In this mid-July Occasional, you'll hear about nitrates, cleft palates, spina bifida, and the predicted return of the Dust Bowl.  If that doesn't depress you, there are radiation in the Pacific, asbestos dumping  in New York,  radium in the water of Les Paul's home town, blind, brainless and heartless blobs that are taking over the seas,, a big oil spill in Mayflower, Arkansas,  and water leaks galore.  Learn what fluoride does to steel pipes, how air gets drawn into a water filter without an air pump, and why you shouldn't screw a copper pipe directly onto a galvanized pipe.  And, as always, there is much, much more.



The Pure Water Occasional is a weekly email magazine produced by Pure Water Products of Denton, Texas. We also publish the Pure Water Gazette, which posts new articles about water and water treatment daily,  providing “vast piles of information in the Gazette’s tangy, irreverent style” (San Antonio Beacon).  We also invite you to visit,  the most information-stuffed commercial water treatment site on the worldwide web.


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While you were waiting for the result of the Zimmerman trial, a lot of interesting things happened in the ever-changing world of water.  Read on to hear about some of them.

Birth defects linked to bad Valley water

by Mark Grossi

Nitrate contamination of drinking water in middle states like Wisconsin and Iowa has recently received much attention, but now states like California and Texas are reporting significant nitrate contamination as well. The Fresno Bee article below gives an excellent overview of the nitrate issue,  a growing concern nationwide.--Hardly Waite.

An extensive new study confirms a long-suspected link between crippling birth defects and the nitrate contamination that threatens drinking water for 250,000 people in the San Joaquin Valley.

The study took place in the Midwest, but its findings hit hard in the Valley, where research last year showed farm-related nitrate pollution is extensive and expanding in the underground water of Fresno, Tulare and Kern counties.

The birth defects involved include spina bifida, cleft palate and missing limbs.

Valley clean-water advocates say the study again raises the profile of safe drinking water as a human right. Bureaucratic and funding delays have slowed fixes for years in many small towns.

"This contamination is so dangerous," said Maria Herrera of the Visalia-based Community Water Center. "Many towns need help with their drinking water, and we're still not seeing enough."

The study from Texas A&M was published last month in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Health Perspectives, making the strongest case to date about nitrates and birth defects.

Researchers looked at real-world situations, locating and contacting thousands of mothers using the National Birth Defects Prevention Study. Participants' addresses were matched to drinking-water sources.

"We went beyond other studies to find out how much water pregnant women were drinking at home and at work," said lead scientist Jean Brender, associate dean for research and a professor at the Texas A&M Health Science Center's School of Rural Public Health.

The study focused on Iowa and Texas where nitrate problems are found in the groundwater. Nitrates can come from farm fertilizers and dairy waste. Other sources include septic systems, sewage treatment and decaying vegetation.

The study says mothers of babies with spina bifida were twice as likely to have consumed 5 milligrams or more of nitrate from their daily drinking water than women whose babies had no major defect.

Spina bifida is among several birth defects that happen during pregnancy as the baby's brain and spinal cord develop. In some cases, spina bifida can result in bowel or bladder problems — in others, paralysis.

Many people living in rural Valley towns buy bottled water to protect themselves and their children from nitrates, which also can cause a potentially fatal blood disease in infants.

Many are forced to use 10% or more of their farmworker wages to pay for both bottled water and suspect tap water. When they cannot afford the bottled water, they drink from the tap, residents say.

Two years ago, the United Nations came to Seville, a town of 480 in Tulare County, as part of a worldwide tour of communities where drinking water is chronically unsafe. The U.N. investigator's tour included communities in Costa Rica, Slovenia, Uruguay and Namibia.

The U.N. investigator recommended that California move with more urgency to address the problems, and the state has funded some projects. Money has been granted to study a solution in Seville.

The California Department of Public Health, which doles out money to improve rural water systems, last month announced a plan to push investment of $445 million of unspent federal drinking water funding. The report was ordered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which this year scolded the state for not spending the money.

Kathleen Billingsley, chief deputy director of policy and programs at the Department of Public Health, said, "The entire administration is committed to addressing the concerns outlined by the U.S. EPA."

Back in Tulare County, some residents of small towns blame the water for unexplained stomach problems, hair loss and dizziness. Their biggest concerns are for pregnant women and infants.

"When I was taking care of my grandchild, I ran out of (bottled) water for the formula," said Becky Quintana, a Seville resident. "I had to go buy more. I was not going to use the tap water."

The nitrates problem is not just in Tulare County. A study released last year by the University of California at Davis showed the problem is widespread throughout Fresno and Kern counties in the Tulare Lake Basin, one of the most intensely farmed regions in the country.

Previous studies have suggested birth defects related to nitrate consumption, but the Texas A&M study went into more depth in looking at Iowa and Texas.

Researchers discovered about 25% of the participants in Iowa only drank bottled water, as did nearly half of them in Texas.

They compared birth defects among mothers who had very low exposures of nitrate from their drinking water to those who took in higher amounts of nitrate from water. Researchers took into account bottled water and tap water that either came from a municipal system or a private well.

The results might not be surprising. Researcher Brender said the women who drank water with low amounts of nitrates — bottled water, which was noted as having the least nitrate — were far less likely to have a child with birth defects.

Brender added that the research does not directly say nitrates cause the birth defects. There may be other chemicals, including pesticides, that have an impact. The researchers only examined nitrates in this study.

But she has advice for pregnant women and anyone else living in a rural area who drink water from a private well: "Get your private well tested, or drink bottled water."

Gazette's After NoteAs compared with "drinking bottled water," getting an undersink or countertop reverse osmosis unit costs a fraction as much and  removes nitrates handily.   See How Nitrates Are Removed from Drinking Water. 

