Domestic Water Syndrome
Quality issues in your drinking water will cause a very emotional response. No one wants to see brown water in their sinks or showers. That discoloration immediately causes feelings of dread and doom. Is this water safe to drink? Will it make me sick? What’s causing this discoloration?
In large multi-family residential buildings, we call this Domestic Water Syndrome. The sporadic appearance of brown water in a drinking water system can be hard to pinpoint. Sometimes you see it, sometimes you don’t. Sometimes it appears in one apartment and then disappears, just to reappear somewhere else in the building. Drinking water systems are very dynamic.
What can you do about brown water?
The most intelligent first step when trying to fix a Domestic Water Syndrome challenge is a sophisticated, yet easy to implement, water sampling program. Our Domestic Water Screening (DWS) protocol is designed to determine if the municipal water supply is the source of the problem, or if bacteria or metals inside the building’s piping system are causing the discoloration. The screening will also try to pinpoint the location of the problem.
What do the sampling results tell you?
According to Metro Group’s National Technical Director, John Caloritis CWT, most often, especially in NYC, the city supplied water is very high quality and is almost never the cause of the problem. Generally speaking, more than 50% of the time, the sampling results show no issues with the water quality at all. The discoloration is gone and there is no evidence of bacteria or metals in the water; the issue was probably caused by a temporary release of fouling sediment as a result of a momentary construction or renovation project nearby.
When the sampling results do indicate the presence of a problem, the issue is usually caused by elevated bacteria in the building’s drinking water pipes, or by elevated levels of metal, due to pipe corrosion.
Are there solutions for Domestic Water Syndrome?
If elevated bacteria levels are found, it means layers of biofilm are growing inside the drinking water pipes. This occurs naturally and is exacerbated by areas of low flow or stagnant water. The discoloration that appears in sinks or showers is layers of that biofilm sloughing off and coming out of the faucets. The problem will NOT go away on its own. A chemical disinfection is the best course of action. You can disinfect the hot water piping, cold water piping, or both. The sampling results will indicate if the problem persists in the cold and/or hot water piping. A piping disinfection can be extremely successful but also very disruptive to the building’s tenants.
If bacteria issues reappear, due to poor piping design, zones of stagnation or slow-moving water, a Supplemental Disinfection Unit may need to be installed, to supply constant and consistent levels of disinfectant passing through the building to all fixtures.
If elevated metals are detected, it indicates the drinking water pipes are allowing metal to leach from the pipe into the bulk drinking water. In this case, a continuous dose of corrosion treatment can be applied at a safe level, to add a protective coating inside the pipes to slow the rate of corrosion. Applying chemicals to drinking water is a highly technical task and it must be done at levels safe for consumption, which means that a protective coating will take time to build-up; the brown water issue will not be solved immediately, but rather disappears slowly over time. Also, in NYC, a special license is required by the Department of Health to apply chemicals to drinking water, so make sure your vendor is properly vetted.
Who can help you?
If your property is experiencing brown water issues, Metro Group, headquartered in NYC since 1925, has the trusted knowledge, expertise, and manpower to help you at every step. Our CDC elite and NYS certified on-site laboratory will handle the sampling protocol. Our NYC drinking water experts will help you analyze the results and recommend proper corrective actions. Our Water Treatment Division will complete any necessary disinfections or corrosion treatment programs. For more information or a free consultation, visit https://www.metrogroupinc.com/drinking-water-services/domestic-water-disinfections/