Yellow Water

A friend of mine in Long Beach has allowed me to share the photo below with the following caption:

From left to right. Poland springs, our filtered water, water straight from our kitchen faucet. Hmmm….


My personal LB-water experience: The water in my house was so yellow, it was actually borderline brown. A few years ago I got a filter for my entire house and it was the best home-decision I’ve ever made. I feel healthier with it and my skin looks better too!  We are told that Long Beach water is safe, but who wants to drink yellow water?

My friend did post a followup photo (below) which shows a much improved looking glass of filtered water. Filters do take a while to kick in. If you get one that filters your entire house, the pipes will actually get cleaner over time. I highly recommend you get one.

But getting back to the real issue: Our water in Long Beach has been yellow for years. Most deal with it, but should they? Is this water really safe to drink? Discuss…


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39 thoughts on “Yellow Water”

  1. We all know about the issues in our own house and how to resolve them. The other day I was I wondering what restaurants in town do. Do they have filters for their water, do they use opaque glasses or just keep the lights down?

  2. We have a whole house filter system, where the filters should last a year. Since the storm, the filters last 8-10 weeks. We have had the meter flushed, and do not use the filter when we are using the outside hose. We have asked the Water Dept., but they have said there are no issues they are aware of regarding water quality or sediment in the water supply. The plumbers we have used have said it could be from the construction and the large machinery in town. One plumber suggested we change to a system that has a self-flushing feature, but it costs several thousand dollars to install. I just ordered filter #8 to be installed when the water pressure drops to the point where you can not run a sink and a shower at the same time.

  3. From the taste of water in the restaurants it comes straight from the tap. I will only drink bottled when I’m out. Unless restaurants are installing filtration systems they are also cooking with this water. I haven’t mentioned this in other posts because my goal is not to hinder business in Long Beach but if this is a concern of yours, you can’t help but point out the obvious.

  4. While the rust illustrated above my not make this believable, Long Beach indeed has some of the purest water supplied by a municipal water system in the nation. If you send it for tests, you’ll find that it beats out virtually all the bottled waters.

    The wells in Long Beach are some of the deepest in the country, digging some 1900 – 2000 feet into the Lloyd Aquifer. The water you drink fell as rain some 10,000 years ago and took that long to filter down through the sand and clay into the aquifer. Pollution hasn’t reached that yet.

    Long Beach water is only filtered to remove iron and manganese, two naturally occurring harmless minerals that tend to discolor laundry. Alum is added to coagulate these and help filter them.

    No fluoride is added to Long Beach water, so you may want to get your kids fluoride treatments if you believe it to be helpful.

    The only addition to the water is chlorine, which is used to kill any bacteria that would be found in the rusty, old distribution pipes.

    Which is what explains the color of the water. That’s rust. Rust from 90-year-old cast iron mains and rust from the 80-year-old water tank that’s about to fall down. Rust won’t hurt you and will settle out if you let the water stand.

    Some filters can actually be harmful, providing a breeding ground in their carbon elements that foster bacteria growth.

    The City is required to test your water without charge if you own your home or if you get the landlord’s permission. They will provide you with an analysis. Each year the law requires Long Beach to publish the results of their daily testing. The report is also available at City Hall.

    Most bottled water is actually filtered municipal water. Most Dsani water, for example, comes from the tap in Philadelphia. Aquafina also comes from a city water supply.


  5. Perhaps the best thing we could do is go to the chamber of commerce with our concerns.

    I spoke with Jack Scully from the LB Water Dept. I asked him how old our Standpipe (One of our two water towers) is and what’s the critical life expectancy.
    It was built in 1910. It is past its critical life expectancy. Mr. Scully is head of the water dept, and I asked him what we could do mediate this. His answer was either replacing the tower, reconditioning, or completely removing the entire system with a pump system.
    Mr. Scully then continued that the towers/standpipe undergo testing from the DEC and the Dept of health. ( I don’t have the exact scheduling testing data in front of me, it’s been a wild week full of illness, and what have you, but there are multiple tests undergone every month by one agency, and annually by another agency)
    I asked if there was lead found in this 104 year old water tower and Mr. Scully said no. It most likely was built with led materials including lead paint, and that may be one reason why it’s lasted longer (This is from the speculation of an expert, an ex Head of The Suffolk County Water Dept said, but it’s over due for a change.)

    So I went to the city council, and while they were presenting on the new development of bulkheading near the water dept infrastructure I asked what’s being done for our extremely significant water system elements which have past their critical life expectancy. Jim Lacaruba responded that there is a plan. He had offered NO Details about it. I stressed how important healthy water is, and requested that a public hearing be brought about focussing on the planning of our water department’s future. A Public hearing would ensure that the best services and products are vetted before our city makes a very large and sound investment.

