Pure Water Occasional, December 19, 2017
In this almost-Winter Occasional you'll hear a lot about "emerging contaminants," crumbling pipes, slanting tanks and persisting drought. Then, there are plastic trash, small fittings, corporate polluters, tank holes, Christmas trees, oil spills, radon pollution, and, as always, there is much, much more.
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Fleck 5810 Now Available

Fleck's new 5810 control valve now ready for internet sales

Pentair’s recent release of its internet policy covering the newest Fleck control valves, the 5810 and 5812, clears the way for us to offer filters and softeners made with these valves on our website.
Although we won’t have 5810 or 5812 products on the site for awhile, filters or softeners currently sold with a Fleck 5600 or Fleck 2510 can now be ordered by phone with the new Fleck 5810.
The versatile 5810 will work on any standard residential filters and softeners on our website, and unit prices are essentially the same as units with Fleck 5600 SXT control.

 Tank Tip for a Tipping Tank
Tank Tip: How to Fix a Crooked, Tipping Mineral Tank

We get occasional calls about tanks for large filters or softeners that lean to the side. If your tank looks like the leaning tower of Pisa, there’s an easy way to fix it.

Before you load the tank with media and before you hook it to your plumbing, straighten it by simply picking it up and tapping it on a solid floor to arrange the tank to sit straight in its base. The tank will move easily in its base when you tap the base against a solid surface.

The tank is not attached to its base–it’s simply sitting in it.  Sometimes tanks get out of line during shipping and an adjustment is needed.  Once you get it straight and in place, load it and install it to your plumbing. Once fixed, it will stay put.


Plastic Microtrash
by Mike Polhamus

A ruler marked in millimeter increments shows the size of these “nurdles,” tiny and relatively uniform but unidentified pieces of gray rubber found throughout Lake Champlain.

Plastic fibers, apparently from people’s clothing, are accumulating in Lake Champlain fish, plankton and birds, according to a SUNY Plattsburgh professor who is researching “micro” trash ingested by the lake’s aquatic organisms.

The fibers are suspected of introducing harmful substances like heavy metals and hydrocarbons — with which they bond readily — into creatures that ingest them, said Danielle Garneau, who teaches at the university’s Center for Earth and Environmental Science.

Garneau said she and other researchers found accumulations of the fibers in the innards of 14 species of Lake Champlain fish, as well as in zooplankton and cormorants from the lake.

The researchers also found flowing into the lake significant quantities of other tiny plastic particles that pass through Vermont’s wastewater treatment plants, including unidentified tiny gray rubber pieces called nurdles. Garneau said the nurdles’ origin is a mystery but that they’re distributed throughout the lake.
Lake Champlain from Battery Park in Burlington.

The nurdles and many other forms of plastic microtrash found throughout Lake Champlain appear to pass through most aquatic organisms, or to otherwise become undetectable, unlike the fibers that concentrate in their guts, Garneau said.

These fibers are primarily made of polyester and rayon, suggesting that many of them originated in the performance clothing Vermonters favor for outdoor activities in the species’ habitat, Garneau said.

The fibers seem to “biomagnify” up the food chain, she said, meaning predators accumulate garbage fibers from their prey, and those fibers then end up in whatever eats those predators, and so on.

In addition to potentially introducing harmful chemicals into organisms, the fibers are believed to interfere with their digestion in larger quantities, said Rachael Miller, founder of The Rozalia Project, a Vermont water advocacy group.

Miller said people often envision milk jugs and broken portable toilets when they think of large-scale aquatic plastic trash problems such as the garbage patches in the North Atlantic and the Pacific.

But the garbage patches consist primarily of tiny pieces of plastic found in greatest concentrations at the center of vast oceanic gyres that form the marine currents driving the world’s weather patterns, Miller said.

“That’s worse news than if it were a big floating island of trash, because microplastic is a much more difficult pollution problem to deal with,” she said. A milk jug is easy enough to lift out of the ocean, she said, but it becomes much more difficult to remove after sunshine and waves break it down into millions of microscopic fragments.

The tiny fibers that Garneau and her fellow researchers are finding accumulated in Lake Champlain organisms probably came from clothes, she said.

Research suggests the fibers escape into the environment not just from wastewater from washing machines, but also from air pumped out of clothes driers, Miller said.

Wastewater treatment plants aren’t designed to remove the fibers or other particles of plastic, and so the best way to reduce their spread is to prevent them from leaving the house in the first place, Garneau said.

Miller invented a device meant to catch the fibers while they’re floating in washing machines.

