YAPT: What's this black gunk all up my pipes?

phucheneh

Diamond Member
Jun 30, 2012
7,306
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0
Yep, plumbing...you know a certain percentage of ATOT just got hard as a diamond mine.

Pretty basic, though. My old water heater finally crapped out...had rust on the outside of it for years, but is was just some slow seeping. Today, however, I finally got a puddle.

Got the bog standard unit from Home Depot for $228 $248. Goddamn online price difference bullshit, HOW DOES IT COST YOU MORE FOR ME TO LUG THE MOTHERFUCKER ALL THE WAY FROM THE SHELF TO MY CAR?! 'Sorry, you only save $20 if you pay over the internet and pick it up at the curb.' Putting a price on something and writing 'Pick up in store!' below it, then not honoring that price, should constitute advertising fraud. Oops, wrong thread...

...anyway. I went ahead and reused the existing hookups. Had those copper (or some coppery alloy) bendy pipes (very technical when it comes to plumbing). Before I put them on the new heater, I stuck my finger up in them to make sure there were no burrs or old o-rings or sealer of whatever to fuck me up. It is, of course, just habit to shove my fingers into questionable holes.

Finger came out black. Like, entirely super-duper black. Pic incoming...

[edit to change title from 'YABT' to 'YAPT.' Dunno what happened there. Sorry fellas, this one's not about my butt.]
 
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Fenixgoon

Lifer
Jun 30, 2003
29,277
5,458
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could be bacteria.

one of my bosses and i were discussing the degradation of pipes today and he said one reason it can happen is bacteria produce H2S gas, which can cause stress corrosion cracking.
 

Rakehellion

Lifer
Jan 15, 2013
12,181
35
91
What's this black gunk all up my pipes?
That's what your wife said last night. OOOOOOOoOHHHHHHHH!!!!

Got the bog standard unit from Home Depot for $228 $248. Goddamn online price difference bullshit, HOW DOES IT COST YOU MORE FOR ME TO LUG THE MOTHERFUCKER ALL THE WAY FROM THE SHELF TO MY CAR?!
They're trying to stay competitive. Duh.

I had the same issue when I bought a heat gun. The online price was $20 cheaper than the in-store price, but I was already in store. So I ordered it online and arranged for in-store pickup while I was standing in the aisle. Then I waited. And waited. Turns out it takes 4 days to "deliver" the item to the store thought it's already in stock. I just took the item to the customer service desk and asked if they could give me the discount. The girl at the counter copped an attitude, but I sure as hell saved my $20.
 

phucheneh

Diamond Member
Jun 30, 2012
7,306
4
0
They're trying to stay competitive. Duh.
Not sure if this is an intentional reference to Walmart thread or not...I quoted their policy that said 'we don't pricematch ourselves because we're not in competition with ourselves.' Which I found horribly stupid because the policy seems to indicate that they are. Or, at least, the website is competing with the store...but the store just says 'thanks for shopping at Walmart, now fuck off an die because we hate you.'

But as for the topic at hand...I am alarmed that Google is not yielding me much info. Lots of random guesses of algae or bacteria or something alive. Lots of random guesses of certain minerals. No concrete 'this is what makes black residue in copper pipes' statements. :(

FWIW the water coming out of the faucet looks, smells, and tastes normal to me.

Oh, and the gunk was in both the hot and cold pipes at the heater.
 

highland145

Lifer
Oct 12, 2009
42,468
4,915
136
Called the bro...could be from anything. Are you on well water? There should be a galvanized nipple between the heater and the copper. If so, is it lined? Could be cheap ass Chinese tubing and yes, you're going to die.

That's the extent of my vast shallowness of plumbing knowledge.
 

rudeguy

Lifer
Dec 27, 2001
47,371
14
61
why would you randomly cram your finger up a hole?

This is why you don't do that! If you hadn't done that you would never have known and you would be done by now. Now you have to replace every pipe in your house....'
 

lxskllr

No Lifer
Nov 30, 2004
55,521
5,520
126
why would you randomly cram your finger up a hole?

