What's in your water?

What's in your water?
By: Mary-Ann Maloney
Have you ever wondered where your water comes from or what's in it? The Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Natural Resources keeps close tabs on things that could hurt you like lead, e-coli, arsenic and other substances. We wanted to check out the quality of water in various heartland cities.
My photographer John Morgan and I hit the road visiting Perryville, Chester, Marion, Carbondale, Thebes, Grahamville, Paducah, Wickliffe, Diehlstadt, Morley and Cape Girardeau. We asked residents to turn on their taps. With test tubes we gathered a small sample. An unscientific survey no doubt, but interesting nonetheless.
We took our samples to Environmental Analysis in Jackson. There, they pulled a small sample of our water through a tube and into a flame where it was atomized. Once atomized, it was read for magnesium and calcium content. The higher the number, the harder your water.
Why should you care if you have hard or soft water? Too much of a good thing or a bad thing can be harmful to your expensive appliances and tough on your skin. Hard water leaves deposits around your faucets and on your shower doors. If your water is too soft, it could be corroding your water heater or coffee pot.

Our tests showed that of the cities we samples, Thebes had the hardest water at 336 parts per million (ppm). Wyatt was next at 283 ppm. Both of those towns use well water. Perryville gets it's water from Saline Creek. It's water measured 184 ppm.

Grahamville gets it's water from Paducah, so it's no surprise that their hardness level is close. Grahamville's is at 130 ppm, Paducah's 122 ppm. Their water comes from the Ohio River.
Next on the list was Chester at 118 ppm. Chester gets it's water from the Mississippi River. Wickliffe residents are on well water. Their reading was 90 parts per million.
Marion and Carbondale both use lakes as their source for water. Marion's score was 70 ppm while Carbondale's was 56 ppm.
Diehlstadt residents only need to go down 23 feet for their well water. Their hardness level was measured at 55 ppm.
The water that came out of my home was the lowest at 3 ppm. We have a water softener so you'd expect it to be low, but Dave Warren, chemist and CEO of Environmental Analysis says it may be too low.

Curious to learn what our soft water was doing to our pipes and appliances, a few days later I took a bigger sample back to Environmental Analysis. After a week, I had my answer. Our water is too soft. Typically softened water should measure between -.5 ppm and .5 ppm. Ours was -2.3 parts per million.

That means our water could be corroding our pipes and doing a number on our appliances. We'll have to have our water softener company out to make some adjustments. We live in a house built after 1986, so we don't have to worry about the water corroding lead solder.
However, if your house was built before 1986, it's a good chance lead solder was used on your pipes. If you have an older home and use a water softener, have your water checked to make sure it's not "too" soft. It could be corroding your solder, putting lead into your water.