Both women said there is evidence people can help by washing their clothes in ways that don’t break down fabrics. This means liquid detergent instead of powdered, soft water instead of hard, cool water instead of hot, and gentle cycle instead of heavy duty.

“Microplastics are not just a phenomenon at the center of ocean gyres,” Miller said. “We have microplastics in urban harbors and in Lake Champlain. It’s important that people understand this is a problem right at our toes, and not just thousands of miles away.”

Source: VTDigger.org
What an Oil Spill Looks Like

The Canada to Texas Keystone Pipeline spilled oil in Amherst, South Dakota, on  November 16, raising questions of groundwater protection. TransCanada Corp., the pipeline’s owner,  has as of late November recovered 44,400 gallons, the equivalent of 1,057 barrels, though an estimated 210,000 gallons were released during the leak. The site of the oil spill lies only 20 miles from the Lake Traverse Reservation, the home of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate.

Currently, the pipeline stretches 2,147 miles from Hardisty, Alberta to the Texas coast. Since 2010, the pipeline has suffered three leaks in North and South Dakota. Before constructing the pipeline, TransCanada released a spill risk assessment that estimated the chance of a leak of more than 50 barrels to be no more than once every 11 years.


Hole Size of Tanks

2.5" = 2.75"

 Standard sized residential mineral tanks up to 13″ in diameter have a threaded top hole for the control head that is 2.5 inches in diameter.  At least, that’s the official size.  Filter and softener owners planning to replace a control head sometimes measure the hole and are dismayed to find that they have a non-standard tank because the inside diameter of the threaded hole measures 2 3/4 inches rather than 2 1/2 inches.  Actually, all is well.

This is not uncommon with pipe thread sizes. There is a theoretical size and an actual size. Likewise, a 1/4″ pipe size pipe fitting fits a hole that measures quite a bit larger than 1/4″.

The moral: when buying fittings or replacing filter controls, go by the theoretical size rather than the actual.


Pure Water Annie FAQ: Quick Connect Fittings

Pure Water Gazette Technical Wizard Pure Water Annie Answers All the Persistent Questions about Water Treatment

This week’s topic: Quick Connect Fittings

Why do they call these things John Guest fittings?
The British company, John Guest, was the originator of the popular quick connect fittings used almost exclusively in small water filtration equipment these days. In the same way that all soft drinks are referred to as "cokes," the brand name John Guest has become generic. Actually, there are several very good brands of "John Guest" fittings on the market.
How do they work?

When a piece of tubing is inserted into the fitting it passese through an o-ring and is grabbed and held tightly in place by metal teeth that are mounted on a small collar called a collet. The tube is held tightly by the collet. Outward pressure makes the fitting tighter - something like a Chinese finger puzzle. It's the small o-ring that makes the seal. The metal teeth on the collet hold the tube in place. To release the tube, push inward on the collet toward the body of the fitting and, at the same time, pull out the tube.
Do they leak?
Yes, but not often. They're probably more reliable than standard threaded compression fittings because they aren't as susceptible to installer error. Best of all, leaks are usually small drips - not the catastrophic blow-outs you can get with a poorly installed compression fitting.
What causes leaks?

New fittings seldom leak. Usually, leaks occur after o-rings in the fittings have been degraded by chemicals (chloramine is the worst) or by physical stress caused by improper replacement. For example, if the installer fails to leave enough "slack" in a tube, causing the tube to be pulled hard to one side, a leak will usually occur because the o-ring is flattened by physical street. Fittings equipped with double o-rings are less likely to leak than standard quick-connects.
When the fitting leaks can it be replaced?

Yes, it's easy to replace fittings. There are many good brands on the market and they interchange well. But you really don't have to replace leaking fittings because they are just as easily repaired. Replacing the o-rings(s) almost always fixes the leak. Here's a good article that tells how to fix them.
Once the collet has been popped out, the o-ring is easy to remove and replace.
Sometimes they won't release easily. Why?
If there’s any pressure at all on the fitting,  it won’t release.  You have to have the inlet water of your unit turned off an a downstream faucet open. And some fittings are harder to release than others.  The double o ring variety–the ones that never leak–are also the hardest to release. Another of life’s tradeoffs.
We Are All Californians
by Gene Franks

I’m prayin’ for rain in California,

 So the grapes can grow and they can make more wine,

 And I’m sittin’ in a honky in Chicago,

 With a broken heart and a woman on my mind. 
This lyric from a Dean Martin recording says a lot about America’s current dilemma.  Every day the rain doesn’t fall in California is a day that grapes don’t grow, and lettuce doesn’t grow, and almonds don’t grow, and avocados don’t grow, and lemons don’t grow, and walnuts don’t grow, and broccoli doesn’t grow, and oranges don’t grow, and rice doesn’t grow, and apples don’t grow, and marijuana doesn’t grow.

