Pure Water Occasional, November 19, 2019
Water News in a Nutshell
The rupture of a 36" water main in Arlington, VA washed out a bridge and backed up traffic for miles. A boil water advisory was issued for Arlington and a swath of Northwest Washington, D.C.
A comprehensive study conducted by the American Water Works Association concluded that a treatment system for small municipal suppliers featuring ultraviolet (UV) light via non-mercury light-emitting diodes (LEDs) "demonstrated viral and bacterial disinfection efficiency and resilience equivalent to chlorination systems." Full article.
Two boys, 9 and 10, have been arrested for vandalism resulting in $100,000 damage to the Broken Arrow, OK water treatment plant.
Zebra mussels damaged water treatment equipment leaving Plugerville, TX customers susceptible to a disease-causing organism for nearly a year.
The city of Raleigh, NC has made improvements to its wastewater disposal plant that will allow it to harvest enough natural gas from waste products to power 50 of its city buses.
Baltimore's City Council is adopting a progressive billing system designed to relieve poor residents from rising water costs and provide them more recourse if they receive bills that appear to include mistakes. The city would provide income-based discounts for residents at or below 200% of federal poverty guidelines. The city currently offers $236 annual bill credits to the poorest residents needing assistance, and 43% discounts on water rates.
The U.S. Army is “precipitously close to mission failure” when it comes to hydrating soldiers in the kinds of contested, arid environments they are likely to go in the next few decades, according to an Army War College study published this summer. The military's dependence upon increasing amounts of bottled water is not the only issue. The main concern is that warming climate increases need for water and at the same time makes water less available. What is worse, climate change is rapidly driving people from their homes, creating migration problems that lead to wars. Full article in Army Times.
The $68,000 Fish
According to Harper's, "Four out of five salmon in the Pacific Northwest are now born in hatcheries, and the vast majority will die. This has led the Northwest Power and Conservation Council, an organization that advises the region’s governments on environmental and energy matters, to estimate that for fish spawned in the lower river hatcheries, where success is relatively easy, it costs $66 to produce a harvested fish that navigates the trip home. In the middle regions of the watershed, where fewer fish survive the journey, it can cost up to $9,000 to bring a fish back. And the program to breed Chinook in the high mountains of Washington has been even less successful. The Council estimates that the true cost of bringing a single spawner back to that uppermost region is as much as $68,031."
Researchers found microplastics in almost all rivers in Montana. Details.
Blue Ridge Brawlers Win Operations Challenge
The Blue Ridge Brawlers of the Virginia Water Environment Association pulled off a dramatic win at the 29th annual Operations Challenge competition at WEFTEC 2016—the Water Environment Federation’s 89th annual technical exhibition and conference—in New Orleans. As one of the most engaging events on the exhibition floor, Operations Challenge is a unique and fast-paced test of the essential skills needed to operate and maintain wastewater treatment facilities, their collection systems, and laboratories—all vital to the protection of public health and the environment. Over the course of nearly three decades, Operations Challenge has steadily grown from the original 22-team event to this year’s 42-team, two-division format. Teams are judged on the best combination of precision, speed, and safety. The winners are determined by a weighted point system for five events including collection systems, laboratory, maintenance, safety, and process control, which was enhanced this year by new modeling software. [The Occasional's home town favorites, the TRA (Trinity River Authority) Waste Warriors of Dallas, finished 3rd in the second division.] More details about the competition.
The head of EPA's water division this month called waste water treatment workers "America's unsung heroes" and warned that one of our significant problems is the diminishing supply of experienced wastewater treatment professionals.
More than two dozen communities in Long Island have joined together in a lawsuit targeting the companies responsible for producing 1,4-dioxane. Full article.
In a poll of its members, the Water Quality Association found that over 60% said that referrals from other customers is their top source of new customers and that referrals frequently come via email or social media accounts.
We really appreciate all the business our customers have sent us.
