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COMMON CUSTOMER CONCERNS ABOUT DRINKING WATER QUALITY

Below is a list of common categories of concern that may help answer any of your questions or fix any issues you are experiencing quickly.

FAQS

Your monthly water bill will vary based on how much water your household uses each month. If you find that your water bill has had a significant change, we recommend you take a few steps before calling our customer service team for support.

If your water bill is higher than usual, you should first consider how water has been used by your household recently. For example, if you have recently planted grass or flowers that require frequent watering, or have you been using a sprinkler during the warmer temperatures, your household usage will have increased and therefore a higher bill will result.

If there have not been any special circumstances where more water has been used in your household, you should check the areas within your home where leaks are most common. For example, leaks are often found in toilets, faucets, and outdoor hoses. Should you find leaks in one of these areas, a repair is often simple and can be completed with some support from your local home repair shop or the support from a plumber.

Repairing leaks within your home will decrease your water consumption, and therefore reduce your overall water bill.

Checking for a leaking toilet is quite simple. All you will need is a few drops of food dye coloring and 15-20 minutes. It is important to follow each of the steps below at each of the toilets in your home as more than one may be leaking.

Steps to check for a leaking toilet.

  1. Start with a clean toilet.
  2. Remove the tank lid from the toilet.
  3. Place 3-5 drops of food dye coloring in the tank of the toilet and replace the tank lid.
  4. Do not flush the toilet. Note: This is an essential step for this test.
  5. Wait 15-20 minutes and return to the toilet.
  6. Look in the toilet bowl for food dye coloring.

If you find the same food dye coloring in the bowl of the toilet, this is a clear indication that your toilet is leaking. Should you find that you have a leak at your toilet bowl, a repair is often straightforward and can be completed with some support from your local home repair shop or the support from a plumber.

Water is a precious resource and water conservation should always be on the minds of our community.

Did you know that the average person in York Water’s service area uses about 60 gallons of water each day. A family of 4 uses 240 gallons per day.

Continue reading to learn more about the small changes that you can make to conserve water today, and every day.

Indoor Conservation Tips

  • Fix leaks, including leaky toilets
  • Install high-efficiency toilets, aerators on bathroom faucets, and water-efficient shower heads
  • Take shorter showers
  • Draw shorted baths
  • Turn off water when brushing teeth, shaving or washing dishes
  • Use dishwashers and washing machines with full loads only and on “efficiency mode”
  • Decline having your water glass automatically refilled when dining out

Outdoor Conservation Tips

  • Recycle water in processes such using indoor water to water outside plants
  • Choose seasonal décor that does not require water
  • Wait for spring to plant landscape features
  • Turn off automatic irrigation systems during drought
  • Avoid activities like washing cars and power washing at home during drought
  • Wait to fill hot tubs and swimming pools during drought

 

Winter weather can wreak havoc in your home and on your property.

Here are a few steps you can take to keep “that good York Water” flowing all year long.

  • Remove, drain, and store any outdoor hoses.
  • Close inside valves that feed your hose-bibs or outdoor spigots. Be sure to drain the hose bib to the outside.
  • Install and/or replace heat-trace/heat-tape to ensure your pipes do not freeze. Heat tape is available at local hardware and home improvement stores or contact a plumber to install it for you.
  • Install and/or double-check that pipe insulation completely covers your hot and cold-water pipes.
  • Repair or “patch” broken windows near pipes in crawl spaces, basements, or attics by using insulation in/around cracks in walls. Drafts from outside can be enough to freeze pipes solid.
  • If you have pipes in your garage, be sure to keep your garage doors closed.
  • If you have spaces that are prone to freezing, consider using a space heater in areas where drafts are present.
  • Should your pipes freeze, use a hairdryer to thaw frozen pipes, slowly.
  • If a pipe freezes and bursts, turn-off the water at the shutoff valve and call a licensed plumber.

