Pure Water Occasional, July 7, 2017
In this early July issue you'll read about PFCs, PFOA, PFOS, testicular and kidney cancer, drought in China and North Dakota, scale in baptismal pools, bacteria in pipes, the demise of Lake Chad, legal nightmares in Michigan, the trashing of the "Waters of the United States" legislation, and other uplifting topics. Tiger Tom promotes the return of bottle messaging. Plus, a handy new water contaminant treatment table and why you should rinse new water filter cartridges well.
And, as always, there is much, much more.
Perfluoroalkyls in a Nutshell
What are PFCs?
PFCs are a family of man-made compounds that are not naturally occurring in the environment. Perfluoroalkyls repel oil, grease, and water, and as a result were used as protective coatings in cookware, carpet, clothing, paper, and cardboard packaging, as well as in fire-fighting foams. They are very stable compounds that are resilient to breakdown in the environment. The most common perfluoroalkyl compounds are perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA).
PFOS and PFOA
PFOS and PFOA compounds were produced in large quantities in the United States and have contaminated air, water, and soil at locations where they were produced or used. As a result, PFOA and PFOS are found in air and dust, surface and groundwater, and soil and sediment. The highest levels of PFOS and PFOA are typically at or near facilities that produced or used the compounds. Since they are found in air and dust, they appear in remote locations where flooding and groundwater allow the compounds to migrate through the soil.
Health Effects of PFCs
The most common exposure to PFOS and PFOA is through ingestion, with drinking water supplies being the primary route for exposure. Typically, populations near facilities where PFOS and PFOA are manufactured or used find the highest levels of these compounds in their drinking water. Health advisories by the EPA indicate that exposure to PFOS and PFOA over certain levels may result in adverse health effects, including developmental effects to fetuses during pregnancy or to breastfed infants (e.g., low birth weight, accelerated puberty, skeletal variations), cancer (e.g., testicular, kidney), liver effects (e.g., tissue damage), immune system effects (e.g., antibody production and immunity), thyroid effects and other effects (e.g., cholesterol changes). As a result the EPA has established a combined lifetime exposure of 70 parts per trillion for PFOS and PFOA.
The best and most commonly applied water treatment for PFCs in general is the old standby, granular activated carbon.
Let's Bring Back Bottle Messenging
by Tiger Tom
Gazette social critic, Tiger Tom, speaks out on the lost art of message-in-a-bottle communication.
One of the great forms of human communication, putting a written message into a bottle and tossing it into a body of water, has been on the decline in recent years and I, for one, would like to see it come back. That message-in-a-bottle communication has been eclipsed by smoke signals, pony express, telephones, email, text-messaging and other such fads is understandable to a degree, since these methods have a few advantages. But I feel bottle tossing has redeeming qualities that we should reconsider.
The origins of bottle messaging are obscure, the only thing certain being that the practice did not develop before the invention of bottles that were light enough to float. Messaging with stone bottles never got popular. The first glass bottles were produced around 1500 B.C., and it’s hard to understand how someone didn’t immediately launch a bottle message; but it is generally believed that the first known messages in bottles were released around 310 BC by the Ancient Greek philosopher Theophrastus as part of an experiment to show that the Mediterranean Sea was formed by the inflowing Atlantic Ocean.
Bottle messaging was widely used by the time of Columbus, who tossed a bottled message addressed to Queen Isabel into the ocean when he feared his ship might not make it through a storm. The message has not surfaced to this day. Finding it would be a big event and the message would certainly fetch big bucks on Ebay.
In the 16th century, bottle messages were used by the English navy and others to send strategic information to government officials; these were viewed as so important that Queen Elizabeth decreed the death penalty for unauthorized un-corking of bottled messages. Hacking of personal messages was taken seriously then as now.
One thing that held bottle messaging back in earlier times was the high cost of bottles. It wasn’t until 1903 that the first automatic glass blowing machine was invented and glass bottles became ubiquitous and cheap. Before that, bottles were expensive and only the well-off could afford bottle messaging, even when shipwrecked or otherwise in dire straits.
Who, I’m sure you’re asking, holds the record for the oldest tossed-bottle message in existence?
