Pure Water Occasional, April 2, 2019
Even the Occasional's favorite sport, water polo, was not free of controversy in the recent college admissions scandals. Phony pictures and documents were used in support of water polo players who were admitted to top universities based on their non-existent water polo skills. USC's legendary water polo coach Jovan Vavic was fired by the university after he was indicted in federal court as part of a nationwide college admissions bribery case.
Water and Conflict in Today's World
A new United Nation's Office for the Coordination of Human Affairs (OCHA) report, World Humanitarian Data and Trends, 2018, states:
Water is increasingly a trigger, weapon and casualty of conflict—with significant humanitarian consequences. Water has not traditionally been considered a primary driver of global conflict; instead, it has been viewed as a compounding variable that exacerbates existing social, economic and political tensions. However, old understandings and norms of cooperation around water issues are being tested by climate change and population growth. Dramatic swings in seasonal water supplies threaten regional, local and global stability. In 2017, water played a major role in conflict in at least 45 countries, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa. Yemen had the most water-related conflicts with at least 28 individual events reported.
And, speaking of water as a weapon, a man was arrested this week for throwing a glass of water on controversial Iowa Rep. Steve King in a restaurant.
Saving Water on World Water Day
World Water Day was March 22. As expected, almost every publication in the world printed at least one How to Save Water in Your Home article. It isn't surprising that these were all essentially alike and featured suggestions like turning off the water while you brush your teeth and getting low-use toilets for your home. One suggestion was really unique, though, and gets the Occasional's seal of approval:
Save Water by not filling swimming pools – A swimming pool can lose water to leaks, although when swimming pools are exposed to the elements they lose a lot of water through evaporation. Add this to the volume of water utilised to fill up the swimming pool at regular intervals can result in the usage of water about 24 kilolitres for the pool only. [sic]
While saving water by not filling the pool, clearly, could make diving hazardous, it seemed like such a good idea that it made me sorry I do not have a pool so that I could save water by not filling it.
Older people often are suspected of not drinking enough water and there has been difficulty establishing a standard to assess hydration levels. Recently, a method called salivary osmolality has been developed to assess hydration levels of older adults. Salivary osmolality compares the ratio of water to certain chemicals that occur naturally in saliva. It can be measured using a simple, non-invasive device called an osmometer. Interviews with people who scored low on osmometer assessments revealed that one of the most common reasons older people don't drink enough water is to avoid having to urinate during the night. More.
If you would like to know what EPA adminstrator Andrew Wheeler said about the state of water on World Water Day, read it here.
Want to go for a walk at the wastewater treatment plant? This plant features walking trails.
Talking Water Gardens
at Albany, Oregon offers nearly three miles of gravel trails, winding around ponds and marshes. Home to a variety of birds, butterflies, turtles and plants, "it exists at the axis between the natural and human-made." Inspired by the environment, the wetland cells mimic the cleansing and cooling processes that occur in nature, returning treated water safely back to the Willamette River. More from The Oregonian.
Because of flooding, municipal water suppliers in several regions pointed out that during flood conditions it is difficult to meet standards for treatment of cryptosporidium. Melting snow, rain runoff and high flood waters bring about changes in water quality that make treatment difficult. Boil water alerts often follow flooding. A Kansas City area water supplier explained: “Inadequately treated water may contain disease-causing organisms. These organisms include bacteria, viruses, and parasites which can cause symptoms such as nausea, cramps, diarrhea, and associated headaches." Flooding, of course, can pose even greater dangers for well owners. Here's some advice on what to do if your well is flooded.
Flooding has been devastating this year for farmers in many areas. The nation's patchwork levee system designed to protect farmlands has proven woefully inadequate. The levee situation has become so grave that the American Society of Civil Engineers gave the country’s levee system a D grade in 2017, suggesting the need for $80 billion in investment over 10 years.
'Tis the season for chlorine burns. Water suppliers who use chloramine most often choose Spring as the time to clean out their pipes. Read Pure Water Annie's article
to understand what's going on.