At Risk Areas

Pipes that are exposed to severe cold may freeze. These are areas most often at risk of freezing:

  • Outdoor hose bibs
  • Swimming pool supply lines
  • Water sprinkler lines
  • Water supply pipes in unheated, interior areas, such as basements, crawl spaces, attics, and garages
  • Pipes that run against exterior walls with little to no insulation
  • Pipes exposed to drafts, breezes, or cold winds, especially on windy days

Preventative Steps that may reduce freezing pipes:

  • Repair broken windows and place insulation in cracks and drafty areas.
  • Keep a space heater or move warm air over pipes in high-draft areas.
  • Open a spigot or faucet to keep water moving if the above isn’t possible.
  • Keep the heat on when traveling.
  • Install pipe insulation.
  • Use pipe sleeves or UL-listed heat tape, heat cable, etc. on exposed water pipes. Even newspapers provide some degree of insulation and protection to exposed pipes.

Meter Pits

If your water meter resides in a meter pit, you are responsible for protecting the water meter. Insulate or apply heat tape to the pipes and/or meter. Make heat tape is plugged in and warm. 

Manufactured Housing & Cold, Drafty Basements

Apply heat tape to pipes. Make sure the heat tape is plugged in and warm.

If Your Pipes Freeze

If pipes do freeze, the best course of action is to contact a local plumber to help you thaw out pipes and to check for and make necessary repairs.

If your frozen pipe has not burst, you can try to thaw it out with an electric heating pad, hair dryer, towel soaked with hot water, or space heater.

DO
  • Apply heat by slowly moving the heat source toward the coldest spot on the pipe.
  • Turn on the faucet or spigot attached to the frozen pipe.  Leave it on until the pipe is thawed and water pressure returns to normal.
DO NOT
  • Do not concentrate heat in one spot. Heat can crack ice, and that can shatter a pipe.
  • Do not use a blow torch or other open-flame device. You risk starting a fire and carbon monoxide exposure.

If Your Pipes Burst

If a frozen pipe bursts and water floods the home, follow these instructions in order:

  1. Turn off the water at the shut-off valve. Please call customer service if you need an emergency water shut-off.  Call 717-845-3601 Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. After hours, call the after-hours emergency line at 717-848-2984.
  2. Call a licensed plumber for help, especially if you cannot find the broken pipe or it is inaccessible.
  3. Do not turn the water back on until the pipe has been repaired.

How Water Pressure Is Created

Due to the nature of our service area, pressure delivered to our customers varies. When water leaves our treatment plant is moves solely with the force of gravity. As water moves further out in the distribution system, pressure decreases. Our pumphouses and tanks are set up to give the water an extra boost. Including the gravity pressure zone, there are 26 different pressure zones in our main system alone.

Water Pressure Regulations

Regulations state normal operating pressure should be between 25 and 125 PSIG, or pounds per square inch gauge. Our water pressure policy ensures the static pressure at water mains remains between 30 and 110 PSI. Locations near the far ends of one pressure zone may experience pressure that is on the lower end of that range.

There are options available to modify the pressure experienced throughout the residence. York Water’s water pressure obligation ends at the water main. It is our customers responsibility to manage water pressure beyond the main.

What causes decreased water pressure?

Occasionally, water pressure suffers in the event of main breaks, nearby flushing, or fire-fighting activities. These changes in pressure are temporary. The time of the pressure decrease varies depending on the event that has caused it.

The York Water Company takes great pride in providing high-quality water that tastes good and has no noticeable odor. On occasion, scenarios may occur in the piping or distribution system that may affect the customer’s perception of the taste or odor of the water.

Source Water and Water Treatment

Algae Growth

Alternatively, certain conditions can occur in source water (the source of your drinking water before we treat it) that may cause the same issues. One source may be by-products of algae growth in the river or lake source water. Luckily, York Water has not had issues with odors on the South Branch Codorus Creek, likely due to a more environmentally conscious public combined with source water protection measures. For more information see our Source Water Protection page here.

Some people are more sensitive to changes in taste or odor in water than others.

Chlorine or “Swimming Pool” Odor

Chlorine, or “Swimming Pool” taste and odors occasionally happen, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. Almost all water treatment facilities, ours included, use Chlorine in to properly disinfect the water during the treatment process. PA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations require that some disinfectant from our water treatment remains in the water that reaches our customers’ taps. This ensures the water is safe from disease-causing bacteria and microorganisms. If your tap water has a bleach aroma, that is a very good sign that your water is safe to drink. If you prefer your water to have less of that aroma, you may boil it or run it through a carbon filter to reduce the aroma. Most name-brand filter pitchers filter water with a carbon filter.

