What can cause a red or pink slime around plumbing fixtures?

What can cause a red or pink slime around plumbing fixtures?


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Iron bacteria can produce a slimy rust-colored mass on plumbing fixtures and any surface in contact with water containing these organisms.  Iron bacteria give an unpleasant taste and odor to the water, discolor and spot fabrics and plumbing fixtures, reduce water flow through pipes, and clog pumps (Manual of Small Public Water Supply Systems; EPA570-9-91-003; May 1991).  While the aesthetic problems caused by iron bacteria in drinking water may not directly represent a public health risk, the appearance of aesthetic problems may signal pipe deterioration or other issues that may represent, or lead to, a health concern (Health Risks from Microbial Growth and Biofilms in Drinking Water Distribution Systems, June 17, 2002).  EPA has not set a standard for iron bacteria in drinking water.

To help determine the cause(s) of aesthetic or cosmetic effects from your drinking water, contact your local drinking water system.  Additional guidance for household well owners is available at www.epa.gov/safewater/privatewells.  General information on nuisance chemicals is available at www.epa.gov/safewater/consumer/2ndstandards.html.

If your family gets drinking water from a private well, do you know if your water is safe to drink? What health risks could you and your family face? Where can you go for help or advice?

The information contained in this web site will help you answer these questions.

EPA regulates public water systems; it does not have the authority to regulate private drinking water wells. Approximately 15 percent of Americans rely on their own private drinking water supplies, and these supplies are not subject to EPA standards, although some state and local governments do set rules to protect users of these wells. Unlike public drinking water systems serving many people, they do not have experts regularly checking the water’s source and its quality before it is sent to the tap. These households must take special precautions to ensure the protection and maintenance of their drinking water supplies.

  • Basic Information – Learn about the types of drinking water wells and guidelines for proper construction.
  • Where You Live – Find information about private drinking water wells in your region or state.
  • Frequent Questions -This page answers questions you may have about your well water.
  • Human Health – Learn about health risks associated with drinking water wells.
  • Partnerships – Several organizations are working to keep private drinking water wells safe.
  • What You Can Do – Learn how to do your part in keeping your drinking water well safe.
  • Publications -Download or order copies of brochures, booklets, posters, reports, and multi-media publications.
  • Related Links – Link to web sites with additional information on private drinking water wells.
  • Glossary – Look up unfamiliar terms in EPA’s electronic glossary.

Basic Information

There are three types of private drinking water wells: dug, driven, and drilled. See the three links below for an explanation and graphic of the types of wells.

Proper well construction and continued maintenance are keys to the safety of your water supply. Your state water-well contractor licensing agency, local health department, or local water system professional can provide information on well construction.

The well should be located so rainwater flows away from it. Rainwater can pick up harmful bacteria and chemicals on the land’s surface. If this water pools near your well, it can seep into it, potentially causing health problems.

Water-well drillers and pump-well installers are listed in your local phone directory. The contractor should be bonded and insured. Make certain your ground water contractor is registered or licensed in your state, if required. If your state does not have a licensing/registration program contact the National Ground Water Association. They have a voluntary certification program for contractors. (In fact, some states use the Association’s exams as their test for licensing.) For a list of certified contractors in your state contact the Association at (614) 898-7791 or (800) 551-7379. There is no cost for mailing or faxing the list to you.

To keep your well safe, you must be sure possible sources of contamination are not close by. Experts suggest the following distances as a minimum for protection — farther is better (see graphic on the right):

  • Septic Tanks, 50 feet
  • Livestock yards, Silos, Septic Leach Fields, 50 feet
  • Patroleum Tanks, Liquid-Tight Manure Storage and Fertilizer Storage and Handling, 100 feet
  • Manure Stacks, 250 feet

Many homeowners tend to forget the value of good maintenance until problems reach crisis levels. That can be expensive. It’s better to maintain your well, find problems early, and correct them to protect your well’s performance. Keep up-to-date records of well installation and repairs plus pumping and water tests. Such records can help spot changes and possible problems with your water system. If you have problems, ask a local expert to check your well construction and maintenance records. He or she can see if your system is okay or needs work.

Protect your own well area. Be careful about storage and disposal of household and lawn care chemicals and wastes. Good farmers and gardeners minimize the use of fertilizers and pesticides. Take steps to reduce erosion and prevent surface water runoff. Regularly check underground storage tanks that hold home heating oil, diesel, or gasoline. Make sure your well is protected from the wastes of livestock, pets, and wildlife.

For additional information see:

Safewater Home | Safe Drinking Water Hotline | Glossary | Water Publications
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Last updated on Friday, August 14th, 2009
URL: http://www.epa.gov/safewater/privatewells/basicinformation.html

Frequent Questions

  • How can I test the quality of my private drinking water supply?
  • What concerns should I have after a flood if I have a private well?
  • How can I protect my private water supply?

    How can I test the quality of my private drinking water supply?