Source:  Fresno Bee.

Gazette Fair Use Statement


Corrosion of water pipes has many causes, and not all are well understood. Corrosion also affects the quality of drinking water.

Here are a few of the main reasons why water pipes corrode. Some are simple and easy to remedy; others are complex and hard to diagnose. Often, more than one of the following contributes to the breakdown of pipes.

Galvanic.  Galvanic corrosion is common with metal pipes.  It occurs when pipes made of different metals are joined.  A small electrical current flows from one to the other creating a corrosive buildup.   Galvanic corrosion is easily prevented by installing a dielectric union when joining the pipes, but in the effort to save money, dielectric connectors are often left out.

Galvanic Corrosion

Dissolved Gases and Chemicals. High levels of dissolved gases, like oxygen or carbon dioxide, can corrode metals pipes and cause pinhole leaks. High chlorine concentrations can be corrosive to pipe, and high levels of fluoride corrodes stainless steel. Chloramine is associated with the leaching of lead from inner pipe surfaces.

Low pH.  Water with low pH attacks copper pipes and causes pinhole leaks. Copper is subject corrosion when the water is below 7.0 pH. This is usually not a problem with city water, but it can be a significant issue for well owners.

Low alkalinity.  Alkalinity is related to pH, but it isn't the same. Low alkalinity leaves pipes vulnerable to acids.

Low TDS (Total Dissolved Solids).  Nature hates a vacuum. Water that has a low dissolved mineral content can pull minerals from metal pipes.

Pinhole Leak in Copper Pipe Caused by Corrosion

High Temperature and High Flow Rates.   Hot water is much more corrosive than cold. The faster water flows through a pipe, the more it breaks down the pipe.

Microbiological.  Microbes, if given a food supply and oxygen, can corrode pipes causing interior buildup and subsequent leaks.

Corrosion in a water distribution system can cause health issues as well as damaging water leaks.  When pipes are corroded, some of the metal from the pipe enters the drinking water and is consumed. Pipes and fixtures containing copper, lead, and brass (brass contains lead) can cause a variety of health problems. If water with low pH is pulling copper into the water, the best treatment is raising the pH.

While the municipal supplier regulates such contaminants as lead at the water plant, no one is checking the actual amount of lead or copper that comes out of the kitchen tap.

Pipe corrosion is a compelling justification for having a drinking water system under the kitchen sink.  A comprehensive treatment system like reverse osmosis takes care of virtually any  contamination that enters the water on its way from the water plant.


People often purchase a water filter after a plumber shows them the inside of a pipe during a plumbing repair. The pristine water described in the city's annual water report has to come through miles of dirty pipes before it gets to your drinking glass.

New From the Pure Water Gazette Website


Leaks Do More Than Waste Water

This piece adapted from Hindustan Times describes a situation of severe degradation of  the water infrastructure of a city in India. Leaks do more than waste water.  When water pipes are pierced,  water quality is compromised.  In the US, the EPA is warning that massive infrastructure upgrades will be necessary in the very near future.  As water pipes age and and leaks become more frequent, the need for point of use, or “final barrier” water treatment for microbial contamination becomes more urgent.
Passive Aeration Filters for Iron, Hydrogen Sulfide, and More
A compact design that is gaining popularity, especially for applications where iron or sulfide content is not excessive, is a single-tank method  that uses the same tank for aeration and filtration.  This is a more passive approach than an air compressor.

A Measured Look at Public Fluoridation of Water

A New Zealander offers a thoughtful and well-balanced look at the never-ending dispute over the  fluoridation of public water. He shows that both sides offer some good arguments and some very dumb ones.  Though the battle goes on, the anti-fluoride forces, in New Zealand as elsewhere, seem to be gaining the upper hand.

Are We Witnessing the Return of the Dust Bowl?

As hard times approach there is still time to do something, but Americans, like the frog in the heating pot, continue to ignore the obvious warning signs.  Are we going to dribble our last drops of water onto a golf course in the middle of a desert?

Water News from Around the World

Five men have been convicted of conspiring to violate the federal Clean Water Act by dumping 430 tractor-trailer loads of asbestos-contaminated material at a site along the Mohawk River from July to October 2006. The material was made up of demolished homes and other buildings that were put through an industrial shredding machine without the asbestos being removed. Full Story.

An independent report blamed manufacturing defects for the failure of an ExxonMobil pipeline that sent 150,000 gallons of crude oil into the small town of Mayflower, Arkansas.  Some of the oil reached Conway Lake,   Full Story.


In what  has been called the “Jellification of the Seas,” jelly fish, “blind and lacking both a heart and a brain, driven by waves and currents,” are pushing fish aside and taking over large parts of the oceans.  Full Story. 

Waukesha,  Wisconsin,  the home town of the inventor of the electric guitar, has drawn its aquifer down to the dregs and all it is getting now is water laced with illegal levels of cancer-causing radium.  It has a plan to get water for is 70,000 residents from Lake Michigan, but there is opposition from both sides of the border.  Full Details.

It is less than a month until National Garden Hose Day.  Full story.

Japan's nuclear regulator says radioactive water from the crippled Fukushima power plant is probably leaking into the Pacific Ocean, a problem long suspected by experts but denied by the plant's operator.  Full Story. 

Coming very soon to Pure Water Products:  Sterilight UV.

Environmentalists filed a petition with the U.S. government requesting regulatory safeguards for 81 particularly vulnerable marine wildlife species, from corals to sharks. They charged that U.S. officials have failed to protect ocean-dwelling species at anywhere near the rate received by animals that live on land. Full Story.

Thank you for reading, and please stay tuned next Monday for another heart stopping Occasional. 

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