How Long Should You Rinse a Water Filter Cartridge?
by Gene Franks
When water filter owners ask how long they should rinse the filter cartridges in new water treatment units, or in units they are replacing the the filter cartridges in, they usually expect a simple answer and that’s what they usually get. Actually, though, the answer can be quite complicated and in most cases there is not a pat answer.
We’re concentrating on carbon filters here, which are by far the most common in residential treatment units, but the same principles apply in varying degrees to other media, like calcite, ion exchange resins, or activated alumina.
If you have a carbon filter, you’ve probably noticed that a big blast of black stuff comes out of the faucet when you start up a new cartridge. This is called “carbon fines.” It’s just manufacturing left-overs, small pieces of carbon that have to be washed out. Some filters, you may also have noticed, put out virtually no fines. This is because the manufacturer has gone to the trouble of cleaning up the carbon well (often washing it with acid) to keep the “fines” from going into your RO membrane or your refrigerator.
The assumption is that when the fines have subsided and the water is running more or less clear, the cartridge is ready to use. Not so. There are other considerations. For example, brand new carbon filters can contain residuals of contaminants (like arsenic). Even NSF Standard 42 cartridges, which are certified to be safe, sometimes are labelled with the admonition to “place the cartridge in an appropriate housing and rinse for a minimum of 20 minutes before use.” Anyone who has tested a reverse osmosis unit after a cartridge change knows that you do not get a valid TDS (total dissolved solids) reading of membrane performance after the cartridge change. This is because the new carbon postfilter, for up to a week after the cartridge change, is putting out “solids” that the meter can see but the human eye cannot. To be clear, the same “TDS throw” occurs in all new carbon filters, not just RO postfilters. It’s just that only RO units are routinely tested for TDS performance.
A fact water treatment professionals are aware of but water filter users seldom consider is that new carbon filters are mostly air. What makes carbon such an amazingly effective filter medium, in fact, is not only what is there but what is not there. It’s the countless tiny air-filled pores inside the carbon particles providing enormous amounts of surface area for chemical contaminants to cling to that make carbon so effective. The so-called “40-40-20” rule means most carbon filters are 40% air-filled space between carbon particles, 40% air-filled inner pores, and 20% actual solid carbon. In fact, depending on the type of product and the manufacturing method, most carbon filters are said to be 70% to 90% air.
When a new cartridge is put into service, it can take days for the air to work out completely. That’s why users sometimes experience cloudy water (if air is causing the cloudiness, the water in a glass will clear from bottom to top) and why sometimes a scummy substance appears at the top of a glass of water from a new filter. The scum is air trapped under the “skin” at the top of the water column. Both the cloudy color and the scum will go away with time, and it’s nothing to worry about.
Diminished Performance Because of Air
While fines and trapped air are aesthetic, filter start-up problems which go away fairly quickly, in large filters there is actually diminished performance from new filter cartridges or a carbon bed caused by long lasting trapped air. I sometimes tell customers with newly acquired products that the water will taste and look better after a week or so, when the new filters have had a chance to “mellow in.” Mellowing in is a low tech way of saying everything will work better when water has had a chance to push the air out of the millions of tiny crevices within the carbon. This allows the water to come into intimate contact with the carbon itself.
Large industrial filters have to be soaked for long periods of time after rebedding to drive the air out the carbon. Hot water, which speeds the process up, is also used. In a recent Water Conditioning and Purification article, Henry Norwicki et al. actually recommend a 72 hour soak for small filter cartridges:
“There are two ways to replace the nano-spaced concentrated air: 72 hours submerged soaking in tap water or using hot water to remove trapped air. Water forms larger conglomerates by hydrogen bonding of water molecules. Conglomerates of hot water are smaller and can better penetrate adsorption spaces than larger, cold-water conglomerates. Replacing filter soaking water with fresh water and turning the filter vertically upside down is also beneficial. Draining helps remove air bubbles. When air in nanospaces is replaced by water, bubbles go into bulk volume between media particles. Simple draining removes these bulk water bubbles. Water inside particles, however, is not removed by draining. Soaking for 72 clock hours is necessary and extra time is acceptable.”
