Safe water
October 9, 2008 9:04 PM   Subscribe

Should I drink my tap water?

I live in Manhattan. I know the water is great in NYC, but after the city cleaned some pipes near me, the water has been coming out darker.

My doorman said it was a septic pipe (gross), but my neighbor said the water is always dirty here. I live in a very old building, where the pipes where changed in 2004.

I have a Brita filter. Should I just filter it?

PS my mom has been in town and she won't drink tap water in my house.

posted by octomato to Food & Drink (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If you already have the filter, why not use it?
posted by Nattie at 9:10 PM on October 9, 2008

If it's brown drink it down...

No, seriously, this is one of those "if you don't feel comfortable doing it, don't do it."

Anecdote: in my college town (small, rural New Hampshire), the city had old style copper pipes. When they'd flush the lines, the water would turn slightly red. Not dangerous at all, but definitely gave you a "rivers of blood, 10 plagues of egypt" feeling. It was fine, though, so not a problem at all.

Everyone has a different threshold for what's gross and what's not. I don't mind eating pizza that's been sitting out for a few days, but my girlfriend would flip out if I left something like that out overnight and then tried to take a bite.
posted by SNWidget at 9:18 PM on October 9, 2008

Filter it, smell it, taste it... if it's okay, drink it.

Take a glass of water. Run the tap for two or three minutes. Take a second glass. Compare visually. Better after running awhile? Your pipes are cruddy. Worse? The city's pipes are cruddy.

Or if you're worried about bacteria, boil some, chill, and compare the taste to a glass right from the tap.
posted by rokusan at 9:25 PM on October 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

And oh, my tap water (Midtown West) is okay, not great and not bad, 80-year old building. I use a Brita anyway. Maybe it helps, or maybe it's psychosomatic.
posted by rokusan at 9:26 PM on October 9, 2008

In my town the water dept. flushes out the pipes with high pressure once a year to clean them. It stirs up sediment and the water comes out of the taps brownish for a day or so. It's safe to drink, they say, but I wait till it runs clear anyway.

And your doorman is wrong about the shitpipe connection.
posted by longsleeves at 9:59 PM on October 9, 2008

I'm in brooklyn and I drink Poland spring from home delivery. Tastes much better to me than filtered water. Also: good tea made with poland spring water tastes much better as well. Even if tap water appears to be clear, try running it through a bounty towel for half an hour, the towel will be dirty as hell. doNotWant.
posted by rainy at 10:40 PM on October 9, 2008

Yes, you should drink the tap water, but if you suspect a building-specific problem, contact this agency; in some cases, they will perform an inspection.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:38 PM on October 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

By the way...

>> My doorman said it was a septic pipe (gross)

This almost could not possibly be true, as the two systems are kept deliberately separate. If this is true (routing the outflow back into the water source), this is a profound fuck up that would be immediately apparent to everyone.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:41 PM on October 9, 2008

no. filter or bottled.
posted by watercarrier at 5:15 AM on October 10, 2008

Try running the water for awhile to see if that clears it out. BTW, is the water the same color in your toilet/shower/all sinks? If not then maybe you only have a problem in one faucet then maybe therein lies your problem.
posted by JJ86 at 5:42 AM on October 10, 2008

It is not unusual for the water to be brown for a while after water main work. Usually they should give you a flyer for how you should respond to this (e.g. run your tap for five minutes first thing in the morning for the next three days).

The type of Brita filter that you have in a pitcher is for making the water taste better, not for removing harmful elements. If it's part of a machine that's installed on your tap, check the manual for exactly what it does and doesn't remove.
posted by winston at 6:42 AM on October 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

The sediment is minerals, not dirt, per se. A lot of old pipes are iron, and give off small amounts of rust. Not bad for you. Poland Spring, or any other bottled water, water is not tested nearly as well as your tap water. I live in Maine; Poland Spring is perfectly fine, but just because it's bottled doesn't mean it's safer.
posted by theora55 at 6:47 AM on October 10, 2008

Anyone who tells you to drink brown water should drink it themselves. DO NOT drink any water that is colored any color than clear. Just don't. There are alternatives. Britta - bottled - whatever - do not drink the tainted water.
posted by watercarrier at 6:58 AM on October 10, 2008

drink it. the majority of bottled water is simply tap water. if the city water were poisonous it would be a public health emergency.
posted by phil at 7:25 AM on October 10, 2008

Forget the rust. Forget the particles. Forget the brown syrupy consistency to the water. But keep in mind the fluoride, the pharmaceuticals, the excrement, the piss and the saliva that is mixed in the water supply. Get it? Good. Now go drink bottled water.
posted by watercarrier at 7:32 AM on October 10, 2008

Um, watercarrier, where do you think bottled water comes from? A magical spring in the mountains? Bottled water is normally just tap water. Complete with pharmaceuticals and everything.
posted by MadamM at 8:11 AM on October 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

My doorman said it was a septic pipe

Then it should smell like human waste. Does it? If the answer is yes, then don't drink it.
posted by desjardins at 8:20 AM on October 10, 2008

Does the color lighten up after running the water for a few minutes?

The NYC water system supplies the best tasting water of any system in New York State-- and possibly the best large city water system in the US. It is very reasonably comparable in taste and quality to fresh spring water from the Catskill mountains (which is in fact the source for the City's water supply).

However, there may be dirty pipes and sediment in the pipes leading from the water mains into your faucet. Generally, running the water until it runs clear and filtering water will take care of those issues, if you're concerned about it.

From the New York City DEP 2007 Drinking Water Supply and Quality Report
Sometimes my water is a rusty brown color. What causes this?
Brown water is commonly associated with plumbing corrosion problems inside buildings and from rusting hot water heaters. If you have an ongoing problem with brown water, it is probably due to rusty pipes. It is recommended that you run your cold water for 2 - 3 minutes, if it has not been used for an extended period of time. This will flush the line. You can avoid wasting water by catching your “flush” water in a container and using it to water plants or for other purposes. Brown water can also result from street construction or water main work being done in the area. Any disturbance to the main, including the opening of a fire hydrant, can cause pipe sediment to shift, resulting in brown water. The settling time will vary, depending on the size of the water main.
posted by andrewraff at 9:10 AM on October 10, 2008

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