Home Plumbing

Rotten or Sewer Odor

Rotten or sewer odors often come from drains. Under every sink, toilet, and shower drain, there is an “S” or “P” trap. Water is kept in the trap at all times to block sewer gases from coming back into the home. All drains need to be flushed or refilled occasionally to maintain water in the trap. Often, a rotten or sewer smell occurs when water in the trap has evaporated. Sometimes, food scraps or other small items get trapped in the drain trap and ferment. Cleaning the trap can help remove the odor. Did you know if you drop jewelry down the drain, it can often be retrieved by cleaning the trap?

Other rotten odor causes may include the following:

  • Household or point-of-use filters that need to be replaced
    If filters are used for too long, material may get caught and cause bacteria to grow.
  • Sink aerators that need to be cleaned
    Material caught in sink aerators may cause bacteria to grow. Clean them out regularly.
  • A dead-end in plumbing that allows water to get stuck and become stagnant
    This causes the water to lose its disinfection.
  • Cross-connections, such as a hose left in a pond or plumbing that incorrectly connects potable and non-potable water
    See our Backflow Information page to learn about proper and improper cross-connections.

Earthy or Musty Taste and Odor

Earthy or musty taste and odor may be caused by the same issues that cause a rotten or sewer smell, sediment in a hot water heater, or by-products of algae growth described above.

Milky or Cloudy Water

Water that appears milky or cloudy usually contains dissolved air. The dissolved air teeny-tiny bubbles that make the water appear cloudy. This is the most common and recurring cause of milky or cloudy water during the cold weather months. It is temporary, and it is not harmful.

How can I test this?

Fill a glass with the milky, cloudy water and let it sit on the counter for 1 to 5 minutes. The water should appear to clear from the bottom up, eventually disappearing. This confirms the discoloration is just air. If any of the milky/cloudiness settles to the bottom, please feel free to call The York Water Company for additional troubleshooting help.

Brown Water

Brown colored water occurs when there are particulates in the water. While this is scary, it does occasionally happen. Our water system has miles of pipe. In some cases, rust and other particles settle until the water flows fast enough to stir the particles. Normal household use is not fast enough to stir the particles.

If Both Hot and Cold Water are Discolored

If both your hot and cold water are discolored at all taps throughout the building, it is likely that settled particles have been stirred by a disturbance in our system as described above. Disturbances that may cause this include the following:

  • Main breaks
  • Flushing nearby
  • Hydrant testing
  • Fire-fighting activities

While the brown color is off putting, the drinking water still meets safety standards and regulations and is drinkable. York Water may be able to confirm that this is the case if we have received other calls alerting us to brown water in the same area.

If the disturbance is ongoing, it is likely that the water will continue to look unappealing for the duration. If the disturbance or work is complete, run the cold water in your bathtub or sink(s) for a few minutes to flush out any particles that have entered your residence. If it doesn’t clear up by the end of the day, you can contact York Water at 717-845-3601.

If Only Hot Water Taps are Discolored

If the discoloration only comes from the hot water taps, it is likely that the hot water heater or hot water piping is to blame. Check the hot water heater anode and dip tube.

You may also consider draining and refilling the heater to observe and remove sediment build-up. Take caution if you choose to drain the hot water heater yourself. Be sure the instructions you follow are from a reputable source and that you turn off all power to your hot water heater before you begin. It is recommended that you flush your water heater at least once per year to prevent potential sediment build-up.

As this is an issue with the hot water heater, rather than the water supply, the hot water heater manufacturer and a local plumber should be able to help you to solve this problem.

Hard and Soft Water

Scale, soap scum, and spots on glassware or dishes are often blamed on hard water. Hard water gets a bad reputation! Water hardness is based on calcium and magnesium content in water. Both of these are essential minerals. Soft water tends to have higher concentrations of sodium, rather than calcium and magnesium. Water that is too soft can be just as bad as water that is too hard. It is up to each customer to adjust the hardness of their water. They may adjust it with a water softener.

How hard is York Water’s water?

The water in York Water’s main system is considered “moderately hard.” The hardness is approximately 75 mg/L (PPM) as CaCO3 (Calcium carbonate), or about 4.5 grains.

Why do scale, soap scum, and water spots occur?

