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What’s going on with my tap water?

If you’ve noticed a weird, iridescent film on the surface of your drinking water, you’re probably a little concerned. Not to worry! There’s a good chance the film isn’t harmful to your health at all, but determining whether it’s a risk or nuisance depends on a few things.

Likely culprits for the sources of oily tap water

If you’re on well water, chances are that rainbow sheen can be traced to harmless organic sources. Decaying organic plant matter in your well is one of the most common causes, resulting in the presence of hydrogen sulfide. Another common source happens when iron deposits in minerals dissolve your well water in the presence of iron bacteria. Neither cause is typically harmful to your health, but should be addressed by professionals.

If you’re on city water, on the other hand, there might be cause for greater concern. In that case, there’s a possibility that it might be caused by potentially dangerous, manmade pollutants. These issues need to be remediated immediately.


Will it make me sick?

In most cases, especially if you’re on well water, the film is more of an annoyance than a health risk. In a smaller percentage of instances, there is a risk of contamination. Either way, you’ll want to determine the source of the oily film, and decide if it’s worth taking steps to remediate it. You can schedule a free in-home water test to learn more about your water.

How to determine the source of your oily film:

  • Determine where your water comes from. If it’s well water, the sheen is likely due to relatively harmless natural sources. If it’s city water, the likelihood of dangerous pollutants is greater. Check out list of known Chicago suburban contaminants to learn more.
  • Stir the water. Fill your sink or tub, and stir the water. If the film breaks into platelets, the cause is probably natural. If it quickly forms back together into a uniform slick, oil pollution is the likely culprit.
  • Smell the water. If you get a rotten egg smell, you’re probably dealing with an organic or natural cause. If, however, you smell gasoline or diesel, you should be concerned. This means there is petroleum contamination which needs to be addressed immediately. 

Can I Fix it myself?

Unfortunately, there’s no way to get rid of an oily sheen in tap water on your own, no matter the source. You may find other articles that recommend filtering your tap water through a consumer system like a Brita pitcher, but those filters aren’t designed to correct the underlying problems associated with oily drinking water. No matter the source of the oily film, if you want it gone, you’ll need to consult with professionals.

Get help from professionals

Resolving the issue of an oily sheen in your tap water depends on a number of factors, including the age of your home and plumbing, the source of your drinking water, and what filtration or other systems are already in place. Our in-home inspection will determine any risk to your home plumbing, and give you the tools you need to protect your home.

We’ll come to your home and do a full inspection and comprehensive testing of your water to definitively determine the source of the problem. From there, we’ll be able to give you recommendations for working with plumbers, your insurance company, and your city to ensure this doesn’t impact the value of your home or your family’s health.

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