Bird And FishPure Water Occasional

An Email Publication About Water and Water Treatment

July 2011

In this nifty full summer Occasional you'll hear about more pollution from the usual suspects (Exxon, BP, the U.S. Military, et al), the woes of the Blackstone, Yellowstone, and Woonasquatucket Rivers, and the human war on sea turtles. Pollutants galore: beryllium, cadmium, nickel, arsenic, selenium, dioxin, vinyl chloride, vanadium, birth control hormones, cocaine, and rocket fuel. Learn about eutectic freeze crystallization, the industrial degreaser that's in your shampoo, and the first nation to ban fracking. Find out where you can pay a $1,000 fine for owning a water softener and how softeners can be set up to use less salt. There's a lot about chloramines, nitrosamines, and a pollutant called NDMA that's very hard to remove from water. Learn how June was a record-setting month for Ft. Worth, TX and discover the distinction of Newtown Creek in New York City. How much water is required to dissolve a pound of salt, how much water can leak through a 1/8"hole in a month, how much water it takes to produce a typical meal, and, as always much, much more.

The Occasional is overseen by Pure Water Gazette editor Hardly Waite, underwritten by Pure Water Products, and overrated by those who produce it.

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Hardly Waite

Water News for July 2011

While you were focused on the debt ceiling, the meltdown of the democratic process, the drought, and the hot, hot summer, a lot of important things happened in the world of water. Read on to hear all about it.

Exxon stuck again, with many gallons of crude leaking into the Yellowstone River from its broken pipeline.Also read the EPA Update.

Approximately 162,000 gallons of partially treated sewage overflowed from a wastewater treatment facility in Woonsocket, R.I., prompting officials to advise residents not to swim or fish in the Blackstone River.

The tap water of Ocean Shores, WA is turning yellow because of naturally occurring manganese.

Fort Worth, TX used a record-breaking 8 billion gallons of water in June.

Scientists warned that water off the famed beaches of the Indian holiday state of Goa was unfit for bathing and fishing due to high levels of bacteria from untreated sewage.

Sea Turtle
Plastic rubbish is now found in 30% of dead sea turtles.

Hundreds of Baghdad residents were admitted to hospital after a chlorine gas leak at a water purification plant.

Officials estimate that as many as 2,000 people in the Santa Clarita Valley own banned water softeners. A $1,000 fine threatens violators who do not remove illegal softeners.

An explosion at the North River Wastewater Treatment Plant started a catastrophic fire, which shut down one of New York's largest treatment facilities. Authorities warned that recreational waters in the area should not be used for several days.

The Woonasquatucket River, which forms the border between Johnston and North Providence, R.I., has widespread dioxin contamination resulting from the former operations of a chemical company and a drum recycler from the early 1940s to the early 1970s. The EPA is addressing the issue.

A new report says groundwater contamination from coal ash has been found at Gallatin and eight of the nine other Tennessee Valley Authority fossil power plant sites where testing is being done. Beryllium, cadmium and nickel levels are above drinking water standards at Gallatin, as are arsenic, selenium and vanadium at another site, Cumberland.

Three people are facing charges in connection with a water contamination scare in Somerset that caused a three-day ban on drinking town tap water.

Tucson will spend $10 million on a water treatment facility to clean up TCE left behind by the Air Force.

A Louisiana district judge ruled that the Dow Chemical Co. is responsible for contaminating the Upper Plaquemine Aquifer in Iberville Parish with vinyl chloride.

Frack Sign
France became the first nation to ban fracking. Some US states have done the same.

The city of Pontiac, MI learned that its wastewater treatment system has two leaks (one more than 10 years old) and that oil, sludge and iron compounds may have seeped into its groundwater.

Twenty years after contaminated groundwater was discovered in downtown Montgomery, AL, the Environmental Protection Agency has identified the Montgomery Advertiser and the Alabama Department of Education as two entities that may have caused it.

"By its nature, ice is the purest form of water because it repels any impurities." This is the principle behind a newly developed, environmentally friendly water purification system called eutectic freeze crystallization that has been developed in Cape Town, South Africa.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced an agreement with six entities to begin the first phase of the Superfund cleanup of Newtown Creek in New York City. “Newtown Creek is one of the most polluted urban water bodies in the country." The parties to the agreement include the Phelps Dodge Refining Corporation, Texaco, Inc., BP Products North America, Inc., National Grid NY (formerly the Brooklyn Union Gas Company), Exxon Mobil Oil Corporation and the City of New York

The City of San Diego has launched a year-long test of a new local source of water for the semi-arid city. The Advanced Water Purification Facility is a small-scale, state-of-the-art water purification facility that purifies 1 million gallons a day of recycled water to distilled water quality.

A nine-year-old girl who died in an auto accident has raised over $300,000 for African water projects posthumously.

