The Pure Water Occasional for December 23, 2013

In this issue you'll read about old embalming practices and how they put arsenic into our water, the very serious problem of subsidence in Texas, plus the best selling products at Pure Water Products during 2013.  And as always, you’ll find the best in of the week’s world water news.

 To read this issue on our website,  please go here.

Embalmers Used to Pump Corpses Full of Arsenic.  Now It Is Turning Up In Groundwater.

From the time of the Civil War to the first decade of the 20th century, arsenic was the main ingredient of embalming fluids in the United States.  Arsenic does not degrade, ever, into harmless by-products, so the burial practices of the end of the 19th century and first years of the 20th have left us with significantenvironmental hazards.

To be clear, we aren’t talking about minute amounts of arsenic.  Embalmers often had their own special fluid blend, but they usually used from as little as four ounces to as much as 12 pounds of arsenic per body.

As caskets downgrade, as they do eventually, the arsenic is picked up by water moving downward and washed into the soil or the groundwater.

Read more about old cemeteries, arsenic, and water quality.

Sinking Land Brings Calls for Pumping Alternative

 by Neena Satija

Amid a persistent drought, a growing population and a dwindling supply of surface water, much of Texas is searching for underground water resources.

But a large swath of Texas — home to close to one-quarter of its population — is looking for water supplies anywhere but beneath its surface. A century of intense groundwater pumping in the fast-growing Houston metropolitan area has collapsed the layers of the Gulf Coast Aquifer, causing the land above to sink. The only solution is to stop pumping, a strategy that some areas are resisting.

The geological phenomenon, unique to this part of Texas because of the makeup of the aquifer’s clay layers, is known as subsidence. Areas in and around Houston have sunk as much as 10 feet in 100 years, causing neighborhoods to flood, cracking pavements and even moving geologic faults that could lead to infrastructure damage. “It’s an upfront and personal issue when you’re on the coast and you see land loss,” said Mike Turco, who heads the subsidence districts responsible for addressing the problem in Harris, Galveston and Fort Bend Counties. “You have oil barracks that are out in Galveston Bay now.”

Subsidence has long been a concern in Harris and Galveston Counties, which are nearer to the gulf and more prone to flooding. Spurred by state lawmakers in the 1970s, the counties have worked to reduce their groundwater dependency to 25 percent from more than 50 percent. That number will continue to fall as they increase their reliance on rivers like the Trinity and San Jacinto, as well as planned reservoirs.

Neighboring Fort Bend County, on the other hand, which still relies on the Gulf Coast Aquifer for 60 percent of its water, is farther inland, and the effects of subsidence can be less tangible.

“There are perception issues,” Mr. Turco said. Whether subsidence means anything to someone depends on where you’re standing, he said. “If you’re standing next to the river, it could be a big deal.”

In Fort Bend County, unlike Houston, “there isn’t a ship channel to walk to,” he said.

Now that the county is starting to grow, in part because of the expansion of nearby Houston, studies by the subsidence districts estimate that if nothing is done, parts of Fort Bend County will sink about five feet in the next four decades. The impact could be lessened to just two feet under recent regulations asking certain areas to convert 60 percent of their groundwater supplies by 2025. Not everyone agrees with the approach. Some towns dislike the rules that force them to find alternative water supplies, worried about the high cost of conversion and unsure whether their own land is actually sinking.

“Typically, subsidence is equated to growth,” said Terri Vela, the city manager for Richmond, which is about 30 miles west of Houston. “And Richmond proper has not seen that growth. I don’t even know that we have subsidence today in Richmond.”

Ms. Vela pointed out that subsidence in the county affected some areas more than others. For instance, the land has sunk nearly a foot in 15 years just a few miles to the east of Richmond, in booming Sugar Land. But in Richmond itself, the ground has lowered less than three inches — although the Fort Bend subsidence district warns that could change if its outlying areas continue to grow as they have in recent years.

Alternative supplies have been difficult to find, Ms. Vela said. About five years ago, Richmond and a neighboring town, Rosenberg, secured a long-term contract to take water from the Brazos River, with plans to build a water treatment plant. But then the area was hit by drought, and the river’s flows were at their lowest by 2009. the towns were then besieged with requests from industrial and other water users to buy the newly acquired water.

The overwhelming demand for Brazos River water led the towns to question whether it would really be available. “Is this a long-term, sustainable water source?” Ms. Vela said. “Everyone else has put their straws in before we’ve gotten to it.”