This is why you don't do that! If you hadn't done that you would never have known and you would be done by now. Now you have to replace every pipe in your house....'
There's a lot of truth here. When you go looking for problems, you usually find them.
 

slag

Lifer
Dec 14, 2000
10,473
81
101
I think black gunk in pipes indicates steel pipes. Is your home "older"? I was listening to a show on NPR this weekend and they were talking about this very thing.
 

Scarpozzi

Lifer
Jun 13, 2000
26,191
1,601
126
Chances are, that black gunk is caused by the chemicals used in water treatment. They put a lot of different stuff in the water to make it appealing to drink. My advice is to put a whole house filter or two in your water system and change it out every 3 months.

Water softeners and other chemicals used are notorious for accumulating and sticking to pipes. Just remember that the pressurized water flow will take the path of least resistance and you won't get any new black junk once your lines run for a few seconds to flush what was standing in the lines. It takes 45 seconds to flush the lines in my house completely and that's about 150 feet round trip.

Edit: I have copper pipes and 2 whole house filters in my system. I have one on the hot water side leading to my gas tankless water heater for longevity and I have one under my sink that handles my cold water line. I used a whole house filter here because I only wanted to filter drinking water and figured such a big filter would be far cheaper than a Brita/Pur filter...and it has been. The housings I bought came from Filtersfast.com and were about $15 made by Pentek. I'm not sure if they're that cheap anymore, but the filters are a mere $5-6 depending on what kind I got. It's not that expensive...just spend $50-60 up front and you'll be set for a few years.

I even bought a 3rd filter housing to remove yeast in my beer making equipment and push it between 2 kegs with C02.
 
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Sho'Nuff

Diamond Member
Jul 12, 2007
6,210
114
106
Finger came out black. Like, entirely super-duper black. Pic incoming...
It could be a number of things, but given the proximity to the water heater, I'm going to guess that its silt consisting of a mixture of precipitates from your water and rusted/oxidized innards of your HWH (assuming you have an old school HWH made of galvanized steel that is not glass lined). You might also have header tank system which may be made of galvanizes steel, which can corrode and produce black silt as well. When you disconnected the HWH the silt at the bottom was probably disturbed and worked its way upstream into the connecting pipes.

A lot of people with older hot water heaters have this problem, particularly if they have hard water (high ion content of hard water leads to corrosion).

Also - your old HWH might have had a magnesium based anode rode . . . in which case the black stuff could be magnesium sulfide . . . caused by a reaction of sulfur in your water with the anode rod. Perfectly normal. One way to tell if its MgS is to rub the black stuff between your fingers. If it spreads easily and is greasy, it is probably MgS. From the pic, MgS would be my first guess.

Another possibility (if you have a really old home) is that you have iron pipes, which will corrode over time.

If the residue is "slimy" vs. "greasy" or "gritty" . . . you might want to get it checked out for bacteria. But a HWH is a pretty harsh environment to live in . . . high temp, dark, no real food source, relatively little oxygen. Hard for stuff to "grow" in there. But I suppose it can happen.
 
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phucheneh

Diamond Member
Jun 30, 2012
7,306
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Appreciate the good info, fellas. Even if it's still kind of a list of 'could be's...it's a lot more than I knew.

The substance that came out of the pipes was a little greasy, but not really 'slimy.' Very thin consistency, which is why I was amazed by how dark a coating it formed. My hands have been washed with soap probably six or seven times since then and I still have black in the little creases and shit on that finger.

Didn't really smell. And I neglected to taste it. D:

House is all copper pipe. Main used to be iron. Burst last year, I think, and I started a thread about some work that some shithead plumber did. I am still unsure of what is now buried in my front yard. No well water; it comes down from the Cumberland River. It's ain't the best city water system, for damn sure.

I don't think any silt or sediment explanations seem right...I would expect such to be more solid particles, whereas this seemed like a thin, even coating inside the pipes. No solids.
 

boomerang

Lifer
Jun 19, 2000
18,890
640
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Got that at my place as do all my friends in the area because we're all on well water. Well driller in the area says it's magnesium that is dissolved in the water that clings to the inside of copper pipes. I had my water tested when I installed a new softener 8 or so years ago and the results came back clean for bacteria, nitrates, etc., etc. If I have to turn off the water to work on a faucet or whatever, it comes out with a vengeance afterwards. Without disturbing anything, I never see it.

