The union that connects the copper pipe and the nipple that comes out of the
heater for the hot water is corroded. I got a plumber here to replace it.
He got here, turned off water, turned off electric, unscrewed the union and
wow, I saw some scary stuff. Inside the union. It's black, looks like a
pile of tar. I could not believe it. I was wondering if it could be sewage
back flowing into the water heater, totally black yucky stuff. He looked at
it and told me it's normal, just "stuff" from minerals in the water getting
heated and turn into this. Is this normal? It looks scary to me, that
stuff is in the water I take shower with? Could it be sewage blackflow?
Just don't drink it! LOL
He's right. Normal. Not sewage.
The water in the heater is ideal for organic growth of all kinds.
Molds thrive, some bacteria don't mind the high temps.
Worse if you are on well water, not chlorinated,
but happens on city water too.
Now the bad news.
There IS a genuine threat from Legionnaires' disease in the home.
Remember the cases some years back?
If the bacteria exists INSIDE the water heater it will be
carried off in an atomized spray by the shower head,
perfect for inhaling into the lungs!!
Read this article carefully:
Then, do a GOOGLE search for: "water heater" legionnaires
I don't know if it's inside the water heater or not. This is something that
was on the inside of the connection where the hot water comes out of the
heater, so it is travelling along with the hot water, and when I looked
closer to a section of copper pipe he cut out from the hot water supply
line, it's sort of greasy and brown.
While you didn't say it, I bet the nipples (and maybe the union) were steel.
What you see there is soft corrosion products (rust) which cngegates
there because of galvanic corrosion from to the juncture of dissimilar
metals. If you run copper, including a copper union, all the way to the
tank you won't get that stuff there.
The page from Rheem explains it:
I've had this problem over the years -- corrosion at or next to the pipe
nipples. With steel nipples and copper piping the nipple corrodes like mad
in our softened hard water. With copper nipples, corrosion occurs on the
tank next to the nipple. Recently, plastic lined steel nipples have become
available for this connection. I got mine at Lowe's after reading about
them somewhere. I'm very hopeful that this will solve a pesky problem.
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