Sierra Club Finger Lakes Group




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Winter 2013 Issue of the Finger Lakes Sierran

Hard Water!

by Gene Stolfi
Member, Finger Lakes Group Executive Committee
Member, Steuben County Environmental Management Council

I told the manager of the group I was doing consulting engineering for that I thought the excessive hardness in the water was causing opera-tional problems in his equipment. He replied that he believed me, but could not justify purchasing equipment to remedy the problem only on my opinion. He needed numbers to verify the problem. This was the beginning of the two-year information gathering experience that gave me a better under-standing of our valley’s water supply.

The E.P.A. recommends that water testing above 500 in T.D.S. (total dis-solved solids) is not potable.

I started testing Erwin water with a water quality tester (H.M. Digital Com-100) and found water hardness consistently above 500 T.D.S. Water quality would drop into the 400s the day after a heavy rain but would return to above 500 within two days. I watched this pattern for 16 months. With the numbers to back up my suspicions, changes were made to our process that resolved our problems. R.O. water was used with very low T.D.S. This not only solved our scaling and rusting problems but also enabled us to reduce the chemicals used as a grinding lubricant by 80%, giving us a substantial savings and a cleaner environment.

During testing and sharing information with coworkers, many people wanted me to test their water so they could know what they had. Testing in three towns and testing people’s private wells, gave me the data base I used. I combined this with the data from the numbers of creeks and rivers where Sierra Club Water Sentinels had begun collecting to better under-stand what is happening with our water supply.


~ Private wells in the valley and on hills 60 to 100 feet deep typically were just above 200 T.D.S.
~ Rivers and streams test in the 200—250 T.D.S. range.
~ Corning, Painted Post and Erwin water systems drawing from a deep aquifer typically on the same day were within 50 points of one another and usually above 500 T.D.S. (Only after a heavy rain would the number dip under 500 for a short time—one or two days.)
~ When the aquifer was reading 600 T.D.S., private wells and river readings remained around 200 (this would indicate that the river water has a silt layer between it and the aquifer, preventing water from dropping down).
~After a heavy rain, the aquifer is diluted by 50% within a day. This indicates that the creeks and fields and ground are very porous and allow water to immediately recharge the aquifer.
~ The aquifer at Painted Post and Erwin (Three River) Junction is under stress from water removal causing the hardness to exceed the E.P.A. recommended maximum.