Oh, and I have a whole house filter ahead of the softener and it makes no difference. I didn't have the filter before the new softener and had the black shit in the lines and I still have black shit after installing the filter along with the softener.
 
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phucheneh

Diamond Member
Jun 30, 2012
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That's...reassuring? I guess. Heh.

I was thinking about doing the 'whole house filter' thing anyhow. Brita filters are kinda of a scam. Pur filters are a super-scam. Since my plumbing is pretty simple, with basically one feed for upstairs and one feed for downstairs, I was thinking I could install a big filter for just the downstairs plumbing. No showers downstairs and the bathroom is rarely used, so it would basically just filter the kitchen and bathroom faucets. And I guess the washing machine.

Just having one under the kitchen sink would cover all human consumption. But it's...a wee bit cramped under there.

You guys have links to what you've used?
 

boomerang

Lifer
Jun 19, 2000
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That's...reassuring? I guess. Heh.
Yeah, I hear ya. It's not a good feeling to know that crap is in your pipes but you just have to get happy with the fact that it's not only there, but it's been there before you even knew about it.

These housings all take a 2 1/2" by 20" filter. I only need to change this filter on well water once a year. There are smaller housings and larger housings. You'll have to decide what's best for you. My housing is opaque and I like it that way. I wouldn't want to be looking at the dirty filter all the time because I'd want to be changing it all the time. The setup I have filters all the water that comes in the house that runs through the softener. I do have my outside faucets on water that does not run through the softener.

http://www.ohiopurewater.com/shop/customer/home.php?cat=756

Edit: Once you decide on a housing size pay attention to the GPM rating on the filters. You can filter down to like one or two microns but there is a point where you really start to restrict water flow. The size of the filter obviously impacts this too. If you know how small a micron is and I think you probably do, you'll know that filtering water that finely is really overkill.

My wife is a fanatic about clean water so we have a faucet at the kitchen sink that provides reverse osmosis water. I have teed into that line to feed the ice cube maker and water in the door of the fridge. I think it's better for us to get water with some minerals in it, but it's easier to just make her happy. I have mounted the filters and the tank on the wall in the basement under the kitchen sink and just run a line up to the faucet.

http://www.ohiopurewater.com/shop/customer/home.php?cat=835
 
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Gillbot

Lifer
Jan 11, 2001
28,830
17
81
I have a whole house filter and you wouldn't believe the shit that it catches.
 

phucheneh

Diamond Member
Jun 30, 2012
7,306
4
0
Wow. What a deal when you compare that to tap filters.

Which filters do you use? I was thinking maybe just put a big standard one with relatively light sediment filtration (1 micron?) under the house to block the big stuff and see if I can squeeze another under the sink and use an activated carbon filter. The cost of the housings would be barely any more than buying a new faucet unit from Brita and the like, and the filters per that site's pricing are at worst about twice as much as a Brita...if you figure the price of a pack. I'm seeing it more as 'half the price of a four-pack' and probably lasts at least as long.

edit: that last bit referring only to the carbon filter. I'd figure a sizable filter on the lower side of the efficency range under the house would last a LONG time since it's only blocking the big stuff. I mean, FFS, if you didn't see my old thread about me flushing my water heater last year...they're piping goddamn river rocks into my house.
 
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boomerang

Lifer
Jun 19, 2000
18,890
640
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I just edited my post above. I mistakenly said 9 3/4" when I meant to say 20". I changed the link to the housings too.

 
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Red Squirrel

No Lifer
May 24, 2003
62,611
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NASTY!

That looks like the same black stuff that forms inside sewer pipes over time. (doubt it is though)

I would flush that out as best as I can. Are you on water meter or is it flat rate? If flat rate I would just let the water flew out of that pipe overnight into a drain. Though if that substance is very oily that might not do much... Worth a shot though.

You are showering in that.
 

boomerang

Lifer
Jun 19, 2000
18,890
640
126
You could fill a swimming pool and the stuff would still be there. The magnesium in solution in the water is attracted to the copper piping.
 

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