Recently a company called Electro Purification approached the towns with a different solution: The company would drill wells on the other side of the Fort Bend County line. In other words, they would continue pumping groundwater from the same clay-based aquifer but outside the jurisdiction of the subsidence districts.

The proposal drew public outrage, with residents submitting hundreds of public comments questioning its effect on water levels in the aquifer and on subsidence.

According to studies by the Fort Bend district, the wells could cause the ground to sink an additional two feet in some parts of the county and potentially cause sinking in nearby counties. But those numbers have been disputed.

“There is more data out there that hasn’t been evaluated,” said Mike Gershon, an Austin-based lawyer for Electro Purification. “At this point, no one has told us what they think subsidence is realistically going to be on their property and what that adverse impact is going to be.”

Mr. Gershon said the company was willing to change its proposal based on subsidence concerns. “We want to make sure that our scientists, and we think we have good scientists — that they’re getting it right,” he said.

The case has been referred to an administrative law judge, who will hear arguments next year on whether the wells should be allowed. In the meantime, the Fort Bend Subsidence District is weighing its options. While it cannot prevent the drilling of wells outside its borders, the district could refuse to accept Richmond and Rosenberg’s plan for finding alternative water supplies.

“Here we have a proposal to convert to something that’s not really an alternative water supply,” a lawyer who represents the district, Greg Ellis, said. “It’s the same aquifer. It’s just 15 miles west.”

While some areas of Fort Bend County are sure to see more subsidence than others, based on population density, everyone must pitch in to reduce the problem, Mr. Ellis said.

“I think it’s the standard — my car doesn’t cause all the traffic; it’s all the other cars that are causing the problem,” he said, characterizing the attitude of Richmond and Rosenberg. “And my car was here first. So all you other people should take care of the problem.”

Source: New York Times.

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This Week's World Water News

Iceland's vanishing ice. A land forged by fire and ice is losing the latter. And with the glaciers go a cultural and societal touchstone – for without ice, Iceland "is just land."

 Dallas has adopted the nation's most restrictive policy on fracking.

Troubled water: The Indian River Lagoon in peril. Unprecedented algae blooms. Thousands of acres of precious sea grass lost. Record numbers of manatee and dolphin deaths due to mysterious illnesses. Florida's Indian River Lagoon is facing a crisis decades in the making.

Mafia toxic waste dumping poisons Italy farmlands. The farmlands around Naples, authorities say, are contaminated from the Mafia's multibillion-dollar racket in disposing toxic waste, mainly from industries in the wealthy north that ask no questions about where the garbage goes as long as it's taken off their hands — for a fraction of the cost of legal disposal.

Chicago mayor unveils new regulations for petcoke storage. Responding to months of public outrage about black dust clouds swirling off uncovered piles along the Calumet River, Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel unveiled new regulations Thursday that would require large storage terminals in the city to fully enclose petroleum coke, coal and other bulk materials. \

Number of annual manatee deaths top 800 for first time on record. For the first time since records began being kept in Florida in the 1970s, the number of manatee deaths in a single year has topped 800, with two weeks remaining to the end of 2013.

And now this filthy flood. Storm Alexa that hit Gaza was the worst since 1879, according to Israeli meteorologists. The 1.8 million people of the Gaza Strip, who struggle every day under an Israeli blockade, were unprepared for a storm that has affected every aspect of their life. Low-lying areas are the hardest hit, with thousands of homes flooded.

Study finds variability in the accuracy of methods used to measure emerging contaminants. Unlike with regulated contaminants, there are no standard methods for the analysis of pharmaceuticals and personal care products in environmental samples. A group of researchers has found that the accuracy of analytical methods varies widely.

EPA to continue "vigorous" enforcement of major violators in 2014, The Environmental Protection Agency will prioritize enforcement actions for major air and water pollution violations in 2014 while increasingly relying on new monitoring technologies that will enable more efficient enforcement, the agency's chief enforcement officer told Bloomberg BNA.

Study: Many sick dolphins 1 year after oil spill. Dolphins living in one of the areas worst hit by the Gulf of Mexico oil spill were in bad shape a year later, with lung problems consistent with exposure to oil, according to a study assessing damage from the spill.

Polluted water and lack of treatment plants have hurt the environment as well as human health in the West Bank.

The Superior Court of Washington County, Georgia has found a city of Sandersville ordinance that prohibits drilling of wells within its city limits unconstitutional. Furthermore, the court found that a private landowner has, under Georgia and Federal Constitutions, the right to drill a well on their property subject only to government's reasonable rules and regulations looking to the protection, safety and health of its citizens.

