Water Quality

Why does my water look cloudy or milky?

Short Answer:
It is most likely harmless air bubbles often due to cold weather. If you let a glass of cloudy water sit out for a few minutes the glass should clear up from bottom to top.

Long Answer:
The solubility of air in water increases with water pressure and decreases with temperature. Usually during cold weather, some water throughout the distribution system may dissolve more air.

While the water is making its journey to your faucet, it is agitated and warmed up (through ground heat or household plumbing), reducing the water’s ability to retain dissolved gases. However, much of the dissolved air may remain in solution due to the high pressure of the distribution mains.

As soon as the water leaves your faucet, it is no longer subject to the pressure of your water lines, and it may release excess dissolved air to form lots of harmless tiny bubbles.

Why is my water discolored?

Discoloration may occur in your cold water if fine particulates in the distribution mains have been stirred up by nearby activity (e.g., construction, breaks, valve operation, hydrant use, etc.). In our water system, this is primarily due to increased water velocities scouring iron deposits off the walls of pipes. This kind of discoloration should clear up within a few hours as it is flushed from the lines.

While the water is not harmful, you may want to limit its use.

Do not use any hot water to avoid drawing discolored water into your hot water tank.

After an hour or so, run your cold water (preferably at the lowest point in your home, such as a basement hose bib or wash basin) for several minutes. If it does not run clear, try again in another hour. Once clear, run some water throughout the rest of the home to clear any remaining discolored water in your pipes.

If you believe your laundry may have been washed with discolored water, do not dry it. Make sure the water in your washing machine runs clear and re-run the wash. If needed, “Red-B-Gone” is an iron-stain remover that can be used on white clothes and is available at our office.

Why is there a chlorine taste in my water?

Chlorine is added at the water treatment plant as a disinfectant to control bacterial growth. Chlorine levels at any point in the water system can fluctuate for a variety of reasons:

– Chlorine dissipates faster from warmer water
– With higher draws on the system, fresher water (that has not had as much time to dissipate its chlorine) reaches further into the system

If you are especially sensitive to the taste or odor of chlorine, try keeping a container of drinking water in your refrigerator over several hours. This will give time for the chlorine to dissipate and reduce the taste. You can also more fully remove chlorine from the water by boiling it.

What’s the hardness of my water?

The water hardness varies throughout the year with a range of 80 to 160 ppm (4–9 grains per gallon).

Where does my water come from?

FCA is a consecutive water system, which means that we purchase all of our water from another utility, namely Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) – www.pgh2o.com. Their water source is the Allegheny River.

What is Orthophosphate?

Orthophosphate is a food grade additive that the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) will begin adding at their treatment plant to help reduce lead levels in water. When water with orthophosphate runs through the system, it will create a coating on the inside of service lines and interior plumbing, creating a barrier between the pipes and the water. This is called “corrosion control”. PWSA currently uses soda ash and lime for corrosion control but has found that orthophosphate will work even better.

Is Orthophosphate safe in my drinking water?

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PA DEP) recognizes orthophosphate as an effective additive in water in reducing lead levels. It is also recognized as safe by the U. S. Food and Drug Administration.

PWSA conducted a year-long study of several different additives that are used to reduce lead levels in water. After finding that orthophosphate would be most effective for PWSA’s and therefore Fox Chapel Authority’s system, the research was reviewed extensively by the PA DEP before being approved as a part of the treatment process. Orthophosphate is used for corrosion control in Boston, Washington DC, Cleveland and Philadelphia. It is also used by Pennsylvania American Water Company who serve customers in Pittsburgh and the surrounding area.

If you have any further questions regarding Orthophosphate, please contact Water Quality Supervisor, Don Kendrick at 412-963-0212.


What is hydrant flushing for?

Hydrant flushing is performed for two basic reasons.

The first is to remove any mineral deposits that may accumulate in the pipelines that have passed through the treatment process. In addition to removing these deposits, flushing introduces fresher water with a higher chlorine content thereby increasing water quality.

The second reason is to assure that each fire hydrant operates properly. Please note that only fire department personnel and Authority employees are authorized to operate any hydrant on our system. Should you notice any unauthorized hydrant operation, please contact the Authority or call 911 to report this.

Why are meters read inside manually for a final?

We obtain a manual final meter reading because it is a best management practice. This assures the new owner that the meter reading is correct and verifies that the proper backflow device is in place.

I’m selling my house…

Please refer to our Real Estate Transfer documentation.

I have a tenant renting…

We do not do final meter readings for tenants since the property remains in the owner’s name. If a reading is provided, we will provide an estimate of the final water and sewage amount related to the tenant.

