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Water Quality Testing


In rural Canada, most people rely on private water supplies such as wells and
dugouts. Quality water is vital to the social, health, and economic well-being
of the prairies and its people.

Testing your water quality on a regular basis is an important part of

maintaining a safe and reliable source. The test results allow you to properly
address the specific problems of a water supply. This will help ensure that the
water source is being properly protected from potential contamination, and
that appropriate treatment is selected and operating properly.

It is important to test the suitability of your water quality for its intended use,
whether it be livestock watering, chemical spraying, or drinking water. This
will assist you in making informed decisions about your water and how you
use it.

The purpose of this Water Quality Matters publication is to provide water

quality testing information that will assist rural residents who use a private
water supply. It provides information on the importance of water quality
monitoring and how you can get your water tested.

Importance of Water Testing

Regular testing is important to:

o identify existing problems

o ensure water is suitable for the intended use

o ensure safe drinking water

o determine the effectiveness of a treatment system

The quality of a water source may change over time, even suddenly. Changes
can go unnoticed as the water may look, smell, and taste the same.

Is My Water Safe to Drink?

The only way to tell if your drinking water is safe is by having it tested at a
commercial laboratory.

Harmful bacteria, parasites, and viruses are invisible to the naked eye, so
water which looks and tastes good may not necessarily be safe to drink. These
microbes can exist in surface and groundwater supplies, and can cause
immediate sickness in humans if not properly treated.

Certain chemical contaminants that are sometimes found in a water source

can cause long term health problems that take years to develop. Frequent
water testing will identify unsafe water and ensure that the treatment system
is treating the water to a satisfactory level.

What Tests Should I Have Done?

Useful tests are available to help determine the health and safety of a water
supply, and the performance of a water treatment system. Your local health
department can assist in selecting tests important for assessing your drinking
water. A number of commercial laboratories offer water quality packages that
include a variety of tests to assess water potability.

Basic Water Potability Test packages include tests for coliform bacteria,
nitrates, pH, sodium, chloride, fluoride, sulphate, iron, manganese, total
dissolved solids, and hardness.

o Coliform bacteria tests indicate the presence of microorganisms in

the water that are potentially harmful to human health.

o Nitrate is a common contaminant found mainly in groundwater.

High nitrate concentrations can be particularly dangerous for babies
under six months, since nitrate interferes with the ability of blood to
carry oxygen.

o Ions such as sodium, chloride, sulphate, iron, and manganese can

impart objectionable taste or odour to water.

o Excessive amounts of sulfate can have a laxative effect or cause

gastrointestinal irritation.

o Fluoride is an essential micro-nutrient, but excessive amounts can

cause dental problems.

o Total dissolved solids represent the amount of inorganic substances

(i.e. sodium, chloride, sulphate) that are dissolved in the water. High
total dissolved solids (TDS) can reduce the palatability of water.

Other tests may be appropriate if a particular contaminant is suspected in the

water. For instance, groundwater sources are sometimes tested for arsenic,
selenium, and uranium. Both surface and groundwater sources may also be
tested for pesticide contamination.

Domestic water supplies should be tested a minimum of once per year.

Drinking water supplies obtained from shallow wells and surface water
sources should be tested more frequently (i.e. seasonally), as they are more
susceptible to contamination.

It is important to test your drinking water at the tap and at the source. Testing
both will help you determine if your treatment system is performing correctly,
and if the quality of your source water has changed.

How Minerals Affect Water Supplies

Groundwater with high amounts of minerals is common in both municipal

and private North Dakota water supplies. Dissolved minerals can affect the
usefulness of groundwater and surface water. If the problem is bad enough,
chemical treatment may help. Sometimes another source of water is needed.
The following is a brief description of how some common minerals affect
water supplies.

Total Dissolved Solids

High concentrations of total dissolved solids can cause water to taste bad,
forcing consumers to use other water sources. Highly mineralized water also
deteriorates plumbing and appliances. Waters containing more than 500
milligrams per liter (mg/l) of dissolved solids should not be used if other less
mineralized supplies are available. This does not mean that any water in
excess of 500 mg/l is unusable. People may eventually adjust to drinking
water containing high total dissolved solids. With the exception of the
Missouri River, Lake Sakakawea, a few fresh water lakes, and scattered wells,
very few untreated water supplies in North Dakota contain less than the
recommended 500 mg/l of total dissolved solids.


