Plumbing in the Home/Dirt in Hot Water


QUESTION: Just installed a new gas Hot Water heater. Its been in less than a month. Noticed dirt coming out of HW line. Called back plumber and he replaced the anode. The old on had collected junk on it and he thought it was the source of the issue.I asked what caused it. He said the only thing he could think of was the electrical ground in the house was compromised. Recently had a new bath room installed with plumbing and electrical work. Do you think there is some truth to the plumbers comment and I need to pursue the grounding issue?

ANSWER: Dear Tom,

   The purpose of the anode rod is to attract corrosion and provide a soft metal for any electrolysis that may be occurring...  The rod is supposed to absorb the deterioration that would otherwise occur to the other metal parts of the water heater.

   Over time various types of sediment settle and build up in various places in the plumbing system.  The process of replacing the water heater and any other parts of the system can cause bits of that sediment and dirt to become dislodged.  It's possible that you have increased water flow with the new water heater which could also result in sediment becoming dislodged and appearing from the faucets.

   As for the electrical grounding of the house, you can have that checked by a electrician, or you can simply locate the grounding rod outside.... usually near the electric meter.  Then check the copper wire following it to it's connection to the copper, and/or steel pipes which may be in the house.

You can choose to add a sediment filter to your house for a fairly low cost.  The cartridges can last for several months and can extend the life of your water heater considerably.

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QUESTION: Would the wireing cause the problem in this brand new installation. I think it would be more likely that sediment got dislodged in the system with the installation of the new tank.

ANSWER: The wiring would not be causing the appearance of sediment or dirt in the water.... the grounding of the pipes is important to prevent electrolysis by which copper, aluminum and other soft metals become degraded.

The appearance of the sediment or dirt was most likely caused by vibrations of working on the pipes and/or the changes in the water flow and pressure which resulted from the parts that have been replaced.

I strongly doubt that there is anything harmful about the dirt that you are seeing.  

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: One last question. The plumber replaced the anode rod with a new one. The new one was smooth. The one replaced was dirty with a lot of what I call harden slime on it. Would you expect a water heaters anode which was operational for less than a month to look like it did?


Above is a link to a page of photos which show various anode rods both new and old....

The anode rod which you described as having been removed sounds as though it had been in an environment which activated it....  the hardened slime on the rod was the corrosion of the rod which is what the rod is supposed to do.  It probably was not necessary for the first rod to be replaced.

Next is a search page with links to articles about anode rods and how long they last.  You might find these interesting.

I think if I had the opportunity, I would remove and inspect the anode rod about once a month and take photos to examine the action and to see how long it will actually last.  Electrolysis is just one part of the rod's job....  water quality has a large impact on it as well.

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Thomas Ambler


I am experienced at troubleshooting and solving all types of plumbing problems. Issues related to specific manufacturers fixtures and specifications though are beyond my field of expertise. I have dealt with problems in both rural and urban areas, and with water supply and drainage systems. Plumbing issues can be very obscure... such as odors, stains or occasional seepage. I have even had to chase rats from a customer's sewer line.


I have 25 years experience dealing with plumbing systems (which also includes hot water and steam heating systems). My main expertise is in diagnosing and solving problems. I have worked in construction and installation of new systems but do not regard myself as an expert in that area.

Asbury Park Press, Seattle Times, Denver Post.

I completed high school and one year of college. I served 4 years in the Marine Corps and have education in electronic and electrical troubleshooting and repair. I have attended classes on installing and repair of oil burners, and I have EPA universal certification for air conditioning and refrigeration. I am now enrolled as a full-time student at Everest college to re-train for a new career. Any donations of financial support would be greatly appreciated.

Past/Present Clients
All of Denny's Restaurants in NJ, Several Burger King stores, I have done work at two different homes for Bruce Springsteen. I have also worked for Jim Johnson (of J&J) and his family, Whitney Houston, Steve Forbes and many others.

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