Lien letter

A lien letter is required for any property transfer because water and sewage service, when provided by a municipality or municipal authority, is a lienable item that stays with the property.

How are sewage rates determined?

Sewage rates are determined by the municipality or authority which provides that service. FCA only determines the rates for water service.

May I turn my water off for repairs?

Authority personnel are the only authorized people to operate the underground curb shut-off valve near the street unless prior permission has been obtained from the Authority.

However, you may turn off the service valve at the meter (located indoors or in a meter pit).

When is a tap done and who is involved?

A water service tap is made for all new construction of structures requiring water service. Since the customer owns the service line to the main, most costs associated with the installation are borne by the property owner. The fees charged by FCA cover the costs of providing the standard materials that we furnish along with our cost to physically tap the main, inspect the service, and install the meter.

For more details, refer to the Rate Schedule and Service Line and Meter Installation.

Service Line Components

Why is a backflow preventer required?

A backflow prevention device is required to prevent water in a structure (which may potentially be contaminated) from returning to the public system which could result in multiple illnesses or even deaths, depending on the contaminant.

This regulation was placed into effect by the EPA in the mid 1980s. The PA DEP must enforce that regulation to continue receiving federal drinking water funds. Their regulation mandates that each public water system develop and enforce a backflow prevention program which meets their approval.

What is a deduct meter?

A sewage deduct meter (or subtraction meter) is a second meter installed within a portion of a structure’s plumbing that does not enter the sanitary sewer system (i.e., sprinkler system, pool).

You will still be invoiced for the water passing through our meter, but sewage charges will be reduced based on the usage through the deduct meter.

What is a pressure regulator and when do I need one?

A pressure regulator is a device which controls the pressure in a structure to minimize premature failure of plumbing hardware, such as solenoid valves and gaskets in appliances.

As a utility, we recommend a pressure regulator when the pressure in our lines exceeds 100 psi.

What is an expansion tank and is it required?

An expansion tank is a device that is installed on the inlet to your water heater to alleviate excess pressure build-up due to heat whenever a backflow device is installed.

The tank also eliminates vibration in the internal plumbing caused by the higher pressure.

The Allegheny County plumbing code requires an expansion tank with the installation of a backflow device.

As a homeowner, what part of the service line maintenance am I responsible for?

As a customer of the FCA, the owner is responsible for maintenance of the service line from the main to the structure.

Kindly refer to the Rules and Regulations for more details.


Why don’t I have any water?

If you’ve recently had plumbing repairs completed or young children playing near your valves, check to be certain they are fully open. If there is service loss to a portion of the property, check for any closed internal valves.

If you have a pressure regulator, it is possible that failure could cause service loss.

If your service interruption is the result of non-payment, you would have been sent several reminders followed by a door hanger prior to termination.

In the case of emergency waterline repairs or construction related activity, you should have been notified by phone, text, or email if we have your current contact information. If not, please help us keep our records up-to-date by providing us with a completed Public Notification form by mail or in person.

How should I prepare my home before going on vacation?

Before going on vacations or even away for a weekend, there are several water related items that you should handle.

First, turn off the meter shut-off valve for the property (not to be confused with the curb shut-off). In conjunction, lower the water heater setting to vacation or away.

These actions will prevent the property from being drained of water should we have a break in our mains and you do not have a backflow preventer installed.

This also protects your home against possible main-line surges due to a fire event or break which could cause potential damage if your home is left unattended.

How can I detect a leak in my house?

Locate your water meter which is generally on the front wall of your basement where your service enters. For those customers served by a meter pit, the meter is located in the pit generally near the property line.

There is a small red indicator on the head of the meter. If it is moving but no obvious water is being used, there is a leak somewhere beyond the meter. By timing this for one minute, the size of the leak can be determined (in gallons per minute).

In most properties, leaks are rather obvious, i.e., dripping faucets, etc. In our experience, the leak is in the toilet 90%+ of the time.

To check a toilet for leaks, place food coloring or a dye tablet (available at our office) in the tank, and wait for at least 30 minutes without flushing. If the colored water shows in the toilet bowl, either the flapper valve is not seating properly or the float is set too high causing an overflow. You can simply adjust the float or replace the flapper.

Once the leak is located, turn the valve off to isolate that fixture. If the indicator on the meter stops, you have verified the leak.

How do I prevent or deal with frozen pipes?

Dealing with frozen interior plumbing or exterior service lines is a common problem in northern climates. Our Regulations dictate that service lines must be installed at a minimum of 42″ underground. If the soil over the service has been regraded or removed, freezing of the service may occur.