Hardness is the amount of calcium and magnesium dissolved in the water.

Hard water has no adverse health effects and may even taste better than soft
waters. But hard water is less desirable because it requires more soap for
effective cleansing, forms scum and curd, causes yellowing of fabrics,
toughens vegetables during cooking, and forms scales in boilers, hot water
heaters, pipes, and on cooking utensils.
The hardness of good quality water should not exceed 270 mg/l (16
grams/gal.) measured as calcium carbonate (CaCO3). Water softer than 30-
50 mg/l may be corrosive to piping, depending on pH, alkalinity and dissolved
oxygen. Whether or not to soften hard water is a matter of personal reference
and depends on the natural sodium level. The most common types of
commercial water softeners replace the calcium and magnesium ions
with sodium. Water softened in this way may affect individuals on sodium-
restricted diets. The treated water should be tested for sodium. A personal
physician should be consulted about the results.


A water softener works on the principle of cation or ion exchange in which

ions of the hardness minerals are exchanged for sodium or potassium ions,
effectively reducing the concentration of hardness minerals to tolerable

The most economical way to soften household water is with an ion exchange
water softener. This unit uses sodium chloride (table salt) to recharge beads
made of the ion exchange resins that exchange hardness mineral ions for
sodium ions. Artificial or natural zeolites can also be used. As the hard water
passes through and around the beads, the hardness mineral ions are
preferentially absorbed, displacing the sodium ions. This process is called ion
exchange. When the bead or sodium zeolite has a low concentration of sodium
ions left, it is exhausted, and can no longer soften water. The resin is
recharged by flushing (often back-flushing) with saltwater. The high excess
concentration of sodium ions alter the equilibrium between the ions in
solution and the ions held on the surface of the resin, resulting in replacement
of the hardness mineral ions on the resin or zeolite with sodium ions. The
resulting saltwater and mineral ion solution is then rinsed away, and the resin
is ready to start the process all over again. This cycle can be repeated many

Some softening processes in industry use the same method, but on a much
larger scale. These methods create an enormous amount of salty water that is
costly to treat and dispose of.

Temporary hardness, caused by hydrogen carbonate (or bicarbonate) ions,

can be removed by boiling. For example, calcium hydrogen carbonate, often
present in temporary hard water, is boiled in a kettle to remove the hardness.
In the process, a scale forms on the inside of the kettle in a process known as
"furring of kettles". This scale is composed of calcium carbonate.

Ca(HCO3)2 → CaCO3 + CO2 + H2O

Hardness can also be reduced with a lime-soda ash treatment. This process,
developed by Thomas Clark in 1841, involves the addition of slaked lime
(calcium hydroxide — Ca(OH)2) to a hard water supply to convert the
hydrogen carbonate hardness to carbonate, which precipitates and can be
removed by filtration:

Ca(HCO3)2 + Ca(OH)2 → 2CaCO3 + 2H2O

The addition of sodium carbonate also softens permanently hard water

containing calcium sulfate, as the calcium ions form calcium carbonate which
precipitates out and sodium sulfate is formed which is soluble. The calcium
carbonate that is formed sinks to the bottom. Sodium sulfate has no effect on
the hardness of water.

Na2CO3 + CaSO4 → Na2SO4 + CaCO3


High nitrate concentrations can occur in wells located in or near feedlots,

barnyards, sewage disposal systems or areas of high fertilizer application, and
often indicate the presence of other forms of groundwater contamination.
High nitrate water should never be used in infant feeding. In infants, nitrate
can destroy the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood, causing a condition
known as methemoglobinemia. This results in an oxygen starvation condition
and the infant appears blue. Serious poisonings, sometimes fatal, have
occurred in infants less than six months old after drinking water containing
nitrate as nitrogen at concentrations greater than 10 mg/l.

Iron and Manganese

The primary source of iron is the water bearing strata. Iron is typically
dissolved in water and when brought to the surface, can form “rust” which
may settle out. Another source of iron is iron-reducing bacteria, which
depend upon iron to live. These bacteria add iron to the water by attacking
the piping of the system. Removing naturally-occurring iron in the water may
require special water treatment equipment. Iron-reducing bacteria may be
controlled or eliminated by adequate chlorination.

The most common water complaints are those of red water, laundry
spotting, metallic tastes, and staining of plumbing fixtures. These are usually
due to the presence of iron above 0.3 mg/l.