    @Eddie The Loyd Aquifer has healthy and clean water, but after a run through our 104 year old water tower, and the pipes which have been inundated by salt water from Consistent flooding for a century in the Walks, and half a century in other parts of our town, and Hurricane Irene, Hurricane Sandy were the last straws that broke the camel’s back for our water infrastructure, we have more than just dirty water.
    We now have rusty pipes beneath the ground above our aquifer. All the rain water and salt water that accumulates over time will (Not any time soon,) in the future, leach into our aquifer.

  6. Eddie, I mean no disrespect because I follow your posts and I know you are an educated well- spoken man. But from my families personal experience, NOT drinking the tap water here has helped with our health tremendously. I am not naive to think that Poland Springs comes from Poland or a spring but since I started using it I haven’t had so much as a sniffle in a year and a half when my family was so sick for the time prior that we had the fire department come and check for carbon monoxide. We couldn’t explain ear infections, bronchial infections, pediatric pneumonia, sinus infections, colds, one after the other for an entire year after Sandy. Then we switched to Poland Springs and nothing… You may call it a coincidence and thats fine with me but I gotta stick with what works for me and mine. I never had discolored water in Queens so for me it’s alarming to see. Not to mention the water tastes, in my opinion, horrible. When share my opinions about the water I meet plenty of opposition but I continue to do so in hopes that it raises awareness about the water here. You say that yellow water is clean. Would you drink that cup of yellow water?

  7. bought a set of brown opaque glasses awhile ago. And if something wrong, you’d have a better chance of notification by the city of Toledo than from Long Beach. Got to attract those new residents you know. Keep watching the 3 ring circus. It takes your mind off things like taxes, dirty water, and looming towers.

  8. @Christina, thanks for the kind words. Of course the distribution system can be nasty, and perhaps it is. The inclusion of chlorine is supposed to keep it safe. Maybe that’s what’s doing you harm. There is a big school of evidence that chlorine isn’t healthy for some people.

    If bottled water helped you and your family, you should certainly keep it up. It would be foolish to believe that the present battery of testing done to tap water is all-conclusive and all-telling.

    @Joey, yes the distribution system is old. Not that it matters, but Jack Scully should study his Long Beach history a bit. The water column doesn’t date back to 1910. That original Reynolds 1910 tower is long gone. The one in use now is a score newer, constructed around 1932. It’s actually a twin to the 315,000 gallon one encased in the Jones Beach “needle,” and was built by the same company at the same time.

    If the inside of it was ever painted with lead paint, the lead’s probably long gone. Lead isn’t foreign to water distribution, and lead pipe is still all over town. Supposedly, lead doesn’t leach from plumbing into the water and if it does, it can be detected with a test.

    Distribution is indeed the weak link, with cross connection hazards, lead service gooseneck piping and who-knows-what-else.

    But from what the present-day art of water testing reveals, Long Beach water, despite the age of its system, it pretty darn good.

    If you’re still a disbeliever, you can send your own sample for testing. The cost ranges from about $70 to $250. I did, and the results were fine.

  9. I’ve lived on many streets in the west end and now own a house in the walks, I’ve had brown water at each location about 5x a year. While we get the notifications twice a year for hydrant flushing, the brown water never aligns with it. Over the last 4 years I’ve replaced every single water pipe in my house over to copper including having the water dept replace the service into the house from the main; I still get brown water.

    While we have a filter for drinking water, our next step will be a whole house filter. It sucks taking a shower and coming out dirtier than you went in or staining a laundry load because of brown water.

  10. The brown water is from rust in the cast iron mains and galvanized iron service pipes. When they are disturbed by high usage, such as an open hydrant or digging or even by a big truck pounding the ground, they shake loose the rust.

    Flushing the mains twice a year should control much of this as the high velocity flow scours the lose rust from the pipes.

    Point Lookout Water District had big problems with rusty mains and contracted to have them relined – coated on the inside. The rust is mostly gone but who knows what the relining material imparts to the water. I’d rather deal with rust.

    The rust discolors clothing and fixtures, but it said to present no health hazard.

  11. Let those who want to drink it, drink it. I don’t, and I don’t drink it at restaurants. Its not just rust, when you replace your water filters you see its a yellow sludge that accumulates. The City is never going to do anything about this – but hey don’t worry, there are going to be new lockers for surfers on the boardwalk, focus on the positives, don’t dwell on things like bad water. When are the new 2015 calendars coming out? That’s always a big deal to the detached from reality residents who make up a majority of voters in LB.

  12. It’s definitely rust from old iron pipes.A sudden change in the flow (ie a hydrant is opened, a pool is filled) and the presence of iron particles increases. The Alum, or Aluminum Sulfate that Eddie mentioned, that gets dissolved in the water acts a flocculant to trap the small iron particles. A decent house filter will catch the remainder. As a result of the iron particles rapidly moving through the pipes and bouncing off each other, they become magnetically charged. If you filled your tub and let it set for a few days, you would find that the iron particles will form a collective cloud. One can of Coke probably does more harm to your system than 10 years of drinking LB water. Keep an eye and an ear out for news on the Lloyd Aquifer, our only source of water in LB. It’s not an endless supply folks and we seem hell bent on over-development, reducing permeable grassy area with parking lots and AstroTurf fields. If saltwater intrusion ruins that source of water, our water bills will make flood insurance rates look like chump change.