Research at Dalhousie University (Nova Scotia) has shown that lead service line replacement is an important strategy for reducing lead in drinking water when lead lines are fully replaced. However, partial replacement of lead service lines actually makes the lead problem worse. This underlines the need for installation of point of use lead removal drinking water filters as the first line defense against lead in drinking water. Waiting for lead water lines to be replaced is not a sensible strategy.
reported an EPA finding that 37 percent of all water waste in the United States results from husky kids doing a cannonball into the pool at a country club. This, of course, shows the wisdom of saving water by refraining from filling swimming pools.
Plastic Binders in Carbon Block Filter
by Gene Franks
Modern carbon block filters are made with extremely fine powdered carbon held together by plastic binders. Their overall effectiveness depends on the carbon used, the binder used, the heat applied in the process, and other factors. Starting with the best carbon doesn't always guarantee the best finished product.
A common request we get from customers is for filtration products that don’t contain plastics. People often ask for filters with stainless steel rather than plastic housings because plastic housings “will leach plastic into the water.” We point out that the hard plastics used in filter housings are probably the least likely part of the device to put plastic into the water. Even axial flow filter cartridges, made with granular carbon, use a plastic container for the carbon. Carbon block cartridges, by far the most popular, the most common, and in most cases the most effective, have plastic end caps, plastic center cores, plastic webbing and screens, and most importantly, plastic binders to hold the carbon in place.
Binders, the adhesives that hold the carbon block together, are never mentioned in sales literature, but all carbon block filters use plastic binders. Various manufacturers may use different binders and names you hear are pEVA (polyethylene-vinyl acetate), LDPE (low density polyethylene), GUR 2126, KYBLOCK pVDDF (polyvilene fluoride), and more.
The powdered carbon used for carbon blocks would not work without the plastics holding it in place. If you’ve ever cut apart a carbon block filter you know the cartridge wall has the density of a board. It is a solid structure made of very finely ground carbon particles fused together with a plastic glue.
Binders are an important part of carbon block filter engineering. The effectiveness of the carbon depends not only on the selection of the carbon type, but also on the mesh size of the carbon, the binding material, the amount of heat used in the binding process and how it is applied.
The use of plastic binders is discussed in some detail in an informative two-part article titled “Catalytic Carbon: Fundamentals” and “Catalytic Carbon: Impact of Binder and Processing Conditions on the Catalytic Activity of Carbon Block Products” by Evan Koslow, Rasmina Musovic, and Esko Musovic which appeared in successive issues, October and November 2018, of Water Conditioning and Purification magazine.
Ironically, the use of binders greatly enhances carbon performance by enabling the use of very fine carbon particles, but the binders also cause significant loss in performance through interference with the carbon’s effectiveness. According to the authors, “in many cases, the original catalytic performance of a carbon will be nearly entirely destroyed during conversion to a carbon block.” While the process of heating may degrade the carbon’s performance, “the presence of the binder alone causes an immediate and large loss of performance.”
To complicate matters, the authors explain, the effectiveness of the finished carbon block depends not only on the effectiveness of the raw carbon material used, but also on the extent to which the carbon is fouled by the binding process. In other words, a moderately effective carbon may make a better carbon block filter than a top quality carbon if it withstands the manufacturing process better.
The takeaways of all this are, first, people looking for a plastic-free water filter in today’s residential market will not find what they are looking for. Second, all carbon block filters are not created equal, and, third, the generalizations we make about carbon performance (bituminous carbon is better at chloramine removal and coconut shell carbon is a superior product for VOC treatment) don’t necessarily apply to carbon block filters.
Climate Change is Overwhelming Our Crappy Water Infrastructure
by Eric Holthaus
Most of Nebraska is a disaster area with 95 percent of the state’s population affected by flooding. According to FEMA, total economic losses are approaching $1 billion, including more than $400 million to agriculture and more than $400 million to public infrastructure. Cascading levee failures along the Missouri River have meant that, for the time being, there’s essentially nothing holding back the floodwaters.
Six Nebraska public drinking water systems went offline, and dozens of wastewater treatment facilities failed — including one for Omaha which officials say could take weeks or months to restore. In several cases, raw sewage is being discharged into streams and rivers.
For rural residents who get their water from private wells, that added pollution could prove dangerous. Emergency room visits for gastrointestinal issues increase after heavy rains.