 Mladen Stanicic was named head water polo coach at the U.S. Naval Academy. Stanicic took over a team that was 8-9 at the time and posted an 11-6 record the rest of the season and leading Navy to a CWPA Southern Division title.

Scientists are concerned about the increasing resistance to antibiotics in humans, which is being heightened by waste water treatment facilities and other environmental factors. 

Wonders of the water. Unique among urbanised harbours in the world, Sydney Harbour is a mix of fortunate geography, careful husbandry of the waterways and improved environmental practices. Marine life within the harbor has survived industrialisation, polluted stormwater run-off, invasive species and heavy boat traffic.



Our Top Ten Products

by Gene Franks,   Pure Water Products

At near the end of 2013, I took a look to see what our best selling products at Pure Water Products were for the year. Some were predictable, some were surprises, and all point to a moral. I’ll tell you what our top ten sellers were first:

1. UV102. Pura UV Lamp #20. The top-selling product on the list was no surprise. This has been our best selling single item for a number of years. When Pure Water Products started in 1986, it didn’t cross my mind that I was getting into the light bulb business. We sell lots of Pura #20 UV lamps because it is the standard lamp for all Pura plastic whole house UV units, we’ve been selling Pura units since the early 1990s and have lots of customers who need annual replacements, and we have have an all-Pura website ( that is the uncontested best source for Pura plastic units, parts, and information.

2. FC001, MatriKX CTO Plus carbon block filter cartridge, 9.75″ X 2.5″ size. This has for years been our favorite and our best selling filter cartridge. It’s the standard cartridge for our Model 77 countertop filter as well as our Black and White series reverse osmosis units and undersink filters.

3. DC006. WellPro 220 volt control module. This is a best seller we aren’t proud of. It’s a control module for a dry pellet chlorinator. We sell a lot of these because we make them available and most websites don’t, but also because it’s a part that fails often and has to be replaced. This isn’t a big profit item because we also have to handle lots of warranty replacements. The module has an 18-month warranty and a habit of dying before the warranty expires.

4. FC403. MatriKX CTO carbon block cartridge, 4.5″ X 20″ size. We sell lots of these because they’re the standard cartridge in our “compact whole house filters” and because they’re a popular “after market” replacement in Pura Big Boy ultraviolet units.

5. RO001. This is a product we’re really proud of, our Black and White undersink reverse osmosis unit. We build these RO units ourselves and customize them at customers’ requests.

6. FC453. 5-Micron Wound String Sediment cartridge, 4.5 ” X 20″ size. Standard in our compact whole house sediment units as well as Pura Big Boy units. People with high sediment well water go through lots of sediment cartridges.

7. RO200. This is the countertop version of our Black and White reverse osmosis unit. Another product that we build ourselves and modify according to the customer’s request.

8. UV013. The Pura UVBB-3. Pura’s 15 gallon per minute “Big Boy” triple whole house unit, with UV lamp, a sediment filter, and a carbon block filter.

9. DC008. Chlorine Pellets for WellPro dry pellet chlorinators.

10. UV007. Pura UV20-3. Pura’s 10 gallon per minute whole house UV unit, with 2.5″ X 20″ carbon block and sediment filters.

And now for the moral. From a business perspective:

1. What sells best are things that wear out and have to be replaced. Filter cartridges, UV lamps, and chlorine pellets are all things that are used up and have to be replaced.

2. Bad products may be more profitable than good products. This is an unfortunate fact. We’ve all heard of planned obsolescence. I bought a Bose radio a dozen years  ago and except for a few Radio Shack batteries for the remote control, I’ve never had any expense after the initial purchase. The purchase price seemed high for a radio, but it turned out to be a great bargain. Chlorinator modules, on the other hand, cost half as much as my Bose radio and often don’t last through the warranty period. The manufacturer keeps making bad ones because people keep buying them.  It’s a proprietary product–no one else makes one that fits the chlorinator--so sales roll on.

My Bose Radio

We don’t like this system, but we all seem to be caught in it.  And for General Electric one can see how it makes more sense to purchase very cheap offshore chlorinator modules than to make good ones (as they did a few years ago) that last and last and hardly every have to be replaced.


Please visit our RO Parts Page for tanks and accessories.

Thank you for reading.  Please come back next week.

Places to Visit on Our Websites in the meantime

Model 77: “The World’s Greatest $77 Water Filter”

Sprite Shower Filters: You’ll Sing Better!”

An Alphabetical Index to Water Treatment Products

Our famous whole house Chloramine Catcher

Pure Water Occasional Archive: Sept. 2009-April 2013.

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