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Frequently Asked Questions About Drinking Water

Where does my drinking water come from?

Who is responsible for drinking water quality?

Why does my drinking water taste or smell funny?

How do I disinfect my drinking water in the event of an emergency?

Should I be concerned about lead in my drinking water?

Should I be concerned about copper in my drinking water?

Should I be concerned about radium in my drinking water?

Who do I contact?

Where can I find more information on my drinking water?

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Sources of Drinking Water

Where does my drinking water come from?

  • Your drinking water comes from either groundwater (wells) or surface water sources (rivers, lakes, or reservoirs).
  • In South Carolina, about 80% of public water systems use surface water as their source of drinking water and about 20% use groundwater.
  • To find the source of your drinking water, contact your water supplier or read your Water Quality Report provided by your water supplier every year.
  • For more information on South Carolina's water supply usage, see SC Water Use Report.

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Who is responsible for drinking water quality?

  • DHEC regulates all public water systems (PWS) and is responsible for ensuring that these public water systems are in compliance with all state and federal regulations.
  • Local municipal, county, and other governmentPulled Quoteentities, along with private water suppliers, are directly responsible for the quality of water that flows to your faucet.
  • Water systems test and treat their water, maintain the distribution systems that deliver water to consumers, and report on their water quality results to DHEC.
  • States and EPA provide technical assistance to water suppliers and can take legal action against systems that fail to provide water that meets state and federal standards.
  • If you get your drinking water from an individual residential well, you are not subject to the state and federal regulations.
  • The owner of a residential well is responsible for the quality of the water.
  • If you are concerned about the quality of your well water,

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Why does my drinking water taste or smell funny?

  • Although bad tasting or bad smelling water can be offensive to consumers, in most cases it is not considered to be a public health problem.
  • Your drinking water may have an "off taste" if it's been sitting in the pipes for too long.
    • Flushing out the pipes in your home by turning on all the faucets at the same time for a few minutes may get rid of the off taste.
  • Additional information on taste and odor problems.
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What can I do about it?

  • First, determine if the problem is coming from your household plumbing or the water supplier.
  • Ask your neighbors if they are having a similar problem.
  • You may contact your water supplier or local EQC Regional Office.
  • You may also want to consider using certified water filters or treatment units.
  • The National Sanitation Foundation provides a list of certified units.

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What are the most common problems in drinking water?

  • Chlorine or chemical taste or smell
    • Can be caused by chlorine that is added to the water by your public water supplier
    • May be caused by the interaction of chlorine with a build-up of organic matter in your household plumbing.
  • Sulfur or rotten egg smell
    • Usually caused by bacteria growing in your sink drain or water heater.
    • In some cases is caused by naturally occurring hydrogen sulfide.
  • Musty, moldy, earthy taste or smell
    • Usually caused by bacteria growing in a sink's drain or from fungi
    • Can also be algae or fungi that naturally grow in surface water sources.
  • Metallic taste
    • Can be caused by metals such as iron.

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Boiling Water

How do I disinfect my drinking water in the event of an emergency?

  • In the event of an emergency, you may need to disinfect (kill germs) small quantities of drinking water.
  • Boiling is a very effective means of disinfecting drinking water.
  • Chemical disinfection of small quantities of water for drinking is more convenient and if done correctly, is as effective as boiling.
  • For information on how to disinfect your water, visit EPA's Emergency Disinfection of Drinking Water Web Site.

 

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Should I be concerned about lead in my drinking water?Kids drinking out of a water fountain

          • Lead is found almost everywhere: food, paint, dust, soil, air, and even some drinking water.
          • Lead is rarely in drinking water when it leaves the treatment plant; however, it can leach into the water from old plumbing.
          • Children and pregnant women are most susceptible to health risks from lead in drinking water.

 

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Copper Pipes

Should I be concerned about copper in my drinking water?

  • Copper is a metal that is commonly used in household plumbing and pipes.
  • Like lead, copper may leach into your drinking water from copper pipes and copper-containing fixtures in older plumbing.
  • The most noticeable effect produced by copper is a blue-green stain on bathroom fixtures such as tubs and sinks.
  • Learn more about copper in drinking water.

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Should I be concerned about radium in my drinking water?

  • Radium is a radioactive element, which can occur naturally in soil and rocks.
  • Radium is usually not a problem in surface water sources, but can affect some groundwater sources due to local geology.
  • Learn more about radium in drinking water.

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Who do I contact?

  • For information on the quality of your drinking water, read your Water Quality Report from your water supplier or contact them directly.
    • Your water supplier will have their contact information on your water bill.
  • If you are concerned about the water quality of your private well, contact DHEC's Residential Well Program for more information.
  • You can also call your local DHEC regional office.

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Where can I find more information on my drinking water?

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