Zimbabwe’s farmers are urging authorities to undertake cloud seeding to ease an early-season drought that’s hurting crops and destroying cattle pastures. Zimbabwe has for decades seeded clouds with silver iodide, which can thicken them to encourage rain by cooling water droplets and making them heavier. The science is disputed by some meteorologists.
In Ft. Myers, Florida, a fundraiser called the Parade of Mermaids was held to benefit of the Florida Commercial Watermen’s Conservation Coalition. After the red tide and blue-green algae blooms of 2018, the group was formed by the co-owner of Island Seafood Market, to scientifically monitor offshore waters. The group’s purpose is to contribute its own testing to help the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and other science communities gain a better understanding of water quality issues and red tide events. Last year's red tide had a devastating effect on local businesses that depend on tourism.
A stunning 42 percent of 301 randomly selected wells tested in Iowa and in Grant and Lafayette counties in Wisconsin exceed federal health standards for bacteria that can come from animal or human waste, or from a toxic fertilizer residue, according to the Wisconsin State Journal.
Tests done on water released by a failed mine dam near the Brazilian city of Brumadinho revealed severe degradation of the river's water quality and a threat to downstream cities that take water from the river. It is expected that most fish in the river will be killed. As of early February, a total of 110 human dead had been recovered and almost 250 more were reported missing.
The Thwaites Glacier in West Antarctica has developed a cavity roughly two-thirds the size of Manhattan and about 1,000 feet tall, This empty space has the negative effect of speeding up the rate at which the glacier melts and, in turn, how quickly sea levels rise. The newly discovered cavity previously contained 14 billion tons of ice, which is now water, and it means the Thwaites Glacier is melting faster than anyone thought. If the whole glacier melts, it would raise the sea level by more than two feet.
In 2017 it was estimated that by 2030 the plastic in the ocean would outweigh the fish. UN figures now show that 8 million tons of plastic enter the ocean annually, killing marine life and entering into the human food chain.
The Naples, Florida City Council is pushing a plan that requires all homes in the city's utilities service district to switch from septic tanks to city sewer within the next eight years in an effort to improve water quality. Scientists have identified leaky septic tanks as a contributor to environmental disasters like blue-green algae outbreaks and red tide that plagued Southwest Florida waters last year.
“Civil penalties for polluters under the Trump administration plummeted during the past fiscal year to the lowest average level since 1994, according to a new analysis of Environmental Protection Agency data,” per The Washington Post. “In the two decades before President Trump took office, EPA civil fines averaged more than $500 million a year, when adjusted for inflation. Last year’s total was 85 percent below that amount — $72 million.” This information has, of course, led to criticism of the Trump EPA for lax enforcement of environmental regulations.
An estimated 6 billion gallons of treated water are lost every day in the United States from leaky pipes.
PFOA/PFAS Certification for a Whole House Carbon Filter
Enpress just announced that its Pioneer whole house carbon cartridge system is now NSF/ANSI standard 53 certifed for lead and cyst removal as well as NSF/ANSI standard P473 certified for removal of PFOA/PFAS. The Pioneer treats chlorine/chloramine as well as chemical contaminants in general. More information from Pure Water Products by email or phone.
In other water news,
Californians with unhealthy drinking water are pleading for help from lawmakers but opposition quickly developed to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proposal to pay for system improvements with a new fee. Full story from the Sacramento Bee.
According to M.I.T. Research, climate change is altering the color of the oceans, with the blues getting bluer and the greens getting greener. It is predicted that more than half of the world’s oceans will shift color by the year 2100, due to changes in the types and location of phytoplankton.
Support videos for Fleck control valves. This page provides links to Pentair University "how to" videos that show how Fleck controls are maintained. If you need to overhaul your filter valve or change the injector in your softener control, you can find an easy-to-follow visual description.
The Military Times reports widespread PFAS contamination of water in the area of Gerogia military bases as the result of years of using firefighting foam. The Air Force has acknowledged nationwide contamination of drinking water in communities close to its bases in more than a dozen other states.