In an article called “What would we eat if it weren’t for California?” author Brian Palmer asks,
If California were to disappear, what would the American diet be like?

Expensive and grainy. California produces a sizable majority of many American fruits, vegetables, and nuts: 99 percent of artichokes, 99 percent of walnuts, 97 percent of kiwis, 97 percent of plums, 95 percent of celery, 95 percent of garlic, 89 percent of cauliflower, 71 percent of spinach, and 69 percent of carrots (and the list goes on and on). Some of this is due to climate and soil. No other state, or even a combination of states, can match California’s output per acre. Lemon yields in California, for example, are more than 50 percent higher than in Arizona. California spinach yield per acre is 60 percent higher than the national average. Without California, supply of all these products in the United States and abroad would dip, and in the first few years, a few might be nearly impossible to find. Orchard-based products in particular, such as nuts and some fruits, would take many years to spring back.
 About 40 years ago Rodale Press funded a study called the Cornucopia Project that questioned the wisdom of putting all our agricultural eggs in one basket. Our food system is wonderful at making money, but it may not be the best plan if providing a secure supply of food for the nation is the goal. The Cornucopia writers pointed out that a disruption in the system could turn into a national calamity.  Anything that makes it difficult (or unprofitable) to haul broccoli from California to Cleveland could easily leave Cleveland without broccoli. And carrots. And celery.

Maybe the current drought is a wake-up event that can teach us the wisdom of eating more locally grown food and supporting the local farmers who grow it. The factory farm model is profitable when all goes well, but it can leave us all high and dry when difficulties, like the current drought,  arise.

But as for now, like good old Dean Martin, I’m prayin’ for rain in California.  I really like broccoli.  And walnuts. And Lundberg’s California rice. We’re all Californians.
Real Christmas Trees Save Water

Fake Christmas trees might be convenient and seem environmentally beneficial at first glance, but their environmental costs - measured in greenhouse gas emissions and landfill space - far outweigh their benefits. -- National Geographic

The environmental superiority of real Christmas trees is an accepted fact except among the sellers of artificial trees.

Artificial trees are made from a kind of plastic called polyvinyl chloride, which is derived from petroleum and can contain lead or other harmful toxins.

Furthermore, according to the U.S. Commerce Department, about 80 percent of fake trees are manufactured in China, where most electricity is generated by burning coal—one of the dirtiest fuel sources.  They come to the user on ships that burn diesel and emit noxious gasses.  Fake trees do not biodegrade.

In contrast, real trees are completely recyclable, and they are grown in the United States on thousands of farms that employ an estimated 100,000 people.

As far as water use is concerned, real trees, it is true, use lots of water, but they are usually grown in areas where water is plentiful. It is almost certain the process of manufacturing plastic trees uses more water.  No actual figures are available to substantiate this claim.

These are only some of the many reasons that real trees are second only to no tree at all as an environmental option.
Radon in Water

 Radon is one of the more perplexing and misunderstood issues in home water treatment.  The material below is excerpted from several sources, especially from an excellent Penn State University Extension services publication.

Radon is a colorless, tasteless, odorless, radioactive gas. It is formed from the decay of radium in soil, rock, and water and can be found worldwide.

The radon in the air in your home generally comes from two sources: the soil or the water supply. It escapes from the earth’s crust through cracks and crevices in bedrock, and either seeps through foundation cracks or through poorly sealed areas into basements and homes, or it dissolves in the groundwater. Radon can be trapped in buildings where it can increase to dangerous levels. In general, radon is of much greater danger when it enters through the soil than when it enters via the water supply.

Radon can be inhaled from the air or ingested from water. Inhalation of radon increases the chances of lung cancer and this risk is much larger than the risk of stomach cancer from swallowing water with a high radon concentration. Generally, ingested waterborne radon is not a major cause for concern. The extent of the effects and the risk estimates involved are difficult to determine. According to the EPA’s 2003 Assessment of Risks from Radon in Homes, radon is estimated to cause about 21,000 lung cancer deaths per year. The National Research Council’s report, Risk Assessment of Radon in Drinking Water, estimates radon in drinking water causes about 160 cancer deaths per year due to inhalation and 20 stomach cancer deaths per year due to ingestion.

Radon in water usually originates in water wells drilled into bedrock containing radon gas. Radon usually does not occur in significant concentrations in surface waters.