California's Dept. of Public Health has set a public health goal for Hexavalent Chromium at 0.02 parts per billion.

A 143 pound blue catfish was caught at Buggs Island Lake in Virginia. "Officials warn anglers to limit consumption of blue catfish due to PCB contamination and other toxins. Blue catfish are voracious predators and can live up to twenty years, absorbing PCBs and heavy metals such as mercury from their prey."


Dr. Mercola on Nitrosamines, Chloramine, and Shampoo Ingredients

Editor's Note: Dr. Joseph Mercola's online and paper publications have long been a valued source of information about health-related issues. Some of his recent writings have underlined the subtle interactions of chemicals that we add purposely to our water (chloramines and fluoride, for example) and those that we unwittingly add in the form of by-products of common cosmetic items. Below are some cuts from recent newsletter postings by Dr. Mercola that I've put together. You will agree, I think, that the world of chemicals that we've created is not a simple one.--Hardly Waite.

Certain ingredients in shampoo, detergents and other cleaning agents may help form a suspected cancer-causing contaminant in water. The poorly understood water contaminant, called NDMA, is of ongoing concern to health officials.

NDMA and other nitrosamines can form during water disinfection with chloramine. Substances called quaternary amines, which are found in cosmetics and household cleaning agents, may play a role in the formation of nitrosamines.Eurekalert reports:

"... laboratory research showed that when mixed with chloramine, some household cleaning products -- including shampoo, dishwashing detergent and laundry detergent -- formed NDMA ... quaternary amines are used in such large quantities that some still may persist and have a potentially harmful effect in the effluents from sewage treatment plants."

Could your shampoo be contributing carcinogens to the water supply?

The last thing you need is one more contaminant in your water. But that is exactly what is happening within the mélange of complex chemical reactions that takes place at your local water processing plant. New research suggests that seemingly harmless consumer products, like your shampoo, are contributing to the formation of mysterious cancer-causing substances called nitrosamines.

You can add nitrosamines to the ever-expanding list of substances that magically make their way into the waters of the world, from birth control hormones to rocket fuel to cocaine.

The formation of nitrosamines during drinking water treatment is poorly understood, but there are some things scientists DO know, and there are steps YOU can take to reduce your water-contamination “footprint.”

What are Nitrosamines?

Nitrosamines are formed when nitrites combine with amines (often occurring in the form of proteins) under certain conditions such as an acidic environment or high temperatures. You may recall the issue of nitrites coming up in discussions about bacon and lunchmeats.

Nitrosamines are the reason you should avoid certain nitrite-containing meat products, like bacon and other cured meats, and avoid cooking meats at high temperatures.

There is an enormous amount of evidence that nitrosamines cause cancer in humans. In fact, nitrosamines are one of the most potent chemical carcinogens in tobacco products, and are generally regarded as the smoking gun linking the use of tobacco with cancer.

In addition to tobacco and cured meats, nitrosamines are also found in:

  • Beer
  • Nonfat dry milk
  • Rubber products and rubber manufacturing plants
  • Metal and chemical industries
  • Pesticides
  • Cosmetics, personal care products and detergents
  • Your own gastric juices (“endogenous nitrosation” occurs when bacteria in your mouth reduce the nitrate in foods to nitrite, and the nitrite reacts with amines in your stomach to form nitrosamines).

In addition to cancer, nitrosamines are associated with multiple organ toxicity, allergies and immunotoxicity, neurotoxicity, endocrine disruption, and biochemical or cellular changes.

Nitrosamines are so toxic, both Canada and the European Union have banned them from cosmetics, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG).

In 1996, the FDA asked American cosmetic makers to voluntarily remove ingredients that could form nitrosamines. In spite of this suggestion, the EWG found that one in every 10 products contains ingredients that can combine with others to form these dangerous carcinogens.

How Nitrosamines Form During Water Treatment

The formation of nitrosamines, particularly one called N-Nitrosodimethylanime or NDMA, has been associated with drinking water that was converted from wastewater.

It appears the nitrosamines arise from chemical precursors called quaternary amines. Quaternary amines are significant components of consumer products—especially shampoos, cleaning agents and detergents, fabric softeners, antibacterial soaps, and mouthwashes—which make their way into wastewater in large volumes as a result of our excessive product consumption.

When water loaded with these quaternary amines hits wastewater plants, it is treated with chloramine (the disinfectant of choice in American water treatment plants), forming NDMA as one of the byproducts.

Chloramine is simply a combination of chlorine and ammonia.

NMDA: Poster Child for Toxic Illness

NDMA is a potent hepatotoxin that causes fibrosis of the liver in rats and has actually been used to stimulate mice to grow cancer for experimental purposes.

NDMA is associated more with municipal wastewater effluents, so it is believed that consumer products are the largest contributor, rather than natural nitrogen sources. Although sewage treatment plants remove some of the quaternary amines that lead to NDMA, many make it through the treatment process due to the sheer volume of them in our wastewater.

