Frequently Asked Questions about Drinking Water

Water Quality:

Is there lead in my water?
How is the water treated?
Is the water disinfected?
What are chloramines?
Is my water hard or soft?
Should I buy bottled water?
Is tap water suitable for use in home kidney dialysis machines?
Is tap water suitable for aquariums?

Appearance:

Why does my water occasionally look rusty?
Why does the drinking water sometimes look cloudy when I first turn on the faucet, but then it clears up?
What causes the bluish-green stain where my faucet drips?
What should I do if my water is discolored?

Lake Auburn:

Are boats allowed on Lake Auburn?
Why is Lake Auburn closed to swimming?
Is there any public access to Lake Auburn?
Does Lake Auburn have an invasive plant species?
Can I fish on Lake Auburn?
Are canoes or kayaks allowed on Lake Auburn?
Why is Lake Auburn closed to ice fishing?


Is there lead in my water? Lead is not present in the water supplied to your home or business. However, lead may be present in the plumbing of your home through old soldered joints. The best way to remove it is to run your water a few minutes before using for drinking or cooking. Never take water from the hot tap to make baby formulas, cooking, or for drinking. Be aware of other sources of lead such as paint, soil, dust, and some pottery.

How is the water treated? Lake Auburn has exceptional water quality which minimizes the amount of treatment that is required. Since the lake is of superior quality, the Water District was granted and continues to maintain a waiver from the filtration requirement of the Surface Water Treatment Rule. Lake Auburn is one of 11 surface water sources in Maine that is not required to filter the water This allows us to further protect the watershed by dedicating resources to land acquisition, forestry management, education, and upgrading storage and piping systems while keeping the cost of your water as low as possible.

The Water District does treat the water to ensure its safety. The first treatment step is disinfection by carefully adding measured doses of chlorine to the water to inactivate any pathogens (organisms that might cause disease) that may be present in the water. Fluoride is added to reduce cavities and a blended phosphate is added to minimize lead corrosion in residential plumbing. The acidity of the water is also adjusted using sodium hydroxide to minimize corrosion of copper plumbing.

The disinfection process goes one step further by adding chloramines before the first customer which protects the water while it is in the water pipes leading to our Auburn homes and businesses. Chloramines are made by combining chlorine and ammonia in water. Chloramination began in December of 2003 as a result of stricter EPA standards reducing the amount of disinfection by-products allowed in drinking water. Disinfection by-products form when chlorine reacts with organics in the water. As a result, AWD meets the requirements of the new lower standards and is able to reduce the amount of chlorine added to the water.

Is the water disinfected? Yes. The water is disinfected with chlorine to inactivate any pathogens that may be present in the water.

What are chloramines? Chloramines are made by combining small amounts of chlorine and ammonia in water. After the water is initially disinfected with chlorine only, a small amount of ammonia is added before water enters the distribution system to form chloramines. The chloramines provide for a stable disinfectant residual for water supplied to our customers. The chloramines help reduce the amount of potential disinfection by-products that might occur with chlorine only.

Is my water hard or soft? Lake Auburn water is considered soft. It has 17 milligrams per liter of hardness, which equals one grain per gallon. You do not need to soften your water.

Should I buy bottled water? Drinking water, including bottled water, may reasonably be expected to contain at least small amounts of some contaminants. The presence of contaminants does not necessarily indicate that water poses a health risk. More information about contaminants can be obtained by calling EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Hotline (1-800-426-4791).

Some people may be more vulnerable to contaminants in drinking water than the general population. Immuno-compromised persons such as persons with cancer undergoing chemotherapy, persons who have undergone organ transplants, people with HIV/AIDS or other immune system disorders, some elderly, and infants can be particularly at risk from infections. These people should seek advice about drinking water from their health care providers.

Is tap water suitable for use in home kidney dialysis machines? No. Not without treatment first. Although chloraminated water is safe for everyone to drink (including pets), and can be used for washing, bathing, and watering plants, the chloramines must be removed. Using a Granular Activated Carbon treatment system is common method of removal, but please consult with your medical professionals for further information.

Is the tap water suitable for aquariums? No. The water must be treated prior to use. Chloramines are toxic to fish, amphibians, and reptiles. Please contact your local pet store for suggestions on potential treatment options.