Iron and manganese have similar adverse effects and frequently occur
together in natural waters. Concentrations of manganese greater than 0.05
mg/l. may cause brown/black stains and deposits.


A person's intake of sodium is mostly influenced by the use of salt, where its
role in the body is to help maintain water balance. Normally, the contribution
of sodium from drinking water is small in comparison to other sources.
Commercial water softeners may significantly increase the amount of sodium
in drinking water.

Sodium-restrictive diets are essential in treating congestive heart failure,

hypertension, renal disease, cirrhosis of the liver, toxemias of pregnancy, and
Meniere's disease. A diet for someone who must restrict sodium intake can be
designed to allow for sodium from the water supply. The person can also use
another source of drinking water. High concentrations of sodium may also
make water less suitable for irrigation purposes by altering soil chemistry and
absorption properties. With continued use, the soil will eventually be unable
to absorb moisture. Although no evidence has shown that high sodium levels
affect healthy individuals, recommended levels have been set at 100-200


Three reasons for limiting the concentration of sulfates in drinking water

are: a) sulfates can cause laxative effects with high intake, especially in
combination with magnesium or sodium;

b) water containing large amounts of sulfate tends to form hard scales in

boilers and heat exchangers;

c) sulfates can impact taste. The laxitive effect is commonly noted by people
not used to water high in sulfates. These effects vary from one person to
another and appear to fade with time. For these reasons, the recommended
limit is 250-500 mg/l.


Alkalinity is a measure of the water's ability to neutralize acids. Natural

waters usually contain carbonates, bicarbonates, and hyroxides. The
bicarbonate ion is ususally the most common. The ratio of these ions is a
funciton of pH, mineral composition, temperature, and ionic strength. Water
may have low alkalinity but a relatively high pH value, so alkalinity alone is
not of major importance as a measure of water quality. Alkalinity is not
considered harmful to humans but may cause a distinct unpleasant taste.


Excess chloride in drinking water can have two effects. First, it can affect
the taste. Second,the water may corrode hot water pipes. Consumers can
decrease chloride levels by treating the water or by finding another water
supply. A recommended limit of 250 mg/l has been set for chloride. For
many years, chloride has been used as an indicator of pollution of the water
source. Any sudden increase in the chloride content of a water supply should
be investigated as a possible indication of pollution.


Varying amounts of fluoride are found in water supplies throughout the

United States. Fluoride can affect teeth during the period when permanent
teeth are being formed. When the concentration is best, 1.2 mg/l, no ill effects
will result. The tooth decay rate will be 60-65 percent below the rate in areas
where water supplies have little or no fluoride. High fluoride (more than 4.0
mg/l) in water can cause a brown color on teeth.


Surface waters in Scotland, notably from upland catchment areas, are

commonly enriched in iron and organic acids. This study investigated the
impact of these species on the direct potentiometric determination of fluoride
using a fluoride-selective electrode. As the electrode technique is commonly
used to monitor the fluoride content of potable waters, it is important that
these effects are evaluated if such waters are to be fluoridated.
The determination method used was that defined by Nicholson (1983) and
Nicholson and Duff (1981) to minimise errors. This employs the TISAB III-
TAC buffer system with the following composition (in 1L): 58.0 g sodium
chloride, 57.0 mL glacial acetic acid, 4.0 g CDTA, 243.0 g tri-ammonium
citrate adjusted to pH 5.4 with 10 M sodium hydroxide. Experimental
solutions of fluoride with organic acid or iron were prepared, and the effect on
fluoride concentration determined for each combination. Concentrations
used: fluoride: 0.1, 1.0 mg L−1; humic acid: 5, 10, 100, 1000, 10,000 mg L−1;
oxalic acid: 5, 10, 100, 1000, 10,000 mg L−1; iron(III): 1, 10, 100, 500 mg L−1;
Humic acid (HA) concentrations had no impact on the determination of
fluoride at the 1.0 mg L−1 level. However, with 0.1 mg L−1; F−, an increase in the
apparent fluoride concentration was observed when HA > 1,000 mg L−1; this
increased with increasing HA content to a maximum of ∼600%. Oxalic acid
(OA) generally had no impact on the fluoride determinations at the 1.0 mg L −1;
level, but at an OA concentration of 10,000 mg L−1; fluoride concentrations
were reduced by ∼50%. At 0.1 mg L−1 F−, increasing OA concentrations
produce a steady increase in the fluoride concentration of up to 200% with
1,000 mg L−1; OA, greater OA contents produce a fall in the fluoride content.
Iron had no effect on the fluoride determinations at both the 0.1 and 1.0 mg
L−1 levels.
The causes of the apparent increases in fluoride concentration have not been
determined, although fluoride contamination by the reagents has been ruled-
out. However, the results demonstrate that the defined method and buffer
system is suitable for the determination of fluoride in the presence of iron and
organic acids at naturally occurring levels and that fluoride will not be masked
from detection

