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Cornelius News

Cornelius H2O: pH is A-OK

Oct. 13. By Dave Yochum. As if the coronavirus wasn’t enough to worry about, a former mayor of Cornelius late last week said local tap water is problematic. Now he says it’s fine after all. So does Charlotte Water, the water utility.

On Facebook former Mayor Jeff Tarte said “beware if you are on Charlotte Water they are sending water to homes that is outside safe pH ranges. You should have your water tested. Our home tested outside the safe pH range. The water may contain contaminates and do harm to your water pipes.”

Former NC Sen. Jeff Tarte was mayor of Cornelius

The quote is from Facebook where anything goes. Nevertheless, local officials took Tarte’s comments seriously and mobilized over the weekend.

Investigation on tap

Cornelius Mayor Woody Washam directed Town Manager Andrew Grant to reach out to Charlotte Water “to get an answer and resolution.”

In an email exchange among Tarte, who is also a former state senator, Washam, Grant and Town Commissioner Jim Duke, Tarte said Charlotte Water must “address and report on this issue as well as how they plan to take care of this.”

What is pH?

The issue, according to Tarte’s Facebook post, was pH, shorthand for potential of hydrogen. pH is measured on a scale that runs from 0 to 14. Seven is neutral, meaning there is a balance between acid and alkalinity. Below 7 means acid is present; above 7 is alkaline.

Water with a pH level above 8.5 indicates an elevated level of alkaline minerals. This does not pose a health risk, but can cause scale build-up in plumbing, not to mention less efficiency in electric water heaters.

Commissioner Duke, who distinguished himself as a consumer advocate when the old Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utility Dept. was over-charging local customers, said Charlotte Water’s principal plant was reporting pH at 8.3.

How far out of whack?

Asked how out of whack his water was, Tarte, who is public policy chair of the Lake Norman Chamber, said: “Logarithmically a lot. My wife’s words as the scientist in the family. Enough she is concerned and is trying to get Charlotte Water to respond. Not enough that I think it puts anyone at health risk short-term. We don’t drink tap water anyway. We use filtered water for drinking and cooking. Really just for bathing and cleaning.”

Water under the bridge

There was a scramble to test the Tarte’s water. It turns out it’s fine and the former NC senator said as much on Facebook: “Charlotte Water update! THE WATER IS FINE! Actually turns out to be the perfect pH for drinking water!”

Cornelius officials were dismayed Tarte stirred up concerns on Facebook when Flint, Michigan made national news for failing their water customers when their system had dangerous levels of lead.

Charlotte Water responds

On Monday, Charlotte Water’s lab personnel spoke with Dr. Nancy Tarte, the former senator’s wife, by phone.

A technician performed field water quality testing at the outdoor spigot, meter and inside tap at the Tarte residence. “The results indicated at all three locations that the pH is 8.4. A lab supervisor and water treatment administrator are contacting the Tartes to follow up with the results. Field conversations indicated that the Tartes understand and appreciate the testing today.”

Water quality, including taste, is a science

Drinking water at Charlotte Water’s Dukes Water Treatment plant, which serves the northern areas of Mecklenburg County, consistently has a pH of 8.5-8.6. As water moves through the distribution system, water chemistry can change.

Widespread monitoring of the distribution system indicates pH of the drinking water is always within compliance, according to Charlotte Water. At the distribution system water monitoring station closest to the Tarte residence, the pH averages 8.5.

Charlotte Water is permitted to provide drinking water at a pH range of 7.0-9.2. Drinking water is treated to a slightly basic pH of around 8.6 so as to reduce corrosion of pipes throughout the distribution system.

In case you have concerns

If you have concerns about your drinking water, Charlotte Water says call 311 immediately. Laboratory technicians can take samples to test the water using highly-calibrated, certified equipment and test methods.

Visit charlottewater.org to review CW’s published Customer Confidence Reports for the past 6 years.