Please note that simply allowing the water to sit out for a few days will not cause the chloramines to dissipate.

Why does my water occasionally look rusty? The presence of iron may cause your water to look yellowish, orange, or maybe rusty. Some portions of the system may have water distribution pipes that are older, cast iron mains. Often times a main break, operation of a fire hydrant or other unusual event can stir up discolored water. If this occurs, run your cold water faucet until it clears. If it persists for an extended period, please alert us as it may indicate a potential problem.

Please note that our crews typically flush hydrants twice a year to help alleviate these types of problems. Typically the flushing occurs in the spring and fall, and we will issue a flushing notice in the Lewiston Sun Journal newspaper to alert customers of this activity.

Why does the drinking water sometimes look cloudy when I first turn on the faucet, but then it clears up? Typically the cloudiness is caused by tiny air bubbles in the water. This is typically a natural occurrence similar to bubbles in a carbonated beverage. While your faucet is off, the bubbles rise to the highest point, which is typically the faucet or water spigot in question. Given the physical properties of water, you are more likely to see this occur during the winter months when the water is cooler.

What causes the bluish-green stain where my faucet drips? A bluish-green stain might be attributed to the corrosion of copper plumbing lines. Although copper is not present in the drinking water, many homes use copper pipes for their water supply lines. We treat your drinking water such that the pH is above neutral to help reduce the potential for corrosion.

What should I do if my water is discolored? Run your cold water tap for a few minutes. Most issues clear up and resolve quite quickly. The cold water tap is recommended so you don’t draw any discolored water into your hot water tank. Please alert us if the problem is chronic and does not clear up after a few minutes.

Are boats allowed on Lake Auburn? Yes, some boats are allowed, such as small recreational boats, canoes, and certain kayaks. Personal watercraft are not allowed. Also restricted from use on the Lake are sailboats and boats with onboard toilet facilities and/or sleeping quarters.

Why is Lake Auburn closed to swimming? Lake Auburn has a strict No Body Contact Rule with fines as high as $2,500 for any violation. This helps us to ensure the highest quality water possible. Although boating is allowed within certain areas, petroleum products like gas and oil tend to float on the surface and evaporate quickly. However, bacteria and viruses that may be present from human contact are much more evasive and persistent, and therefore much more likely to cause potential contamination.

Is there any public access to Lake Auburn? Yes. There is a public boat launch off Route 4 in Auburn. This is the only public access point. The boat launch has a gated access, and the gates are open from sunrise to sunset from ice-out in the spring, til late fall.

Does Lake Auburn have any invasive plant species? Unfortunately, yes. The Lake has some Variable Leaf Milfoil growing in the northern end near the tributary from The Basin. This area is marked with buoys and is closed to boating to help prevent the spread of the invasive plant. The Water District, working together with the Lake Auburn Watershed Protection Commission, is actively pursuing measures to contain the growth.

To educate the public about invasive aquatic plants, and to help prevent their accidental spreading, Maine Law requires all boaters to display a Lake and River Protection sticker if they are operating on fresh water. The stickers cost $10 for residents and $20 for non-residents. Stickers are available from any town hall in the state of Maine, as well as all retail outlets where fishing licenses are sold.

Can I fish on Lake Auburn? Yes. Fishing is allowed on the Lake within the delineated Open Area. Part of the Lake is closed to all activity including fishing, boating, and trespassing. This Closed Area is clearly marked by a line of buoys which extend across the Lake starting at the boat launch. The Closed Area is to the left of the line of buoys, as viewing from the boat launch (south side of Lake). Please refer to Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife rules and regulations regarding any special provisions for fishing.

Are canoes or kayaks allowed on Lake Auburn? Canoes and certain kayaks are allowed within the marked Open Area. Kayaks must be greater than 12 feet or greater in length with a closed hull. The kayak must be of solid construction and the operator must navigate and launch without any body contact with the water. The use of a spray skirt is required. The Closed Area is off limits to boating of any type.

Why is the Lake closed to ice fishing? The Lake is closed to ice fishing to protect the public water supply. The activities associated with ice fishing are very different than boat fishing, and would likely have very negative impacts on the water quality of our drinking water supply.