The Pure Water Occasional for September 22, 2014

In this end of summer  Occasional, you'll hear about plastics in beer, plastics in irrigation water, and plastics in the bellies of dead seagulls.  Learn what is the best water for coffee brewing and how to avoid crepey eyes even if you don't drink water. Hear about severe weather from Texas to California to Great Britain plus the return of the stench from the Salton Sea. Learn how vegetables take up pollutants from irrigation water, read of the misfortunes of the Tokay Tigers.  and marvel at the number of private wells in Georgia.  Learn how marijuana growers conserve water,  how the tarantula predicts the weather, and how Iran plans to import water.  More pollution from the US military, DuPont, and Monsanto. Learn how aeration is used to treat well water contaminants, read B. Sharper's roundup of the week's water numbers,  and, as always, there is much, much more.

The Pure Water Occasional is a project of Pure Water Products and the Pure Water Gazette.

To read this issue on the Pure Water Gazette's website,  please go here.  (Recommended! When you read online you get the added advantage of the Gazette's sidebar feed of the very latest world water news.)

You'll sing better.


Beer: a magical mixture of hops, barley, and tiny pieces of plastic


by Liz Core

Plastics are everywhere: on the street, in our refrigerators, all over the oceans — you name it. But now they’re hitting us where it really hurts. Authors of a new study published in the latest edition of Food Additives and Contaminants found traces of plastic particles (and other debris … we’ll get to this later) in beer.

This is how the study worked: Researchers lab-tested samples of 24 varieties of German beers, including 10 of the nation’s most popular brands. Through their superpowers of microscopic analysis, the team discovered plastic microfibers in 100 percent of the tested beer samples.

Reads the study:

“The small numbers of microplastic items in beer in themselves may not be alarming, but their occurrence in a beverage as common as beer indicates that the human environment is contaminated by micro-sized synthetic polymers to a far-reaching extent.”

It’s not breaking news that plastics don’t just vanish into the ether when we’re finished with them. Unless you haven’t heard, in which case … BREAKING NEWS: The plastics we use today will stick around longer than your great-great-great-great (and then some) grandchildren.

Water bottles and sandwich bags could potentially take up to 500 years to decompose. Here’s why: plastics don’t biodegrade, they photodegrade (or, when exposed to light, disintegrate into a million little pieces). Those pieces stick around for centuries, making their way into any and all ecosystems on the planet — and, apparently, into the amber contents of our steins.

While none of the beer in the recent study contained enough plastic to be imminently harmful to public health, the plastic invasion of our brewskies is a wake-up call that plastic waste is penetrating our entire human environment.

Oh, and those other unwelcome ingredients I mentioned? They included exfoliated skin cells, tiny shards of glass, and an almost-whole dead insect. The grossness level reaches Fear Factor caliber (except for the bug — who knows, maybe they’re hopping on the bug-eating bandwagon), which can mainly be attributed to filthy work conditions in large-scale breweries.

This study’s going to be big news in Deutschland, as Germans take their beer very, very seriously. Germany boasts a 500 year-old beer-purity law insisting brewers include only three ingredients in the brewing process: barley, hops, and water (yeast was added later). At least for the next 500 years or so — or until we can eradicate plastics forever and ever, amen — they’ll have to allow a few other ingredients, too.

Source: Grist.

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What is the ideal water for brewing coffee?

by Gene Franks

British scientist Christopher Hendon recently published research seeking to define the perfect water for brewing coffee.  Essentially what he recommends, from the point of view of water quality, is

1. Clear,fresh, odor-free water.

2. Zero or near zero chlorine or chloramine.

3. TDS (Total Dissolved Solids) around 150 ppm.

4. Total alkalinity of around 40 ppm.

5. Calcium hardness of around 4 grains per gallon (68 ppm).

6. pH of 7.0.

7. Sodium of around 10 ppm.

The best way to get water that fits this description is simply to have non-chlorinated well water that fits this description.  The second best way is to have city water that fits the the requirements except #2 and filter out the chlorine or chloramine with carbon filtration.

