St. Augustine Woman's Journal - Educational Resource to the Women of St. Johns County Since 2009

By Will Gresham
Owner, St. Johns Quality Water 

What's in Your Water?


June 1, 2017 | View PDF

These days you often hear about the dangerous things found in our drinking water: from lead to fecal matter. Over the next year, in the Woman's Journal, I would like to help you understand the many aspects of our water supply.

In many parts of the country people get their water from rivers and lakes. Here in Northeast Florida our water comes from wells. The wells used by homeowners and utility departments vary in depth, from hundreds of feet to as little as 18 feet. Each well may present different issues: sulphur, iron, extreme hardness, saltwater intrusion and dangerous bacteria. Most municipal water plants use aeration and chlorine, or chloramines injection, to disinfect the water. Some use reverse osmosis systems, then bleed hardness back in to the supply to prevent pipe damage, and then disinfect. We shouldn't bash the municipal water suppliers, they are doing the best they can to meet our ever growing demand for potable water.


Chlorines and chloramines are a necessary evil. The water must be disinfected to kill germs and bacteria, but these chemicals also produce byproducts like Trihalomethanes (THM) and Haloacetic acids (HAA). Both byproducts are known to be carcinogens with long-term health issues.

Bacteria is a big concern for everyone! Coli form and E. coli can make you sick. The municipal water supply is checked regularly for this bacteria.

Occasionally we get a boil-water alert from our utility companies, but for the most part, with the amount of disinfectant used, there is not much left alive in our water. I have found this problem in private wells near septic fields and livestock, but the biggest culprit is aerators. Frogs, lizards, and various creepy crawly things find their way in and contaminate the water. If you have an aerator make sure you put a quarter cup of bleach in it every week to keep the bacteria down. There are far better ways to eliminate odor than an aerator, without the hassle, and you will get better results.


What about lead? In the news we have all heard about Flint, Michigan's lead problem, but what about us? I have been doing lead testing is St. Johns County for the past 10 years. What I have found is that we do not have a lead problem with the water supply, but we do with our homes. The number one producer of lead is the kitchen sink. Faucets made outside of America do not have the same strict manufacturing requirements that we have in the USA. I have found that many fixtures produce over the maximum limit set by the US EPA. A simple healthy rule of thumb for you is to turn the faucet on, and wait 15 seconds before filling that glass or coffee pot. Another source of lead can be found in homes built before 1986, and built with copper pipes. Before the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1986, the solder used to connect copper pipe was 50% tin and 50% lead. This allowed lead to leach into the water supply in homes. If you own an older home with copper plumbing, have a lead test done to see if you need to re-plumb your home to eliminate the leaching of lead.

Hard Water

What is hardness? Hard water contains excess amounts calcium and magnesium carbonates. We live on a "sand bar", and as water passes through the underlying limestone, it picks up large amounts of calcium and magnesium carbonates. Here in St. Johns County our water varies from 14gpg (St. Augustine, and Anastasia Island), to 18gpg at World Golf Village, and higher off of the CR 210 area. Private wells can be much higher.

The scale for water hardness is set by the Water Quality Association, and is listed below:

0gpg = soft

1-3.5gpg = slightly hard

3.5-7gpg = hard

7-10.5gpg = very hard

As you can see, here in St. Johns County, we have very hard water. Practically speaking what this means to you is this: soap scum buildup on your shower fixtures and yourself (that squeaky clean isn't clean, it's soap scum), your laundry, and more. That is why you may have water spots on your glasses and silverware, that buildup in your coffee pot, as well as buildup in your pipes and water lines. It can also cause clogs in faucets and showerheads.

Shoppers Beware!

There are a lot of different water treatment systems out on the market today. What works somewhere else doesn't always work for us locally. Be careful to avoid the high-pressure salesman! If the salespeople are pushing you to buy today, then there is something not quite right.

I have been bringing quality water to the residents and commercial businesses of St. Johns County for 17 years. If you have any questions about your water, whether you have a home well or use city water, please contact me at your convenience.

Will Gresham, St. Johns Quality Water



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