Help with troubleshooting green water stain

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Lexd

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We’re trying to figure out a plumbing/water treatment issue and I was hoping the experts here could help point us in the right direction. We’ve talked to some local plumbers and water treatment companies but none so far have given us confidence that they are familiar with this issue. We’re trying to do more research in order to hire the right people for the job and hopefully not spend much more than necessary.

We moved into our house a little more than 2 years ago. We noticed between bathroom cleaning, there were greenish water stains in the sinks and showers around the drain that would appear about 3-4 weeks after cleaning. We didn’t think much about it then but lately became concerned about drinking water quality and copper pipe corrosion.

We’re on city water and the water is hard. Last year we had a water softener and a sediment filter installed - the house is about 15-20 years old and had had hard water up until then. The water stain problem still persists with soft water. Our water heater is a tankless one. We had it cleaned once last year and again today (so will wait and see if it improves anything). All sinks were upgraded with new faucets and drains within the last year.

The pipes under the sinks look ok - some green spots around the soldering points but from what I read this is not a concern. In the basement, there’s a part of the pipes that looks worse (see photo) - we’ll probably get a plumber to take a look and fix it, but could this be the source of the green water stains or unrelated? What if there are more like this behind walls that we can’t see and fix? Normally how do plumbers tell the pipes are corroded inside and which sections to replace?

Another concern is low pH level/acidic water causing further corrosion. We asked local water treatment companies to test our water but several different ones just pointed us to water test strips on Amazon. How accurate are these? Some reviews I read complained about accuracy. Even if I get good results from the test strips, I’m not sure if I could trust them. Are there any reliable tools/brands that you recommend to test for pH and copper?

Anything else we haven't considered?
 

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Reach4

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Water test strips are generally not accurate. To test for pH, I am partial to the cheap pH testers, where you adjust calibration before each use. The 6.87 pH Buffer Solution Powder packets, that you mix with 250 ml (250 grams) of distilled water, can be very inexpensive, and are bundled with the meter. The Pocket Digital pH Meter Water Tester Pen with an LCD display, can be very cheap. To store, fill the cap with 6.86 pH buffer solution, insert the meter into the cap, and store cap-down. That meter and buffer are often cheaper than good pH strips, and the meter is easier to interpret. I would enter pH meter into the search box on Ebay.

I don't think your seeing deposits outside of the pipes indicates a problem. If it bothers you, try cleaning the deposits off with soap, water, and a medium scotch pad. Then follow up with car wax after the pipe is dry.

If you do have concerns about your water, you would want to get a lab water test that includes copper. What I don't know is if you would want to test the first water from the faucet after no water has been run overnight, or to run some water first.

Bannerman has posted this: https://www.ontario.ca/page/list-licensed-laboratories
Don't waste your time and money testing for coliform with your city water.
 
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Lexd

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Water test strips are generally not accurate. To test for pH, I am partial to the cheap pH testers, where you adjust calibration before each use. The 6.87 pH Buffer Solution Powder packets, that you mix with 250 ml (250 grams) of distilled water, can be very inexpensive, and are bundled with the meter. The Pocket Digital pH Meter Water Tester Pen with an LCD display, can be very cheap. To store, fill the cap with 6.86 pH buffer solution, insert the meter into the cap, and store cap-down. That meter and buffer are often cheaper than good pH strips, and the meter is easier to interpret. I would enter pH meter into the search box on Ebay.

I don't think your seeing deposits outside of the pipes indicates a problem. If it bothers you, try cleaning the deposits off with soap, water, and a medium scotch pad. Then follow up with car wax after the pipe is dry.

If you do have concerns about your water, you would want to get a lab water test that includes copper. What I don't know is if you would want to test the first water from the faucet after no water has been run overnight, or to run some water first.

Bannerman has posted this: https://www.ontario.ca/page/list-licensed-laboratories
Don't waste your time and money testing for coliform with your city water.
Thanks for the recommendations! I'll look for a digital pH tester and check out the labs.

> I don't think your seeing deposits outside of the pipes indicates a problem

Why do you think so? Is it normal to have some deposit like this? I don't remember seeing this in our previous homes. Cleaning isn't a problem - we just want to make sure the water is safe and not causing pipe corrosion.

Any comment about the pipes? Do the photos indicate a plumbing issue that we need to take care of? Thanks!
 

Reach4

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I think the green has to do with how well the flux was cleaned off.

I am not a plumber, and I did not see an issue in the photos.
 

JohnCT

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Checking pH is critical right now. If your pH is below 7, I'd invest in an acid neutralization tank.

I lost all the plumbing in my house because my pH was averaging 6.2-6.5 seasonally. Once I added a calcite based neutralization tank, the green stains stopped.

John
 

Lexd

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Checking pH is critical right now. If your pH is below 7, I'd invest in an acid neutralization tank.

I lost all the plumbing in my house because my pH was averaging 6.2-6.5 seasonally. Once I added a calcite based neutralization tank, the green stains stopped.

John
Thanks, John. Sorry to hear about your plumbing issue and thanks for sharing your experience. We’ll get a pH tester pen and see. Were your green stains similar to our photos? Where did you get the neutralization tank from? Was it a DIY installation?

If the pH level is indeed low, does that mean the city water in our area is like that and this issue affects our whole neighborhood? Or something might have changed the pH level after the water enters our house? Our water goes through the water softener (which I’ve read shouldn’t change pH), sediment filter, and tankless water heater.
 