In Georgia, Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Cobb County, Robins Air Force Base in Houston County, and Moody Air Force Base in Lowndes County used the firefighting foam in training exercises and to put out fires when planes crashed. The foam also sometimes leaked out of its storage tanks, the Journal-Constitution reported. Thousands of gallons of foam soaked into the ground or washed into creeks and wetlands, killing fish and imperiling those who use the affected waterways for fishing, swimming and boating, the newspaper reported.
The contamination, which is linked to a class of chemicals known collectively as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, was laid out in a series of site inspection reports completed by the Air Force last year.
Of particular interest in this context is the EPA’s recent decision to not establish regulatory limits on PFAS. This ruling allows the military to disclaim responsibilty for contamination of drinking water in the areas surrounding bases. In a statement, the Air Force said its response is constrained by a lack of regulation for PFAS chemicals. The two that are the focus of most testing are known as PFOS and PFOA.
“Because PFOS/PFOA are unregulated and Georgia or federal entities have not established standards for non-drinking water sources, we cannot expend government resources on those water sources,” the Air Force said.
Adsorption of Water Contaminants: How Filter Carbon Works
According to theWikipedia, “Adsorption is the adhesion of atoms, ions, or molecules from a gas, liquid, or dissolved solid to a surface. This process creates a film of the adsorbate on the surface of the adsorbent. This process differs from absorption, in which a fluid (the absorbate) permeates or is dissolved by a liquid or solid (the absorbent). Note that adsorption is a surface-based process while absorption involves the whole volume of the material.”
Explained more graphically:
This man has adsorbed a pie.
This man is absorbing a pie.
In water treatment, activated carbon is the main adsorbing agent. This is true because filter carbonhas an amazing amount of surface area and a strong ability to attract and hold organic chemicals.
Most of the surface area is internal.
Enlargement of granular carbon shows countless pores that adsorb contaminants. The surface area of the pores is exceptional. A single pound of activated carbon has more surface area in its pores than 100 football fields.
Carbon’s amazing ability to adsorb organic chemicals varies according to the chemical in question and conditions of the water. In general, chemicals of high molecular weight and low solubility are most easily adsorbed. The lower the concentration of the chemical, the higher the adsorption rate by carbon. Also, the fewer the interfering organic compounds present in the water the better. The pH of the water is also significant, with acidic compounds being most readily adsorbed at low pH. And, as with most other aspects of water filtration, rate of flow of the water being treated is extremely important with carbon adsorption. The more residence time the better.
In regard to specific chemicals, one source lists dozens of common chemicals and ranks them according to the likelihood that they will be removed by carbon adsorption. Here are a few of the more common items from the list:
Very High Probability of Adsorption: Atrazine, Malathion, 1, 3-dichlorobenzene, DDT, Lindade.
High Probability of Adsorption: Toluene, styrene, benzene, carbon tetrachloride, vinyl acetate, phenol.
Moderate Probability of Adsorption: Chloroform, vinyl chloride, acetic acid.
Unlikely to be adsorbed by carbon: Isopropyl alcohol, dimethylformaldehyde, propylene.
It should be remembered that although carbon has great chemical reduction capacity because of its ability to attract and hold chemicals on its surface, it acts in other ways as well. Chlorine, for example, is reduced mainly by catalytic reaction with the carbon, not by the “grab and hold” process of adsorption.
Hyponatremia, or Water Intoxication
Drinking too much water left a woman with a urinary tract infection seriously ill, and doctors said water intoxication can kill you. The case in point is a 59-year-old London woman who, in an attempt to “flush out her system,” drank water so copiously that she developed hyponatremia, also called water intoxication.
According to the Mayo Clinic:
Hyponatremia is a condition that occurs when the level of sodium in your blood is abnormally low. Sodium is an electrolyte, and it helps regulate the amount of water that’s in and around your cells.
In hyponatremia, one or more factors — ranging from an underlying medical condition to drinking too much water during endurance sports — causes the sodium in your body to become diluted. When this happens, your body’s water levels rise, and your cells begin to swell. This swelling can cause many health problems, from mild to life-threatening.
Hyponatremia is marked by an abnormally low level of sodium in the blood. Sodium helps regulate the quantity of water in and around cells.
There is a death rate of nearly 30 percent for patients whose sodium level drops drastically below normal. The condition can involve vomiting and significant speech difficulties.
