Radium In Waukesha Water

It’s been pretty well-reported that Waukesha radium levels exceed federal health guidelines.

Radium is a naturally occurring radioactive carcinogen.  It is definitely unhealthy.

Here is the reality:  there is radium in the Waukesha city supply it is probably not in your water.

Water Softener & Radium Removal

A functioning water softener removes the overwhelming majority of radium.  For example, the certifications on our Premier series softeners exceed 80% elimination.

As Waukesha water is narrowly over the health rule, a reduction of 80% puts your water well below the limit.

If you are on Waukesha municipal water, you either have or should have a water softener.   It might be for appliance life.  It might be to save on energy costs.  It might be to save on cleaning product cost.  It might be simply for softer skin and hair.

But it is also removing the majority of that radium.

How Does A Water Softener Remove Radium?

Water softeners operate on this concept of “ion selectivity.”  What it means is that the “most attractive” ion is going to stick to the resin.  On a basic level, radioactive thingies are more attractive than rock-based thingies.  More or less, a water softener will look first for radium, then settle for calcium.

Is It Safe To Drink Soft Water?

Kind of.  There is no concern over the tiny amount of sodium.  The level varies based on your water’s hardness.  Many people have softened water with less sodium than many bottled waters.

What we’re comparing is a radioactive carcinogen v. a level of sodium that is not an issue on the Mayo Clinic’s 2,000 mg diet.  The sodium is definitely not worse than the radioactive carcinogen.

Personally, I don’t like softened water.  I drink from a reverse osmosis system, but that isn’t from sodium concerns.  Most of the things I’d prefer not to put in my body are odorless, colorless and tasteless.

Specific to radium, a functioning water softener will have almost undetectable levels.

Reverse Osmosis v. Carbon Filtration

One of the more common questions we receive is about the options for drinking water filtration.

Two of the leading technologies for drinking water filtration are carbon-based filters and reverse osmosis filtration.

They are decidedly different technologies with very different levels of drinking water quality.

What is Removed:  Reverse Osmosis v. Carbon Filtration

Water May Contain: “Reverse Osmosis / Carbon Combination” “Carbon Block or Activated Carbon”
Bad/Foul Taste Removes Improves
Odor Removes Improves
Turbidity Removes Reduces
Organic Compounds* Removes Removes
Chlorine & THMs Removes Removes
Bacteria Removes May Control Growth**
Viruses Removes Will Not Remove
Cysts Removes Removes Some
Parasites Removes Removes Some
Arsenic Removes Will Not Remove
Heavy Metals*** Removes Removes Some
Dissolved Solids**** Removes Will Not Remove
Fluoride Removes Will Not Remove

*Organic Compounds – include Pesticides, Herbicides, and Insecticides.

**Silver-Impregnated Carbon – can control bacterial growth.

***Heavy Metals – include Iron, Lead, Cadmium, and Aluminum.

****Dissolved Solids – include Sodium, Calcium, Magnesium, and inorganic minerals.


Carbon Filters

Carbon filtration is one of the oldest technologies on the planet.  These types of filters cover a broad spectrum of options.

On the extreme low-end, that’s carbon gravel.  These are the refrigerator filters or Brita cartridges.  It’s the same carbon gravel you buy in an aquarium store.  These filters will remove some chlorine.

Better filters would be carbon in a block form, some being “activated carbon” or similar.   Most of these will remove more chlorine.

A high-quality carbon filter is often more effective than a low-end reverse osmosis system.  An example of this would be our Always Fresh filter.  It removes 99.99% of chlorine.   It will remove volatile organic compounds and heavy metals.

A reverse osmosis system will use a high-quality carbon filter.  These are often called the “taste and odor” filter.

Reverse Osmosis

Reverse osmosis is a membrane technology.   These thin-film composite (TFC) membranes force water over a semi-permeable membrane.

Most will consist of three stages:

Pre-Filter:  The purpose is to remove sediment and particulate that can ruin the filter.

Membrane: This is the important part and quality matters.  The membrane is what separates out the water from the non-water.

Post-Filter:  This is the taste & odor part of the system.  Carbon filters will “polish” the taste and flavor of the water.

Be wary of 4-stage, 5-stage, or 20-stage systems.  They’re usually just unnecessary, redundant filters.  Read: Gimmick that increases your cost of operation.

Better systems, such as our Kinetico K5 Reverse Osmosis, will have expansion ports.  This isn’t for two taste and odor filters, but for an optional system expansion.  Examples would be specific-purpose cartridges such as:

  • Arsenic elimination
  • Mineral addition / pH adjustment
  • Virus guards

The Difference

These two technologies are different.  Carbon is not bad, we use it for whole-home dechlorination.  When it comes to drinking water, there is a massive difference.

