re-work.
The water heater could be a source. More concern should be given to the integrity of your system(s) than potability issues, though restraint is advised. Typically water heaters of almost any type have precipitates that while not toxic per se, lack appeal.

Are you saying that it’s tankless? As Carson suggests, problems with a hot water tank could be your issue (although what I’m familiar with is a sand-like sediment, not what you describe). Or, the recent work you had done could have shaken loose some sediments that were already in the hot water line (from age perhaps).

If you choose to take a sample and send to the lab, you might want to take it first thing in the morning before anyone opens a tap in the house. That way nothing is flushed away before you can capture it. If you suspect the water tank, you might want to grab your sample there, or the closest tap to it.

Yep, no tank. In theory this provides unlimited hot water…in practice I get about 20 minutes. :wink:

One strange thing is that I can not find a pattern to it. I can run the faucet on any sink or shower with nothing coming out that shouldn’t. But every week or so I get a big clump of the stuff coming out the bathtub faucet. So now I’m stuck sitting on the toilet and watching the bath fill up before I put the kids in it.

My wife called the county water company and they are coming out to test next week. Of course they will only test the cold water so if the problem is with the hot water line it won’t tell me much.

Do you know what work was done, exactly? If you had no problem before the work, and have problems afterwards, that kinda points the finger. Perhaps a joint not done correctly? Or done sloppily, so that there’s extra joint material, and it’s coming off in clumps.