The hardness of finished water at the Henrico County Water Treatment Plant averages 64 milligrams per liter, or about 4 grains per gallon.

“What causes the pink stain on bathroom fixtures?”

The reddish-pink stain or residue that is frequently found around bathroom sinks, shower stalls, and pets’ water bowls, is not by the water supply but by naturally occurring airborne bacteria that produce a reddish pigment. There are numerous bacteria in the environment that find their way onto bathroom and kitchen fixtures. Most do not cause disease. These bacteria are found in soil, food, and on animals, and they may become airborne because of construction or wind. It is not uncommon to find the pinkish film appearing after new construction or remodeling activities.

The bacteria, which are most likely members of the Serratia genus, thrive on moisture, dust, and phosphates. Regular cleaning, periodic disinfection with household bleach or cleaner, and adequate ventilation are necessary to control these organisms. Serratia do not survive in chlorinated drinking water.

“Why does my tap water sometimes appear cloudy, gray, or milky-looking?”

The most common cause of cloudy or milky-looking water is naturally dissolved air in the water and is not a health concern.

The phenomenon of cloudy water from the tap is similar to bubbles being released from a carbonated beverage when the cap is removed and pressure released. There are no water quality regulations pertaining to dissolved oxygen in water because it does not present a health risk to people.

Dissolved oxygen in water is most evident from late Fall through early Spring when the water temperature is the coldest. Cold water dissolves more air out of the atmosphere than warm water. During the winter months, the temperature of the James River, Henrico’s source of water supply, can drop to nearly freezing temperatures. The water temperature does not increase significantly as it passes through the water treatment process and the network of underground water mains. Since the water temperature remains cold as it travels from the treatment plant to the customer, it remains saturated with dissolved oxygen until it enters the customer’s home or business.

When that cold water is drawn into the internal plumbing system of a home or building, it warms up to room temperature. This warmer water cannot hold as much dissolved air, but because the water is under pressure within the plumbing system’s pipes, the excess dissolved air cannot escape until the water flows from the faucet. The result is cloudy water when the faucet is initially turned on. Hot water from the water heater may be even cloudier than cold water.

To determine if tiny air bubbles are causing your water to look milky, you can do the following experiment. Fill a clear glass with cold water and set it on a counter top or table, or hold the cloudy water up to a sunlight window. Watch and see if the water begins to clear from the bottom of the glass upward. You may notice tiny air bubbles rising to the top of the glass. The glass of water should clear within a few minutes.

If the cloudy-milky water from your cold water tap does not clear up within a few minutes, please call the Public Utilities Department Operations Division at 727-8700.