Most standard water treatment strategies have their shortcomings if your entire purpose in treatment is to make excellent coffee. Here is a rundown:

A. Polyphosphate is often used by restaurants. It protects the coffee-making equipment from calcium build-up and does not affect the taste of the coffee. Some cartridges mix polyphosphate with granular carbon. This has the positive effect of removing the chlorine/chloramine.  It does not affect mineral content.

B. Distiller.  Not good for coffee.  It takes out virtually all the hardness and sodium and leaves almost zero TDS.  It will probably remove most of the chlorine.

C. Reverse Osmosis.  Not ideal for coffee. RO leaves less than 10% of the sodium/hardness content, which is too little unless you start with a whole lot.  For example if your raw water has a salty 100 ppm of sodium, RO would bring it down to the ideal figure.  RO (or the carbon filters with it) removes chlorine/chloramine, but it probably will drop the pH below the ideal 7.0.

D. Water Softener.  Not good for coffee.  Softened water has no hardness and way too much sodium. Softeners don't remove chlorine.

E. Activated carbon filter.  Probably the best choice with most waters.  It removes chlorine and chloramine, improves taste, and doesn't affect minerals.

F. Bottled water. Good if you find water that meets the criteria.  Bottled water can be distilled, prepared with reverse osmosis, or simply filtered spring or municipal water.  Because of the mineral content, filtered municipal water is probably your best choice.

Keep in mind that most people do a lot more with water than make coffee.  Perfect water for coffee may not be the best for bathing or drinking. It might make more sense to soften your water to protect appliances and buy a bottle of water now and then to make coffee with. "What profiteth a man if he gains good coffee but loses his hot water heater?"

Reference: Water Technology, paper issue for Sept. 2014.

Water News for the last week of summer, 2014.

Texas got rain but is still dry.  California got no rain and is fighting fires.

Ft. McClellan Health Act: Health hazards of PCBs.  In 1999, the EPA closed the Fort McClellan Army base in Anniston, Alabama, labeling it a hazardous site due to chemical waste which had leached into the ground, contaminating the soil and water supply. Unfortunately, Fort McClellan wasn’t the only toxic dumping ground in Anniston. For decades, Monsanto dumped PCBs into the area. 

Microplastic pollution widespread in St. Lawrence River. Microplastics have long documented as a growing environmental threat to oceans. Now, Canadian scientists say they’ve found 2-millimeter plastic microbeads widely distributed along the bottom of the St. Lawrence River. 

The pollution probably comes from cosmetics, household cleansers, or industrial cleansers, to which they are commonly added as abrasives. Owing to their small size and buoyancy, they may readily pass through sewage treatment plants.  Microplastics are a global contaminant in the world’s oceans, but have only recently been detected in the surface waters of lakes and rivers. 

In Washington state, algae blooms that kill pose puzzles. Many algae blooms are harmless. But sometimes they produce poisonous toxins. Most common here is microcystin, which attacks the liver. More rare is anatoxin-a, which mysteriously thrives in sleepy little Anderson Lake. Anatoxin-a can kill a person in less than five minutes. 

Pressure building: Denton's gas well debate coming to a head. Perhaps the biggest showdown on Denton’s November ballot — a proposed ban on hydraulic fracturing in the city limits — came after a culmination of failures by past city leaders, state legislators and regulators, housing developers, the oil and gas industry, and home buyers themselves. 

Are You Eating Caffeine and Primidone with Your Turnips?

 Recycled water sprayed on crops can deliver small amounts of drugs and personal care chemicals that are taken up by food crops. 

Global water shortage is placing an unprecedented pressure on water supplies. Treated wastewater is a valuable water resource, but its reuse for agricultural irrigation faces a roadblock: the public concern over the potential accumulation of contaminants of emerging concern (CECs) into human diet. A study published in Environmental Science and Technology measured the levels of 19 commonly-occurring pharmaceutical and personal care products (PPCPs) in 8 vegetables irrigated with treated wastewater under field conditions.

