Copper is an essential nutrient that your body needs to distribute oxygen to the rest of the body. However, at elevated concentration levels, copper may pose health risks and plumbing problems.
Copper is rarely naturally occurring in water, but can enter drinking water through corroded well and pipe systems. It usually presents itself with blue-green stains on household appliances. It will also likely taste metallic and bitter.
What can make you more susceptible to Copper in your water?
You are more susceptible to elevated copper levels if you are treating your drinking water for hardness. Water softeners work by exchanging calcium and magnesium ions that are in your water with sodium ions. The resulting water’s pH is often is lower. Low pH water is acidic and therefore can dissolve ions more easily into solution.
Though very high levels of copper in your drinking water can have serious health effects, copper poisoning is rare. In households with corroding copper pipes, the pH of the water may be the more harmful issue. True copper poisoning can cause gastrointestinal and nausea, and at long exposure times kidney and liver damage.
The EPA’s Action Level for Copper is 1.3 mg/L. Rather than setting a Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) for copper like the EPA usually does for other contaminants, they have set an Action Level of 1.3 mg/L. Corrosion control is the most effective treatment for elevated copper levels. It is strongly recommended for copper concentrations of anything at or above this level.
Corrosion test kits are designed to be quick and easy ways to determine whether you have budding corrosion issues you may not know of, particularly if you have copper pipes. City water corrosion test kits provide results for pH, Total Hardness, Total Chlorine, Total Alkalinity, and Copper. Well water corrosion test kits provide results for a larger array of contaminants including those above along with Nitrate, Ammonia, Free Chlorine, Chloride, Sulfate, and Manganese.
Check back next week for a post about what you can do to prevent copper corrosion and pinhole leaks!
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Need help with your well water? I have been assisting homeowners, small communities and businesses improve their well water quality since 1989. Please email me at email@example.com if you have a question about water testing, test kits or well water systems in general. Gerry Bulfin CWS-IV Master Water Specialist WQA Certified Licensed California Water Treatment Contractor