Safe drinking water should always be a priority; when the water coming out of the tap is foamy, it can be frightening. Depending on the cause, the quality and safety of the water may be affected. Unlike public water systems, the Environmental Protection Agency does not regulate private wells, so you are responsible for the safety and testing of your own well.
Water containing dissolved air is sometimes described as foamy. The water has a milky or hazy appearance, caused by dissolved air escaping after the pressure is relieved by turning the faucet on. Dissolved air is natural and harmless. To see if air is the problem, fill a clear glass. The water will start to clear from the bottom up. The whole glass should be clear in two or three minutes. If the water from a private well doesn't clear after five minutes, contact the local public health authority, or if it is a public water system, contact the public water department.
Detergents contaminating ground water can make the water appear frothy or foamy. The water may also smell or taste soapy. A faulty septic tank or septic leaching field near the well may be the cause of contamination. Detergents can make the water unsafe to drink, so if you suspect this is the problem, have the water tested and take any necessary steps to clean up the well.
Turbidity can also cause foamy or cloudy white water. Tiny particles in the water, usually from soil runoff, cause turbidity. Turbidity by itself is not harmful to people, though it may abrade pipes and discolor sinks. Of greater concern is the fact that, according to the EPA, high levels of turbidity are linked to high levels of pathogens, which can cause illness. If you suspect turbidity is the problem, have the water tested and follow recommended treatments if necessary.
According to the EPA, you should send well water to a state certified lab to be tested for common contaminants and any other contaminant you are concerned about at least once a year. Your local public health department will know what you should test for in your area. If you notice any changes in your water, have it tested immediately.
- United States Environmental Protection Agency: Private Drinking Water Wells
- Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection: Color, Taste, and Odor: What You Should Know
- Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension Service: Drinking Water Testing
- United States Environmental Protection Agency: Human Health
- The Extension Toxicology Network: Colors and Smells
- United States Environmental Protection Agency: Drinking Water Contaminants
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