Plant samples at premature and mature stages were collected. Analysis of edible tissues showed a detection frequency of 64% and 91% in all vegetables from the treated wastewater and fortified water treatments, respectively. The edible samples from the two treatments contained the same PPCPs, including caffeine, meprobamate, primidone, DEET, carbamazepine, dilantin, naproxen, and triclosan. You can read the entire study by registering on the Envionmental Science and Technology website. 

UK weather: Britain must be ready for 'worst droughts in modern times.' The UK must prepare for “the worst droughts in modern times” experts will warn this week at a major international conference to discuss the growing global water crisis.


California's burning up: firefighters rush to the scene as major wildfires scorch the state. California is burning up. More than three years into a record drought, the state has become a tinderbox, and a single spark can be enough to burn ancient forests, coastal chaparral and any houses that stand in the way. Just this week, a popular stretch of the Eldorado national forest, halfway between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe, erupted in flames. The fire, apparently started by an arsonist and fanned by high winds, ripped through more than 70,000 acres in three days, causing California’s governor, Jerry Brown, to declare a state of emergency.

Iran may import water from Tajikistan to avert crisis. Iran is considering importing water from neighboring Tajikistan as the government allocated emergency funds to help avert a supply crisis in the capital Tehran. Iranian officials discussed the possibility of importing water during a trip to Tajikistan this month, the state-run Mehr news agency reported. 

Heavy rain this week at The Woodlands, Texas.

Rain pounds Texas: A sign the drought is ending? In Texas, where the governor once urged the public to pray for rain, this week’s torrential storms might finally be a sign of lasting relief for the state plagued by years of drought. Or maybe not. 

Wichita Falls, with its reservoir almost depleted,  finally got some rain this week, but one resident called it “a bandaid on a bullet wound.” Other parts of the state did better. 

West Marin medical marijuana grower resurfaces with water conservation tips. After keeping a low profile for more than two years, George Bianchini, founder and CEO of Medi-Cone, a Marin-based collective that grows and sells medical marijuana, invited the public to visit his West Marin home this week for a demonstration on water conservation. 

Does tarantula boom signal end of California drought? There’s folklore: “When tarantulas crawl by day, rain will surely come.” Residents of central California, who have witnessed a great emergence of these large spiders, hope this saying has legs. 

DuPont Agrees to $1.8 million penalty for killing trees with its herbicide Imprelis. 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a settlement with the E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company (DuPont) for alleged violations of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). DuPont will pay a $1,853,000 penalty to resolve allegations that the company failed to submit reports to EPA about potential adverse effects of an herbicide product called Imprelis, and sold it with labeling that did not ensure its safe use. When customers applied the misbranded Imprelis product, it led to widespread death and damage to trees.

For those bothered with crepey eyes who do not wish to follow the usual remedy of drinking lots or water, a new eye cream claims to give the eyes “ a less crepey look, even on days when you forget to drink water.” Details.

Decomposing dead fish and other organic matter kicked up by winds at the Salton Sea caused a 2012 odor that spread 150 miles across Southern California. An odor advisory has been issued for the Coachella Valley.

 Stench Warning Issued for Salton Sea Area 

Air quality regulators last week issued the second odor advisory of the week for the Coachella Valley because of elevated levels of a putrid gas coming from the Salton Sea that smells like rotten eggs.

The odor advisory by the South Coast Air Quality Management District was in effect through midnight because of a spike in hydrogen sulfide, which occurs when dead fish, leaves and other organic matter decompose.

Last week, a monitoring station near the Salton Sea showed hourly average concentrations of hydrogen sulfide peaking at 46 parts per billion. That exceeded the state standard for outdoor levels of 30 parts per billion. Full Story. 

Grizzlies Down Tigers

The Tokay Tigers varsity boys water polo team opened the Woodcreek Tournament with a 15-9 loss to the Granite Bay Grizzlies on Friday.