Explanation Of Water Analysis

1. Alkalinity
Alkalinity is water's acidneutralizing capacity and is primarily a function of
carbonate, bicarbonate and hydroxide content. Excessive alkalinity levels
may cause scale formation. The aesthetic objective is set at a maximum of
500 mg/L.
2. Aluminum (Proposed SMCL: 0.05 mg/L)
Aluminum is widespread in the environment. Intake occurs through food,
water and air. Aluminum has been suspected of contributing to
Alzheimer's disease, but inadequate scientific data exist to substantiate a
cause-effect relationship.
3. Arsenic
Arsenic is a metalloid with four oxidation states. It is widely distributed
throughout the earth's crust and is present in trace amounts in all-living
matter. Arsenicals are used commercially and industrially Њfor example,
as alloying agents, in the processing of glass and pigment, in the hide
tanning process and as pesticides, feed additives and pharmaceuticals.
Symptoms of acute arsenic intoxication associated with the ingestion of
well water contaminated with arsenic include abdominal pain, vomiting
and pain to the extremities and muscles. The IMAC for arsenic in drinking
water is 0.010 mg/L.
4. Asbestos (Proposed MCL and MCLG: 7 million fibers/liter over
10 microns long)
Asbestos occurs naturally in the environment and has been used in
asbestos-cement pipes in water distribution systems and in well casings. It
has been introduced into drinking water through the corrosion of
asbestos-reinforced cement pipes by water with a low pH. Water that has
high pH and low corrosivity should prevent the deterioration of pipes that
would introduce asbestos into water.
5. Barium (MCL: 1.0 mg/L)
Barium is fatal to humans in high doses (more than 550 mg). No study
appears to have been made of the amounts of barium that can be tolerated
in drinking water, but because of its toxic effects on the heart, blood
vessels and nerves, a level with a large safety factor has been set. Barium
can accumulate in the liver, lungs and spleen. It can cause nervous system
disorders, heart disease and circulation impairment.
6. Bicarbonate (HCO3)
Bicarbonate is the major form of alkalinity. In excessive amounts,
bicarbonates, in conjunction with calcium, may cause scale formation in
heated waters. See Total Alkalinity.
7. Cadmium (MCL: 0.01 mg/L)
As far as is known, cadmium is biologically a nonessential, nonbeneficial
element of high toxic potential. Evidence for the serious toxic potential of
cadmium is provided by; a) poisoning form cadmium-contaminated food
and beverages; b) epidemiological evidence that cadmium may be
associated with renal arterial hypertension under certain conditions; c)
epidemiological association of cadmium with ҉taiitaiӊdisease in Japan: d)
long-term oral toxicity studies in animals. The health effects of long-term
exposure in the U.S. appear to be for diet, cigarette smoking and sege into
the groundwater from industrial plants especially wastewater. Cadmium is
believed to be mutagenic but not carcinogenic.
8. Calcium (Ca)
The present of calcium in water supplies results from passage through or
over limestone, dolomite and other calcium containing deposits. Small
concentrations of calcium carbonate combat corrosion of metal pipes by
laying down a protective coating. Higher levels of calcium salts can
precipitate when heated to form scale in boilers, pipes and cooking
utensils. Calcium contributes to the total hardness of water. There is no
aesthetic objective or maximum acceptable concentration set for calcium.
See Total Hardness.
9. Carbonate (CO3)
Carbonates can only exist if the pH of the water exceeds 8.3. This seldom
occurs in natural waters. No aesthetic objective or maximum acceptable
concentration has been set for carbonates alone. See Total Alkalinity.
10. Chlorides (CI)
Concentrations of chloride in excess of 250 mg/L may impart a salty taste
to the water. Therefore, the aesthetic objective is set at a maximum of 250
mg/L. However the salty taste is variable and dependant on the chemical
composition of the water. No evidence has been found to indicate that
ingestion of chloride is harmful to humans. A high chloride content may
harm metallic pipes and structures as well as growing plants.
11. Chromium Total (MCL: 0.05 mg/L)
Chromium is toxic to humans, produces lung tumors when inhaled and
causes skin irritations. Longterm exposure may cause skin and nasal
ulcers. Chromium accumulates in the spleen, bones, kidney and liver. It
occurs in some foods, in air (including cigarette smoke) and in some water
supplies. The level of chromium that can be tolerated over a lifetime
without adverse affects is still undetermined. Chromium is involved in use
of blood sugar and is considered an essential nutrient.
