Acidic Tap Wa­ter Eat­ing Away Pipes And Putting Cop­per Into Sys­tem

Stanstead Journal - - CLASSIFIEDS -

By: Peter Scowen But Ivan Trem­blay, the wa­ter tech­ni­cian with the Que­bec En­vi­ron­ment Depart­ment who wrote the 1986 re­port say­ing the wa­ter is too acidic, said last week that some­thing should have been done about it sooner. “I find it un­ac­cept­able,” he said. “It should be cor­rected.” In­ter­na­tional Wa­ter Company, founded in 1906, is in the pe­cu­liar po­si­tion of be­ing un­der the con­trol of both the Que­bec and Ver­mont gov­ern­ment. It pro­vides drink­ing wa­ter to 1080 homes, two-thirds of which are in Rock Is­land and Stanstead. The company is run by a board of direc­tors that in­cludes the may­ors of Rock Is­land and Stanstead, as well as Derby Line select­men. The wa­ter they sell is too acidic, ac­cord­ing to tests done by Ver­mont Depart­ment. And it’s some­thing Blais read­ily ad­mits to. Tests show the pH of the wa­ter in the sys­tem some­times dips as low as 5.7, although on av­er­age it hov­ers around 6.0. The ac­cept­able stan­dard in Ver­mont is be­tween 6.5 and 8.5. (pH is a mea­sure of the acid­ity of liq­uids. The higher the num­ber, the less acidic it is. Trem­blay said wa­ter that has a pH of 5.7 is equiv­a­lent to a “weak acid.”) There are dif­fer­ences of opin­ion as to how the wa­ter gets so acidic. Blais blamed it on the chlo­rine In­ter­na­tional Wa­ter Company adds to the sys­tem; Trem­blay said the prob­lem is acid rain fall­ing into Hol­land Pond in Ver­mont, the source of the company’s wa­ter. They agree that the wa­ter’s al­ka­lin­ity is too low. Al­ka­lines come from chalk or lime­stone and pro­vide a buf­fer against sud­den de­creases in pH. Hol­land Pond, how­ever, sits on gran­ite and is low in al­ka­lines. Where al­ka­lin­ity val­ues should read 120, in Hol­land Pond they of­ten read as low as 4. As a re­sult, the wa­ter is sus­cep­ti­ble to rapid drops in pH and can eas­ily be­come acidic.

The con­se­quences of wa­ter be­ing too acidic are nu­mer­ous but the most ap­par­ent to home­own­ers is the way it cor­rodes cop­per and iron pipes and stains porce­lain plumb­ing fix­tures.

Stanstead Col­lege has been par­tic­u­larly hard hit by the acid wa­ter and even wrote In­ter­na­tional Wa­ter Company in Septem­ber ask­ing that some­thing be done about it.

The Company never replied to the let­ter, ac­cord­ing to Kit Skel­ton and school, the pri­vate school’s business man­ager.

Skel­ton and school main­te­nance man Larry Reynolds claim they have dozens of ex­am­ples of pipes and fix­tures that have been cor­roded by the wa­ter.

The school uses “type K” cop­per pipes, some of the thick­est avail­able. Th­ese are pipes that should last a lifetime but de­velop pin­hole leaks after only 15 years.

“We’re con­stantly chang­ing pipes that are per­fo­rated that shouldn’t be per­fo­rated,” Skel­ton said. “And th­ese are pipes that aren’t that old.”

To be con­tin­ued Above: Larry Reynolds with fil­ter used in school sys­tem. Be­low: Cross sec­tion of cop­per pipe show­ing pin­hole.

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