Yes! Springfield Utility Board's (SUB’s) Water Division routinely samples and analyzes water quality from the source, through our treatment process, and throughout our distribution system to ensure a water service that meets or exceeds all drinking water standards established by state and federal regulations.
With increased public awareness on issues related to health and infectious diseases, the SUB Water Division is occasionally asked whether SUB’s tap water could be the cause of illness. This is highly unlikely, since SUB provides water that is treated to high-quality standards, maintains adequate chlorine residual throughout the distribution system, and uses utmost care in maintaining its distribution system.
Private laboratories can test your tap water for a fee. Not all labs are accredited to test for all contaminants. For information about accredited labs, call the Oregon Health Authority, Oregon Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program at (503) 693-4122.
Substances used in vinyl garden hoses to keep them flexible can get into the water as it passes through the hose. These substances are not good for you or your pets. There are hoses made with “food-grade” plastics that will not contaminate the water, although microbial contaminants may accumulate after a hose sits unused.
Water from the hot water faucet should not be used for drinking or food or beverage preparation. Hot water systems (tanks, boilers) contain metallic parts that corrode over time and contaminate the water. Hot water is more corrosive than cold water and is more likely to contain unhealthy compounds.
SUB’s water meets very stringent state and federal water quality standards. Not only do we test for chemicals that the federal and state government require – we test for much more. Standards for bottled water are far less stringent than the standards we meet. In studies done by independent organizations, some bottled water was not all that it had claimed to be. In fact, much of it comes from municipal water systems. Bottled water also creates a tremendous amount of plastic that must be dealt with. Then there is the issue of price. Bottled water can cost over 3000 times more than SUB’s tap water. We have them beat on quality, safety, and price!
There is currently no drinking water standard for sodium. Sodium is an essential nutrient. View sodium levels in SUB’s water on our Water Quality Reports.
No. SUB does not add fluoride to the water and when tested only trace amounts of fluoride are detected. Fluoride is a naturally occurring trace element in surface and groundwater. Visit our Water Quality Reports page for water quality test results.
Put quite simply, hard water has more minerals in it than soft water. Rainwater is naturally soft – it contains only small amounts of minerals. But as the water passes through rocks, such as chalk and limestone, minerals in the rocks are dissolved in the water, giving it its hard nature. Calcium carbonate is the mineral most commonly associated with water hardness. This is the same mineral found in many calcium supplements sold by your local drug or health food store. Hard water reduces the “sudsing” ability of soap and may cause spots on your dishes and glasses after washing and air-drying. Soft water is water that is low in calcium carbonate.
Calcium carbonate is an essential nutrient that is used by your body to fortify bones and teeth. It also helps your muscles to function properly. Water hardness is measured in milligrams per Liter or grains per gallon. The hardness of the SUB’s tap water is typically around 20 to 100 milligrams per Liter or 1 to 6 grains per gallon.
If you are a customer of SUB, it’s really not necessary. Your water is tested constantly to ensure it is safe and meets all water quality standards. Some filters will remove chlorine and traces of copper and lead that may be present in your home’s plumbing. All home filtration devices require regular maintenance and if not conducted, water quality problems may occur.
Before purchasing a home water treatment unit, review SUB’s water quality report, consider cost and maintenance of the unit, product performance and certifications to make sure the unit will meet your needs.
A water softener can improve the aesthetic (non-health) qualities of your household water. For example, soap products perform better in softer water. But a water softener does not improve the safety or quality of water as it relates to health. Most water softeners exchange sodium for existing calcium and magnesium in the water and therefore, increase the sodium content of the water. The sodium increase in softened water may be a concern to you. If you are on a sodium-restricted diet, you may want to consult your physician prior to purchasing a system.
Also, there is evidence that softened water may be corrosive to certain metallic pipe materials. The cost of softening water is another factor that should be taken into consideration. According to Consumer Reports, water softeners can consume from 15 to 120 gallons of water for every 1,000 gallons of water processed. The decision to purchase a home water softener is therefore one of personal preference.
You can use a hand-held pitcher with an activated carbon filter to remove chlorine or install a point-of-use water treatment device on a faucet for your cooking and drinking water. Be certain that the device has been tested by an independent organization for aesthetic (non-health) use. ANSI/NSF Standard 42 establishes minimum requirements for materials, design and construction, and performance of drinking water devices that reduce specific aesthetic-related contaminants in public or private water supplies.