12. Coliform Bacteria
The presence of coliform organisms is an indication of pollution. The
maximum acceptable concentration for total coliforms is no organisms
detectable per 100 mL of sample. If any coliform organisms are detected,
the site should be resampled, and if the presence of coliforms is confirmed,
the appropriate corrective action should be taken. The test for coliform
bacteria has been the standard test for microbiological safety for several
decades. It is an excellent indicator of possible contamination in
disinfected public water supplies. The test evaluates for coliform bacteria,
which are widely distributed in the environment in soil, on plants, on
animals and in very large numbers in the feces of mammals. When
coliform are present, it means water has been exposed to one or more of
these sources. In disinfected systems, this means the water has been
recontaminated or disinfection is inadequate and the water may contain
pathogens (disease-causing organisms). Illness caused by pathogens
commonly transmitted by water includes typhoid, cholera, dysentery,
htitis, giardiasis, polio, ҌegionnairesӠdisease, and several gastrointestinal
and influenza-like illnesses. Coliform bacteria are not considered
pathogens though some strains are opportunistic pathogens, which means
they may cause disease among people whose local or general natural
defense mechanisms are impaired. This is most likely among the elderly,
the very young and the ill (such as burns or immunosuppressive therapy).
13. Color
The AO for color in drinking water is ?15 true color units (TCU). The
provision of treated water at or below the AO will encourage rapid
notification by consumers should problems leading to the formation of
color arise in the distribution system.
14. Conductivity
Conductivity is an indicator of the ionic content of water and is measured
in microseimens/cm (us/cm). A level over 2000 us/cm is considered high
and is unsuitable for watering plants.
15. Copper (SCL: 1 mg/L)
Copper in drinking water normally is not a concern, as the levels required
to produce health effects in most people exceed the maximum possible
concentrations. Experience indicates that copper at concentration levels
exceeding 2 mg/L causes blue-green staining of plumbing fixtures and an
off taste. To many people, copper imparts a detectable taste at a
concentration level of 1 mg/L. In instances where high copper
concentration levels in the drinking water are observed, it is likely that
other heavy metals are so present. Water containing 4 mg/L copper was
found to impart a green tint to dyed hair.
16. Fluoride
Fluoride levels over 1.5/L may cause discoloring or mottling of teeth.
Levels between 1 and 1.5 mg/L will give teeth greater resistance to decay.
At levels greater than 0.7 mg/L oral supplements are NOT recommended.
If you have any questions or concerns, please contact our dental
department or main office. A fluoride concentration of approximately 1
mg/L helps prevent dental cavities and osteoporosis. At concentrations
below 0.7 mg/L, fluoride would likely not be of benefit. Caution: At
concentrations above 1.8 mg/L, fluoride may cause staining of enamel of
permanent teeth. This is most commonly a problem of children up to
about 10 years old. Because this is the only effect, recently increased the
MCL for fluoride. Crippling bone changes may occur in some people if
drinking water is above 8 mg/L fluoride. There is not conclusive evidence
that fluoride of fluoridation causes cancer in humans.
17. Hardness
Water hardness is mainly caused by the presence of calcium and
magnesium and is expressed as the equivalent quantity of calcium
carbonate. Scale formation and excessive soap consumption are the main
concerns with hardness. When heated, hard waters have a tendency to
form scale deposits. Depending on the interaction of other factors such as
pH and alkalinity, hardness levels between 80 and 100 mg/L are
considered to provide an acceptable balance between corrosion and
incrustation. Water supplies with hardness greater than 200 mg/L are
considered poor but tolerable; those in excess of 500 mg/L are
unacceptable for most domestic purposes. Because water softening may
introduce undesirably high quantities of sodium into drinking water, it is
recommended that a separate unsoftened supply be used for drinking and
cooking. The aesthetic objective is set at a maximum of 500 mg/L.
18. Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S)
Testing for H2S should occur on site. Imparts a rotten egg odor and taste
that makes water all but undrinkable and also promotes corrosion. In
addition, it can foul the resin bed of water conditioner. The use of a water
conditioner is not recommended unless the water is first treated for