JohnCT

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Were your green stains similar to our photos? Where did you get the neutralization tank from? Was it a DIY installation?

I had bluish/green staining around the drains and around the tub spout where it tends to drip a while after the shower diverter is returned to the tub setting - no staining in the toilets. My wife's dyed hair also took on a bit of greenish cast in certain light!

I'm not on municipal water but on a well in a town known for it's low pH aquifer(s), otherwise the water quality is excellent.

I used a calcite tank that I installed myself purchased from Mid Atlantic Water.


The owner's name is Aiden and he'll respond to you directly and give you any kind of installation or after installation support. The price of the calcite media they sell is as cheap as you'll find anywhere (it's heavy, so make sure you figure in shipping when pricing).

The tank is pretty simple to install and the amount of media it consumes is directly related to how low your pH is. If it's neutral or even high (above 7.0), the media will just sit in the tank and do nothing. If the pH drops, the acidic water will dissolve some of the media and return the water to neutral, so it's fully automatic by chemical reaction. I have to add media every 18 months or so, otherwise it's no bother.

The water company that installed your softener can install and maintain it for you if that's what you'd prefer.

If the pH level is indeed low, does that mean the city water in our area is like that and this issue affects our whole neighborhood? Or something might have changed the pH level after the water enters our house?

It would be unusual for municipal water to be low in pH, so I would get it checked to make sure pH is not your problem. I don't know of any way your particular water could be low and not everyone else as well who is on the same water system, but if you pH is low, it will slowly dissolve your copper and leave the tell-tale stains.

John
 

Lexd

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Thanks for the link, John. We live in Canada so will have to find another provider, but it's good to know about the brands.

I looked at the digital pH testers and got overwhelmed by the options. Ended up getting some test strips recommended for aquariums. We'll know the results tonight. We'll try testing with and without the water softener.

Right now the suspects are:
1) The water softener affecting the pH. Water softener experts: is this plausible? We can try reducing the hardness setting of the softener or bypass it completely for a few weeks. If bypassing, should we just turn it off completely? Is there any maintenance issue to be aware of?
2) New faucets leaching some metal, since I read new plumbing parts could leach for some time. We have a feeling the stain issue is more noticeable now than when we first moved in, and the new things within the last year are water softener, sediment filter and new faucets/shower heads.
 

JohnCT

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I looked at the digital pH testers and got overwhelmed by the options.

This is what I have:


They come with calibration powder which you dissolve in water and use to calibrate the tester. I don't know how long it will be accurate after the calibration but I suspect for many months. You can then get more calibration powder to check the calibration every few months.

These are cheap items, and for what we need them for, they're good enough, especially for the price.

John
 

Reach4

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Mine is simpler. It came with a little screwdriver. Put the tip into the calibration solution. Turn it on-- or reverse the order. Adjust the reading with the screwdriver. Test your actual sample. Mine is yellow too, but does not have modes.
 

JohnCT

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Mine is simpler. It came with a little screwdriver. Put the tip into the calibration solution. Turn it on-- or reverse the order. Adjust the reading with the screwdriver. Test your actual sample. Mine is yellow too, but does not have modes.

Yeah, mine came with the little screwdriver too (and is also yellow). Mine is like 4 years old. That one must be the new model.

John
 

Fitter30

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Soften water can lower ph . Hard water raises ph. Maybe your water is to soft below 6.5 ph.
Wonder if there's a university extension office in your city for water quality
 
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JohnCT

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Soften water can lower ph . Hard water raises ph. Maybe your water is to soft below 6.5 ph.
Wonder if there's a university extension office in your city for water quality

Yep - excellent point. We were warned we might get hard water after installing an acid neutralizer, but our water was soft enough, just low pH which was killing our copper. Even after the calcite acid tank fixed the pH, our soap suds up beautifully, no scale, water tastes great.

I wonder if Lexd even needs a softener at all! Remove the softener, pH goes up...

John
 

Lexd

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Thanks, guys!

The test kit arrived (it was a solution rather than test strips as I had thought) and according to the color chart, we should be above 7 with the soft water! I ordered a digital tester as well (similar to what you posted) - it will come on Monday so I will double-check the result then. We actually noticed this isn’t a whole-house problem as we had thought - one frequently used bathtub doesn’t have any stain, so this might be related to new faucets?!? I checked the photos of blue-green stain from copper pipe corrosion online and ours seem just green, no blue. It’s still a mystery.
 

OhMia

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I’ve had water issues in my “new” house for going on a year now.
Trying to rule out everything, I ordered test strips which showed my ph was high.
I called the city and they sent someone out to test.
I would suggest calling your water department again and not taking no for an answer.
They brought out a digital reader and checked the water inside and outside the house which tested in limits.
 

JohnCT

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I’ve had water issues in my “new” house for going on a year now.

What kind of issues are you experiencing?

Trying to rule out everything, I ordered test strips which showed my ph was high.
I called the city and......they brought out a digital reader and checked the water inside and outside the house which tested in limits.

So your strips showed a high pH and their testers showed normal?

Did they tell you the pH they were getting on their tester?

John
 

Jeff H Young

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plumber didnt clean pipes off well is reason for green on the copper Ive never tried after the fact with dilligence like on an old house but try to take care during the build
 
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