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Water Quality FAQs

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  • What is the black oily substance in the water?

    • AWWU's Water Distribution Operators have responded to several water quality concerns from customers regarding a black oily substance in the water. Here is the most common cause of “Black Specks” in the water. Typically the complaint is located at a plumbing fixture that is connected to the house plumbing with a braided stainless steel hose. These braided stainless steel lines have a black rubber lining that breaks down over time forming a black oily substance that breaks free and floats in the water. The black residue will appear oily when you rub it between your fingers. Another test is to disconnect the hose feeding the plumbing fixture and take a Q-tip and run it into the hose and check for the black oily substance. These specks are very apparent in white cups and plumbing fixtures.

    • This problem is easily corrected by changing out these lines in question with new braided stainless steel lines sold in most hardware and plumbing supply stores. The newer products do not break down like the older problematic ones.

  • Why do you add chlorine to the water?

    The state and federal government mandate disinfecting. Chlorine is a disinfectant used to remove any harmful bacteria from the drinking water and to ensure safe water throughout the distribution system.

  • What are the white particles clogging my faucets?

    • It depends. Often this is the result of the filler tubes in some hot water heaters breaking down. It's most likely to happen with newer heaters, those less then 4 or 5 years old. The plastic in the filler tubes sometimes breaks down into granules that look like small plastic particles. According to filler tube manufacturers, the problem has been resolved. Replacement tubes are available at plumbing supply stores and are easily installed by a plumber or handy homeowner.

    • A white powdery substance is often the result of calcium carbonate precipitation.

  • Why is my water "milky" colored?

    This is probably caused by air in the water. You can check by filling a glass with water. If the water slowly clears, it is air. To remove air from the lines, try running a faucet at the highest location in the house, usually a second floor bathroom, for about 15 minutes.

  • Why do I have dirty water coming out of my faucet?

    • If silt is coming from the hot water only, then you need to flush out your hot water heater. Heating of the water, along with normal oxidation and scaling, deposits an accumulation of debris (not hazardous) in the bottom that should be flushed out once per year.

    • If it's coming from the cold water as well as the hot water independently, check to see if your neighbors seem to have a similar problem. If yes, then it appears as if there has been an occurrence that has caused a disturbance in the transmission or distribution pipes in your area that has dislodged some naturally occurring sediment within. Please allow your cold water to run for 30 minutes, or until it clears up, and then flush out your hot water heater with the clean water. If this problem persists beyond that time period, please call us back. Further action: Persistent dirty water conditions should be referred to O&M for investigation and/or flushing.

  • Is my water fluoridated?

    Yes. AWWU fluoridates at a level of .7 parts per million (ppm), the level recommended by the American Water Works Association. This is required by Anchorage Municipal Code (AMC) 26.40.050 and approved by the Anchorage Assembly. It is important to remember that most substances may be toxic in high amounts, even oxygen and water. Fluoride is naturally present in all water and scientific evidence shows that the addition of fluoride and consumption at low levels is beneficial for bone strength and the prevention of cavities. For more information, see the press release from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to decrease the level of fluoride in the nation’s drinking water from a range value between 0.7 – 1.2 ppm to a single value of 0.7 ppm.

  • Why does my water have a smell or odor?

    • There may be several reasons for odor or taste in a customer's water. During the summer months, a potential cause is from the customer's garden hose. Often a customer will leave the outside faucet on with a sprayer nozzle turned off at the end of the hose. This allows water from the hose to circulate back into the household plumbing.
    • Sometimes the chlorine level can affect water taste and odor. Generally the lower the chlorine residual the stronger the taste or odor.
    • Rotten egg odor, chemically speaking, is a hydrogen sulfide compound. Water that is run regularly does not give off a odor. The tiny trace of chlorine we add to the water to safeguard our supply in the unlikely event of a line break offers a nice fringe benefit of eliminating any unpleasant-although harmless-smells.
    • Water that is sitting in a hot water heater that has not been used represents an entirely different story. The chlorine can dissipate rapidly, allowing the hydrogen sulfide to come into it's own. The solution, run the hot water until it turns cool. This empties the tank, fills it with fresh water and usually solves the problem. If the nuisance persists, it may be time to replace the anode in your water heater. Be sure your plumber installs the aluminum type, instead of a magnesium version.
  • Do I need a water softener?

    No, AWWU has relatively soft water. However, that depends on personal preferences.

  • What does water hardness mean?

    Water hardness is a measure of the mineral content of water. "Hard" water takes more soap to create lather than "soft" water.

  • What is the hardness of AWWU's water?

    The hardness of the AWWU water is approximately 56 milligrams/liter (parts per million), or 3.3 grains.

  • What is that pink slime?

    This is caused by airborne spores (bacteria or mold) not by the water. The pink slime is hard to get rid of once you get it. It lives at the air/water interface. So animal dishes, toilets, sinks, showers etc are perfect breeding grounds. If you have a severe case of pink slime that normal cleaning does not remove, more dramatic steps might be needed. Put animal food/water bowls in the dishwasher daily; clean the toilet with bleach every other day; wipe down the shower and sinks till dry or use bleach spray every 3 days.

  • Is there any lead in my water?

    Any lead in the AWWU water falls far below all regulatory guidelines and is often non-detectable.

  • How can I get a copy of AWWU's Annual Water Quality Report?

    Drinking Water Quality Reports 

    A customer may request a paper copy by calling (907) 786-5613.