The difference between reverse osmosis and carbon filtration is, simply, that size matters.

Everything in water has a size.  This is measured in microns.  Most carbon filters have NSF Class I ratings.  This means that they remove 85% of particles sized 0.5-1 micron.

Reverse osmosis systems can filter down to .001 micron.  That’s a 500x’s size difference in capacity.

Here is a quick table on items, their size, and why you use reverse osmosis for better drinking water:

Removing Chlorine From Water

Removing Chlorine From Water

Most folks are now aware that chlorine is unhealthy in drinking water.

According to U.S. Council of Environmental Quality, the cancer risk to people who drink chlorinated water is 93 percent higher than among those whose water does not contain chlorine.

A part of the health concern is the chlorine.  A bigger component is that chlorine creates toxic disinfection byproducts.

An example of these is a category called Total Trihalomethanes (TTHMs).  This group represents 10’s of thousands of individual compounds.  Most of these are either known or believed carcinogens.  Chloroform is an example of these TTHM’s.

The good news is that removing chlorine also reduces TTHM’s, insecticides, pesticides and more.

Drinking Water v. Whole House Filter

The minimum level of dechlorination for the average home is for drinking water.

Many of the low-end carbon filters (refrigerators, Brita etc.) carry certifications that guarantee at least 50% elimination of chlorine.

On higher-end carbon or reverse osmosis systems, the percent eliminated exceeds 99%.

Whole-house filters that remove chlorine are among the fastest growing segment in water treatment.   There are three big reasons:

  1. Water Softener Life: The #1 reason that water softeners wear out on city water is the chlorine.  It is an oxidant that breaks down the softener resin into mush.  Short of mechanical valve failures, this is why a water softener is no longer providing soft water.
  2. Happier Skin and Hair:  A good dermatologist will recommend dechlorinating water.  A common source of ailments like dermatitis or eczema is the chlorine.   The chlorine that dries out the skin also dries out the hair.
  3. Safer Vapor In The Shower: Who doesn’t enjoy a good shower?  The steam, the hot water, the quiet.  By dechlorinating the water, shower vapors are free of chlorine, TTHMs and volatile organics.  Our circulatory and respiratory systems fight environmental contaminants that are out of our control.  Inside the shower, that’s in our control.

It’s generally better to remove chlorine on a whole home basis.

Residential systems that remove chlorine generally range from $799-1,199.   The prices range based on the flow requirements of the home.  Contact us for an exact quote.

Waukesha Water Softener & Reverse Osmosis Needs


We received a call from a customer, the thought was that his water softener was not working.  Another company had been out there previously, diagnosing the system as something that could not be fixed.  We’ll concur.  The electronics on the system were shot and repair simply wouldn’t make fiscal sense.

The implications of the hard water were pretty common.  Like a lot of phone calls we get, one catalyst was from the doctor.  The diagnosis will range from eczema to dermatitis to some other skin-related issue, typically impacting the kids.  The nature of this is that the hard water is binding with the soap and creating a soap curd that irritates the skin.


The well for this house was running 26 grains of hardness.  While this is slightly higher than normal for the area, it’s close enough to normal amounts. For context, water is soft at 0 and 1 grains.  Over 3 grains is hard.  So we’re running 866% of the amount of hardness that makes water hard.

The term “hard” water was an old laundromat term.  It’s “hard” to get sheets and towels clean with that water.  The soap residue simply won’t rinse away.  As such, it makes sense why the kids are having the skin-related issues.

The iron was 0.75 parts per million (ppm).  All of this iron was in its soluble or ferrous state.  That type of iron can be removed by a functioning water softener.

The total dissolved solids (TDS) were extremely high at 1,440 ppm.  The reverse osmosis system was producing water at 197 ppm.  That elimination rate of just over 85% is unacceptable for a reverse osmosis system.


There are four children ranging in age from 6 to 12 years old.  While that’s a lot of mouths to feed, it’s also a lot of showers to take and clothes to wash.  As these kids change from just kids to teenagers over the next couple of years, the water consumption is only going to go up.

Here is the problem.  A family of 6 using 75 gallons per person per day on 26 grain water needs to remove 11,700 grains of hardness per day.  They have two bad choices on those old single-tank, electric dinosaurs.

Using the standard setting for Brand X’s softener, it has capacity of 28,060 grains and uses 10 pounds to regenerate.  That’s 2.39 days’ of capacity.

Option 1: Regenerate before running out of soft water.  That would mean getting just 2 days’ worth of soft water for a 10 pound salt investment.  So they get basically 23,400 grains of hardness for each 10 pounds.