These products usually contain activated carbon that can remove many chemicals that affect taste and odor, including chlorine. Point of use devices contains filter cartridges that must be changed out periodically. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations to replace the cartridges. If you plan to store water from these devices, treat the water as a food product, and use clean, airtight containers and refrigerate, as the water is no longer protected from bacteriological contamination.
Generally, you need to take a few fairly simple measures to make your tap water safe for your fish before you add it to their tank or pond.
This is because:
- The temperature of the tap water is likely to be quite different from the temperature in your tank or pond
- Tap water may contain traces of metals that are harmless to us but can damage your fish
- Tap water contains a small amount of chlorine to safeguard our health, which can be harmful to your fish
- The acidity of the tap water is likely to be different than the water in your tank or pond
Check with a local pet store to determine if you need to dechlorinate your water or for other precautions you may need based on your household plumbing and variety of fish.
Color & Appearance of Water
Milky or cloudy water is often caused by oxygen bubbles in the pipes that are released when the water leaves the tap. Cloudiness and air bubbles do not present a health risk. During colder months, water in outdoor pipes is colder and holds more oxygen than household pipes. Consequently, when the cold water enters your building and begins to warm, the oxygen bubbles escape and cause the water to look cloudy or milky. Construction in the distribution system can also allow air to enter the pipes and cause the appearance of cloudy water. Hot water can sometimes be cloudy due to dissolved gases in the water escaping as the water is heated. Cloudiness and air bubbles should naturally disappear in a few minutes.
You can test this by running the cold water into a clear container and observing it for a few minutes. If the water clears from the bottom to the top of the container, air bubbles are rising to the surface. If the water in the glass clears from the top-down, and white or grey particles settle to the bottom, this may indicate a water heater issue.
Ice crystals trap air as they form and the water freezes. This can make ice cubes appear cloudy. Minerals in the water and soap residue in the tray can cause ice cubes to stick to the tray. Try cleaning the ice cube trays with vinegar. Wash and rinse thoroughly before refilling with water.
Ice cubes freeze from the outside in. Ice is formed from pure water (hydrogen and oxygen) therefore the minerals such as calcium and magnesium normally found in the water sometimes end up as visible particulates in the core of the ice cube. The white particles are not toxic.
If the discoloration is detected only in your hot water supply, it is likely an indication of an issue with your hot water heater. You should consult your owner’s manual for instructions on how to flush your hot water heater and for warnings regarding this task or contact a licensed plumber. Visit our Water Heater Flushing page for more information.
The internal plumbing of your house is likely the culprit if discolored water appears only for a minute or two after you turn on the tap. Many houses have galvanized iron pipes, when the zinc coating on the inside of galvanized iron pipe wears thin, the water becomes discolored as it comes in contact with bare iron. The longer the water sits in the pipes, the worse the discoloration will be. That is why this problem is most noticeable the first time you turn on the tap in the morning. If only a few taps are affected, only a portion of your internal plumbing has galvanized pipe.
After running your tap for a few minutes, clean water from the water main will replace the discolored water. If the discoloration bothers you, however, flush the tap until the water becomes clear and save the water for iron-loving plants. Why is my water constantly brown or yellow? Light yellow to dark brown water is typically caused by a disturbance of pipeline sediments in the water main.
If the water’s speed becomes great enough, iron and manganese sediment lying on the bottom of the mains may get stirred up, resulting in discolored water. Any of the following circumstances may have created flow reversals or increased speeds in the water mains causing sediment to be disturbed:
- The discolored water may be due to planned cleaning of the water main to remove pipeline sediments in your area.
- A nearby water hydrant may have been knocked over due to a vehicle collision or maybe in use.
- There may be some pipeline repair work (or construction activity) in the area and some valves may have been closed for this work.
- Valve turning, routine maintenance, or main breaks.
- Extremely high system demands or the start-up or shutdown of water treatment facilities.
Despite its appearance, this does not indicate that the water is unsafe or that the integrity of the water main has been compromised. A disinfectant residual is maintained at all times to ensure that the water is safe for household use, including cooking and drinking.