Just Get Yourself a Reverse Osmosis Unit and Stop Worrying
by Gene Franks
I spend a good part of most days talking on the phone about water treatment and listening to people's concerns about water quality issues. Many calls focus on the perennial items--contaminants that are in the news for awhile, then fade away, then come back strong when a new article or study makes the newscasts. These old stand-bys include lead, chloramines, chlorine, fluoride, arsenic, chromium, MTBE (this one is dying), nitrates, perchlorate, pesticides, VOCs, and "pharmaceuticals." Although I don't often say it in so many words, the sum of my advice in regard to drinking water is usually just "put a good reverse osmosis unit under your kitchen sink and stop worrying about the particulars." Instead of trying to determine if perchorate is in your water and if so is it at a level you can safely consume or fretting about whether you can trust the EPA's suggested allowable for lead or arsenic or speculating about if the nitrate level in your tap water is going to continue going up, install an undersink RO unit. Instead of worrying about all these individual concerns and all the emerging contaminants like the leavings of the teflon industry (a current hot item) and the contaminants that are yet to be discovered and others that may never be discovered, simply install a relatively inexpensive drinking water treatment that is the best known solution for almost all water treatment problems. That is the message of the article that follows: Don't expect the water provider to solve all the problems. Point of use treatment--what water treatment professionals often call "final barrier" treatment--is the sensible answer for drinking water. RO works.
According to the Environmental Working Group, water supplies for more than 7 million Americans in 27 states are contaminated with an industrial chemical at levels higher than what is generally considered safe. The chemical, known as 1,4-dioxane (often called simply dioxane), is especially troubling in certain areas of high concentration, most notably Long Island, NY, the Cape Fear River area of North Carolina, and Los Angeles county in California.
As with many contaminants, most of the research done on 1,4-dioxane treatment is focused on large applications like wastewater treatment plants and municipal water suppliers. Often, methods that prove effective for large operations are impossible to apply to residential treatment. In the case of dioxane, advanced oxidation processes involving hydrogen peroxide with ultraviolet (UV) light or ozone and anion exchange with specialty resins are used with some success to treat 1,4-dioxane. These large-scale methods are not practical for residential users.
Information about 1,4-dioxane as a residential contaminant and how to treat it is scarce and inconsistent. For residential treatment the old standby products carbon filtration and reverse osmosis seem to be the best things available, although very little actual testing seems to have been done to establish their effectiveness.
One North Carolina State University researcher says, “Most in-home water filters, including activated carbon filters, don’t remove 1,4-dioxane effectively. Reverse osmosis filters are better, removing a significant portion of the chemical from tap water, but still fall short.” Not exactly helpful if you’re designing a home treatment strategy, but typical of the information available. One leading internet vendor recommends whole house reverse osmosis at $10,000. Between the lines reading of the not-very-helpful advice on residential treatment indicates that filter carbon works, but not as well as one would hope, that it works best if there is long contact time (large filters and reduced flow rates), and that nutshell carbon seems to work better than coal-based. As for reverse osmosis, everyone agrees that it is effective but no one has established any hard information about rejection percentages.
To plan residential treatment for any contaminant, one needs to consider first how the contaminant is taken in by humans. In this area, too, there is a disturbing lack of information and a lot of contradictory information about dioxane. Water contaminants can be ingested by drinking contaminated water, or breathed in as a vapor or taken in through the skin. Showering is a common hazard since the contaminant can be taken in through the skin or breathed in if it vaporizes. Arsenic, to illustrate, does not evaporate into the air and is not easily absorbed through the skin, so there is little need for “whole house” treatment. Chlorine, conversely, vaporizes easily in the shower and also penetrates the skin, so whole house chlorine treatment is important.
Information about dermal and inhalation exposure to dioxane varies so much that it is essentially useless. The consensus is that it evaporates so quickly that dermal uptake is minimal; but this, of course, makes it more likely that it is breathed in during showering. To complicate the issue, because so many bath products are possible sources of the chemical, it is hard to know how much exposure is avoided by treating the water itself. It certainly makes no sense to install an elaborate and expensive system to remove 1, 4-dioxane from the water you shower with and then use a shampoo that contains the contaminant.
Our recommendation for residential 1,4-dioxane protection is the same as for contaminants like fluoride, arsenic, and chromium. Install a high quality reverse osmosis unit that has at least two carbon stages for drinking water. An undersink RO unit should be a standard feature in all homes. For the whole house, carbon filtration, either as carbon block cartridge filters or a tank-style backwashing filter, provides broad protection against most contaminants and should reduce exposure to dioxane. We do not believe that installation of over-sized carbon tanks just to treat dioxane is advisable.
Leaking underground storage tanks at hazardous waste sites and discharges from manufacturing plants are important sources of 1,4-dioxane water contamination. Other significant sources of exposure to the chemical include personal care products like shampoos, deodorants and lotions as well as laundry products and household cleaning products.
The Battleground Beneath Our Feet: The Politics of Water Pipes
by Gene Franks
“Whole House” Reverse Osmosis for Less than $2500
EPA Proposes New Regulations For Lead In Drinking Water
by Paolo Zialcita
Places to visit for additional information:
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