  13. I.P. is correct on all counts. The Lloyd aquifer is getting smaller, with salt water intrusion pushing the edges inland.

    The County used to monitor this through test wells drilled annually, one near the boardwalk at Laurelton. Funding for this monitoring was restored this year after a several year hiatus. That monitoring found the supply drastically shrinking.

    The loss of this aquifer is no joke. It’s perhaps the largest environmental threat facing Long Beach today. There’s just no profit in its awareness, so we’ll rally for windmills instead of clean water.

  14. Don’t let my wife read this. She has been trying to convince me to install a $3000 filter system, not to mention maintenance and filters, salt etc.

    We get brown water coming out the shower a lot…I just let it run for a bit.

  15. I actually installed one of those shower filters yesterday…$50 is better than $3000. Hopefully she will be convinced it works.

    I think my wife probably cares more about how her hair and skin feel than how many bacteria there are in it. If someone can find me a study on how rusty, chlorine treated water is actually better for your skin that would be very helpful.

  16. Our City Council is worried about boardwalk bump outs and there’s sewerage in our water?

    Like it did with the tree trimming debacle, the City once again let me down. I trusted the folks and again they proved their incompetence.

    The City’s 2013 Drinking Water Report arrived today and it contained something it never did before: A legal notice of coliform level violation for July of 2014.

    It states that on three of 48 occasions, drinking water samples were found contaminated with this bacteria associated with sewerage.

    That’s quite a surprise. Long Beach hasn’t had this type of violation at least since 2006, when I started keeping records. Probably never before.

    We know the source of the water is clean. So how messed up is our distribution system that some cross connection permitted this dangerous condition?

    How can anyone re-elect this gang?

  17. The City doesn’t put their Water Quality report on line as they do all the public relations fluff. The State Health Department posts the information but it usually takes a year. Each water customer must be mailed a copy by the City. In practice, a report is mailed to every 11561 address.

    You can get a copy from the City. Call Water Purification, Chief Plant Operator Jack Scully at 431-5288. He’s a very knowledgeable guy who can explain the violation to you.

  18. @ Eddie et al- i’ve read the report that came in the mail. I see the same numbers you mention, 3 out of 48 contamination. How is it that the big chart on the back page the row says “Total Coliform” and the column says “Level Detected – None.” The text says subsequent levels were clean noting they “increased chlorine.” So, the source of the contamination was not found. Also, much of the conversation above talks about old pipes. But the report makes it sounds like they sample at the storage sources, “sample the wells and water storage tanks.

    (Full disclosure- I’ve moved from the West End to EAB. Not trying to stick my nose in others’ business, but I constantly eat in LB and just get water to drink. Do I have to start drinking beer again?)

  19. A number of faults in well and distribution maintenance can introduce coliform, which is generally a marker for other hazardous bacteria. Usually it’s introduced into a poorly maintained well head, casing or distribution piping when the ground floods from rain.

    I’m speculating that may be the case here, where groundwater from a deluge found its way into the system. Could also be a cross connection incident caused by the pitiful water pressure in parts of the system during times of high usage.

    If you can find someone in the City who is not just a political hack and has some knowledge, they should know what happened.

  20. So let me get this straight – up thread you were telling all of us the yellow water was as good as French champagne – now you get one letter from the City and you are concerned?

  21. Eddie can certainly speak for himself, and I’m sure he will. The original “colored water” post was about minerals like iron that made the water look nasty, but were safe. But after he posted that, the next day City issued their annual water quality report, mailed to everyone in 11561. This report showed that for the first time some contained potentially harmful bacteria, a real health concern, not just esthetics or taste. Eddie’s comments are completely consistent. Many drinking waters around the world have loads of minerals, sometimes very *stnky* like sulfur. These are often sold as healthful “tonics.”

    But finding bacteria in your drinking water supply is never a good thing, showing it’s getting contaminated by human or environmental organisms. LB’s response was just to increase the chlorination to cover up the problem, rather than finding the source point where the bacteria entered the water. It could have been as simple as bad sampling methods or as horrible as environmental contaminants slowly seeping into a well pipe. If you’ve ever seen how tree roots can invade and completely fill a sewer pipe, you know how feeble our human “safeguards” really area. My unlikey fear that this bacterial contamination could just be the start of a major new threat post-Sandy is pretty freaky. Since the City will never look for trouble, maybe the Feds can pick up on this. $300 million already spent to protect the scenic aspects of our coastal waters, “but not a drop to drink.”

  22. Thank you Bob S. Exactly my thoughts.

    I received five robo-calls from the City Council this year using their emergency notification system. They were for such emergencies as fireworks planning and rain forecasts.

    None of them informed me that the water should be boiled because it was found to contain bacteria. That’s what the system should be used for.

    Shame on them.

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