In most cases, the water will clear on its own within 2 hours or less. If your water is discolored:
- Water use should be avoided if there are particles or sediment in the water. It may not be harmful but sediments can clog aerators and home filters. It is fine to use this water to flush toilets.
- If possible, do not run the washing machine or dishwasher until the water has cleared.
- Wait an hour for the system to settle, and then run water at one tap for up to five minutes to see if it clears. If it does not clear, wait another hour and try again. When the water runs clear, run water throughout the house to flush any sediment that may have been drawn into your pipes.
- If discolored water has been drawn into the hot water system, the hot water can continue to be used until the discoloration dissipates and is no longer an aesthetic issue.
- Customers may choose to drink bottled water while they wait for the discoloration to clear.
Having blue water is rare. The blue disinfectant you use in your toilet can cause discoloration of your tap water. If your water supply was recently turned off, a condition may have been created in which water from the toilet tank was siphoned into the plumbing of your house. These disinfectants contain chemicals that may pose health hazards if ingested or touched. Flush your plumbing by opening each tap until the water runs clear. Do not drink this water.
Extreme copper plumbing corrosion, which is a rare circumstance, may create blue (or blue-green) water. If this is happening, the water will usually have a bluish-green tint and/or will leave a bluish-green stain around fixtures and on a white surface if the water drips from a faucet. This copper corrosion can be caused by your electrical system being grounded to your water pipes, especially if you have a mixture of pipe material (i.e., some copper and some galvanized iron).
Standing water, such as in a white bathtub, will sometimes appear to have a greenish cast to it. Fluorescent lights will make your water appear green. To test this, fill a white bucket with water and take it outside. In the sunlight, the water will look clear and no longer appear green.
Particles in Water
Black particles can come from 2 common sources: a broken water filter, a degrading faucet washer or gasket, or a disintegrating black rubber flexible supply line hose (for a water heater, washing machine, or kitchen faucet, etc.).
- If the particles are very hard, similar in size and shape, and look like large coffee grounds, they are probably granular activated carbon (GAC) particles from the inside of a GAC water filter that you have installed. Replace the filter cartridge or consult with the manufacturer or the vendor who sold it to you.
- If the particles are solid but rubbery in texture, they could be pieces of an old disintegrating faucet washer or gasket. If this is the problem, the particles would likely only be present at one faucet and that faucet may be leaking. Replace the faucet washers and the packing at the ends of the supply lines.
- If the particles are small black particles that can be easily smeared between two fingers, they are probably from the inside of a flexible hose. These black rubber hoses are covered with a braided stainless steel mesh. Over time, the chlorine in the water causes the rubber to break down. Replace the hose, ideally with a liner that is identified as chemical or chlorine resistant. Black rubber hoses typically have a one-year warranty while the more chemical resistant hoses have a 5-year warranty.
Brown or orange particles are typically rust particles that have broken off the inside of your water pipes or the SUB water mains. These particles are very hard, irregular in size and shape, and can be several different colors (including black). They consist of mostly iron and are not a health hazard but they are a nuisance if they clog washing machine screens, showerheads, or faucet aerators.
Another common cause of brown or orange particles in the water is a broken water softener. A water softener contains many small, round beads (or resin) for softening water. The beads will be uniform in size, typically the size of fish eggs, and are brown or orange. The mechanism that keeps these beads in the tank can break, releasing them into your water. Call your service agent for repairs.
Aerators are strainers attached to your faucet or showerhead that break up the flow of water as it leaves your tap. Aerator screens can collect particles found in water and should be routinely cleaned throughout the year and replaced once a year. Particle buildup is often white and comes from a variety of sources.
The most common source of buildup in aerators is from the hot water heater. The hot water heater dip tube is made of a nontoxic plastic material called polypropylene. This plastic can break apart or disintegrate and travel in the hot water to your faucet, eventually collecting in the aerator.
If you leave filter jugs, vases and pet water bowls in sunlight, algae will start growing. You can prevent algae growth by changing the water and cleaning the water jug, vase and bowl regularly. Always keep your filter jug in the fridge, away from heat and light that can encourage the algae to grow.
