Environmental Analysis - Water Sampling - Data Management
Telephone: (02) 6623 3888

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Identify your Water Contamination

At Richmond Water Laboratories in Lismore, NSW, we have analysed thousands of water samples and found everything from quite strange to very common contamination sources.

Not everything you see floating or crawling in your water is what you think it is though, and it’s not necessarily bad news.

We’ll try to help you identify what’s contaminating your water (e.g. from tanks, bores or dams), so you can either stop worrying or decide to bring in a sample for further testing.

1. Black greasy particles in your tap water

Black greasy particles in tap water

We have had clients complain of black particles in their water, which turned out to be degraded rubber hose particles.

If there was a real black particle contamination problem in the water supply, it would be experienced over a wider area. Ask your neighbours if they are experiencing the same problem. Widespread incidence of black particles may indicate some scale or corrosion coming off the mains.

If you are unsure, follow the 5 easy steps to get your water tested.

2. Small red ‘worms’ in tank water

Bloodworms are the larvae of non-biting midge flies. They are harmless to you and your animals. The red worms look like the image above [to be posted]. Make sure that your tank meshes are intact so that adult midges can’t lay their eggs in your tank.

3. Blue or green coloured water in the bathroom

Have you noticed blue water or a blue stain on the tiles or fixtures in your bathroom? Blue or green discoloured water is usually attributed to the degradation of copper pipes in household plumbing.

The problem is caused by a combination of factors including water chemistry and temperature, as well as bimetallic contact when the water comes into contact with soap or other alkaline materials.

Our customised testing suite will determine the water quality on your property. You may need to install a calcite filter to help stabilise the water and prevent further damage.

4. Foam on the surface of the water

Foam on surface of water e.g. stream, river or beach

From time to time you may notice foam in streams and rivers. This foam is mostly of natural origin and doesn’t necessarily indicate pollution.

Foam is formed when the water mixes with air, and the water is agitated. This natural foam typically smells fishy or earthy, and may be white, near-white, or brown, and breaks apart easily when disturbed.

However, if the foam smells fragrant or sweet, it may indicate a nearby spill or the presence of wastewater. If you suspect it may be from contamination, please follow our 5 easy steps to get the water tested.

5. Oily film or sheen on the surface of the water

Oily film or sheen on surface of water

Oily sheens on water can also come from natural sources. For instance, some bacteria that live in waterlogged areas exude an oily film as they live and die. The decay of organic matter can also leave an oily sheen on the water surface.

If you are unsure if it’s natural or petroleum based, stir it with a stick. If the sheen comes back together immediately, it’s petroleum. But if the sheen breaks apart and doesn’t come back together, it is likely to be from a natural source.

If it’s petroleum based, a TPH test will quantify the likely type and quantity.

6. Yellow dust/powder on the surface of the water

If you see water scum that resembles a yellowish powder or dust it’s probably pollen from pine or other trees. This phenomenon is most common in spring and early summer.

A simple microscopic examination will help shed some light and ease any concerns. The pollen will sink after a while as it becomes waterlogged.

7. Blue-green algae slick on your farm dam or other local water

Blue-green algae slick on the water

Some algae are toxic. The best thing to do is to collect a sample from your farm dam and let us examine it to identify the cyanobacteria in the bloom and determine whether there is a risk.

Be careful to avoid any direct contact with the water by wearing gloves and washing your hands afterwards. For instructions on how to get your water tested by us, follow these steps.


Reasons to get your water tested

Rainwater Tanks

While it makes sense to harvest the clean, purified water which falls out of the sky, there are a number of factors which can compromise the quality of this water. The following fact sheet from the NSW Department of Health may be useful for maintaining rainwater tanks

Water, water every where…

Overflowing tanks are often a welcome sight to those who rely on rainwater for their domestic use, especially as it often means no more timed showers! While extra flushing may improve water quality, it is still advisable to have drinking water tested on a regular basis.