Dissolved radon in groundwater will escape into indoor air during showering, laundering, and dish washing. Estimates are that indoor air concentrations increase by approximately 1 picocurie per liter (pCi/L) for every 10,000 pCi/L in water. For example, a water well containing 2,000 pCi/L of radon would be expected to contribute 0.2 pCi/L to the indoor air radon concentration. Based on the potential for cancer, the EPA suggests that indoor air should not exceed 4 pCi/L.

The U.S. EPA and various states have recommended drinking water standards for radon in water ranging from 300 to 10,000 pCi/L but no standard currently exists. One study found that radon was present in over 900 Pennsylvania water wells, 78% of which exceeded 300 pCi/L, 52% of which exceeded 1,000 pCi/L, and 10% of which exceeded 5,000 pCi/L.

Since most exposure to radon is from air, testing of indoor air is the simplest method to determine the overall risk of radon in your home. Test kits for indoor air radon are inexpensive and readily available at most home supply stores.

Testing for radon in water is also inexpensive but requires special sampling and laboratory analysis techniques that measure its presence before it escapes from the sample. Test kits are available from various private testing labs

The presence of waterborne radon indicates that radon is probably also entering the house through the soil into the basement which is generally the predominant source. Therefore, treating the water without reducing other sources of incoming airborne radon probably will not eliminate the radon threat. Therefore, you should also test the air in your home for radon.
Treating Radon in Water
 The main objective of water treatment is removing radon from water before the radon can become airborne. Most water treatment, therefore, focuses on “point of entry” rather than “point of use.”
Granular Activated Carbon (GAC)
One method for removing radon from water is with a granular activated carbon (GAC) unit. Although these systems come in a variety of models, types and sizes, they all follow the same principle for removal. The standard radon GAC filter is a tank-style unit that can have either a backwashing control or a simple non-backwashing head. Non-backwashing GAC units must be protected from sediment with a prefilter.  Radon filter sizing depends on the amount of radon present, service flow rates, amount of water treated, the size of the treatment bed and other factors, so each application must be considered separately and radon testing for effectiveness of the filter should be carried out regularly.

 Typical setup for a GAC filter treating radon
Various estimates suggest that GAC should only be used on water supplies with a maximum radon concentration of less than 30,000 pCi/L.  If you do decide to purchase a unit, select a filter size that matches your water use and conditions. According to the U.S. EPA, a three-cubic-foot unit can handle as much as 250 gallons of water per day and effectively reduce radon levels. Typical water use in the home ranges from 50 to 100 gallons per person per day.

A major drawback to the use of GAC filters for radon removal is the eventual buildup of radioactivity within the filter. For this reason, the GAC unit should be placed outside the home or in an isolated part of the basement to minimize exposure. The carbon may also need to be replaced annually to reduce the hazard of accumulated radioactivity. Spent GAC filters used for radon removal may need special disposal. Disposal of spent carbon should be in compliance with local waste disposal regulations.

GAC treatment units are frequently also installed to remove chlorine, pesticides, petroleum products, and various odors in water. In these cases, the GAC filter may unknowingly be accumulating radioactivity as it removes radon from the water. Radon should always be tested for and considered as a potential hazard with the use of GAC filters.

The U.S. EPA has listed aeration as the best available technology for removing radon from water. Home aeration units physically agitate the water to allow the dissolved radon gas to be collected and vented to the outside. With new technological advancements in home aeration, these units can have radon removal efficiencies of up to 99.9%. Standard aeration treatment units typically cost $3,000 to $5,000 including installation. Be aware that aeration specifically for radon reduction is not the same as aeration for iron or hydrogen sulfide reduction. While “closed tank” systems designed for iron and sulfide reduction might help with radon, they are not designed to provide the large ventilation capacity needed to assure release of radon to the atmosphere.

When considering installation of aeration units, other water quality issues must be taken into account, such as levels of iron, manganese and other contaminants. Water with high levels of these types of contaminants may need to be pre-treated in order to prevent clogging the aeration unit. Disinfection equipment may also be recommended since some aeration units can allow bacterial contamination into the water system.

 Typical Spray Aeration System Designed  for Radon Reduction in a Private Home
There are several styles of aeration treatment units but all work on the same principle of aerating or agitating the water to allow the radon gas to escape so it can be captured and vented. Each type of unit has advantages and disadvantages. One of the more common styles is a spray aeration unit, like the one shown above. In this case, water containing radon is sprayed into a tank using a nozzle. The increased surface area of the sprayed water droplets causes the radon to come out of the water as a gas while the air blower carries the radon gas to a vent outside the home. About 50% of the radon will be removed in the initial spraying so the water must be sprayed several times to increase removal efficiencies. To keep a supply of treated water, a 100-gallon or larger holding tank must be used.

