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What Is In The Tap Water

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What Is In The Tap Water

Summer is in full swing, meaning many families are heading out to vacation. They often close up their home for the time they’re away. It’s quiet. The a/c is set to a higher temperature, so it doesn’t kick on as frequently. Nothing much seems to be happening. But, looks are deceiving: beneath the quiet facade, an army is assembling.

A Thriving Community In The Tap

Inside the faucets in the vacant home, tap water, which isn’t moving unless there is a leak somewhere, is hosting a party of flourishing microbes. According to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, microbial communities of bacteria reproduce in the plumbing of vacant homes and buildings when they aren’t in use. One such pathogen, the bacteria responsible for Legionnaires' disease, is a potential health risk.

While preliminary reports don’t indicate the presence of bacteria which causes public health risks was involved, the sampling was random, conducted on vacant university dormitory buildings during the school break. The implication is that there is a potential health risk to people who drink the tap water from a structure in which the plumbing has remained unused for a time.

What Are The Risks To The Returning Inhabitants?

The good news is that it only takes a few seconds to clear the teaming bacteria from the lines because the bulk of the breeding bacteria develop closest to the faucets of a vacant dwelling. Turning the faucets on alleviates the problem by literally flushing it away.

Once the plumbing lines of a vacant building come into use again, the bacteria levels plummet down to pre-abandoned levels, meaning the water is safe to drink again once it’s back in use.  The testing indicated that the bacteria doesn’t extend to city sources, but remains in the home.  In fact, researchers determined that the ‘bacterial concentrations are highest in the first 100 milliliters of tap flow.

For a family who is returning from a vacation, the concentration of bacteria in their tap water can be eliminated when the water is run for a few moments upon their return, thus flushing the microbial communities from their plumbing. In other words, the first use of the plumbing probably shouldn’t be helping oneself to a big drink of water.

Why It Matters

As communities, plumbers, and homeowners continue to pursue water conservation, water recycling and reclamation and green infrastructure, the potential for the formation of microbial bacteria colonies in homes and public housing has the capacity to have an impact on these kinds of programs. Researchers agree that not only may it become an issue at some point, but it will be one in which the drive for the greater good will have to be shared by not only the scientific community but public works, water suppliers, and related fields.

What Are Some Preventative Options?

Discriminating homeowners will continue to have their plumber install water filtration systems, reverse osmosis and other forms of water purification to ensure their families have the cleanest and best tasting water possible. Proactive water management at the home level renders the potential for bacterial contaminants to be a health risk as practically nil.

Others, who are perhaps not ready to commit to a whole-house filtration system, should allow the tap to run for a few minutes before drinking from it and run the shower on the hottest setting for two minutes before use, to prevent Legionnaires disease. These steps are crucially important, mainly if seniors or those with compromised immune systems occupy the home.

Author Bio: Abhishek Khandelwal has been a plumbing and HVAC industry writer for many years and he contributes to a number of leading blogs on a regular basis.