removal of sulfur. The aesthetic objective for hydrogen sulfide is 0.05
19. Hydrogen (OH)
Hydroxide contributes to 9 the total alkalinity of water. It is almost never
present in natural waters. See Total Alkalinity.
20. Iron (Fe)
At levels above 0.3 mg/L, iron stains laundry and plumbing fixtures and
causes undesirable taste. The precipitation of excessive iron causes a
reddish brown color in the water. It may also promote the growth of iron
bacteria, leaving a slimy coating in the piping and toilet tanks. The
presence of iron bacteria can also cause a Բotten egg' odor in the water
and sheen on the surface of the water. The aesthetic objective is set at a
minimum of 0.3 mg/L.
21. Lead (MCL: 0.01 mg/L)
Exposure to lead in water, either brief or prolonged, can seriously injure
health. Prolonged exposure to relatively small quantities (more than 0.01
mg/day) may affect health. Lead exposure occurs from air, food and water
sources. All exposure is additive. Lead accumulates in the bones, resulting
in elevated levels in the blood. Known effects range from subtle
biochemical changes at low levels of exposure to severe neurological and
toxic effects and even death at much higher levels. As with several other
water contaminants, children, infants and fetuses are especially vulnerable
to lead. Infants and children absorb a much greater portion of lead intake
than adults and their immature, developing bodies and central nervous
systems are much more sensitive to its effects. A child's mental and
physical development can be irreversibly stunted by overexposure to lead.
Health effects include reduced mental capacity (even mental retardation),
interference with kidney and neurological functions and hearing loss in
children. The proposed MCL should be followed whenever pregnant
women, infants or children are consuming water. Water may be
contaminated by lead from rocks and soil. However, most of Missouri has
little lead in these sources and most of the water's pH is above neutral,
where lead is less soluble. There is little reason to expect lead in water
supplies. Lead pipe was used for service connections from water mains to
homes or businesses as late as the 1960s. The use of solder containing lead
has been made illegal for potable water plumbing systems. Industry
standards now prevent the use of lead as an additive in solder used for
22. Magnesium (Mg)
Magnesium is present in all natural waters and high levels in groundwater
are probably the result of contact with magnesium containing rock
formations. Magnesium is a major contributor to water hardness and may
also contribute undesirable tastes to drinking water. The aesthetic
objective is set at a maximum of 200 mg/L.
23. Manganese (Mn)
Manganese can cause staining to plumbing and laundry, and undesirable
tastes in beverages. Also, it may lead to the accumulation of bacterial
growth in the piping and toilet tanks. The aesthetic objective is set at a
maximum of 0.05 mg/L.
24. Mercury (MCL: 0.002 mg/L)
Mercury is distributed throughout the environment as a result of
industrial and agricultural applications. Large increases in concentrations
above natural levels in water, soils and air may occur in localized areas
though significant mercury problems are rare in Missouri. Outside of
occupational exposure, food (particularly fish) is typically the greatest
contributor to total mercury intake. Poisoning is characterized by major
changes in the brain, including loss of vision and hearing, intellectual
deterioration and even death.
25. Nitrate (NO3)
The maximum acceptable concentration of nitrate in drinking water is 45
mg/L as NO3. In excessive amounts it contributes to the illness known as
methemoglobinemia. Sources of nitrate in water include decaying plant or
animal material, agricultural fertilizers, manure, domestic sewage or
geological formations containing soluble nitrogen compounds.
26. pH
Natural waters usually have pH values in the range of 4 to 9 and most are
slightly basic (i.e. greater than 7) because of the presence of bicarbonates
and carbonates. Corrosion effects may become significant as a pH below
6.5 and scaling may become a problem at a pH above 8.5. For this reason
an acceptable range for drinking water pH is from 6.5 to 8.5.
27. Potassium (K)
Potassium ranks seventh among the elements in order of abundance, yet
its concentration in most drinking waters seldom reaches 20 mg/L. There
is no maximum acceptable concentration or aesthetic objective set for this
28. Selenium (MCL: 0.01 mg/L)
There is considerable difficulty in determining the toxic levels of selenium
intake in humans because the diet contains an unknown variety of
selenium compounds in varying mixtures. Signs of toxicity have been seen