We’re a long way from recommending customers soak filter cartridges for 72 hours before using them. It helps to know what’s going on inside the filter and be a bit forgiving if water is cloudy and doesn’t taste as good as you would expect with brand new filter cartridges.
Enlargement of granular carbon shows countless pores that absorb 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. When the carbon is new, these pores are filled with air that must eventually work its way out.
Bacteria in Water Pipes
Editor's Note: The piece below is reprinted from RT.Com. We would point out that not all bacteria in pipes have the same happy, friendly faces as those depicted. And a lot more than bacteria can come through water pipes.
Every glass of tap water has a host of cheerful microbes that promote your well-being.
When you drink a glass of tap water, you’re ingesting around 10 million bacteria found in water pipes and purification plants. But don’t worry – while it may seem utterly disgusting, the bacteria are actually good for you, according to a new study.
Researchers from Lund University in Sweden have discovered bacteria and other microbes are found in the form of a thin, sticky coating in drinking water treatment plants and on the inside of water pipes.
Known as a ‘biofilm,’ the coating is inescapable because every surface involved in the process of getting drinking water to your tap is covered in it.
But according to the researchers, there’s absolutely no need to worry. In fact, you should be happy – because they suspect a large part of water purification happens inside the pipes, and not only in purification plants.
“We suspect there are ‘good’ bacteria that help purify the water and keep it safe – similar to what happens in our bodies. Our intestines are full of bacteria, and most of the time when we are healthy, they help us digest our food and fight illness,” researcher Catherine Paul said.
Although the biofilm is seen throughout the process, spotting it hasn’t always been easy.
“A previously completely unknown ecosystem has revealed itself to us. Formerly, you could hardly see any bacteria at all and now, thanks to techniques such as massive DNA sequencing and flow cytometry, we suddenly see 80,000 bacteria per milliliter in drinking water,” Paul said.
Paul and her colleagues noted there is great variety among the bacteria and microbes, with at least a couple of thousand different species living in water pipes.
Although the research was conducted in southern Sweden, the researchers stressed that bacteria and biofilms are found all over the world in plumbing, taps, and water pipes.
The scientists believe the study will be useful for countries when updating and improving their water pipe systems.
“The hope is that we eventually may be able to control the composition and quality of water in the water supply to steer the growth of ‘good’ bacteria that can help purify the water even more efficiently than today,” Paul said.
Waters of the United States
The most troubling piece of water news in recent times is the executive order amending the scope of the Clean Water Act.
One of the first executive orders signed by the new president was a payoff to super wealthy lobbying groups representing homebuilders and corporate farmers. It overthrew what the president called the "puddle and ditch" act. But these so-called puddles and ditches, according to scientists across the country, are fundamental to the nation's drinking water supplies and to wildlife, including many rare animals and plants. The order greatly shrinks the reach of the 1972 Clean Water Act by narrowing the definition of "waters of the United States." And as many as 60 percent of U.S. streams would lose protection, according to EPA calculations. These headwaters and ephemeral streams and creeks contribute to the drinking water supplies of more than 117 million Americans. Ditches and puddles eventually become parts of rivers and lakes.
Hardness Scale: Enemy of Plumbing Systems, Appliances, and Domestic Tranquility
Scale is a serious problem caused by the deposit of hardness minerals (mainly calcium and magnesium). Hardness can block piping systems, causing the loss of water pressure due to reduced pipe diameter, and it can greatly reduce the effectiveness of home heating systems and hot water heaters. Scaled pipes and appliances waste energy and money.
Scaling is caused by hardness of water. Hardness is defined, in simple terms, as the amount of calcium and magnesium present in the water. Hardness is measured either in parts per million or as grains per gallon. Water treatment professionals most often use grains per gallon. The conversion is easy: a “grain” is equal to about 17.1 parts per million.
Although there is no absolute standard, water is usually considered hard enough to cause problems at about 4 grains per gallon, and it is considered hard enough to require treatment at 7 grains per gallon and up. There is no upper limit on hardness, but water of 100 grains per gallon is rare.
