Water Quality Investigations


  • Initial investigations use existing data and information from a water system. A report summarizing the information studied includes a list of factors that are most likely influencing the water quality problems of a water system. Recommendations are made for follow-up sampling, if required, and possible steps to remediation of the water quality issues.
  • Follow-up sampling is usually the next step after an initial investigation. Sampling and water analyses are performed strategically to prove or disprove theories about water quality influences that were developed in the initial investigation. This step results in recommendations to remediation of the water quality issues.
  • A monitoring strategy is also developed. Monitoring during remediation of water quality issues is important in order to guide remediation decisions and to show if the efforts are alleviating the problems.

A clear understanding of water chemistry is the fastest path to solving water quality issues. Unfortunately, many misconceptions and assumptions abound about water chemistry and why drinking water quality issues occur. With an understanding of the technical literature, a scientific approach to gathering water quality data, and over eighteen years of water quality investigative experience, Process Research Solutions can sort out the chemical and microbiological factors that are causing the problem. Control of the problem can then focus on the offending factors. Some examples of water quality issues that comprise Process Research Solutions investigations are listed below.

Lead and Copper Rule Compliance

Compliance with the Lead and Copper Rule, one of the Federal primary drinking water regulations, is difficult. The problem is that the Rule assumes that lead and copper only enter the water by means of an electrochemical phenomenon called "uniform corrosion." In reality, there are several mechanisms that can transfer lead and copper into water. Process Research Solutions uses a scientific and methodical approach to determine which mechanism or mechanisms are the most significant in an individual water system. Control of the problem can only come by addressing the offending mechanisms of metal transfer.

Pinhole Leaks in Piping

There are many unresolved cases of pinhole leaks in water piping throughout the United States. Most likely, the investigators have concentrated only on chemical factors that may have caused the leaks. It has been an observation at Process Research Solutions, that microbiological factors are often more significant in such cases. Their evaluation must be part of any meaningful investigation. Process Research Solutions approaches these problems with a broad perspective and scientific techniques to determine the cause of the leaks.

Microbiological Issues

Microorganisms can not only cause pinhole leaks, but they can create other water quality issues as well: increased lead and copper concentrations in the water, expensively high uptake of distribution system disinfection, increased vulnerability of the distribution system to microorganisms that can affect human health, increased color, taste, and odor problems. Process Research Solutions takes a scientific approach to maintain a strong disinfection barrier and lower nutrients in the water in order to control excessive growth of microorganisms. That is, achieving biostability in the water system is the key to controlling microbiological issues. Process Research Solutions can guide water system operators in achieving biostability.


Nitrification is one form of microbiological activity in a water system. It can occur when nitrogen is available in the water for certain microorganisms to utilize as a nutrient for growth of microbiological colonies in the water distribution system. Personnel at water systems that use chloramines for disinfection and water systems where ammonia occurs naturally in the source water should be vigilant for this problem. Process Research Solutions can help water systems set up a program of monitoring and control of nitrification.

Disinfection By-products

Carcinogenic disinfection by-products can be formed when chlorine disinfection combines with organic carbon in the distribution system. The organic carbon, which can occur naturally in the source water is also a nutrient for microorganisms. In a vicious circle, the microbiological population can increase the organic carbon content in the water and use up available disinfection causing more disinfection to be dosed and more disinfection by-products to form. Therefore, the control of disinfection by-products is one of achieving biostability in the water system, where Process Research Solutions has developed techniques.

Total Coliform Rule compliance

The Total Coliform Rule establishes routine monitoring for pathogenic microorganisms - microorganisms that make humans sick very quickly. If a water system is biologically stable, there is low potential for pathogenic microorganisms to grow. Process Research Solutions assists water utilities in achieving and maintaining biostability of their water.


Legionella take a safe haven in the biofilms of other microorganisms, especially in premise plumbing. Process Research Solutions can guide property owners in preventing excessive biofilms from forming in their buildings' plumbing and removing biofilms if they have already formed.

Iron and Manganese Scaling

Historically, iron and manganese have been considered nuisance chemicals in water. They are considered to only stain sinks and laundry over certain concentrations. However, they are now known to play a larger role in harming water quality. Iron and manganese can sorb other metals, such as lead, copper, arsenic, radium, etc. and accumulate them onto iron and manganese scales that have built-up over time in the water mains and smaller lines. When the scales break apart for various hydraulic or chemical reasons, spikes of iron, manganese, and the sorbed metals can show up at the consumers' taps. Process Research Solutions can identify this type of problem and can advise on controlling the situation.

System pH Issues

The water quality characteristic, pH, which indicates how acidic or alkaline the water is, controls many chemical reactions in the water system. It is difficult to balance the pH needs of the known prefered reactions while preventing unwanted chemical reactions from occurring. For example, pH can control the effectiveness of the distribution system disinfection, the stability of protective pipe wall chemical films, and the stability of harmful metals sorbed to pipeline debris. Process Research Solutions can help water systems set up a program to determine an optimum pH with control of unwanted side-effects.

Water Quality Complaint Resolution

When a customer complains about water quality, it pays to listen. They may be identifying a water quality issue that could not be captured by the standard means of regulatory monitoring. Process Research Solutions can help you sort out the chemical and microbiological factors that may have created this situation at a customer's house.