Home Blog Water Softener Discharge on Lawn – How Safe is it?

Water Softener Discharge on Lawn – How Safe is it?

by Jackson White

Have you ever thought about what happens when a water softener gets discharged into your yard or garden? When your home has one, there are certain things that can happen and they’re not good for anyone. This type of pollution causes many problems in our environment including damage to plants, insects and other creatures living nearby as well as making them sick. If you have any interest at all in preventing these types of events from happening, then read on!

First off let’s look at some facts about water softeners…

The average residential household uses approximately 1 million gallons per day (1 MGD)

There are over 50 brands available in North America today with more coming online every year

Over 80% of Americans own a home with a private swimming pool. They use an estimated 500 million litres of chlorine each year

As you’ve probably guessed by now, we’re talking about a large amount of waste being generated each day. It doesn’t take much imagination to see just where this might end up should the current trend continue. We need only think of the millions of tons of sewage that ends up flowing through rivers and eventually out to sea via oceans around the world. Now add in all those chemicals and fertilizers used to keep grass healthy, plus all the pesticides applied to crops, etc., etc., you get my point. All of these pollutants go right back underground again after their brief appearances above ground. And guess where most of them end up? Right back under your feet. As if that isn’t bad enough, here’s another fact: Most of us don’t even know that this stuff exists until something goes wrong. That usually happens when someone decides to put down fertilizer on top of a water softener. Or worse yet, they decide to dump old paint cans and motor oil directly onto the ground. You may be asking yourself why people would do such crazy things. Well, like everything else, sometimes humans aren’t very bright.

Now that we understand better the potential consequences of having a water softener in your backyard, let’s talk a little bit about what actually happens once you turn it on. First of all, you must remember that your water softener will always be producing saltier than normal tap water. So, while this won’t cause any harm initially, it does mean that there will be additional salts present in the water supply going forward. Also, because the minerals contained within the brine solution begin to dissolve themselves in order to make room for the new added sodium ions, this means that the resulting mixture becomes harder and less attractive to fish, which is exactly why so many people choose to store their softeners outside. One last thing to consider is that during periods of heavy usage, particularly overnight, the softened water inside your house could become contaminated with bacteria and odours due to higher temperatures and humidity levels. These conditions tend to encourage microbial growth. However, since no one wants to drink dirty water anyway, it shouldn’t pose too great a problem. At least, not initially.

So far we’ve talked mainly about chemical contaminants. But did you know that there’s also the possibility of radioactive contamination from the use of nuclear power sources? Yes, this really happens. Although relatively small amounts of radiation do pass through soil naturally, it was found that in areas near nuclear facilities, the level of radon gas was significantly increased. Radon gas is formed deep below surface layers of earth primarily as a result of natural geological processes involving uranium decay products. Once trapped by soils, however, it cannot escape easily and therefore builds up steadily, especially in homes built near sites generating high concentrations of radioactivity. Studies revealed that indoor air contains three times as much radon as outdoor air. While low doses of ionizing radiation are known to kill cells, causing cancer or birth defects, exposure to higher quantities can lead to acute effects such as headaches, nausea, skin burns, eye irritation, lung inflammation, liver damage and thyroid malfunctioning. Not surprisingly, children are generally affected the worst.

In summary, we’ve learned that although harmless at first, excess consumption of sodium chloride by way of using a water softener can result in serious health risks later on. Additionally, the presence of toxic substances such as mercury, cadmium, zinc, arsenic, chromium, boron, nickel, cyanide, fluoride, chloroform and carbon tetrachloride can occur. Finally, radioactive materials such as tritium, strontium 90 and cesium 137, among others, may enter groundwater supplies by way of leaking pipes or tank vents. Needless to say, none of these factors are desirable for human health. Therefore, the best option to avoid this situation altogether is simply to remove the unit itself entirely. Unfortunately, this approach presents its share of challenges, namely cost and space requirements. For example, removing a whole system costs thousands of dollars and takes many hours of work. Alternatively, you can try installing a second filter downstream from your main water heater but this requires extensive plumbing changes, along with extra energy consumption. Still, nothing beats prevention so before long you’ll want to replace your existing softener with a newer model that produces fewer harmful residues. Otherwise, you’ll have to start thinking about ways to reduce the size of the unit without sacrificing quality. Remember, time is money!

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