Is the village’s hard water healthier?
- Published: September 7, 2014
High levels of dissolved calcium and magnesium from underground limestone and dolomite formations are the culprits behind local water “hardness.” Though hard water can cake on plumbing and appliances, there is some research showing that consuming these minerals in our water may be good for our health.
Since Village Council will soon decide whether to centrally soften local water at its new or rehabilitated water plant, the issue has become more important to some villagers.
Magnesium in drinking water has been linked to lower risk for mortality from heart disease, hypertension and stroke. An important nutrient for the cardiovascular system, magnesium is present at 41 milligrams per liter in local drinking water, far above the level at which health benefits occurred. There is also 120 mg/l of calcium in local drinking water. Drinking two liters of local water would account for around 20 percent of a person’s daily recommended intake of calcium. Overall, local water hardness is measured at 471 mg/l, twice as high as the U.S. average and more than twice what the USGS considers “very hard” (180 mg/l).
While the heart benefits of drinking water with dissolved magnesium appears to be clear, other questions about hard water remain. There is some indication that hard water could be worse for our health because it corrodes heavy metals from pipes during delivery. According to Michael Schock, a Cincinnati-based chemist in the U.S. EPA’s Water Supply & Water Resources Division, the same underground factors that give rise to hard water increase its alkalinity and causes pipes to leach the metals. Locally, treated water has an alkalinity of 368 mg/l measured as calcium carbonate equivalents, according to Joe Bates.
Schock wrote in an email this week:
“With that kind of alkalinity, my biggest caution would be to people who are having new houses/apartments/condos built with copper pipe, or that are renovating or remodeling old houses with copper pipe. They could experience levels of copper in water standing for a few hours or more that exceed the MCLG (maximum contaminant level goal) of 1.3 mg/L. I would recommend not making baby formula or using that water for cooking or drinking, without fully flushing the water to clear out the lines to the tap.
…Copper levels will ultimately go down to low levels over many years, but the regulatory sampling won’t catch the places where the acute illnesses from drinking water with high alkalinity would happen. New copper pipes in high alkalinity waters will also react with the free chlorine disinfectant very quickly when the plumbing is new (up to months or a few years). So, disinfection is lost when the water stands in the pipes for a few hours. People going away on vacation should always fully flush the water when they return, before using it, when the plumbing is new. Also, buildings with low water use can suffer from high copper levels and loss of disinfectant residual.
The alkalinity and hardness would be good for the existing unlined iron mains or the old galvanized pipes…The lime softening would eliminate the high copper issue, entirely, and it would be better for typical brass faucets (which often contained 1-5% lead until recently) and probably for lead leaching from soldered joints made of lead:tin solder in houses with copper tubing installed before 1986 or 1988 (whichever year plumbing codes in Ohio prohibited the use of lead:tin solder).”
Council has asked a consultant to investigate the health impacts of hard and water softened through various methods. A Council decision is expected in September or October.
See the Sept. 4 issue of the News for the full story.