Most spots and soap scum are caused by compounds from soap that are insoluble in hard water. Some brands of detergents are made to be used with hard water, and they prevent build-up or spots.

Scale, also known as minerals, occur when hard water is boiled. This “scale” is often seen in coffee makers, tea kettles, hot water heaters, and dishwashers. Often, scale occurs when a household changes soaps or detergents or when a household water softened runs out of salt.

Some mold has a pinkish color. It comes from airborne bacteria that grow on damp or wet surfaces. This pink mold is often seen on the bottom of shower curtains, shower or sink drains, or even a pet’s water dish.

There is no mold in your tap water. The mold does not indicate a problem with the water supply. Some customers report seeing this pink color in one bathroom but not another. Natural light and air circulation can impact the presence and concentration of pink mold. Remove pink mold with cleaning products designed for mold or that contain bleach. You may also dilute 1oz of bleach into a spray bottle full of water. Use the spray after you clean to sterilize affected surfaces. This practice will slow down the reoccurrence of mold. Always use caution when cleaning pet water dishes with chemicals, and make sure you rinse them well.

If sickness or skin irritations occur, we strongly recommend you consult a doctor immediately. It is very important to document when the sickness or irritation began, what the symptoms are, and immediately determine the source of water.

Answer the following questions to help your doctor and other members of your residence narrow down the cause of sickness or skin irritation:

  • Are you a York Water Customer?
  • Have all members of the family or residence been affected?
  • Have the affected individuals been out of town recently?
  • What indications do you have that the water is the cause of the sickness?
  • Does the irritation occur only on the hot water line or is it both cold and hot?
  • Are any of the affected individuals consuming water from the hot water tap?
  • Are there other factors observed such as taste, odor, color, particles, cloudiness, etc.?
  • Has your doctor suggested tap water as the likely cause?
  • Do you have a well and public water in your home or apartment, and could they be connected, even accidentally?
  • Do you have any filters, softeners, or other treatment devices connected to your water line(s)? Are they connected properly? Are they operated and maintained correctly (backwashing, rinsing, replaced, checked by plumber/installer, etc.)?

When you encountering problems with your aquarium or fish, water is a big factor to consider. York Water uses a water disinfecting method called chloramination. We add chlorine during the treatment process, then a small amount of ammonia is added at a 5:1 ratio of chlorine to ammonia. This creates longer-lasting chlorine residual, which means that chlorine is present throughout our distribution system as required by the PA Department of Environmental Protection and the US Environmental Protection Agency. The bound ammonia can cause certain nitrite, nitrate, and ammonia analyzers and test kits (particularly those that are color-based) to give false results that are very high, as the compounds are all nitrogen-based.

York Water is in compliance with nitrite, nitrate, and ammonia standards, regulations, and guidance. Our licensed operators monitor them continuously and test regularly. We, and our families, live here and drink the water, too!

Before you add water to your aquarium, consider using a three-in-one (chlorine, chloramine, and ammonia) conditioner. The pH of the tap water should be in the range of 7.4 to 8.8. We do not use extra phosphates or other corrosion inhibitors for our corrosion control.

If issues continue, troubleshoot with these questions:

  • When did the fish begin to die?
  • When was water last added to the aquarium?
  • Were any new fish added?
  • Have any new foods or plants been added?
  • Were any sprays or cleansers used near the aquarium?
  • Is the aquarium new, or have new materials been used?
  • Have there been any changes in temperature?
  • Has the dissolved oxygen changed?
  • Has the aquarium been overloaded, or could the fish be over or under-fed?
  • Were any chemicals used to fight or prevent disease?

To learn more about what is in our tap water, please see our Comprehensive Water Quality Analysis and our annual Consumer Confidence Reports.

Helpful Resources 

The US EPA’s National Primary Drinking Water Regulations

API Fish Care’s post on ammonia testing

Local Water Testing Labs

If you are interested in having your water tested by an accredited laboratory, these are two local labs:

ALS Environmental
York & Middletown, PA
717-944-5541

LABS, Inc.
New Oxford, PA
717-259-6550

If you still have questions, please reach out to our Customer Service team. They’re happy to help!

Please ensure you are a water or wastewater customer of The York Water Company in York, Pennsylvania, USA when contacting Customer Service for assistance.