Another common aeration unit is the packed column where water moves through a thin film of inert packing material in a column. The air blower forces radon contaminated air back through the column to an outdoor vent. If the column is high enough, removal efficiencies can reach 95%.

Another type of aeration system uses a shallow tray to contact air and water. Water is sprayed into the tray, and then flows over the tray as air is sprayed up through tiny holes in the tray bottom. The system removes more than 99.9% of the radon and vents it outside the home.  Go here for illustrations of other aeration systems.

See also:  the EPA publication and a list of resources from RadonResources.com.

Main Source:  Penn State University.

Current Water News

In recent weeks there have been many news stories about broken water mains and emerging contaminants in the water news.
Pipes and Leaks

Peak season for water main breaks.

You may not know that early winter is the peak season for water main breaks, especially in areas that have lots of cast iron pipes. That's because as the ground shifts, old pipes snap. 
City pays for residential lead pipe replacement.
The city of Grand Rapids, MI is now paying the entire cost of replacing lead water lines for homes across the city - even the portion that is privately owned. Rather than bill homeowners for the cost, the city is paying. So far, more than 200 lead pipes have been replaced this year.
Emerging Contaminants

PFCs targeted in New Hampshire legislature

After months of wrangling in the legislature, New Hampshire officials approved three water laws this month.
PFCs found to contaminate water supplies for 15 million people
A new study highlights the scope of drinking water contamination by perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) in the U.S.
Minnesota's new PFC limit is half that of the Fed's
Minnesota is setting new standards for perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) as public water systems in the state struggle with contamination from this industrial pollutant.
In New Hampshire, citizens take PFC concerns into their own hands
Concern that government regulators are failing to adequately address perfluorinate compound (PFC) contamination has prompted New Hampshire locals to begin their own research into the health effects of these pollutants.
Rhode Island tests for PFCs in 30 water systems
Rhode Island is checking small water systems for perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) as part of a policy that could become a model for other states.

PFAs found in wells in Alaska

Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl (PFAs) toxins were found in 26 wells near Fairbanks International Airport, Alaska. The amount of PFAs present were more than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommended health advisory. The toxins were linked to chemical firefighting foam sprayed from airplanes to extinguish larger fires. Additionally, Fairbanks firefighters used a training pit near the airport to practice emergency responses. PFAs are considered emerging contaminants due to limited knowledge of health effects, but the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns the chemicals could stunt growth and impact natural hormone regulation. The City of Fairbanks is currently providing clean water to residents with wells that have tested above the EPA recommended threshold for PFOs, which is 70 parts per trillion. 
Source: Daily News-Miner
PFCs found to contaminate water supplies for 15 million people
A new study highlights the scope of drinking water contamination by perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) in the U.S.
Company's waste dumping polluting residential wells in Michigan
Plainfield Township is the site of Michigan’s latest water quality crisis, a township just two hours from the city of Flint. In at least 30 wells high concentrations of perfluoroalkyl (PFAS), the common waterproofing chemical found in Scotchgard, have been discovered. PFAs are linked to health problems such as decreased fertility and increased cancer risk.
The township hosts Wolverine Worldwide, the shoemaker for brands such as Hush Puppies and Merrell. Decades ago, the Wolverine tannery dumped sludge, leather, and waste into surrounding forests. Though the tannery closed in 2009, the effects of the dumping remain in the community as groundwater contamination. Seventy-six potential dump sites have been reported and remain under investigation. The documentation surrounding Wolverine waste dumping is scarce, but the company insists they followed current dumping regulations and the effects of PFAs were unknown at the time of the dumping.
Residents of Plainfield Township blame Wolverine for the water contamination and argue the company should have taken responsibility sooner, especially in the year 2000 when 3M, the maker of Scotchgard, announced plans to reformulate the product acknowledging the health risks of PFAs. Currently, Wolverine is working with Michigan regulators to begin clean up of the dump sites. The company is striving to help the families impacted by the contaminated water by providing bottled water, grocery store gift cards, and whole-house water filters.
Source: Water Quality Products
Township sues GE for water pollution
Brighton Township, Michigan, has filed a lawsuit against General Motors (GM) for pollution in the form of excessive sodium and chloride release. The suit further contends that GM has been polluting since 1985 and concealing the fact. 
Source: Water and Waste Digest Magazine
Rhode Island tests for PFCs in 30 water systems
The University of Edinburg estimates that treatment and disposal of waste water from fracking could cost more than 1 million pounds per well in Scotland.
Source: The National
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