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Water is vital to survival and is essential to the health of our bodies, and having high quality water at home is something we often take for granted. There may be minerals, contaminants and even pathogens in your drinking water—all invisible to the naked eye. To ensure that nothing is compromising the quality of water in your home, it may help to expand your knowledge with answers to these frequently asked questions.

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Q: Can I test my home water quality myself?

A: Certainly. Water testing kits can be purchased at most home supply stores that test for contaminants, minerals and even some micro-organisms. Kits are easy to use and usually consist of a few strips you run under the water. If contaminants are present, the strip will change colors. If you suspect a serious danger or contamination, however, you may want to call a professional to test your water for you. Ben Franklin can help you assess your water quality and make suggestions for addressing any issues.

Q: What are some of the common contaminants that could be affecting my water quality?

A: While there are many things that can contaminate water, a few of the most common contaminants are sulfur, manganese, hard water, sand, iron and lead. Depending on your water source, there may even be pathogens like E. coli present.

Q: Why is there chlorine in my water?

A: Chlorine is a disinfectant, often added to drinking water by municipal water treatment plants for safety reasons. The EPA has very strict guidelines regarding the chlorine added to drinking water to ensure safety. When added in very small doses, chlorine kills or neutralizes pathogens that would otherwise make us sick or clog plumbing.

Q: Why does my water look cloudy?

A: Cloudy water does not mean the water is contaminated. Rather, cloudy water is usually the result of air entering the water pipes. It is released through oxygen bubbles which make the water appear cloudy. This is not a health risk; just an aesthetic thing for some people. The cloudiness should disappear after your water has been running for a little bit.

Q: What do I do if I smell an odor coming from my tap?

A: Usually what you think is an odor coming from your water is, in fact, coming from your sink. This can be caused by clogging beneath the sink which causes food to become stuck and start to smell. Some clogs can be cleared simply by running your garbage disposal. But if you can’t fix it yourself, you may need to call a plumber in the Tampa area to help you clear it safely. If you are still convinced the odor is coming from the tap, fill a glass with water, step away from the sink and smell the water. If it is, in fact, the water and not the sink, such as a sulfur or “rotten egg” smell, you may need to contact a professional about purification options.

Q: Is there fluoride in my water? How much?

A: Some water supplies do contain fluoride that has been added for public health reasons. The US Department of Health and Human Services recommends the optimal level of fluoride in drinking water is 0.7mg/L. This aids in the health of our teeth and in preventing tooth decay.

Q: Are there pharmaceuticals in my drinking water?

A: With an increased use of pharmaceutical drugs, some contaminants are entering our drinking water. If you do have unused prescriptions, you should follow local laws to dispose of them safely. This will help reduce the amount of pharmaceutical chemicals in our drinking water.

Q: Is bottled water cleaner than tap water?

A: Not necessarily. Tap water is under strict surveillance to meet the requirements of the EPA. The Food and Drug Administration requires bottled water to have the same standards as tap water; however, bottled water companies are only required to test their water source once a year. Many cities test their municipal water daily to make sure it is safe.

Q: What is hard water?

A: Water is said to be hard if there is excess calcium and magnesium in the water. While these occur naturally in the water, they can make is ‘harder’ for soap to sud or lather. Hard water causes no health threats, though the minerals can cause skin irritation. If you do have hard water, our technicians can advise you on water softening solutions that help.