Staining of Plumbing Fixtures & Glassware
White residue is commonly found on kitchenware and glass shower doors as the result of dissolved minerals found in water, such as calcium, magnesium, and silica. These are naturally occurring minerals and do not pose a risk to human health, but can build up on surfaces over time. These deposits may also appear green, blue, or brown, having been colored by tiny amounts of the metals found in your water pipes. Carbonate deposits can be dissolved with white vinegar. Also, commercial products are available to remove white residue caused by minerals in the water.
The spots that may appear on glassware after it is washed and air-dried are caused by harmless minerals (usually calcium, magnesium, and/or silica) that remain on the glass when the water evaporates. Dishwasher deposits can be minimized by using a commercial conditioner, liquid detergents, and using the air-dry instead of the power-dry setting on your dishwasher, which bakes the carbonates onto glassware. Commercial products are available that allow the water to drain from the glassware more completely.
These stains are most often noticed along with brownish water. They are found in homes of any age, although they are most common in older homes with galvanized pipes. Reddish-brown stains may indicate high levels of iron from rust in the pipes.
These stains are due to copper in the water from copper plumbing. Typically this occurs in homes less than 2 years old. This problem gradually clears up on its own.
This film can be a result of many factors, some internal to the home, such as a water softener or plumbing materials. It may also be related to the condition of the water coming into the home. Minerals in water can leave deposits, which can be left behind on toilets and dishwashers as the water evaporates. Rings on baths and showers can be scum left behind as the water evaporates or soap or shampoos reacting with minerals in water. Black slime is usually mold/mildew that thrives in moist areas like bathroom toilets and tiles where it is wet and warm. The film that develops on sink stoppers is bacteria and residue build up. Usually, the customer will need to clean the area with a commercial cleaner that contains a disinfecting agent, such as chlorine bleach.
People sometimes see a pink film develop on the flat surfaces of their shower, in their pet’s water bowls, or in toilets that are not used frequently. This is a colored organism that is present in the air. It is a harmless bacterium and exists in moist/humid conditions. The customer can remove the pink film by cleaning the area periodically with a commercial cleaning product that contains bleach. Where possible, keep the area clean and dry to discourage the spores from growing back. Permanent staining can occur if the area is not cleaned regularly.
High temperatures in washing machines can cause reactions with the detergents and fabric softeners. These reactions create a gummy mess that sticks to clothes, causing staining, which is very hard to remove. To avoid this type of staining, use detergents specifically designed for use at very high temperatures, or reduce the temperature of the washing machine water.
Blond hair turns green due to the absorption of copper, if present in the water and if the hair is previously damaged. The concentration of copper must be greater than 0.3 parts per million and the hair cuticle must have been damaged due to physical factors (brushing, hot drying, and sun exposure) and/or chemical factors (peroxide bleaching, permanent waving, use of alkaline, and tar shampoos, or exposure to chlorinated water in swimming pools). The damaged cuticle opens up a pathway for the copper in the water.
A study has shown that damaged hair will adsorb 3 times more copper than undamaged hair. The green discoloration is more apparent in people with blond, gray, or white hair. People with dark hair could have the same copper concentrations as those with blond hair that has turned green, but the color change would not be as noticeable. Contact a hair care professional for suggestions on how to return your hair to the desired color.
Taste & Odor of Water
If you recently moved to the SUB service area, your new water may taste different to you. Just as various brands of bottled water taste different due to the varying minerals they contain, the taste of domestic drinking water also varies with its source(s). Over time, you will become accustomed to its taste. Be assured that the drinking water SUB provides meets or surpasses all state and federal drinking water standards.
We’re required to add very small and safe amounts of chlorine to your water to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria. This may mean that you encounter chlorine-type tastes and odors from time to time. We carefully monitor the levels that we add to make sure your water is always safe to drink and use. Heating water or increases in outside temperature can make the chlorine odor more noticeable, so you may notice the odor more when you run a bath or take a shower. Even though the odor may be stronger when water is warmed up, it’s still perfectly safe to use.
Some customers are more sensitive to the smell of chlorine than others. However, the odor or taste of chlorinated water should never be overwhelming.