at an estimated intake of 0.7 to 7 mg/day. Possible health effects include
growth inhibition, skin discoloration, dental and digestive problems, liver
damage, and psychological disorders. Some studies have raised concern
over the possible carcinogenic properties of this element, but at this time it
is not believed to be carcinogenic.
29. Silver (MCL: 0.05 mg/L)
The need to set water standard for silver arises from its intentional
addition to water as a disinfectant. (No public water system in Missouri
uses silver as a disinfectant.) The chief effect of silver on humans is a
condition called argyria or argyrosis, and unsightly, permanent blue-gray
discoloration of the skin, eyes and mucous membranes. Because silver,
once absorbed, is held indefinitely in the body tissue, a maximum level has
been set. However, because skin discoloration is the only known health
effect and because it is considered an aesthetic effect, has proposed
making it a secondary standard.
30. Sodium (Na)
Weathering of salt deposits and contact of water with igneous rock provide
natural sources of sodium. Another potential source of sodium in water
supplies is the watersoftening process, which replaces calcium and
magnesium (hardness) with sodium. Persons on sodiumrestricted diets
should consult with physicians. The aesthetic objective is set at a
maximum of 200 mg/L.
31. Sulfates (SO4)
Sulfate occurs naturally in water and may be present in natural waters in
concentrations ranging from a few to several thousand mg/L.
Concentrations in excess of 500 mg/L, especially if the magnesium
content is also high, may have a laxative effect or cause gastrointestinal
irritation. It may also result in a noticeable taste. The aesthetic objective is
set at a maximum of 500 mg/L.
32. Sum of Ions
Sum of ions indicates the concentration of ions in the water (i.e. dissolved
solids). The aesthetic objective for total dissolved solids is a maximum of
500 mg/L.
33. Tannins
Tannic acid is formed by decaying organic matter. Tannins alone are not
harmful, although they can affect the proper operation of chemical free
iron filters.
34. Total Dissolved Solids (TDS)
Is a measure of the ability of a water to carry an electric current. This
ability depends on the presence of ions and is therefore an indication of
the concentration of ions (i.e. dissolved solids) in the water. Waters with
high dissolved solids generally are of inferior palatability and also may
leave a white film on dishes, etc. The aesthetic objective for total dissolved
solids is 500 mg/L and is approximately equivalent to a conductivity of
500 uS/cm.
35. Trihalomethanes
THMs are formed in drinking water primarily as a result of chlorination
and/or bromination of organic matter present naturally in raw water
supplies. Chloroform is the THM detected most frequently and at the
highest concentrations in drinking water. Available data are consistent
with the hypothesis that ingestion of chlorinated drinking water, if not
THMs specifically, may be casually related to cancers of the bladder and
colon (chloroform and other THMs account for up to 50% by weight of the
total chlorination by-products in drinking water). Chloroform has been
found to be carcinogenic in two animal species in the most extensive
bioassays conducted to date and has been classified as being probably
carcinogenic to humans.
36. Turbidity
Turbidity in water is caused by suspended matter, such as clay, silt, finely
divided organic and inorganic matter, soluble colored organic compounds,
plankton and other microscopic organisms. Turbidity in excess of 5 NTU
becomes apparent and may be objected to by a majority of consumers.
Therefore, an AO of ? 5 NTU has been set for water at the point of
37. Uranium2
Uranium is a naturally occurring element, consisting of a mixture of three
radionuclides, all of which decay by alpha emission. Uranium is used
primarily as fuel in nuclear energy plants. It may enter drinking water
from naturally occurring deposits or as a result of human activity, such as
mill tailings and phosphate fertilizers. Nephritis is the primary chemically
induced effect of uranium in animals and humans. Lesions are seen in the
kidney at both glomerular and tubular levels. At sublethal levels,
regeneration of the injured tubular epithelium begins two to three days
after exposure. The MAC for uranium in drinking water, derived from the
aDE, is 0.02mg/L.
38. Zinc (SMCL: 5 mg/L)
Zinc is found in some natural waters, most frequently in areas where it is
mined. It is not considered detrimental to health unless it occurs in very
high concentrations. However, it does give an undesirable taste and
appearance to drinking water, which is the reason for the secondary
standard classification