SPARTA-The Sparta Township Water Utility is battling higher-than-normal levels of copper in the water. However, the problem is not with the town's water system. Instead, the copper gets into the water from individual home pipes. The contamination arises from the natural corrosion the water causes inside the metal pipes which causes copper to be released into water. While copper is an essential nutrient, excess levels of metal over a short period of time could cause gastrointestinal distress. Long exposure could cause liver or kidney damage. Despite the fact that the cause of the problem is not the wells Sparta uses to provide water to residents, Sparta Township Engineer Charlie Ryan said it is still the town's responsibility to help address the issue. "We add different state approved chemicals to the wells which are in effected areas to change the chemistry of the water to make it less corrosive," said Ryan. "Currently we are making a PH adjustment to one well and adding an inhibitor to another." Ryan explained that there is a popular misconception that copper contamination is predominately caused by older pipes. In fact, he said, the opposite is true. "We find it to be a problem more in the newer homes," said Ryan. "Because we have hard water in the area, older homes over time develop a build up of minerals on the inside of the pipes. This lines the pipes and prevents copper from escaping into the water." Sparta tests the water every six months to insure proper copper levels are being met. Between 60 and 70 test kits are sent to randomly selected households hooked up to the town water system and residents are asked to provide waters samples from pipes not used in at least six hours. The collected samples are then sent to the state for testing. The town is currently waiting for test results just submitted. Another step residents can take to minimized the amount cooper being consumed in their water is let water run for 15-30 seconds or until it becomes cold before using it for drinking or cooking. Residents should never cook with or drink water from the hot water tap. Copper dissolves more easily into hot water and therefore, the exposure is greater. Homeowners in the municipal water system who would like the have their water tested for copper level or would like more information should call the town water utility at 973 -729-7133.