Our Frequently Asked Questions


What are Secondary Standards?

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has established National Primary Drinking Water Regulations that set mandatory water quality standards for drinking water contaminants. These are enforceable standards called “maximum contaminant levels” or “MCLs”, which are established to protect the public against consumption of drinking water contaminants that present a risk to human health. An MCL is the maximum allowable amount of a contaminant in drinking water which is delivered to the consumer .

In addition, EPA has established National Secondary Drinking Water Regulations that set non-mandatory water quality standards for 15 contaminants. EPA does not enforce these “secondary maximum contaminant levels” or “SMCLs.” They are established only as guidelines to assist public water systems in managing their drinking water for aesthetic considerations, such as taste, color and odor. These contaminants are not considered to present a risk to human health at the SMCL.

Secondary Maximum Contaminant Levels

Contaminant  Secondary MCL Noticeable Effects above the  Secondary MCL
Aluminum 0.05 to 0.2 mg/L* colored water
Chloride 250 mg/L salty taste
Color 15 color units visible tint
Copper 1.0 mg/L metallic taste; blue-green staining
Corrosivity Non-corrosive metallic taste; corroded pipes/ fixtures staining
Fluoride 2.0 mg/L tooth discoloration
Foaming agents 0.5 mg/L frothy, cloudy; bitter taste; odor
Iron 0.3 mg/L rusty color; sediment; metallic taste; reddish or orange staining
Manganese 0.05 mg/L black to brown color; black staining; bitter metallic taste
Odor 3 TON (threshold odor number) “rotten-egg”, musty or chemical smell
pH 6.5 – 8.5 low pH: bitter metallic taste; corrosion 
high pH:
 slippery feel; soda taste; deposits
Silver 0.1 mg/L skin discoloration; graying of the white part of the eye
Sulfate 250 mg/L salty taste
Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) 500 mg/L hardness; deposits; colored water; staining; salty taste
Zinc 5 mg/L metallic taste
* mg/L is milligrams of substance per liter of water


What is the hardness of my water?

Hardness levels in Maine waters are generally low but can range from near zero to several hundred milligrams per liter as calcium carbonate (mg/L as CaCO3), the standard unit for hardness. Our water has a hardness value of  63 and is described as soft, as you can see from the following table.

Hardness Range
(mg/L as CaCO3)
0 – 75 Soft
75 – 150 Moderately hard
150 – 300 Hard
More than 300 Very hard


The term “hard water” does not have a precise definition but is usually used to describe water which does not lather well when soap is added or which forms a scale inside hot water heaters. These problems are caused by high concentrations of the naturally occurring elements calcium and magnesium which depends largely on the local bedrock.

While there are no health-related regulations pertaining to drinking water hardness, a value below 100 mg/L is ideal for ordinary domestic purposes. Therefore, water softening for our residential customers is not necessary.

What is a Cross-Connection?

Contaminants from cross-connected plumbing can backflow into drinking water supplies. A backflow is just what it sounds like: water is flowing in the opposite direction from its normal flow. Without proper protection, something as useful as a garden hose can contaminate the water supply inside your home. When you use a sprayer on the end of a hose, a change in water pressure could cause the water, and the chemicals, to flow in the opposite direction into your home. You can install simple, inexpensive devices on water taps to prevent backflow hazards within your home. To protect the our water system from contamination, we require all service connections to be protected by a backflow protection device commensurate with the degree of hazard as determined by the Water Association.

How can I learn more about Cross-Connections?

Visit U.S. EPA‘s Cross-Connection Control webpage.

Visit the State of Maine’s Drinking Water Programs’s webpage.

Sugarloaf Water Association’s Cross Connection Control and Backflow Prevention Program

Does our water meet EPA standards?

In order to ensure that tap water is safe to drink, USEPA prescribes regulations which limit the amount of certain contaminants in water provided by public water systems. The water supplied to our customers meets or exceeds all federal and state drinking water standards. Our team not only meets all state and federal requirements, but performs additional monitoring and testing to assure our customers water is of the highest quality possible.

What substances do we test for?

USEPA requires routine monitoring for more than 80 regulated substances and many unregulated substances. We test our wells, treated surface water, surface water source, at customer water taps and at representative sampling points throughout the water distribution system.

Who analyzes these samples?

All water test collected for state and federal compliance are analyzed by the Maine Health and Environmental Testing Laboratory or by Northeast Laboratory Services

What if a contaminant is found in the water?

If a sample failed to meet one of these standards, the Water Association would take immediate action to confirm the finding, correct the problem and would issue an alert with guidance on how to protect yourself and your family until the problem was corrected.

What is the pH of our water?

The pH level ranges from 6.5 to 8.0 in our distribution system. The average pH is 7.5. (Note: pH is measured on a scale of 0 to 14. A pH of 7 is neutral, a pH level above 7 indicates alkalinity, and pH levels of less than 7 indicate acidity.)

What about lead in my water?

Our source water does not contain lead or copper. Lead and copper typically get into drinking water as a result of corrosion of plumbing systems (pipes, faucets, and lead solder) in customer’s homes. Over the past 18 years, select customers have collected samples for lead and copper testing from taps in their homes. Even in “worst case” scenario homes (homes built between 1982 and 1987) most tap water was well below USEPA’s Action Levels for lead and copper. If you are concerned about lead and copper in water in your home, you may want to have your water tested. For a fee, private laboratories will test your water. Be sure to ask if the lab is certified to perform lead and copper testing on drinking water.

Why does my water smell like rotten eggs?

Bacteria growing in sink drains can make hydrogen sulfide gas. The gas causes rotten egg smells that appear to be coming from the water. The smell is really coming from the drain. When water runs down the drain, the gas is forced out where you can smell it. A cup of household bleach poured down the drain will help kill the bacteria and take care of the smell. Hot water heaters can also harbor bacteria that cause rotten egg smells. If your sink drain is not the source, check your hot water heater for rotten egg smells.

Why is my water cloudy?

Water in the distribution system is under pressure. Air sometimes dissolves in the water in the pressurized lines. At the faucet, the air gives water a “cloudy” or “milky” appearance. The quality of the water is not affected. Let the water stand in an open container for a few minutes. The air in the water will disperse to the atmosphere.

Do I need to flush out my hot water heater?

Customers sometimes report white particles that clog plumbing fixtures. They may be bits of calcium carbonate scale coming from your water heater. The scaling may be worsened because the water heater thermostat is set too high. If the particles are calcium carbonate, you probably need to flush your water heater. Many manufacturers recommend periodic flushing of water heaters to remove sediment that can build up. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions to clean your hot water heater.

How can I get Water Quality information?

Information about drinking water quality is available from Our Water Quality Page

What about home water treatment devices?

No one unit takes out every kind of drinking water contaminant: you must decide which type best meets your needs. For information, read USEPA’s pamphlet Home Water Treatment Units. The pamphlet can also be requested by contacting the USEPA Safe Drinking Water Act Hotline, 800-426-4791.

How do I get a private well tested?

For tips on testing private wells contact the The Drinking Water Program at 207-287-2070. A pamphlet, Drinking Water From Household Wells, is also available by contacting the USEPA Safe Drinking Water Act Hotline at 800-426-4791. For a fee, a private laboratory will test your well. Make sure that the laboratory is certified to test drinking water. For a list of certified laboratories contact us.