There are 2 common causes for a chlorinous, bleachy, chemical, or medicinal odor or taste in the water: the chlorine that we add to the water or the interaction of that chlorine with a build-up of organic material in your plumbing system. It is helpful to identify the source in finding a solution.
Here are 2 characteristics of a public water supply related odor:
- The odor occurs at all the water fixtures on the property
- The odor persists no matter how long the water is run
Here are 2 characteristics of a plumbing related odor:
- The odor occurs in only one or several, but not all, of the water fixtures on the property
- The odor is not noticeable after running the water for a few minutes
If you are not certain of the source, check the water supply to the property. To check the water supply, take a clean glass and go to the water faucet (hose bib) at the front of the property closest to the water meter at the street (typically the water meter is in front of the home). Turn the water on wide-open and run it for a full 2 minutes. Check the time; 2 minutes is a long time. After 2 minutes, disconnect the water hose if there is one attached and sample the water. If the odor seems overpowering or bleachy after running this test, contact us at (541) 726-2396. If the water is much better at the front faucet than at the fixtures on the property, flushing your plumbing is recommended.
Improving water quality is as simple as flushing your water pipes to remove the accumulation of organic material. This procedure is outlined in the following steps.
- Remove the screens (called aerators) from the ends of the indoor faucets and run all of the faucets wide-open and simultaneously for 3 to 5 minutes.
- Flush the toilets 2 or 3 times each while the faucets are running. Running all the water faucets and toilets simultaneously generates a large flow of water through the pipes and will generally dislodge any build-up of organic material that is causing the taste and odor problem. Removing the aerators before flushing the plumbing will prevent anything dislodged by flushing from accumulating on the screens.
- After 3 to 5 minutes of flushing, turn off the water faucets, clean the aerators, and reinstall the aerators on the ends of the faucets.
If you find chlorine taste in the water objectionable, fill a container with water and store it in the refrigerator for drinking. Leave the cap slightly loose and most of the chlorine smell should dissipate.
You can also use a hand-held pitcher with an activated carbon filter to remove chlorine or install a point-of-use water treatment device on a faucet for your cooking and drinking water. Be certain that the device has been tested by an independent organization for aesthetic (non-health) use. ANSI/NSF Standard 42 establishes minimum requirements for materials, design and construction, and performance of drinking water devices that reduce specific aesthetic-related contaminants in public or private water supplies. These products usually contain activated carbon that can remove many chemicals that affect taste and odor, including chlorine.
Point of use devices contain filter cartridges that must be changed out periodically. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations to replace the cartridges. If you plan to store water from these devices, treat the water as a food product, and use clean, airtight containers and refrigerate, as the water is no longer protected from bacteriological contamination.
If the water supply is causing the odor, you will experience the odor at every water faucet and it will be persistent. If the source of the odor is in your plumbing, you will experience the odor in only one or several, but not all, of the faucets. If the problem goes away after running the water for a few minutes, the cause is somewhere in your plumbing. If your plumbing is the source of the odor, you can try flushing the plumbing system or you can consult a licensed plumber. Contact SUB at (541) 726-2396 if you suspect the public water supply. When you detect an odor in your tap water, we recommend that you perform what we call a glass test at the faucet where you detect the odor.
- Run the cold water tap for at least 30 seconds
- Get a clean glass, then fill and rinse twice with cold tap water
- Fill the glass and turn off the faucet
- Step away from the sink (This eliminates the possibility of mistaking odors from your drain for odors in your water)
- Smell the water in the glass and characterize the odor, if any
New or modified plumbing can give your water an unusual taste or odor. This is caused when traces of copper and other materials come into contact with your water. This will usually improve with time as a thin protective layer of natural scale forms on the new plumbing, sealing the copper.
Tap or stopcock washer rubber causes an odd taste or odor, particularly if taps or stopcocks are new, old, or haven’t been used for some time. You will usually only notice the odor or taste when you use the particular tap causing the problem (unless it’s the stopcock, which will affect every tap). You may need to replace the washer, if the washer has been damaged because of worn tap seating, you will need to replace the tap seating too.
Flexible braided metal hoses are often used in modern plumbing, usually to make connections under the sink. The rubber or plastic lining inside them can sometimes cause an antiseptic taste. If the flexible hose is part of your drinking water plumbing, you may need to ask a plumber to replace the hose with an alternative type of hose that does not contain rubber.
