Daryl writes: I purchased a vacation home last year and noticed blue stains in the shower and bathroom sink. Is this due to acidic water and is it detrimental to a person’s health? Can you drink acidic water?
Steve Bliss, of BuildingAdvisor.com, responds: Your problem is most likely acidic water. A water test, which you can arrange with your town’s health department for a modest fee, can confirm this.
Acidic water is generally not a health problem. Well water generally ranges from a pH of 5 (acidic) to 9 (basic). Water with a pH of below 4 or above 10 can be irritating to skin and membranes, but is generally safe to drink.
Acidic water, however, can leach metals from pipes leaving blue stains on fixtures from copper pipes, as well as corrode chrome metal finishes. Over many years, the acidic water can lead to pitting and pinholes in the copper piping – an expensive problem. In older houses, acidic water can leach lead from leaded solder, lead piping, or brass and bronze fittings, leading to health problems.
If acidic water is a problem, the simplest approach is to install a whole-house acid neutralizer, which adds a little calcium carbonate to the water. I’ve had a system in a home for a couple of years. In addition to eliminating the blue stains, the water tastes a lot better, due to less dissolved metals in the water.
To reduce acidity, water is piped from the pressure tank to the tall fiberglass tank filled with calcium carbonate (see photo). The multiple shut-offs into and out of the tank, allow for easy flushing of the tank with water flow in either direction.
Flushing of the filter should be done annually and the filter medium (calcium carbonate) replenished as needed. If not maintained properly, the filter medium can harden to a rock-like mass over time. Some units provide automatic back-flushing based on medium. This adds cost and complexity, but might be a good option for someone with little interest in maintaining their system.
If you plan to use a lot of water for gardening or outdoor utility purposes where the acidity is not an issue, you should consider running a separate line of pre-filtered water to an outdoor faucet. The line would T from the supply line between the pressure tank and filter. Running a pre-filtered water line will save you money on filter media and maintenance costs of the filter unit. Make sure you use non-metallic piping on this line since the acidic water will promote corrosion of copper, steel, or other metal piping.