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Q: "Water testing" ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   1 Comment )
Subject: "Water testing"
Category: Science > Chemistry
Asked by: f16chevy-ga
List Price: $100.00
Posted: 29 Jan 2005 17:33 PST
Expires: 28 Feb 2005 17:33 PST
Question ID: 465576
Why does the water at my house turn blue when it reacts w/
soap/shampoo, resulting in blue stains in the shower stall, and
leaving a greenish tint in my blonde hair? WHAT in the water would
cause this type of reation and what can I do to fix the problem/what
company water filtration system is most suited for solving the

Request for Question Clarification by pafalafa-ga on 29 Jan 2005 18:23 PST

I think I know what the problem with the water is, and I'm putting
together a summary of the information I've compiled.  In the mean
time, though, it would be helpful to know where you're located (just
the city and state, presuming you're in the US), so I can identify a
few local suppliers of services that can assist you.



Clarification of Question by f16chevy-ga on 29 Jan 2005 18:41 PST

  Thanks for your help. This is going to be a long answer to a short question:
I am located in Valdosta, GA. Just so you know, we do have well water.
In December, a rep from Water Resources Int'l. (United Standard Water
Filtration Company) was testing water in our area and was trying to
sell $5,000 filtration systems. He checked our water w/ the standard
pool kit/Ph tester. Ph was only slightly low. He then tested our tap
water, bottled water, spring water, and our tap water that he ran
through a mini-United Standard filter. Our water had less "sediment"
then the bottled and spring water we had purchased, but obviously the
filtered water was perfectly clear. We explained to him the problem we
had been having w/ the blue stains in the shower, and how our water
would have a tint of blue to it if you were to add soap to it. We told
him we'd consider purchasing the system if he could tell us FOR SURE
what was causing the blue water. He said that it could be copper
piping. My father (smart man, mech. inclined) said it wasn't copper
piping. I appreciate your help.


Request for Question Clarification by pafalafa-ga on 29 Jan 2005 18:57 PST
Thanks for the feedback...that's important new information.

Most cases of blue-staining and blue-tinged water ARE caused by copper
in the water.  The copper, in turn, usually comes from copper pipes,
although it is possible for the copper to come from other sources on
rare occasions.

I hate to take issue with your dad, but is he quite certain that there
aren't copper pipes in your system?

And is the well water source a private well, or is it part of a
community well that is managed by a water company?

Let me know as much additional detail as you can, and I'll put
together what I hope will be a helpful and practical answer for you.



Clarification of Question by f16chevy-ga on 29 Jan 2005 19:20 PST

  Maybe he's incorrect. Our well is a private well. If copper piping
is the problem, is there a place around here that can confirm copper
in the water? Also, our house is only 5 years old. If there are copper
pipes in the ground somewhere can one expect a problem w/ them so
soon? Sorry for the pile-on of related questions. Thanks!

Subject: Re: "Water testing"
Answered By: pafalafa-ga on 30 Jan 2005 07:29 PST
Rated:5 out of 5 stars

A blue or bluish-green stain from drinking water is almost always an
indication of copper in the water.  Rarely, a bluish color can also be
caused by the presence of microorganisms, such as blue-green algae. 
As a general rule, though, if the water is leaving hard-to-scrub-off
stains in your sinks and tubs, or on the faucets themselves, it is
most likely a result of copper in the water (blue-green algae stains,
in contrast, would be a bit slimy and could be effectively scrubbed

I've tried to summarize here the knowledge about copper in water, and
the steps you can take.  Ive also included links to a number of sites
where you can read more in-depth discussions if you're so inclined.

Let's start with the major points:

1.  Most importantly, I am not a drinking water specialist, and Google
Answers is not a substitute for professional advice.  Please be aware
of the disclaimer at the bottom of the page, and be sure to follow-up
on the information here by consulting some professionals in your area.

2.  Copper in water is an increasingly common problem due to the
discoloration it causes, and the possibility of imparting a metallic
taste to the water.  Most of the expert sources I consulted were of
the opinion that copper in water does not pose a health risk to
adults, though they recommend caution in using copper-tinged water for
mixing baby formula.  Aquarium fish are also highly sensitve to
copper, and can be affected, even if people are not.  However...there
is not universal agreement on this topic, and some folks are concerned
about the possible health effects to adults from too much copper in
the water.

3.  Copper-tinged water has a number of effects, several of which you
mentioned in your question:  (a) it can turn the water a blue-green
color.  (b) it stains sinks, tubs, fixtures (c) it can impart a tint
to light colored hair, especially to dyed hair (d) copper causes a
green soap "curd" to form.