Water with a metallic or bitter taste is most likely a sign of corrosion in older galvanized iron and copper pipe plumbing in your home. A metallic or bitter taste is most likely to occur first thing in the morning or after extended periods of no water use. If you experience a metallic or bitter taste in your water, turn your tap on full flow for at least 30 seconds to flush out the stagnant water. The water will be replaced with fresh water from SUB’s water supply.
Occasionally glasses or cups that have been through a dishwasher may retain traces of detergents. As a test, try rinsing the glass or cup with tap water and see whether the taste is still there. If so, adjust the settings on your dishwasher and use no more than the recommended amount of detergent and rinse-aid.
Sometimes customers report that their tap water smells septic, swampy, moldy, or like sewage, sewer gas, sulfur, or rotten eggs. These odors are often caused by gases forming in the household drain. These gases are formed by bacteria that live on food, soap, hair, and other organic matter in the drain. These gases are heavier than air and remain in the drain until the water is turned on. As the water runs down the drain, the gases are expelled into the atmosphere around the sink. It is natural to associate these odors with the water because they are observed only when the water is turned on. In this case, the odor is not in the water, it is simply the water pushing the gas out of the drain. This can be verified by taking a glass of water from the tap and walking away to another area to smell the glass of water.
Cold Water: If the odor is not evident in the glass, but is noticeable when you are standing at the sink with the cold water is running, then the odor is most likely coming from the drain. This problem is easily solved by filling the sink with hot water, adding a few ounces of chlorine bleach, and allowing the hot chlorinated water to flush and disinfect the drain. It is also good practice to periodically remove and clean the sink stopper. The garbage disposal in the kitchen sink can be cleaned in a similar manner.
Hot Water: If you find these odors in your hot water, there are 2 probable causes:
- Bacteria may be residing in the water heater. Disinfecting the water heater may eliminate this odor. Heat disinfection is used to eliminate the bacteria. If you do not feel comfortable doing this work yourself, hire a licensed plumber to do it for you.
- The water heater anode may need to be replaced. If experienced, inspect the anode yourself; otherwise, call a plumber.
You may notice water from your faucets tastes wonderful, but the water from the dispenser in your refrigerator and the ice cubes taste dirty. The taste may be the result of buildup in the automatic icemaker, the water dispenser, and the hoses leading from your water source to the refrigerator.
Follow the manufacturer’s directions for the operation and maintenance of your refrigerator to clean those parts and replace them and any filters as necessary.
These odors in your water may come from natural organic matter found in river water. Natural organic matter from river water can sometimes produce a swampy or musty taste and odor during the summer and fall months. This organic matter will not harm you at all, and the water is safe for you to drink.
The more likely cause of these smells is hair, soap, and food waste that accumulates over time on the walls of a sink drain. Bacteria can grow on these deposits. As the bacteria grow and multiply, they produce gases that can smell musty or moldy. These gases accumulate in the drain until the water is turned on. As the water runs down the drain, the gases are expelled into the air around the sink. It is natural to assume the bad odor is coming from the water because the smell is noticeable only when the water is on. However there is nothing wrong with the water, but the drain may need to be disinfected.
If there is a gasoline or diesel taste and/or odor to the water from your kitchen tap please contact SUB right away. Please do not drink the water or use it for cooking purposes until you have sought advice from your water supplier.
Oily odors or tastes are usually caused because an oil, such as gas, diesel, kerosene, or paint thinners, has been spilled and has leached into your water supply pipe. If fuel or oil is spilled around, or near to, any underground water pipes, it’s important that they are cleaned up immediately so they don’t contaminate the water. Replacing pipelines can be expensive, so cleaning up the spills before they’re allowed to enter the pipeline can help to minimize costs.
Look for fuel or oil spillages on the driveway or in front of the house i.e. a car or motorcycle leaking oil. These are the most common cause of water contamination as they can get through a plastic service pipe and affect the quality of your water supply.
Washed laundry that smells musty or earthy is caused by leaving wet laundry in a closed washing machine. Molds and mildew grow quickly in dark, moist environments, particularly during warm, humid weather. Remove laundry immediately after washing. To remove the musty odor, wash the laundry again.