According to the California Department of Public Health:

“Given the NDMA detections associated with drinking water sources and treatment, NDMA is a good candidate for future regulation (i.e., establishment of a drinking water standard, also known as a maximum contaminant level or MCL).”

NDMA is essentially colorless, odorless, and nearly tasteless, so you would never know it was in your water unless you were testing for it. Reverse osmosis filters have been demonstrated to remove only about 50 percent of NDMA.

The fact that NDMA is toxic in very minute concentrations, difficult to detect, slow to biodegrade, and travels through the soil with great ease, makes it of particular concern for public health.

Animals that ingest NDMA from food, water, or contaminated air develop serious health problems ranging from non-cancerous liver damage to liver and lung cancer. People poisoned with NDMA (unfortunately, there have been intentional poisonings) died from severe liver damage and internal bleeding.

According to the CDC’s Public Health Statement:

“Although there are no reports of NDMA causing cancer in humans, it is reasonable to expect that exposure to NDMA by eating, drinking, or breathing could cause cancer in humans. Mice that were fed NDMA during pregnancy had offspring that were born dead or died shortly after birth. However, it is not known whether NDMA could cause the death of human babies whose mothers are exposed during pregnancy.”

If you are interested in the toxicological profile of NDMA, the CDC has posted an FAQ here, although the information is dated July 1999 without reference to a more recent update.

Does Your Hair Really Require an Industrial Degreaser?

You simply can’t depend on wastewater treatment technology as a solution to this problem. The answer must begin with—and you’ve heard me say this hundreds of times—lifestyle changes.

The products you use every day in your home have a profound impact on the environment and ultimately your health, either directly or indirectly.

For example, your shampoo may not be as benign as you thought. The majority of commercial shampoos have several chemicals you don’t want on your body or in your water supply.

  • Sodium laurel sulfate (SLS)/sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) SLS (and its cousin SLES) is often contaminated, via the manufacturing process (ethoxylation), with 1,4-dioxane (see #3).

    Another problem with SLS is that it combines with TEA (triethanolamine, a detergent commonly used in shampoos) to produce a nitrosamine called NDELA, a recognized carcinogen.

    SLS is used in automobile shops as a degreasing agent... do you really want it in your hair?

  • Ethylene oxide (which is what the “E” in SLES stands for)
  • 1,4-Dioxane

    1,4-dioxane is a byproduct of ethylene oxide, which is believed to be carcinogenic to humans, toxic to your brain and central nervous system, kidneys and liver. It’s also a leading groundwater contaminant.

    Dioxane has been a known carcinogen since 1978. A 2008 study by the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) found that many brands of shampoos, body washes and lotions contained 1,4-dioxane, including so-called “natural” and “organic” brands.
    Dioxane is an increasing threat to water supplies across the country and is of growing concern to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) due to the fact that it can’t be filtered out, and it doesn’t biodegrade.

  • MSG

    Did you know that MSG (monosodium glutamate) is as likely to be in your shampoo as in your chow mein? It might not be obvious since it masquerades under aliases like amino acids, yeast extract, nayad, glutamic acid or glutamates.

  • Propylene glycol

    Propylene glycol is another very common ingredient in personal care products.
    Despite the fact the material safety data sheet warns users to avoid skin contact with propylene glycol as it is a strong skin irritant and can also cause liver abnormalities and kidney damage, it’s more than likely a component of your shampoo.

  • Parabens

    Parabens have been shown to mimic the action of estrogen, which may encourage the growth of breast tumors.

  • Diethanolamine (DEA)

    DEA can react with other ingredients to form a potent carcinogen called NDEA (N-nitrosodiethanolamine), which is readily absorbed through the skin and has been linked with cancers of the stomach, esophagus, liver and bladder.


Occasional PS: As the article above indicates, reverse osmosis is only about 50% effective at reducing NDMA. Carbon filtration, the usual standby for chemical contaminants, is largely ineffective. UV can be used, but the dosage required to break down NDMA is far higher than that of standard residential UV systems used to inactivate bacteria and viruses. At present there is no recommended residential treatment for the reduction of NDMA. (Reverse osmosis, which is partially effective, is the best known treatment.)

More Information: Health Canada.





Pure Water Annie

Water Softener Sizing 101, Part 2.

by Pure Water Annie

In last month's Occasional, I patiently explained at some length how water softeners have traditionally been "sized." We came up with the classical sizing formula: grains of hardness times number of people in the family times 75 times 7 = weekly softening requirement. I explained that softeners are usually sized so that the softener has the capacity to treat a week's worth of water between regenerations.

Now we're going into this subject a little deeper. .

