Why Should You Learn How To Test For Copper in Water?
Copper is a chemical element you’d expect to see in a scientific lab, but not in your drinking water. Copper, on the other hand, occurs naturally in the ground, which means it may leach into drinking water sources.
Copper is a metal that occurs naturally in the world. Pure copper is a reddish-orange tint, similar to earlier pennies, and is flexible and pliable, meaning it can be readily shaped and is an excellent conductor of electricity.
Copper has traditionally been used in our homes for electrical wiring and plumbing. Copper may be mixed with other metals to form brass and bronze pipework and fittings, for example.
Copper is used to keep algae from growing in lakes and reservoirs, but it can also harm tropical fish.
Copper rusts, forming a lovely, soft green stain (verdigris or the mineral malachite) on ancient copper roofs, the Statue of Liberty, and your leaking copper water pipes. Copper is an essential micronutrient for human health.
Private well water is not tested or treated for copper, unlike public water systems. I’ll go over how copper gets into well water, how to test for it, and what to do if your water tests positive for copper in this article.
How Does Copper Become a Problem?
Copper is one of the elements that is required in tiny amounts (it is a micronutrient), but may be harmful at excessive levels. Copper insufficiency can be caused by low amounts of copper, while high levels of copper (> 2 mg/L to 5 mg/L) might cause aesthetic issues with drinking water.
Blue-green stains on fixtures, porcelain, and laundry, as well as taste concerns and discolored or blue-green colored water, are all possible cosmetic drawbacks.
Chemical and microbiological induced corrosion (MIC) of water distribution systems and domestic plumbing, as well as premature failure of water system components, have been linked to elevated levels of copper.
Copper levels in residential or distribution system piping and plated fixtures may be linked to higher levels of lead, zinc, chromium, and other trace elements.
Copper can be introduced to a drinking water source through the treatment process for city water users and as a contaminant associated with mining, farming, manufacturing operations, storm-water runoff, and municipal or industrial wastewater discharges, in addition to the piping within the system and your home.
What are the Health Risks of Copper?
Short-term exposure has been linked to gastrointestinal difficulties, while long-term exposure has been linked to liver and kidney damage.
What are the Standards for Copper?
The EPA Action Level for drinking water is 1.3 mg/L, however, the Primary Standard for Bottled Water set by the Federal Food and Drug Administration is 1.0 mg/L.
Because of aesthetic concerns, it is regulated as a Secondary Drinking Water Standard. Copper can have a bitter to metallic taste and produce blue-green discoloration of pipes, sinks, porcelain, basins, and the water itself at a Secondary Standard level of 1.0 mg/L.
Copper levels beyond a certain threshold might indicate an issue with the corrosiveness of your drinking water, as well as the presence of other metals such as lead, chromium, and zinc.
How Does Copper Get Into Water?
Copper may enter a well water supply through a variety of routes, including:
Through rocks and soil
Copper can flow into your well by way of the aquifer. The geology of your location will decide how much copper is in your water.
Through farming, mining, and other factory processes
Copper may be discharged into the ground, water, or atmosphere as a result of industrial and agricultural activities, especially if proper waste management methods are not in place.
From corroded copper pipes
Copper is likely to be present in your water if your well has copper components or if you have copper pipes in your home. This is especially true of corroded copper pipes that have been in use for a long time.
How Can You Tell if There is Copper in Your Water?
Copper stains sinks, faucets, bathtubs, showers, and other fixtures with a green-blue hue. If you see these stains yet your water doesn’t taste bitter, you’re probably dealing with a low copper level.
Bitter water taste
Levels of copper in drinking water that are particularly high might alter the flavor of your water. Copper is a metal, and when it is present in excess, it has a harsh, metallic taste.
If your water tastes metallic, it’s probably not safe to drink, so switch to bottled water and have your well tested if you’re having trouble.
Pinhole Leaks In Plumbing
You’re probably dealing with corrosive water if you find pinhole leaks in your pipes and plumbing. Pinhole leaks are produced by pitting corrosion and are very tiny, barely allowing a trickle of water to escape every now and again.
Should I Test My Water for Copper?
Because copper is now controlled by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) due to its negative health consequences, I strongly advise you to have your water tested with a home water test kit if you have reason to suspect it contains copper.
Copper poisoning is one of the most serious consequences of consuming copper-rich water. While this is an uncommon occurrence, it is nevertheless possible. Because well water isn’t treated or regulated like city water, you’re more likely to get poisoning if you consume it.
If you drink a lot of copper-laced water for a long time, it will build up in your liver and reduce its ability to purify your blood. Copper accumulation can also cause lungs to become inflamed, resulting in scarring and weakness.
Copper poisoning causes a variety of symptoms, including muscular weakness, anemia, fever, a burning feeling, nausea, vomiting, and more. According to certain research, high levels of copper can cause cancer.
Copper in water is unsafe to drink if you’re pregnant since it can be passed on to your kid.