As climate change makes rainstorms more intense, this problem will only worsen. Across the Great Plains, the frequency of heavy downpours has increased by 29 percent over the past 60 years. Flooding isn’t just a quickly damaging natural disaster that destroys roads, bridges, homes, and factories — it’s a lingering public health issue.
This problem isn’t unique to Nebraska. In recent years, floods in Texas, the Carolinas, and coastal Virginia have swept hazardous material from the petrochemical industry, hog farms, and agricultural land into waterways, threatening public safety. As of 2015, there were 772 cities — mostly in the Midwest and Northeast — with outdated sewer systems that funnel waste directly into streams as a matter of course even without record-breaking floods.
These systems were cheap to build in the 1800s, but now people are starting to reconsider “combined sewer overflow” systems.
Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana, has campaigned on his record of using eco-friendly methods, like rain gardens and expanding parks near floodplains, and technology to deal with its combined sewer system.
City officials say they’ve saved $500 million by adding smart sensors to its sewer system. Cities are trying to hold polluters accountable for cleanup costs, too. A new wave of “failure to adapt” lawsuits might help put pressure on industry to put more foresight into how climate change might turn their infrastructure into toxic waste sites.
Lawsuits and tech aside, the most effective way of adapting to climate change may ultimately be a planned retreat from coastlines and waterways — giving more space for nature as a buffer.
Measuring Turbidity: NTU, FTU, FAU
Turbidity in water is a measurement of the relative clarity. It is an expression of the amount of light that is scattered when a light is shined through the water. The more the light is scattered, the higher the turbidity reading.
In practical terms, turbidity is an aesthetic problem but it also is an indication of more serious problems, like bacterial growth or the presence of metals.
Turbidity measurement is confusing because it can be expressed in different terms. Labs usually report turbidity in units called NTU (Nephelometric Turbidity Units), FAU (Formazin Attenuation Units), or FTU (Formazin Turbidity Units).
Although the three scales measure turbidity differently, they are essentially the same in value. 1 NTU = 1 FTU = 1 FAU.
For practical purposes, the EPA limit for turbidity in drinking water is 1 FTU. Anything above 1 FTU should be treated. Water can be very clear to the naked eye and have an unacceptable turbidity reading.
A Few Things You Should Know About Benzene
by Pure Water Annie
Benzene is a known carcinogen. There is a lot of it around. You'd do best to take in as little as possible.
Benzene is an organic chemical, one of the aromatic hydrocarbons. It is essentially colorless and has a slightly sweet odor. It is highly flammable. Benzene dissolves easily in water and evaporates quickly at room temperature. It boils at 176 degrees F.
Benzene has been much in the news recently because of its presence in the fracking fluids being injected into the ground by gas well producers, but it can contaminate water via many other sources.
Natural sources of benzene include volcanoes and forest fires. Benzene is also a natural part of crude oil, gasoline and cigarette smoke. Burning PVC also produces benzene. Some industries use benzene to make other chemicals that are used to make plastics, resins, nylon and synthetic fibers. Benzene is also used to make some types of lubricants and pesticides.
Benzene can cause cells not to work correctly, leading to conditions such as anemia. It can damage the immune system by changing blood levels of antibodies and causing the loss of white blood cells.
An ingredient of gasoline, benzene is found in groundwater contaminated by leaking underground fuel storage tanks, or in surface water subject to fuel spills. Gasoline contains a bit less than 1% benzene. Produced from coal or petroleum (usually the latter), benzene ranks among the top 20 chemicals in production volume. Benzene is used to make solvents, detergents, plastics, resins, paint and many other products.
Benzene is a carcinogen in humans. Also, long exposure to high levels in air causes leukemia. People who are exposed over long periods in their workplace are most at risk.
Drinking water or eating food containing high levels of benzene can cause vomiting, dizziness, or even death.
The EPA regulates benzene. The MCL for benzene in water is 0.005 mg/L (5 ppb).
If exposed to air, benzene evaporates to the environment. It can also be broken down by some soil microbes. It may also be degraded in some ground waters. If benzene is released to surface water, most of it should evaporate within a few hours. Though it does not degrade by reacting with water, it may be degraded by microbes. It is not likely to accumulate in aquatic organisms.