Option 2: Run out of soft water with 0.6 of a day left before the next regeneration.  This will save some money on salt or wear & tear on the well pump.  However, then we’re back to where we are now.  The hard water will make laundry and dishes a mess, skin will get irritated, etc.  There’s also another thing that happens here.  Reverse osmosis membranes are great at a lot of things.  They’re horrible as water softeners.  It leads to a shortened membrane life, increase the cost, and leave periods of questionable drinking water quality before buying a new membrane.



The twin-tank Kinetico is the high-efficiency choice.  It’s non-electric operation allows for both tanks to be exhausted in full before regenerating.  This eliminates the waste of a single-tank softener and affords a continuous, uninterrupted stream of soft water.


The recommendation is the Kinetico Premier Series S250 softener.  For context, the S250 softener removes 4,368 grains of hardness for every pound of salt that it uses.  That’s almost half the amount of salt that any Brand X competitor would use.

Their drinking system had failed.  Behind the Premier Series S250 softener, the always-exceptional Kinetico K5 Reverse Osmosis system carries not just a 10 year warranty on the parts, but a full 10 year warranty on the membrane as well.


Sitting here towards the end of 2015, we’re talking about a family of 6.  By the time the warranties run out on the systems, one child should be out of college and the youngest of the 4 will be moving out of Driver’s Ed and into SAT/ACT prep work.

Incidentally, this same product recommendation was made on the equivalent models we carried in 1985.  It was sold by Jack Hug.  Jack used to babysit me at the office when my parents would step out for a quick bite to eat.  1985.  That’s a long time ago.  I went and tested the equipment for a customer yesterday on her Brookfield well.

The softener was testing at 0 grains of hardness on both the hot and cold.  The reverse osmosis was still performing to the original specs from 30 years ago.

If you’d like a quick no-cost of your water quality and options, please give us a call or schedule an appointment using the form on the page.


Mukwonago Iron Filter & Reverse Osmosis Needs


This was a relatively common for Mukwonago area.  The family was seeing the typical high-levels of iron and the catalyst for the call was that they were seeing staining in toilets, tubs, and sinks even with the water softener in the home.



After testing the water at this families home, we confirmed that issue and identified a couple of problems.

Iron Issues

The total iron was over 3.5 parts per million (ppm).  Like many wells, some of the iron was in the soluble/ferrous state, some was in the insoluble/ferric state.  For them, the breakdown was 1.5 ppm of the ferrous type–a functioning softener will remove this.  The other 2 ppm were in the ferric state.

That form of iron will just fly through the water softener and was the root cause of the staining.  The general rule of thumb is that iron will stain at around 0.3 ppm.  So for this family, that 2 ppm is almost 700% of the iron required to stain.

Water Softener

The water softener was “working.”  Working is a tough decision.  They were using well over 100 pounds of salt per month on just 13 grains of hardness.  For context, on our Premier S250 series softener, their consumption should have been closer to about 20 pounds of salt per month.

Reverse Osmosis

The reverse osmosis system had failed.  The total dissolved solids (TDS) were at 374 ppm on the raw water.  The water coming from the RO was at 57.  That’s less than 85% of the solids being removed.



There are two ways to address their problems.  The softener is somewhat working, it just isn’t working well and it’s on its last legs.  The operating cost on the softener is about an extra $10/month in salt.

Kinetico 4060 - Combination Softener and Filter

Kinetico 4060 – Combination Softener and Filter

There is a partial fix that remedies the iron problem:  Add an iron filter.  With our oxidizing iron filter put before the softener, we can reduce some of that waste.  It will eliminate any iron (both forms) and reduce the salt demand on the softener to an extent.  It’s less expensive in the short-term, more expensive in the long-run as the softener is nearing end of life.

The real fix is the Kinetico 4060 Macrolite softener.  It’s slightly less expensive than most companies’ combo of an iron filter + a single-tank old style softener; however, it picks up the high efficiency of the Kinetico non-electric, twin-tank (quad tank in this setup) design.

When it comes to drinking water, it’s really hard to have the Kinetico K5 Reverse Osmosis system and not recommend it.  This young family has utterly unsuitable drinking water coming from an extremely old reverse osmosis system.   An <85% rejection on an RO system will indicate that something is going on.  These microscopic tears in the membrane offer a path of zero-resistance for contaminants and organisms to get through.  Specific to those microorganisms, they then hit a carbon filter where they have time to regroup and multiply.

Kinetico K5 Drinking Station

Kinetico K5 Drinking Station

With the K5 Reverse Osmosis, paired with the consistently soft water from the Kinetico 4060 system, both systems run a full 10 year warranty, including the membrane.

That’s unheard of in the water industry to the point where most companies not only don’t warranty the membrane, they force you to buy a new one every 12 months.

You might have some, all or none of these problems.  As always, give us a call or click through the quick form to request an in-home, no-cost analysis of your water and options.