In summary, if you have a well or copper pipes, you should test your water for copper, even if you don’t think your water includes copper. It’s preferable to be safe than sorry.
I recommend testing your well water for copper on a regular basis, preferably in conjunction with other pollutants such as bacteria. This will keep you informed about any changes in your local geology that might lead to higher levels of copper in drinking water.
How to Test for Copper in Water?
Unlike many pollutants in drinking water, this element may be detected before becoming a health issue, but you must be aware of the warning indicators.
If your water has a metallic or bitter taste, you have blue-green or green coatings on your fixtures, or the water in your tub is a light blue-green tint, you may have a water problem.
You may have a health concern if you have pinhole leaks or significant pipe leaks, fixture failures, or a lot of green stains on surfaces and fixtures.
Get your water tested and gather as much information as possible regarding your water supply source, well construction, adjacent land-use, and local geology.
If you do have a copper problem, there are now water treatment technologies that can decrease or even remove copper from your drinking water, or even prevent copper from entering the water in the first place.
When it comes to water testing, you should perform a first flush test for copper, lead, zinc, and microbiological contaminants, followed by a flushed test and check for microbiological contaminants, as well as a comprehensive water quality test that includes trace metals, general water quality, and an assessment of your drinking water’s corrosion potential.
Certified Laboratory Testing
I recommend having your drinking water analyzed by a competent laboratory to obtain the best sense of how much copper it contains.
Certified laboratory testing provides a comprehensive analysis of your water quality. The testing procedure is the same in most laboratories:
The laboratory first sends you a test kit in the mail. After that, you collect a water sample in the vials provided and send them to the lab. Your water will be tested at a laboratory.
This might take a few days. The laboratory will provide you a breakdown of your results in roughly a week.
You may also test for related pollutants like lead and copper at a licensed laboratory. Many laboratories provide well water testing packages that check for a variety of pollutants, including copper.
When testing for copper, it’s critical to find a qualified laboratory so that you can be confident in your results.
Tap Score by SimpleLab is the certified lab I suggest. This smart water test generates a “water report card” that details what’s in your water and assists you in matching treatment to pollutants.
Home Water Test Kit
An at-home water testing kit is a less expensive but less complete option for checking for copper.
These kits cost less than $20 and will tell you whether or not your water contains copper, and if so, to what extent. Some kits will just test for copper, while others will check for a variety of pollutants like lead, chlorine, and hardness.
Here’s how to use a home test kit to find out how much copper is in your drinking water:
Remove the water testing strips, color chart, and sample container from the kit first. Fill a test strip with tap water and place it in the sample container.
The test strip will change color after roughly a minute, indicating the amount of copper in your water. You can estimate how much water your copper contains by comparing the color of the test strip to the color chart.
While at-home kits can provide an estimate of your drinking water copper levels, they cannot provide the same degree of detail as a lab test.
What Can I Do If My Water Tests Positive for Copper?
Copper poisoning must be avoided at all costs, thus if the levels of copper in your water are excessive, you must move quickly to correct the situation.
If your water contains copper, follow these steps:
Find and Determine The Cause
Knowing what’s causing the excessive drinking water copper levels can help you identify the best remedy. For example, if copper pipes are the source of copper in your drinking water, you may need to replace your domestic plumbing rather than pursue a water treatment option.
Filter Your Water
A variety of drinking water filtration technologies can handle copper in water. Reverse osmosis, ion exchange, and activated carbon systems are the most common methods for drastically decreasing copper levels in water.
RO filters may remove more than 99.99 percent of total dissolved solids, including copper, from drinking water. They’re most typically installed as under-sink applications, but whole-home applications are also available if you want copper-free cold water and hot water.
Ion or cation exchange systems may also dramatically reduce copper in drinking water, albeit they normally only target a few pollutants and aren’t as good at all-around filtering.
Activated carbon filters are similar, albeit some are capable of eliminating a wide range of impurities — simply not as many as reverse osmosis.
Retest your water
You need to know that after you’ve adopted a strategy to lower copper levels in your drinking water, it’s been successful. Obtain a second test, ideally from a qualified laboratory, to ensure that your water treatment solution is capable of removing copper as intended.
Do not boil your drinking water if it looks like you have a copper problem.
Flush the water line before use, cook with only cold water, remove the aeration device/screen, and consider utilizing a point-of-use water treatment system or water for cooking and drinking as a temporary solution.
Because additional pollutants might be present in the water, it’s a good idea to have it tested before and after using any point-of-use device, and to test the first flush and flushed water from the pipework.
If a microbiological disease or condition is suspected, the system may need to be flushed and shock disinfected before a long-term treatment plan can be developed.
It may be required to establish a water treatment system in the long run to remove copper or prevent it from entering the water. Ion exchange, reverse osmosis, neutralizing systems, and distillation are some of the most used copper water treatment processes.
Depending on the technology and the quantity of copper and other pollutants, the system may require a mix of whole-house treatment and point-of-use treatment, and/or it may be necessary to replace part or all of your home’s pipes and fixtures.