The match was tied 3-3 after one quarter, but the Grizzlies outscored the Tigers 7-1 in the second period to break the game open. Full details. 

In the girls division, Victoria Jones had three goals and six steals and Sophie Connelley had three goals and four steals to lead the Tokay Tigers in a 12-9 loss to the Oakdale Mustangs. More. 


Gazette Numerical Wizard Bea Sharper brings you up to date on the current water news in numbers.

Percentage of trash found on Australian beaches that is plastic -- 75%.

Percentage of dead seabirds examined in a recent study that had plastic in their guts -- 43%.

Percentage of people in Georgia who drink water from private wells -- 43%.

Estimated percentage of US wells that have over 10 ppb arsenic -- 7%.

Estimated number of private wells in Georgia in 2012 -- 648,000.

Percentage of these wells that were tested during 2012 -- 3.5%.

Percentage of beer samples tested recently that contained plastic microfibers -- 100%

Number of years that it takes most plastic water bottles to decompose -- 500.

Number of African children who die each day of diarrhea – 4,000.

Amount that the California Water Resources Control Board has already allotted to buy bottled water for residents of East Porterville, which has run out of water. – $500, 000.

Amount it would cost to connect East Porterville homes to the nearest municipal supply – $50,000,000.

Time required for such a connection (if there were no political objections) – 5 years.



New on the Pure Water Gazette website:

The California Drought in Pictures.

Guide to Water Testing Kits.



Aeration Is a Green and Inexpensive Treatment for Common Well Water Problems

Iron and hydrogen sulfide (H2S) are common well problems that frequently occur together and often lend themselves to similar treatment. Iron corrodes appliances, ruins clothing in laundry, stops up pipes, discolors fixtures; hydrogen sulfide, or rotten egg odor, makes water unpalatable and unpleasant, blackens plumbing fixtures, and can be a health hazard when severe. Where there is iron, there is often manganese, which in very small amounts can cause black staining and odors.

The standard methods used to treat iron, hydrogen sulfide, and manganese are variations on the same three-step principle of oxidation, precipitation, and filtration. An oxidizer is added to the water, which induces precipitation of the iron, manganese and hydrogen sulfide, and the precipitated contaminant is then filtered out of the water.

A variety of filters are used to remove oxidized contaminants, but here we are concerned only with the first step, oxidation.

The Common Oxidizers

The old-standby oxidizers for years have been chemicals like chlorine and potassium permanganate. Ozone and hydrogen peroxide are more natural oxidizers that are gaining in popularity. Another common oxidizer that is being used with ever greater frequency is air.

Oxidizing with Air

Plain air is a powerful oxidizer of iron, manganese, hydrogen sulfide. It has a variety of advantages, including its low cost and its easy availability. Air adds nothing objectionable to water and leaves no undesirable by-products. Air is in plentiful supply and does not have to be transported to the treatment site.

Air can be applied to water treatment in a variety of ways. We're going to look at the most popular applications here.

Open Air Tanks and Air Stripping

Air stripping is a technique in which volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are transferred from water to air. Typically, air stripping takes place in a packed tower (known as an air stripper) or an aeration tank.

Traditional air strippers vary in height, and the height is correlated to the chemical concentration of the contaminated water. A recent innovation in air strippers is the low-profile air stripper. These units have a number of trays that are set almost horizontally. Water is cascaded over the trays to maximize air-water contact while minimizing vertical space. Because they are not so visible, they are increasingly being used for groundwater treatment.

Strippers are used most often to rid water of volatile organics (VOCs) and gasses like methane and radon. Methane and radon are often “aerated” by simply allowing the water to stand in an open tank.

For residential treatment of iron, manganese, and hydrogen sulfide, compact closed-tank aeration units are used. Below are some examples.