Treatment for hyponatremia may require medication, but usually it can be corrected simply by restricting water intake. Recovery may take a week or longer.
“The old adage to ‘drink plenty of water’ should be approached with caution if you are not vomiting, or experiencing diarrhea, or excessive sweating,” advised one doctor. “Your thirst is often the best guide to gauge when you think you need to drink more water if you have no history of kidney disease.”
Other signs of water intoxication include headaches, nausea and vomiting, confusion, loss of energy and fatigue. The illness can cause the brain to swell, coma, seizures and death.
People with normal kidney function who sometimes develop water intoxication are endurance athletes who drink more water while exercising than their kidneys can excrete.
Although doctors commonly advise patients with many ailments to “drink plenty of fluids,” little evidence supports the recommendation. There are definitely both risks and benefits to increased fluid intake.
Reference: Tucson News was the original source, but the article itself is no longer available.
Leading Water Issues, Old and New
by Gene Franks and Emily McBroom
The statement,”my parents drank this water for 50 years, and it never hurt them” is no longer a valid excuse for consumers to not be concerned with their water quality.—Greg Reyneke.
In a recent article in H2O Quality magazine, water treatment expert Greg Reyneke (see note below) commented on recent information that has surfaced about some old water treatment issues. Below are Greg’s comments, followed by some observations of our own which suggest practical approaches to dealing with the contaminants. Greg’s comments are italicized.
A 2010 assessment by the Environmental Integrity Project suggests that the risk of getting cancer from drinking water containing 10 ppb of arsenic is closer to 1 in 136, almost 15 times higher than current EPA assumptions (1 in 2000). Many scientists say the increased risk of cancer in humans who drink water, inhale dust, or ingest soil contaminated with high levels of inorganic arsenic puts the chemical’s danger level in the same category as that of smoking cigarettes.
The acceptable maximum level for arsenic in drinking water, as recommended by the EPA, is just 1/5 what it was a few years ago. Removing arsenic from a small amount of drinking water is fairly easy, while point-of-entry removal is difficult and expensive. Since arsenic is mainly an ingestion issue, we recommend removing it from drinking water and practicing common sense avoidance for other water in the home. In other words, drink water from your kitchen reverse osmosis (RO) unit, not from the bathroom sink. The best drinking water treatment for arsenic is reverse osmosis. Undersink filters with iron oxide media are also effective.
Bacteria and Waterborne Pathogens
Bacteria exist in ALL water at some level, even safe, chlorinated city water. Some bacteria are relatively “safe,” but there are other potential problems like brain-eating amoeba that have been found in certain waters. The expense and difficulty of consistent testing often means that contamination may go undiscovered for extended periods of time.
By far the best residential treatment for bacterial contamination is ultraviolet. UV was at one time mainly used with well water, but because of growing concerns over the effectiveness of city water disinfection, and because of frequent “boil water” alerts, whole house UV units are now becoming common items in homes with municipal water. UV can also be used for point of use applications, but it costs so little extra to do the whole house, point of entry systems are most common. UV is a reliable technology that adds nothing objectionable to the treated water. It is easy and relatively inexpensive to maintain.
Chlorine and Chloramine
While chlorination of water is probably one of the most significant contributors to lowering the risk of waterborne illness in the USA, there are significant negative effects, such as taste and odors, corrosion, and even a correlation to the development of some cancers.
Removing chlorine or chloramine from water for the whole home or for drinking water only is best accomplished with carbon filtration. There are innumerable products to choose from, including large tank-style filters, carbon block cartridges, and even small filters built into refrigerators. Whole house filters can remove chlorine or chloramine, but tighter drinking water filters are more effective at removing other chemical contaminants that might be present in the water. An excellent residential treatment plan is a whole house carbon filter to provide chlorine/chloramine-free water for bathing and general household purposes, and a drinking water unit, either a tight carbon block filter or reverse osmosis unit, for drinking water only. In general, chloramine is much harder to remove than chlorine. Chlormaine removal filters are larger and use better quality carbon (catalytic carbon) to do the job.
