Tap water question
May 23, 2010 11:19 AM   Subscribe

This morning while cleaning the crock pot, I noticed that the baking soda I was using was foaming up, as if i had added an acid like vinegar. So, I poured some baking soda in a clean bowl, to see if it was the water. It foamed! Is there a reason my tap water would be so acid? The only thing I found on the internet was a vague suggestion the chlorine can cause acidity in the water.

I am concerned this might be causing me health problems, as I have had some persistent digestive problems, that lasted so long I had to go to the doctor, who found nothing in the fecal cultures that they ran. (Sorry if this is TMI)

I am in Albuquerque, where the water tends to run slightly alkaline, I think.
posted by annsunny to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Do you have any pH test strips? It may be worth getting some to see just how acidic the water is, just so you know what you're dealing with.
posted by TheJehosephat at 11:25 AM on May 23, 2010

Response by poster: We were planing on popping by the hardware store today. I am sure any place with pool supplies will have a testing kit.
posted by annsunny at 11:28 AM on May 23, 2010

Make sure it's baking soda and not baking powder you're using...
posted by lleachie at 11:45 AM on May 23, 2010

Normal stomach pH is around 2-3, and go go lower than that without causing any symptoms; I strongly doubt that any small amount of acid in your drinking water will be causing digestive problems.

That said, I would test it as if it is acidic it could be eroding your teeth, which isn't good.
posted by Coobeastie at 11:54 AM on May 23, 2010

A number of people think that chloramines cause digestive troubles. I am one of them- when I drink tap water treated with it, I get heartburn and subsequent other issues. Never had the issue when I lived in a different area that used straight chlorine.

(The issue might be worse where I am, as the source is chlorinated Chicago water, which is then chloraminated by my municipality.)
posted by gjc at 11:59 AM on May 23, 2010

Here's some more info on PH of water in ABQ based on area.
posted by NoraReed at 12:01 PM on May 23, 2010

Drinking water in the U.S. is usually tested like mad to ensure safety, which is why tap water is just as good as bottled water. You can get a lot of good info here and check out annual reports here.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:32 PM on May 23, 2010

It could also relate to your pipes somehow.
posted by salvia at 12:43 PM on May 23, 2010

Response by poster: It was definitely baking soda, straight from the box. I know someone who works as the water quality control expert for one of the pueblos here, but he is out of town. He had suggested I get the water tested for coliform previously, but my symptoms had improved, so I hadn't followed up on it. Also, this seems like it might not be related.

I'm not sure which well our water comes from, to find out when the water supply was last tested. Our HOA does all the individual billing for the water in our neighborhood, and pays the city in bulk. I am not sure how vigilant the HOA has been about such things. There is a lot of nasty ego stuff with the HOA, so I have been reluctant to call them. (not anything personally to do with me)
posted by annsunny at 12:57 PM on May 23, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks, NoraReed.

I am in area 14, In 2009, the Ph was 6.5-8.5, but the average was 8, which is about as alkaline as seawater or baking soda. Great interactive map, there.
posted by annsunny at 1:11 PM on May 23, 2010

how old is the baking powder? is it possible it absorbed something acidic from the air (maybe from being in the refrigerator?) and is now acting like baking powder? (baking powder=baking soda+acidic agent) maybe try a fresh box and see if the same thing happens...
posted by sexyrobot at 2:15 PM on May 23, 2010

I don't know about the acidity of your water, but I think the use of chloramine could be related to your digestive problems (if indeed Albuquerque does use chloramine; most municipalities nationwide apparently do, but I didn't see a page making that explicit for Albuquerque).

I'm very suspicious of the process of annual flushing which is a standard part of chloramine disinfection:

Q: Why does our water provider change back to chlorine as the disinfectant every spring while the water mains are flushed?

A: Temporarily converting from chloramines to free chlorine is done to accompany the annual process of flushing of our drinking water distribution system. A biological film, known as biofilm, is found in all water pipes. It can lead to water quality problems if not controlled. Biofilm can become accustomed to the chloramine disinfectant that is routinely used. By switching to free chlorine for a short period of time, the biofilm is ‘shocked’ and weakened. Using fire hydrants to conduct a system-wide flushing of our distribution mains, combined with the disinfectant change, is a very effective method for controlling biofilm that is used nationwide.

My concern is that this kind of flushing seems very likely to dislodge still living pieces of the biofilm in question and suspend them in your drinking water, where you would then consume them, possibly making you sick as a result of exposure to the organisms in the biofilm.

It might be interesting to find out if Albuquerque does use chloramine, and if so when the annual flush occurs and if those dates correlate with your illness.
posted by jamjam at 2:36 PM on May 23, 2010

Response by poster: OK, we are back from the hardware store. We tested the water, and here are the results:
Ph 5
Alkalinity 80-120
Chlorine 0.2-1

Nothing resulted from the nitrate test.

The Ph is definitely not what is a normal range for this area. Weird.

Sexyrobot, I did as you suggested, and tested with the baking soda I use for baking, which Is just a month or so old. No fizzing. It's weird, I thought only baking powder fizzed when it got old. ?
posted by annsunny at 3:29 PM on May 23, 2010

Response by poster: ghc and jamjam, I didn't see anything on the city water authority website about chloramine treatment either. Thank you for the suggestion. I might try contacting them tomorrow to find out.

The problems I originally had lasted over a month, which is why I went to the doctor. I wonder if that kind of problem would last so long? I am starting to have the problem recur again, so i might have to keep a detailed food log, and make another appointment. I hate going to the doctor.

Adversely, I could contact a water testing lab recommended to me, and test for coliform first.
posted by annsunny at 3:36 PM on May 23, 2010

5 is very low, weirdly so. What kind id pipes do you have?
posted by fshgrl at 8:25 PM on May 23, 2010

Response by poster: My house was built in 1994, so I am presuming plastic?
posted by annsunny at 10:45 AM on May 24, 2010

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