The Venturi System

The simplest of the closed-tank systems is a passive aeration system that requires no outside power. It pulls air into the water line by means of an induction device called a Venturi. The Venturi (sometimes called a “Micronizer” or an educer) is installed in the water line prior to the well's pressure tank. As water is forced through the venturi while the pressure tank is filling, air is sucked into the water line. The aerated water then enters a small treatment tank where the air is mixed thoroughly with the water and excess air is vented to the atmosphere. The water then passes to a filter, which removes the oxidized contaminants.

The main advantages of the Venturi system are its low cost, its economy of operation, and its simplicity. The main disadvantage is that the Venturi valve itself restricts water flow considerably. The Venturi works by funneling the entire water stream through a very small hole inside the valve in order to create the pressure differential required to pull air into the water line. This restricts water flow and often makes it difficult to size the filters which follow the unit, since iron filters often require significant backwash volume. Consequently, Venturi systems are most often sold as “one size fits all” units that use a standard 8" X 44" aeration tank, relatively easy to backwash filter media, and filter tanks no larger than 10" X 54".

Air Pump Systems

A more aggressive approach to aeration, the air pump system uses a small compressor to pack air into a special aeration tank. This system normally has much more air turnover and therefore requires a more complex venting system than the Venturi system.

Air Pump Used for Water Treatment

A typical air pump setup does not restrict water flow (as does the Venturi system), but it uses a small amount of electricity to run the pump and power the solenoid vent valve. Its initial cost is more than the Venturi system. It is a reliable system and little upkeep is normally needed. Any system, it should be noted, that treats iron needs upkeep because of problems caused by the formation of iron deposits within the system itself. Air pump units are no exception.

The strength of the air pump system is that air is a very rapid oxidizer, so much less retention time is needed as compared with chlorine. Normally, the aeration tank itself provides plenty of holding time for air to do its work. And larger air tanks can be used if more contact time is needed.

Single Tank Systems

Yet another style of aerator that has been around for some time is the one- tank system in which aeration and filtration take place in a single tank. This style is usually marketed as single package without options.

The single tank unit maintains an air pocket in the top of the tank. As the service water passes through the air pocket, iron and H2S are oxidized and the oxidized contaminant is then caught by the filter in the bottom portion of the tank. Air is introduced by venturi draw, but not by an added venturi unit as with the simpler system above. In this type, the unit is controlled by a modified water softener valve which is made to draw air into the tank during the “brine draw” phase of its regeneration cycle.

With this type system manufacturers usually claim effectiveness against six to eight ppm of hydrogen sulfide and 8 or so parts per million iron. Different media are used in the tank depending upon if iron or hydrogen sulfide is the main targeted contaminant.

Single tank systems are relatively expensive because of the sophisticated control head, and they lack versatility. However, they can provide excellent, trouble-free service, and installation is simple.

Pure Water Products Aeration Offerings

We've been selling aeration devices since the early 1990s. We currently feature our slightly modified version of a national brand called AerMax. It's a closed tank system with a small air pump. We stock complete systems, accompanying filters, and all parts. We also offer optional add-ons to the AerMax like the flow switches and a “double aeration” feature for enhanced treatment of hydrogen sulfide.

We have an air pump parts page, offer repair kits and even some reconditioned air pumps. We stock the less expensive Venturi systems and parts, although we don't have them on our main website.

In the twenty years we've sold aeration devices, we've never marketed them as “green” products. When you think of it, though, what could be “greener” than a treatment system that uses a renewable resource, requires only minimal energy, keeps chemicals like chlorine and potassium permanganate out the environment, and has no negative environmental impact at the point of use?

More about aeration from the Pure Water Products website.  

Originally published Feb. 2013.



 Please visit our RO Parts Page for tanks and accessories.  We also have dedicated parts pages for countertop water filters, undersink filters, and aeration equipment.  We stock parts for everything we sell.

Thank you for reading.  Please come back next week.

Places to Visit on Our Websites in the meantime.

Garden Hose Filters.  Don’t be the last on your block to own one.

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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