Preventing interior plumbing from freezing is much easier. If the temperatures drop to zero or below, open any cabinet doors and/or remove any items that may prevent warm air from circulating around the pipes. Allowing a small trickle of water to run also generally works, but will of course increase your water and sewage bill.

For meters and plumbing located in unheated areas (very rare), either install insulation or heat tape to prevent freezing. Reminder: the customer is responsible for any damage to the meter and will be charged for the cost of repairs or replacement if needed.

If an interior plumbing line freezes, do not try to thaw it with a torch as this may start a fire or (with copper plumbing) melt a solder joint resulting in a leak. Use a hair dryer or just wait for warm air to do the trick.

Before attempting to thaw a frozen line, locate the control valve for that fixture or the home master shut-off and turn it off. This is critical because it will prevent water damage when the ice plug finally melts.

If a pipe bursts don’t panic. Shut off the main water line valve into your property. This is usually near your water meter. This will prevent your house from flooding. After you’ve done that, call your plumber.

How does lead get into my tap water?

According to the CDC and EPA, lead exposure in drinking water typically comes from your plumbing fixtures and not the source of your water supply. It leaches from either lead service line pipes, household fixtures containing lead, or lead solder. The leaching of lead is caused by corrosive properties in water. Very rarely is lead present in the sources of drinking water.

Fox Chapel Authority does not use any lead pipes throughout its entire water distribution system. This includes all water delivered through various distribution mains all the way to the customers curb stop.

A very small number (24 accounts) out of our approximately 5,500 customers have lead service lines from the curb stop to their water meter. These customers have been notified of the situation and have been provided various options they can take to address the problem.

Community water systems are required to deliver an annual water quality report (also called a Consumer Confidence Report or CCR) to all customers. The report contains test results for samples collected during the year. The current CCR is available in the Water Quality section near the bottom of the Home page.

For more information, see

What are the health effects of lead?

According to the CDC and Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, lead can cause serious health problems if too much enters your body from drinking water or other sources. It can cause damage to the brain and kidneys, and interfere with the production of red blood cells that carry oxygen to all parts of your body. The greatest risk of lead exposure is to infants, young children and pregnant women. Scientists have linked the effects of lead on the brain with a lowered IQ in children. Adults with kidney problems and high blood pressure can be affected by low levels of lead more than healthy adults. Lead is stored in the bones, and it can be released later in life. During pregnancy, the child receives lead from the mother’s bones, which may affect brain development. If you are concerned about lead exposure, you may want to ask your health care provider about testing children to determine levels of lead in their blood.

For more information, read

What can I do to reduce my exposure to lead and copper in drinking water?

Since lead exposure in drinking water typically comes from your plumbing fixtures and not the source of your water supply, it’s important for water users to follow these tips from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection to reduce your exposure to lead.

• Run your water to flush out lead and copper. If water hasn’t been used for several hours, run water for 15-30 seconds or until it becomes cold or reaches a steady temperature before using it for drinking or cooking. This flushes out any stagnant water in your home plumbing and replaces it with fresh water from the water main in your street. For homes with lead service lines, customers may have to flush the line for a longer period, perhaps one minute, before drinking.
• Use cold water for cooking and preparing baby formula. Do not cook with or drink water from the hot water tap; lead dissolves more easily into hot water. Do not use water from the hot water tap to make baby formula.
• Do not boil water to remove lead or copper. Boiling water will not reduce lead or copper. In fact, lead or copper concentrations will be higher in water that is boiled since some of the water is removed as steam.
Use water filters or treatment devices: Many water filters and water treatment devices are certified by independent organizations for effective lead reduction. Devices that are not designed to remove lead will not work. Verify the claims of manufacturers by checking with independent certifying organizations that provide lists of treatment devices they have certified. Please visit NSF International at www.nsf.org , a nonprofit organization that certifies bottled water and water filters. Consumer Affairs Office toll-free hotline: 1-800-673-8010.
• Test your water for lead or copper. Contact our office for more information about getting your water tested. We can provide information about local laboratories that conduct lead testing
• Identify if your plumbing fixtures contain lead. There are lead check swabs that can detect lead on plumbing surfaces such as solder and pipes. These swabs can be purchased at plumbing and home improvement stores.

For more information, read

If my water has high lead levels, is it safe to take a bath or shower?

According to the CDC, bathing and showering should be safe for you and your children, even if the water contains lead over EPA’s action level. Human skin does not absorb lead in water.

For More information, read