Drinking Water that Smells Like Diesel? Water Quality Problems & Solutions

water quality problems, rusty water

Can you imagine water the color of blue Gatorade pouring out of your kitchen faucet? How about muddy or rusty water that smells like diesel? Believe it or not, the people living in Martin County, Kentucky have been dealing with progressively worsening water quality conditions, including water that tastes, looks and tests as undrinkable, and they've been dealing with this problem for a couple decades.

What's Happening in Martin County, Kentucky?

Water bills in Martin County state that the water has been tested and found to be above federal limits of trihalomethanes and haloacetic acids. Why does this matter? These contaminants occur when the chlorine used to treat water for bacteria and organic matter reacts in a way that is potentially dangerous, resulting in an possible increased risk of cancer. Considering the higher-than-average cancer rates in the county, local residents are thinking the water — which is unappealing visually, has a terrible odor and tastes bad — is likely to blame. Nobody knows for sure, but residents don't feel safe drinking the water.

Scientists say the problem is the result of aging public plumbing. Much of the 300 miles of pipes that delivers water to the county residents is laid in rocky terrain, and the ancient piping is prone to leaking. Over half of the water that leaves the Martin County Water District treatment center leaks from faulty pipes and never makes it to intended destinations.

Why are leaky pipes problematic for water quality? When water pressure inside a pipe drops or less water flows through the pipes, soil, debris and chemical residue can seep in through cracks, resulting in contaminated water.
Due to these cracked pipes and low water pressure inside pipes, the Water District is unable to flush the pipes. Joe Burns of the Kentucky Rural Water Association is quoted saying, "As far as systematic lines, it's been years since it's even been able to be accomplished."

How to Get Drinkable Water?

When the public water source has been contaminated like it has been in Martin County, residents have to find ways to access safe drinking water. Watch this video to see how some residents have tapped natural springs in the mountains and others have rigged pools to collect rain water.

While Martin County is an extreme example, water quality problems have been growing across the country. In recent years, parts of North Carolina have had to deal with ash contamination of the Dan River in 2014 and chemical contamination of water sources in Wilmington. Older plumbing systems can also be the problem since most homes built before 1980 have lead solder connecting copper pipes.

Water Filtration: Protecting Your Family

While public utilities do their best to provide safe drinking water, EPA standards change and challenges shift as plumbing systems age. A whole house water filtration system protects your family from most water quality problems, providing pure water for bathing, cooking and drinking.

Learn More About Water Quality Problems and Solutions

Our plumbing technicians can give you the latest scoop on water quality issues and the best ways to protect your drinking water. Give us a call at 704.846.5371 to discuss aging plumbing, repiping or water filtration installation service. We look forward to answering your questions and working with you!

water quality problems, rusty water

Article Summary

Quick question & answer: What is the best way to protect my family from poor water quality?

The best way to protect your family from poor water quality is to implement a whole house water filtration system. Leaky pipes can allow unwanted debris into plumbing lines, resulting in contaminated water. A whole house water filtration system can help with a majority of water quality issues from your public water source, allowing you to have potable drinking water.

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