Small dark flakes coming out of faucets?

Discussion in 'General Plumbing Help' started by bt2000, Mar 23, 2016.

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  1. Mar 23, 2016 #1

    bt2000

    bt2000

    bt2000

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    Hi,

    I have two bath tubs, I'm getting small, brittle flakes which are dark in both of them when I run the water. It happens for both hot and cold water. The flakes are about 1-5 mm in size. They do not smear when I press them.

    The sinks in the house don't have the same problem (I thought). I didn't realize the sinks have screens built into the faucet heads. I was able to remove the screen from my kitchen sink faucet head. When I run the water there (cold/hot), I get the same flakes coming out, although less.

    The kitchen faucet screen has a black gasket in it. I was surprised that it smeared a black stain on my fingers when I touched it. Is that expected? I rinsed it off a few times and now it isn't smearing any more. It doesn't look in bad shape or anything.

    I've called a few plumbing shops, but they said to call the city water department. I got in touch with them, and they mentioned something about it possibly being magnesium, and flushing the lines. They also mentioned something about replacing the water meter. They're sending someone out to take a look.

    Does anyone have an idea as to what this could be? Any extra info to have would be useful before they arrive so I have a better sense of what's going on. Although the screens on the faucet, and the brita water filter we have probably prevented us from drinking any of the actual flakes, I'm worried smaller pieces may have been getting through, and who knows what the result of that is.

    Thanks for any help.
     
  2. Mar 23, 2016 #2

    SHEPLMBR

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    Yes the smear is expected. And what brand/type tub valves do you have?
     
  3. Mar 23, 2016 #3

    bt2000

    bt2000

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    Hi, I can't see a model number on them, but they are Moen. The house is about 10 years old (I'm renting), so not sure if they make these anymore. But it's almost the same as their current version:

    Moen L82694

    You pull the handle towards you to start the water, then turn the handle left/right to control temperature.

    Not sure if that's just the "faucet" and the "valve" is a different piece?
     
  4. Mar 23, 2016 #4

    SHEPLMBR

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    Change the cartridge.
     
  5. Mar 23, 2016 #5

    bt2000

    bt2000

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    Hi, ok I need to look up the cartridge.

    I got a plumber to come by, they said the black particles were sediment. He recommended putting a filter in the main line. Does that sounds reasonable? He said the city water department would likely not do anything about it - I suppose they would need to tear up a bunch of pipes to find where sediment is getting into the water?
     
  6. Mar 23, 2016 #6

    KULTULZ

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    Do the black particles smear when you rub them between your fingers or are they course like sand/stone dust?
     
  7. Mar 23, 2016 #7

    bt2000

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    Hi KULTULZ, they do not smear - they are coarse and crumble apart if you rub a bigger one between your fingers.

    The city water department came by as well, they said it was manganese. That made me feel a little better, on the other hand, they said they had never seen something like that before. I asked them to send someone over to take a water sample, that will happen tomorrow.

    In the meantime I picked up one of the home test kits, and it was negative on lead and everything else.

    I guess that's ok, kind of scary that this stuff is floating around in the water system somewhere. I might ask the neighbors if they are seeing it too, or it's just my house.
     
  8. Mar 24, 2016 #8

    KULTULZ

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    ...hmmpf...

    Usually, manganese will smear. Sounds more like sediment in the distribution system. A sediment filter will take care of the sediment but either a iron/manganese filter or a softener (properly sized) will be required for manganese.

    Let the board know as to what the water report indicates.
     
  9. Mar 24, 2016 #9

    bt2000

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    Hi, ok so we had the city water department come and take a water sample. They couldn't tell us what the black particles were. They agreed that if it were manganese, it would more likely smear on your fingers.

    The city people also said they don't have a way to test what the particles are. We tried calling a few labs, but they also don't have a way of testing one of these particles and telling us what it is.

    Has anyone heard of a lab that can do that? It would give us a lot of peace of mind.

    Thanks
     
  10. Mar 24, 2016 #10

    KULTULZ

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    Well, a proper water analysis isn't cheap, but it will (should) give you peace of mind. Even though it is municipal water, you (or they for that matter) haven't any idea of what comes out of your taps.

    Most home filter companies (be careful here) will give a free water analysis.
     
  11. Mar 24, 2016 #11

    bt2000

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    Ok, do you have any recommendations for full water tests? There are so many out there. The city just drew a sample to do whatever tests they deem important, but an independent test would make me feel better.

    I snapped two photos of the particles. It's hard to get a good picture of them. The first is a few specks on a piece of paper beside a pencil. The other picture shows them at a bottom of a white mug.

    water01.jpg

    water02.jpg
     
  12. Mar 24, 2016 #12

    KULTULZ

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    This is who I used when I went on well water- http://www.ntllabs.com/

    They do municipal also. Talk with them about what all tests you may require. Get back with results (within this original thread).
     
  13. Mar 25, 2016 #13

    bt2000

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    Ok great, thanks for the info.

