Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Clearwater neighborhood perplexed by new chalky film appearing on dishes

Joanie Bianchi and fellow Morningside Estates neighbors have been struggling with a chalky residue and scaling on dishes for the past several months.


Joanie Bianchi and fellow Morningside Estates neighbors have been struggling with a chalky residue and scaling on dishes for the past several months.

CLEARWATER — About five months ago, Joanie Bianchi noticed a chalky film on her dishes and glasses. At first, she thought she didn't put the detergent in her dishwasher the right way.

But each time she washed her dishes, she was greeted by the same pesky film. It was really hard to get off.

"I have a couple hundred dollars worth of Tervis (plastic) mugs ruined," she said.

Bianchi wasn't alone. A number of residents in and near the Morningside Estates neighborhood of southeast Clearwater have been dealing with similar deposits on their dishes. At least three complained to the city. And two of them bought new dishwashers, thinking that would solve the problem. Two others, including the Morningside-Meadows Association president, said they have filmy dishes, too.

Officials from the water agencies involved disagree on what causes the problem.

Clearwater water officials think a combination of three factors may be to blame.

• The city changed the mix of water sent to the area, and it may have become harder than before.

• The treatment process changed for about two months.

• Dishwasher detergent manufacturers recently changed the formulation of their products.

For Morningside and surrounding areas, the time line may have begun in January. That's when the city of Clearwater started a construction project and closed wells that supplied some of the water to the area; the rest came from the county, which gets its supply from Tampa Bay Water.

In May, the city closed the treatment plant in the area to finish the project. It reopened at the end of July. The wells were not reopened until Friday.

Major manufacturers reduced phosphates in their products in response to bans of high-phosphate detergents that went into effect in 16 states in July. Phosphates keep dishes from spotting, but when they drain into lakes and streams they can lead to an overgrowth of vegetation, which can kill fish and damage wildlife habitats. Some makers began rolling out new products months earlier.

Clearwater started getting dishwasher-related complaints from the Morningside area in July. Some residents said they had trouble for weeks, even months before that.

Where water comes from makes a difference, said Greg Turman, Clearwater's water production coordinator.

Groundwater, for instance, is harder than water from other sources. "Hard water'' contains minerals that make soap difficult to lather and may cause scaling or corrosion in appliances like dishwashers.

Tampa Bay Water generally uses a blend of river water, desalinated water and groundwater. But the agency stopped running its desalination plant in April because it had more than enough water from other sources, said Christine Owen, Tampa Bay Water quality assurance officer.

Turman sees a connection to Morningside.

"I think it's a combination of factors, Tampa Bay Water producing more water from its well fields and the changes in the detergent formulation during that time frame," he said.

Owen disagrees. From January through April the percentage of groundwater in the agency's mix for Pinellas ranged from 42 to 80 percent. From May through August, it ranged from 60 to 75 percent, she said.

"I would be hard-pressed to think that type of difference in the percentage would have a noticeable difference at the customer's tap," she said.

Turman also thinks the absence of the city's corrosion preventing chemical when the plant was shut down might have played a role.

Bob Powell, Pinellas County's director of utility operations, doesn't buy that reasoning. He said the county treats its water with a similar chemical.

But Powell said the city's water for that area could be somewhat softer than the county's water. That's because water from Clearwater's shallower wells may have less calcium than water from the deeper wells that supply the county, he said.

Each month, Pinellas utilities, which serves 600,000 people, may see four to six complaints dishwasher-related complaints, Powell said. In August, it saw 20 and in September it saw 16.

"Looking at the size of our customer base, it might be purely incidental," Powell said.

Powell, who has worked for the county since 1978, said complaints about deposits on dishes are far from a new phenomenon. That's because local water has traditionally contained minerals.

"From a health standpoint, it's probably a good thing," he said. "From a housekeeping standpoint it's not such a good thing."

Lorri Helfand can be reached at or (727) 445-4155.

Fast facts

Suggestions for calcium deposits

Clearwater water officials offered customers these suggestions for dealing with calcium deposits:

• Clean the affected dishes or place settings with CLR. Rinse well. The white film (calcium), should come off immediately. Full strength CLR can be harsh on the hands; wear rubber gloves.

• To keep the scale from forming on the dishes, add 1 to 2 cups of regular white vinegar at the beginning of each wash cycle.

• Turn your rinse agent to the highest setting available and keep the rinse agent reservoir filled.

• A product called "Lemi Shine" has been widely reported to fix this problem when used as directed.

Clearwater neighborhood perplexed by new chalky film appearing on dishes 10/02/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 5, 2010 11:39am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Hillsborough School Board approves 2017-18 budget


    TAMPA — The Hillsborough County School Board on Tuesday approved a budget of $2.83 billion for the 2017-18 school year.

    Photo illustration. []
  2. All Eyes photo gallery: 7.1 magnitude quake kills at least 79, collapses buildings in Mexico


    A magnitude 7.1 earthquake stunned central Mexico on Tuesday, killing at least 79 people as buildings collapsed in plumes of dust. Thousands fled into the streets in panic, and many stayed to help rescue those trapped. The quake came less than two weeks after another quake left 90 dead in the country's south, and it …

    Rescuers work on a collapsed building on Amsterdam Avenue in the Condesa neighborhood of Mexico City after a 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck, Sept. 19, 2017. Dozens have been reported killed across the country, including 42 in the state of Morelos, close to the epicenter of the quake, and at least 20 buildings in Mexico City have collapsed. (Adriana Zehbrauskas/The New York Times) XNYT169
  3. Rays video tribute to ex-manager Joe Maddon upon return with Cubs


    Here is the Rays video tribute to former manager Joe Maddon, who returned to the Trop for the first time on Tuesday with his Cubs team:

  4. After Irma disruption, Miami eager to face Toledo


    LAKE BUENA VISTA — Like thousands of other evacuees, Miami defensive coordinator Manny Diaz headed north to escape Hurricane Irma with his family, two suitcases and the anxiety of not knowing what would happen to everything he left behind.

    Miami coach Mark Richt watches during a victory over B-CU in the Sept. 2 opener. The Hurricanes haven’t played since.
  5. Despite Hurricane Irma, Hillsborough remains on pace to unlock hotel tax that could pay for Rays ballpark


    TAMPA — Despite the threat of a catastrophic storm, it was business as usual at many Hillsborough County hotels in the days before Hurricane Irma bore down on the Tampa Bay region.

    The Grand Hyatt near TIA closed during Hurricane Irma, but many other Hillsborough hotels were open and saw an influx.