The standard residential treatment for hard water is the conventional water softener, which exchanges sodium ions for the hard water minerals, calcium and magnesium. Conventional softeners are proven, reliable tools. They use salt in the softening process. In recent years a number of electronic and non-electronic softener substitutes have come on the market. Some of these are more effective than others. Template Assisted Crystallization (called TAC) is now the most widely used of the alternative scale preventives. TAC units not only prevent scale buildup but they remove existing scale as well.
Badly scaled water heater after only 40 days of service on 26 grain hard water well.
Church's Baptismal Experience Enhanced by Electronic Descaling
After years of enduring the embarrassment of leading converts into a baptismal pool stained with unsightly spots and hardness scaling, pastor Elroy
Townsend of the Church of Christ in Spinner, Texas convinced the budget committee to provide funds for an electronic scale-prevention system for the church’s baptistry. The result has been spectacular.
Within a few days of installation of the new system, Townsend said ugly hard water residue began to disappear. “It was like a miracle,” the pastor exclaimed.
Spinner’s water supply, which comes from a deep well, is extremely hard. “Almost hard enough to walk on,” Townsend said, then he quickly added, “Just joking.”
Other area churches have tried a variety of solutions to the hard water dilemma. The First Baptist, holding the town’s largest congregation, has for years used a conventional water softener provided free from a local water treatment dealer whose colorful logo can be seen at back of the baptismal pool. A small Methodist congregation in Spinner even filled its baptistry with bottled reverse osmosis water for a time, but has since abandoned the practice because of the expense.
“I looked at both these options before deciding on the electronic descaler,” Townsend said, “but people really don’t like the slick feel of conventionally softened water, and the bottled reverse osmosis water has the natural minerals removed. We feel that baptism just isn’t the same unless the water used has its full complement of natural minerals, as the Lord intended.”
Reprinted from the Pure Water Gazette. Sorry, the origin of this story is no longer known.
There is a drought going on in northern China said to be the worst on record. Economic losses are estimated at $780 million, so far, with farmers and herders being the big losers.
Golf course owners and developers are facing pressure to reduce their enviromental impact and rein in the increasingly onerous costs of maintaining 100-plus acres of natural lawn. According to the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America, there are over 2.2 million acres of golf courses in the United States alone, equaling an area roughly the size of the state of Delaware. Of these acres, about 1.5 million are natural, high-maintenance turf. Audubon International estimates the average U.S. course uses more than 300,000 gallons of water per day and closer to 1 million per day for desert courses. Golf courses also use lots of pesticides and fertilizer, which often wash out into streams at the expense of the local ecosystem.
Military and industry officials appear to have known about the dangers of firefighting foams a decade before it came to light that perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) in these foams had contaminated water supplies across the country.
San Francisco is not just restricting the sale of bottled water but working to ensure that very high quality tap water exists as an alternative.
Peru is taking steps to implement President Pedro Kuczynskia's pledge to vastly increase water and wastewater coverage, including modifying the country's constitution to make water access a constitutional right.
Not so long ago, Lake Chad was one of the largest bodies of water in Africa. In 1963, it spanned almost 10,000 square miles, an expanse roughly the size of Maryland. But as climate change has taken its toll, the lake has shrunk by 90 percent. Today, only 965 square miles remain. Wetlands have given way to sand dunes. Farmers have abandoned their fields. Those who still live by the lake struggle to survive, beset by chronic drought and the slow onset of ecological catastrophe.
Michigan's legal bills for the man-made water crisis in Flint are piling up. At least $14 million has been spent hiring lawyers from at least 33 law firms, according to an Associated Press analysis of state records. Costs are only expected to balloon as Attorney General Bill Schuette's outside team of two dozen attorneys and investigators turns toward prosecuting a dozen current of former state employees or appointees whose criminal defenses are being covered by taxpayers.
A chlorine spill forced a Provo, UT water park to evacuate and caused multiple injuries, including the hospitalization of one person.
Due to the ongoing drought, five North Dakota counties are now giving drought assistance to livestock producers.
The Pure Water Gazette now offers a convenient and pretty comprehensive reference chart for the most recommended treatment methods for a large number of chemical contaminants. It's brief and to the point.
Follow daily water headlines and links to full articles from Environment Health News at the Pure Water Gazette.
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