Hard Water Scale and Soap Interactions
While many people might consider hard water to be a simple aesthetic issue, it really is bigger than that. Hard water is a significant drain on a family’s monthly budget and has a decidedly negative impact on the planet due to increased heating and cleaning expenses, along with premature appliance failure. Consumers are clamoring for low-salt and no-salt solutions to their hard water problems that “waste” a minimum amount of water.
While there is no substitute for the conventional salt-based ion exchange water softener, salt-free alternatives, especially TAC (Template Assisted Crystallization) units, are growing in popularity fast. While TAC units don’t do some of the things softeners do, they have the advantage of requiring no salt, electricity, or connection to a drain. They don’t use water for regeneration or add salt to wastewater.
While Flint, Michigan, captured the imagination of the nation, lead can also be found at some level in other areas. In 2017, 779 Texas schools (about 71%) were reported to have lead in their drinking water, according to an analysis of testing data by Environment Texas Research and Policy Center. Lead is a potent neurotoxin, affecting the way children learn, grow, and behave, which can cause problems that will persist into adulthood.
Lead is a tricky issue, because lead in drinking water often comes from the pipes inside the home itself, making a “whole house” filter for lead pointless. Nevertheless, growing evidence shows that infrastructure issues, old lead city water pipes in particular, are adding lead to water coming into homes. Lead can be removed by ion exchange and by special carbon block filters with added resins, but reverse osmosis is the best treatment for drinking water. As with many contaminants, lead is mainly an ingestion issue, so having a good reverse osmosis unit in the kitchen is the most practical treatment.
The serious health risks of consuming water containing manganese have been overlooked for far too long. Long-term consumption of even low levels are now related to complications involving alterations in neurotransmitter and enzyme levels in the brain that can cause nerve damage, brain changes, hormone alteration, and possibly even the proliferation of certain cancers.
Manganese is normally a well water issue, but we increasingly hear reports of manganese in water from central suppliers, especially small water systems. Manganese, regardless of the source, is a significant aesthetic issue, causing odors and dark stains, and it is now being regarded as a health issue as well. Whole house treatments can be complicated, but they can also be as simple as a conventional water softener or a backwashing filter. For drinking water, reverse osmosis assures manganese-free water.
Perfluorinated Compounds (PFC, PFOS, PFOA)
Perfluoroalkyls are not natural, and PFOA and PFOS are the two types that have typically been found in the largest amounts. These substances are unique because they repel oil, grease, and water – meaning they have been used to help produce countless convenient modern products. Exposure levels of these chemicals can already be found in the blood of most Americans. Health risks from exposure to these chemicals include hormone disruption, fertility issues, and even certain cancers.
Although treatment for perfluorinated compounds in municipal systems can be complex, carbon filtration for whole house and reverse osmosis for drinking water have been found to provide significant reduction for homes.
One other issue we would like to add to the list of regulated contaminants that should be taken more seriously is nitrates. There is growing evidence that nitrate contamination is becoming much more common, not only in well water but also in city water supplies. The long-standing EPA allowable amount of 10 parts per million may be way too lenient. Although nitrates can be removed with ion exchange, the best and easiest way to provide nitrate-free drinking water is with an undersink RO unit in the home.
Of the issues discussed, whole house treatments are practical for bacteria and hardness. For city water with chlorine, chloramine, and general chemical issues, including PFOS, an appropriately designed and sized whole house carbon filter is recommended. For drinking water issues like lead, nitrates, and arsenic, an undersink reverse osmosis unit is the treatment of choice. A good undersink RO unit covers virtually all drinking water issues. It includes tight carbon block filters for chemical reduction and a very tight membrane that strains out lead, arsenic, fluoride, nitrates, sodium, and other undesirables.
Reference: Greg, Reyneke, “It’s Up to You,” H2O Quality (a publication of the Texas Water Quality Association), Winter, 2019. pp. 10-12. See also www.gregknowswater.com.
Fatbergs and Bacteria
In September 2017, sewer workers in London discovered a “fatberg” made of oil and grease poured down London drains mixed with flushed wet wipes, diapers, and condoms that failed to disintegrate. This fatberg weighed in at 130 tons, the weight of about 19 African elephants, and stretched 820 feet, almost the total length of the London Bridge. Though it was cleaned out by the heroic efforts of sewer workers, a bit of the monster fatberg remains and can be seen at the Museum of London.