4.  Copper in water most often comes from copper pipes.  No one quite
knows why -- most copper pipes work fine without imparting much copper
to the water.   But sometimes, significant quantities of copper can
leach from the pipes into the water supply.  This may be due to the
acidity of the water, the presence of certain naturally-occuring
chemicals (the "hardness" or "softness" of the water), the presence of
microorganisms, the presence of other metal pipes, or even the way the
pipes are electrically grounded -- but as I said, no one seems to know
for sure.

5. New copper pipes are no assurance of non-leaching.  In fact, newer
pipes are thought to sometimes be more significant sources that older
pipes, since older pipes have had time to self-seal against leaching
by reacting with chemicals in the water.

6.  In older copper pipes, lead solder was frequently used, so that
copper contamination sometimes goes hand-in-hand with lead
contamination.  Lead in the water is generally considered a more
serious health problem than copper, so you should stay alert to this
possibility.  However, since your system is relatively new, it may
well be the case that lead solder is not present.

7.  In rare instances, the copper can also come from other sources,
like local contamination from a quarry or mining operation.


What to do?

Although there is occasional talk of filters, treatment systems, etc.,
there isn't any universally-agreed upon method for removing copper
from water, since conditions vary so widely from one jurisdiction to
the next.  Water quality specialists in your area may have enough
familiarity with local conditions to recommend effective solutions.

There is universal agreement, though, that a sensible first step is to
drain the pipes before using water for drinking or cooking.   That is,
let the water run for a minute or so, before using it.  This is
especially true in the mornings -- or anytime the water has not been
used for four hours or more.  Water that has been sitting still in the
pipes accumulates the highest concentrations of copper, so that
flushing this water out of the system is a prudent precaution.

Beyond that, there are two steps to take to get a sense of the scope
of the situation:

1.  Fill  a wide-mouthed WHITE container (a pail for instance) with
water from your tap.  Look at it in good light.  Is there a tint to
the water?  Is it cloudy?  Take note of the conditions, as you will
want to pass this information along to water-quality experts.  Now let
the water run for a minute or so and repeat the test.  Take note of
any differences in appearance (if the water is noticeably less-tinted
or less cloudy, then this is a good sign that flushing the pipes
before using the water is a good practice to follow).

2.  Ask your neighbors to do the same.  This will give you an
indication as to whether their water supplies are similarly tinged
with copper, and whether the issue is particular to your home, or
whether it is more of a community-wide issue.

With that information in hand, begin contacting the people on the list, below.  

It is hard to say for certain who the ideal contact would be -- it
depends very much on how local responsibilities are divvied up and
also, frankly, on the people who pick up the phone when you call, and
their willingness to be of public service.

But don't be everyone on the list (and ask them who ELSE
you should be speaking to) and let them know you're concerned (and
possibly, that your neighbors are concerned as well), and insist that
the water be tested for -- at a minimum -- copper and lead.  And test
the water as it first comes out of the tap, as well as after it has
been running for a minute or so, so you can compare the levels in
"new" water vs water that has been flushed through the pipes.

Also ask them about their experience with copper in water, and whether
they have any remediation steps to suggest.


Water Quality
Lowndes County Utility Department
(229) 333-5116

Private Well Testing/ Septic Tanks
Environmental Health Department
Bob Roquemore
(229) 245-2314
Lowndes County Utilities Page
Lowndes County Utility Department is dedicated to providing an
exceptional product to all of our customers while exceeding all EPA
and EPD rules and regulations pertaining to all aspects of water
quality while offering unsurpassed customer service.

300 N. Patterson St.
Valdosta, GA 31601

Lowndes County Health Department
206 South Patterson Street
P.O. Box 5619
Valdosta, Georgia 31601
(229) 333-5255
State Certification Officers for Drinking Water Laboratories
(404) 656-4807
Georgia Department of Natural Resources
Drinking Water Permitting Program
Floyd Towers, East Suite 1362
205 Butler Street, SE
Atlanta, GA 30334 


In addition, the Culligan water treatment company offers free water
quality testing for those who fill out the form at their website:

If, for some reason, the county or state folks that I listed can't
assist you in having your water tested, then you may want to contact
Culligan to arrange for a free test.  Bear in mind, however, that
they're out to sell you something, so don't let the test itself
pressure you into buying a Culligan system until you've explored all
the options.


With the steps above, I've taken you through the evaluation and
testing stage.  You may find that simply running the water to flush
the pipes is the only solution you'll need.  However, if you want to
explore the next steps, involving possible water treatment or filter
systems, then you should ask the local contacts what -- in their
experience -- has been the most effective solution for the situation
in your area.

I mentioned some additional sources of information that you can
explore on the internet.  These are listed below, along with a few
excerpts from the pages that I thought might be of particular
interest.  Some of the links are from water authorities in other
countries, but the information is good just the same, so I thought it
should be included here:


Blue or Blue-green Stains on Fixtures.  