Your softener has a theoretical capacity, or "size," that is stated in grains. For example, if you have a "40,000 grain softener," it will in theory treat 40,000 grains of hardness between regenerations. If your water has 20 grains of hardness per gallon, your softener will treat 40,000 grains divided by 20, or 2,000 gallons of water between regenerations. If your family uses 500 gallons of water per day, the softener needs to regenerate approximately every fourth day. By traditional sizing standards, this means that the softener is a bit too small.

The example above is only theoretical because a regenerated softener has less capacity than its stated capacity and the real capacity depends on how much salt is used to recharge it. The more salt, the greater the capacity. The 40,000 gallon figure is based on your giving the softener its strongest salt dose, which is 15 lbs. of salt per cubic foot of softener resin. And as the chart below will show, the 40,000 grain softener, when salted at the 15-pound rate, will actually only be a 37,500 grain softener.

Here are the most common sizes of residential water softeners with the information needed to program the control valve for optimal performance. You will note that as less salt is used for regeneration, the softener's treatment capacity decreases, but its efficiency in terms of salt usage goes up at a greater rate.

Common Size Designation in Grains  Mineral Tank Size Cubic Feet of Resin in the Mineral Tank Actual softening capacity if dosed with 6 lbs salt per cubic foot of resin Actual softening capacity if dosed with 10 lbs salt per cubic foot of resin Actual softening capacity if dosed with 15 lbs salt per cubic foot of resin
15,000 7" X 44" 0.5 10,000 12,500 15,000
24,000 8" X 44" 0.75 15,000 18,750 22,500
32,000 9" X 48" 1.0 20,000 25,000 30,000
40,000 10" X 44" 1.25 25,000 31,250 37,500
48,000 10" X 54" 1.50 30,000 37,500 45,000
64,000 12" X 48" 2.00 40,000 50,000 60,000
80,000 13" X 54" 2.50 50,000 62,500 75,000
110,000 14" X 65" 3.50 70,000 87,500 105,000

Now, take a closer look at salt usage.

We'll use the 32,000 grain softener as an example since it has exactly 1 cubic foot of resin.

Note that it yields 30,000 grains of softening while using the full 15-lbs. of salt. It gives a 25,000 grain performance while using 10 lbs. of salt, and a 20,000 grain performance on only 6 lbs. In other words, as compared with full salting, you get 2/3 as much softening performance on 2/5 as much salt at 6 lbs., and 5/6 the performance for only 2/3 the salt at 10 lbs. In a month's time, you'll use several pounds less salt by reducing the salt dosage. However, since the softener will have to regenerate more frequently, you'll use more water. It takes just as much water to regenerate with six pounds of salt as with 15, and at the six pound setting you have to regenerate more frequently.

I'm not going to try to tell you where to set your salt dosage, but in many cases the middle ground works best, giving you good salt economy without excessive water use.

The current trend is the industry is to sell the idea that it's "green" to use an oversized softener to promote salt savings. It depends, I suppose, on whether it's more important to save salt or to save water. You can use more salt and less water or more water and less salt. It's hard to make either formula add up to "green."

There are many other considerations to be weighed if there are special conditions. The most common of these is iron in well water. If the softener is being used to remove iron, throw all the considerations above out the window and set the softener up to regenerate every second or third day. Iron should never sit in the resin bed more than two or three days.


Pure Water Gazette numerical wizard B. Bea Sharper reports the water facts that Harper's misses.

Please email your comments to

Number of current residential water treatment strategies that are recommend for the reduction of NMDA-- 0.

Percentage of NMDA removed by reverse osmosis--around 50%.

Pounds of salt dissolved by one gallon of water--around 3.

Percentage of dead sea turtles that are now found to contain plastic rubbish --30%.

Number of years the Mississippi River could run on water that would result if the ice at the South Pole melted--50,000.

Gallons of water emitted into the atmosphere daily by a full-grown tree--70.

Gallons of water leaked in a month by a 1/8-inch hole--108,000.

Gallons of water required to produce a typical dinner meal in the U.S.--3,000.

Gallons of water required to produce the average Sunday newspaper--150.

Average service call rate of water treatment dealers who responded to Water Technology Magazine's 2011 dealer survey--$94.

Average monthly water softener rental rate from the same survey -- $29.90

Percentage of surveyed dealers who said personal referrals were their best promotion method--76%

Percentage who said the Internet is -- 62%.

Percentage who said the Yellow Pages is --35%.

Percentage who said Telemarketing is their best promotional method -- 9%.

Rank of "hardness" on the list of contaminants most often requested for removal by customers -- #1.

Rank of iron-- #2.


Suggested reading this month from the Pure Water Gazette's archive: A Prayer for Water & Children, by David James Duncan.

Model 77: "The World's Greatest $77 Water Filter"
Sprite Shower Filters: You'll Sing Better!
An Alphabetical Index to Water Treatment Products

Write to the Editor.

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