    Consider testing your well for pesticides, organic chemicals, and heavy metals before you use it for the first time. Test private water supplies annually for nitrate and coliform bacteria to detect contamination problems early. Test them more frequently if you suspect a problem. Be aware of activities in your watershed that may affect the water quality of your well, especially if you live in an unsewered area.

    Reasons to Test Your Water

    The chart below will help you spot problems. The last five problems listed are not an immediate health concern, but they can make your water taste bad, may indicate problems, and could affect your well long term.

    Conditions or Nearby Activities: Test for:
    Recurring gastro-intestinal illness Coliform bacteria
    Household plumbing contains lead pH, lead, copper
    Radon in indoor air or region is radon rich Radon
    Corrosion of pipes, plumbing Corrosion, pH, lead
    Nearby areas of intensive agriculture Nitrate, pesticides, coliform bacteria
    Coal or other mining operations nearby Metals, pH, corrosion
    Gas drilling operations nearby Chloride, sodium, barium, strontium
    Dump, junkyard, landfill, factory, gas station, or dry-cleaning operation nearby Volatile organic compounds, total dissolved solids, pH, sulfate, chloride, metals
    Odor of gasoline or fuel oil, and near gas station or buried fuel tanks Volatile organic compounds
    Objectionable taste or smell Hydrogen sulfide, corrosion, metals
    Stained plumbing fixtures, laundry Iron, copper, manganese
    Salty taste and seawater, or a heavily salted roadway nearby Chloride, total dissolved solids, sodium
    Scaly residues, soaps don’t lather Hardness
    Rapid wear of water treatment equipment pH, corrosion
    Water softener needed to treat hardness Manganese, iron
    Water appears cloudy, frothy, or colored Color, detergents

For more information on for more information on what human activities can pollute ground water see:

If you use a private laboratory to conduct the testing, nitrate and bacteria samples will typically cost between $10 and $20 to complete. Testing for other contaminants will be more expensive. For example, testing for pesticides or organic chemicals may cost from several hundred to several thousand dollars. Only use laboratories that are certified to do drinking water tests. To find a certified laboratory in your state, you can contact:

    • A State Certification Officer to get a list of certified water testing labs in your state (epa.gov/safewater/privatewells/labs.html), or
    • Your local health department may also test private well water for free. Phone numbers for your local, county, or state health department are available under the “health” or “government” listings in your phone book.

Most laboratories mail back the sample results within a week or two. If a contaminant is detected, the results will include the concentration found and an indication of whether this level exceeds a drinking water health standard.

If a standard is exceeded in your sample, retest the water supply immediately and contact your public health department for assistance. Some problems can be handled quickly. For example, high bacteria concentrations can sometimes be controlled by disinfecting a well. Filters or other on-site treatment processes may also remove some contaminants. Other problems may require a new source of water, or a new, deeper well. If serious problems persist, you may need to rely on bottled water until a new water source can be obtained.

You should test private water supplies annually for nitrates,coliform bacteria, total dissolved solids, and pH levels to detect contamination problems early. Test more frequently if a problem was found in earlier tests.

For more information, read Home Water Testing (564 K PDF FILE, 2pgs) (ALL ABOUT PDF FILES)

What concerns should I have after a flood if I have a private well?

Stay away from the well pump while flooded to avoid electric shock, AND . . .

    • Do not drink or wash from the flooded well to avoid becoming sick.
    • Get assistance from a well or pump contractor to clean and turn on the pump.
    • After the pump is turned back on, pump the well until the water runs clear to rid the well of flood water.
    • If the water does not run clear, get advice from the county or state health department or extension service.

For additional information:

How can I protect my private water supply?

Protect your water supply by carefully managing activities near the water source. For households using a domestic well, this includes keeping contaminants away from sinkholes and the well itself. Keep hazardous chemicals out of septic systems.

    • Periodically inspect exposed parts of the well for problems such as:
      • cracked, corroded, or damaged well casing
      • broken or missing well cap
      • settling and cracking of surface seals.
    • Slope the area around the well to drain surface runoff away from the well.
    • Install a well cap or sanitary seal to prevent unauthorized use of, or entry into, the well.
    • Have the well tested once a year for coliform bacteria, nitrates, and other constituents of concern.
    • Keep accurate records of any well maintenance, such as disinfection or sediment removal, that may require the use of chemicals in the well.
    • Hire a certified well driller for any new well construction, modification, or abandonment and closure.
    • Avoid mixing or using pesticides, fertilizers, herbicides, degreasers, fuels, and other pollutants near the well.
    • Do not dispose of wastes in dry wells or in abandoned wells.
    • Do not cut off the well casing below the land surface.
    • Pump and inspect septic systems as often as recommended by your local health department.
    • Never dispose of harsh chemicals, solvents, petroleum products, or pesticides in a septic system or dry well.

For more information on protecting your well visit these web sites:

other websites we recommend you look at