    As I kept searching around today, another idea came to mind - it could be "scale" from our tankless hot water system. We have a Noritz brand, gave them a call and they said that darkish/black particles of this sort are a possibility, and that we should get a technician to flush the system. I'm going to try getting a licensed person to come out and give it a try.
     
  14. Mar 25, 2016 #14

    KULTULZ

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    ...hmmph...

    Read This- http://www.noritz.com/blog/biggest-myth-tankless-water-heater/

    Depending on water hardness-

    Interesting. The harder the water, the more maintenance is needed. Same with a tank WH, but you can manually flush those on a regular basis.

    I now FULLY realize the importance of a hot water filter to be used with a tank-less WH

    Keep us updated. On a steep learning curve here... :D

    WH- Filtration- Outlet High Temperature Water Filter Housings - WH34 & ST-1.jpg
     
  15. Mar 31, 2016 #15

    bt2000

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    Hi all, here's an update.

    The city water department came to do a test, everything was reported OK so far. They haven't done the lead or copper test, yet, but the 2 home kits we bought didn't show any, so the city test will probably come back negative on those, too.

    We put in a whole-house filter on the water main coming into our house. That did not stop the black flakes from appearing.

    The next thing we did was to "flush" the tankless water heater (a Noritz). You can use either vinegar or some de-scaling solution. The plumber we hired used a de-scaling solution. The water that was running through the water heater turned dark blue. The water used for flushing was clear to start, as was the de-scaling solution. We got the idea to flush the unit by calling Noritz and asking if they've ever heard of dark flakes from other customers.

    The Noritz heater we have also has a small intake filter on it, which I believe is supposed to prevent debris from getting into it from the city water. The plumber took that out to clean it, but it was clear. So all this leads me to believe there is no problem with the city water, these flakes are originating somewhere from inside the house.

    After the flushing was complete, we ran our bathtubs again, and the flakes are still appearing. There are fewer. Another call to Noritz and they said that the black flakes have been reported by other customers, though not in our region (New England). They said it happens due to the way the minerals in the water get heated. Supposedly some units can get a circuit board update that will heat the water in a way that avoids creation of the black flakes. Unfortunately the unit we have is not eligible for that upgrade. They recommended either a water softener, or an extra downstream filter on the hot water exit to catch the flakes.

    It would be helpful if they had some documentation on it with pictures, just to sanity check that these particles are the same thing visually. It is pretty scary. We are going to do another test and see about upgrading the water heater.
     
  16. Apr 1, 2016 #16

    KULTULZ

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  17. Apr 1, 2016 #17

    bt2000

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    Yeah we're on city water, the city water test showed Chlorine in an ok range (I think):

    Reference Range: 0.05 - 2.0 mg/L
    Result: 0.63 mg/L

    Our water hardness came back as "moderately hard":

    Reference Range: 30 - 100 mg/L
    Result: 67 mg/L

    I found a page on the water heater company website that talks about this, I think:

    http://support.noritz.com/article/faq-what-is-water-hardness-46.html

    but they don't have any pictures showing the flakes they describe, so I'm not sure if it's the same thing I'm experiencing. I wrote to them asking for more info, will update if I hear back from them.
     
  18. Apr 1, 2016 #18

    KULTULZ

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    What the article/thread is referring to is chlorine and the damage it can do to plumbing and humans. Chlorine attacks rubber parts, usually seen in the toilet tank.

    Do you have SS braided line(s) anywhere in your system? It may be the rubber lining(s) breaking down causing the specs.

    You have to read that thread in it's entirety to understand the possibilities.

    Now high/excessive water hardness will be the result of high calcium/magnesium/tannin's). You may have to filter the water.
     
  19. Apr 1, 2016 #19

    bt2000

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    I can't see any SS lines anywhere where the piping is exposed in the basement. It's all copper. I'll try to find out if there are any elsewhere.

    I snapped a higher res picture of the flakes, surprisingly they came out a bit green/blue here. These flakes are sitting on a paper towel. They're about 2mm in size.

    Continuing to talk with the water heater company if they can send me some info on the flakes they say they can produce.

    flakes02.jpg
     
  20. May 6, 2016 #20

    bt2000

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    Hi all,

    Finally have some more updates. I found a lab that was able to test the flakes, and they said they were copper. We had the hot water heater replaced because the heat exchange is made of copper, and has leaked before. After the replacement was completed, we're still getting the flakes.

    My only guess now is that the copper pipes throughout the house are corroding somehow. I found this youtube video which shows someone with a similar problem, though we are not getting nearly as many, and our flakes are usually darker (we occasionally get greenish colored ones like this guy):

    [ame]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nMX2Fb794q0[/ame]

    then I found a video about copper pipe corrosion, perhaps one of these scenarios is what's going on?:

    [ame]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nD5lMITzx_Y[/ame]

    it seems like that's the only possibility at this point, since we've eliminated the incoming water main, and the heater. If that's the case, I don't know how a plumber could find which section of pipe to replace - I guess they'd have to do the entire house? Sounds like a nightmare.

    Thanks
     
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