Benzene can be removed from water by adsorption with granular activated carbon. It can also be treated by ozonation. Because benzene evaporates easily, open tank aeration is also a valuable treatment method. If benzene is present, it should be treated as a “whole house” or point of entry issue because inhalation is a hazard. The most practical residential treatment is filtration with a good activated carbon filter.
Sources: US EPA, US Occupational Safety and Health Administration, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Clean Water Partners. Water Technology Volume 32, Issue 4 – April 2009
Gazette's Famous Water Picture Series: Handel's Water Music
Georg Frideric Handel (left) and King George I on the Thames River, 17 July 1717. Painting by Edouard Hamman (1819–88).
The Water Music is a collection of orchestral movements, often published as three suites, composed by George Frideric Handel. It premiered on 17 July 1717 after King George I had requested a concert on the River Thames.
The usual explanation for the gala on-the-water concert is that the king was feeling heat from an opposing political faction gathering around his son, the Prince of Wales, and he staged a big public event to draw attention away from his son and to himself.
People say that buying a water filter without a water test is like baking a cake without a recipe.
by Gene Franks
Well, if they say that, they’re wrong. It’s a lot worse than baking without a recipe. You have a lot more to lose.
Many water treatment issues require knowledge of several characteristics of water that can only be determined by testing. For example, if you have well water, simple observation may tell you that you have iron in your water, but in order to treat the iron properly you need to know not only how much iron you have but also the pH of the water and often the dissolved oxygen content of the water. It’s best to know if iron bacteria are present and if there are other problems that can be addressed at the same time.
Iron and hardness, for example, can often be cured with a single treatment device, and if there is odor in the water you can get rid of that as well if you choose the correct iron treatment. You also need to know if there is manganese present, since iron and manganese can be reduced with the same treatment.
Simply buying an “iron filter” from a big box store or a website might work, but it’s likely to be only a partial solution to your problem or to be a complete waste of time and money.
A good water analysis can also alert you to serious problems you didn’t know you had–like an elevated level of arsenic or chromium–or it can give you assurance that your water does not have hidden contaminants that can damage your health. If the water you drink every day has a dangerous amount of lead or pesticides, you definitely want to know it, but it is equally valuable to know that your water is not contaminated.
In fact, the great value of a water test is not necessarily finding out what’s bad about your water but specifically what is good about it. When a good test shows that your water is safe and wholesome, the test is well worth the price for the reassurance it gives that you.
Bottled Water Companies Pump Aquifers Dry and Pay a Pittance
In many countries, including the United States, there is little limitation on the rate at which water can be pumped out of Nature’s underground water reserves, called aquifers. Water bottling companies have for years been pumping billions of gallons of water out of aquifers without regard for the watershed and surrounding environment, and then selling water for 3,000 to 5,000 times more than they pay for it.
Nestle, for example, runs a plant for two of its bottled water brands in Stanwood, Michigan. The company operates three well fields with a total of seven wells, all within the Muskegon River watershed. According to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ), Nestle pumped more than 3.4 billion gallons of water from its three Michigan well fields between 2005 and 2015. In 2015, Nestle was given approval by the MDEQ to pump 250 gallons per minute at White Pine Springs Well in Osceola County. The company now wants to increase the amount of water it pumps from this well to 400 gallons per minute. Nestle would pay the state of Michigan $200 per year for this increase. Not $200 per hour. $200 per year.
Nestle’s White Pine Springs Well pumps water from an underground aquifer that is connected to the above-ground water system through a permeable layer of earth called a leaky aquitard. Pumping water from the aquifer can drain significant amounts of water from above. With the high level of depletion of the aquifer, the wetlands and wildlife above the ground are at high risk of being harmed by Nestle’s pumping. Residents of the area have noticed that water levels in Osceola County’s Chippewa Creek, which flows into the Muskegon River watershed, have significantly dropped in recent years, affecting trout populations.
Nevertheless, regulators are expected to grant Nestle’s request to boost its pumping rate to 400 gpm. This is corporate welfare at its worst.
Places to visit for additional information:
Thanks for reading and be sure to check out the next Occasional!