Fatbergs, at the same time disgusting and somewhat comical, give us an insight into the alien world of the sewer networks that keep towns and cities running smoothly. Fatbergs are pretty spectacular. They can shut down an entire municipal drainage system and they can cost millions of dollars to clear.
The famous fatberg pictured above is from London, but fatbergs exist everywhere, and not just in big cities. The English seaside town of Sidmouth recently discovered a fatberg of gigantic proportions.
Fatburgs come at a big cost. Every year the UK spends an estimated £100,000,000 clearing away some 300,000 fatbergs created by congealed fats and waste that people pour down the sink and flush down the toilet. In addition to fats, diapers, so-called “disposable” wipes, and condoms are big contributors to fatberg formation.
Historically, water companies have resorted to the hard task of physical removal to keep drains clean. Cleaning away a fatberg often requires truly heroic efforts on the part of water treatment workers.
Bacteria to the rescue
A German company, however, has taken a new approach to the removal and prevention of fatbergs. A product called Lipasan, made in south-west Germany, treats fatbergs with a micro-organism solution made with bacteria grown specifically to eat fat. Lipasan digests fat, grease, and oil.
Lipasan is being used with great success in the German city of Ramstein which has a particular problem with fatberg formation, because, according to a company spokesperson, “the city has a US Military base, which has brought with it a cuisine that is traditionally higher in fat.” Military bases are infamous in the US for contaminating their surrounding areas with water polluting chemicals. Currently PFAS has drawn most attention for military water pollution, but everything from trichloroethylene to benzene to mercury have been found in abundance in waters in the neighborhoods of military bases such as Camp Lejeune, NC. Perhaps fatbergs can be added to the list of the side effects of the military.
According to Dr. Andrea Junker-Buchheit, a lead scientist in the creation of Lipasan, “We treat fatbergs with a special micro-organism solution. We grow bacteria which have been developed specifically to eat fat. They digest all the fat, all the grease, all the oil.” The bacteria eats fat, and needs more and more of it to survive and grow.
The application of Lipasan is completed by dosing pumps that inject specific amounts of the bacterial solution into the pipes of the water treatment plant. The injected bacteria keep the pipes clean and fatbergs under control. Although preventive treatment with fat-gobbling bacteria is not cheap, the cost is only a fraction of what it takes to clear fatbergs from pipes using conventional means.
Pure Water Gazette's Famous Water Pictures: The Silent Highwayman
"The Silent Highwayman" serves as a reminder of a memorable time in London known as The Great Stink of 1858. The great stink occurred as the result of an intense heat wave and a spectacularly inadequate waste disposal system that created a stench of human excrement so noxious that is was said to be unbearable.
It was a time of typhoid and cholera. Londoners distrusted the drinking water, which came from the same river that received the city's raw sewage. One cleric observed: "He who drinkis a tumbler of London water has literally in his stomach more animated beings than there are men, women, and children on the face of the globe."
The Great Stink episode prompted action and London began work on a monumental sewage disposal system known as the Crossness Pumping Station. Opened on April 4, 1865, during a lavish ceremony attended by British royalty and the top celebrities of London society, the new facility featured four mighty steam engines that pumped the city's sewage into a 27 million gallon reservoir where it sat covered until high tide at which point it was released into the Thames and carried out to sea. While this approach only exacerbated pollution levels downstream, it certainly proved effective in curing London of the unholy stink that plagued the city for a great part of the 19th century. Improved over the years, the Crossness Pumping station (now a museum) operated for around a hundred years. The original four mighty steam engines were not retired until 1956.
Those who complain today of stricter regulation of water and air quality and increasing water treatment costs should remember that things were once a lot worse. Modern waste water treatment plants not only protect water supplies but are increasingly used to recycle waste water for reuse as potable water. So, quit bitching about increasing water rates. Pay up and be thankful you don't have to live with The Great Stink and fear of cholera.
The Crossness Pumping Station is now an impressive museum in London. The four great steam engines, which were given names of royal family members, are on display.