...If there are blue or blue-green stains on sinks, baths and
porcelain, there is probably copper in the water supply.

...Copper is a metal which is seldom naturally present in a water supply

....Copper is toxic to aquarium fish and can impart an undesirable
taste to the drinking water

....Beauty shop operators have a problem when copper is present
because it causes color variation in hair toners, especially for

...Copper also causes green soap curd to form.  It is corrosive to
aluminum.  Test for copper by looking for the blue or green sans on
porcelain fixtures.

...Copper is not usually considered harmful to humans but
concentrations in a range of 1 - 5 parts per million cause an
objectionable taste.


Water Quality Answers 

What causes a blue/green color in water?  

...Ordinarily "blue/green" color in water would be due to copper contamination.  

...There are pigmented microorganisms that can colonize in water and
impart various colors such as pink or rainbow-like blues and greens -
especially on white porcelains in showers and bathrooms.  However
these stains usually will readily wipe away, and can be eliminated
from occurring if the water is chlorinated.

...If the blue/green color, on the other hand, causes a stain on
fixtures that is tenacious (as hard water spotting would be), then it
is likely caused by something inorganic or metallic in the water.


[There's some pretty good information at this site...I've only
excerpted a bit of it ]

What causes copper pipe corrosion?

At the moment on one really knows what causes copper pipe
corrosion....The most agreed cause to-date is microbiological
(bacteria) influenced corrosion.  The biggest mystery is why it can
affect one house (or only one section of pipe in one house) in a
street and not the others, even though all the properties are of a
similar age and using similar pipes and the same mains water.

...Some popularly mentioned causes are the hardness and pH of the
water, the age of the pipes, electrical earth currents and
electrolysis.  But there is evidence of 'blue water' in many parts of
Australia and around the world - in many different quality waters, in
hard and soft waters, in mains water and from rain-water tanks, and in
many different pipe types both old and new.

What can you do about copper pipe corrosion?

...there is no guaranteed remedial treatment for copper pipe corrosion
other than to replace the affected section of copper pipe with
alternative material.


...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.


...The easiest and most effective method for reducing exposure to
copper is to avoid drinking or cooking with water that has been in
contact with your house plumbing for more than six hours.  When first
drawing water in the morning or after a work day, flush the system by
running the cold water faucet for 2-3 minutes, or until the water gets
as cold as possible.

...Another option for reducing your exposure to copper is to purchase
bottled water.  This may be a useful option, particularly if it will
be used by young children as drinking water, or for making infant

...If you are experiencing elevated copper levels in drinking water,
it may be likely that lead levels are also elevated.  This is
especially true if the plumbing system in your home or apartment
contains lead solder joints, lead service lines, or brass fixtures. 
Since lead and copper enter drinking water under similar conditions,
it is advisable to test for lead when testing for copper.


I hope I haven't overloaded you with too much information here.  To
boil it all down:

--do the "white pail" test

--let your pipes flush before using water for drinking or cooking

--call the local water quality experts that I listed in your area

I hope this information helps you get a speedy and satisfying
resolution to your situation.  However, before rating this answer,
please let me know if there's anything else you need.  Just post a
Request for Clarification, and I'm at your service.

All the best,


search strategy -- Google searches on:

[ blue drinking water ]

[ copper drinking water ]

[ valdosta ga water (quality OR testing) ]

Clarification of Answer by pafalafa-ga on 30 Jan 2005 09:03 PST

Please see synapse666b-ga's comment (below).  It is a good one, and
covers some territory that adds to the information I've already

Let me know if you have any questions about it.

f16chevy-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $10.00
Thanks for you time and help!

Subject: Re: "Water testing"
From: synapse666b-ga on 30 Jan 2005 08:21 PST
I am a builder/designer and not a reaseacher. I do have just a few
diagnostic thoughts to add to that great answer:
      Have you tested the water (chemically and 'white pail' method)
just out from the well - bypassing and avoiding all of the house
plumbing?  Ground or well contamination vs. house pipe contamination.
      Within the house, does the blue color thing happen with BOTH the
hot AND the cold water?  This info might help you figure out whether
the tinting is coming from the ground or all of the house's pipe
sections vs. just one section of faulty pipe in either the hot or cold
line.   If the tint is only (or more pronounced) from the hot water
line, then bypass the the water heater tank and test again to see if
the hot water line tinting remains the same.   It could be bad pipes
in the water heater.
     All this being said, it's probably just what the reseacher has
found.  However, I often try to work out as many possibilities as
possible befoe I spend more money on tests (if only to accurately
judge where/how to test).
   Best of luck. - synapse666b

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