Pure Water Occasional, December 12, 2019
Early December Issue

The Pure Water Occasional is produced by Pure Water Products and the Pure Water Gazette. Please visit our websites.

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For article archives and water news, please visit the Pure Water Gazette.

Water News in a Nutshell


Dark Waters: Water Contaminants in the Movies


A highly promoted movie called Dark Waters came out in late November 2019. It stars Mark Ruffalo and tells the story of Cincinnati lawyer Rob Bilott and his dozen-year battle against the centuries-old American chemical company, DuPont. From an effort to gain justice for a single client whose livestock were poisoned by Dupont’s chemical PFOA, Bilott’s efforts resulted in large class-action settlements for hundreds of injured parties. Ruffalo, who is known as an environmental activist as well as an actor, produced the film as well as starring in it. Other top actors featured are Anne Hathaway and Tim Robbins.

Dark Waters joins other important movies that brought significant water contaminants to public attention. The stories of all are similar. They feature an individual who takes on a powerful company that seems to be above the law.  The best known of these is Erin Brockovich, starring Julia Roberts, which tells the story of the hexavalent chromium (aka chromium-6) poisoning of the water in Hinkley, CA by Pacific Gas and Electric. A lesser known but equally compelling story is that of the TCE poisoning of the wells that supplied Woburn, MA by the W.R. Grace company. The incident inspired an outstanding book by Jonathan Harr that in turn inspired the 1998 movie A Civil Action, starring John Travolta and Robert Duvall. (The book was better than the movie, but both deserve your attention.)

As if climate change science weren't confusing enough already, according to a new study published in Environmental Science Technology, hundreds of active hydro-power plants are making a worse impact on the climate than fossil fuels. The study shows that hydro-power, popularly seen as a source of green, clean energy, can under some conditions release more greenhouse gases than coal- or oil-burning power plants.  Grist.
Central Arkansas Water has a new tool to detect leaks in its distribution system. It is Vessel, the nation’s first water leak detection dog. The black Labrador mix was trained to sniff out treated water that has leaked from the system’s pipes and bark when she finds the location. Leak detection technology is expensive, so Vessel is expected to be a cost-effective and efficient option.

The mercury content of Great Lakes fish has not declined as expected in spite of great reductions in mercury emissions because invasive species, mainly zebra mussels and quagga, have disrupted the the natural feeding patterns of fish. All five lakes still have fish consumption advisories. Details.
Venice, the "Floating City," sank under record flooding. Story and Pictures.
FYI: An estimated 141 billion liters of water are used every day to flush toilets. Researchers at Penn State University have developed "a robust bio-inspired, liquid, sludge- and bacteria-repellent coating that can essentially make a toilet self-cleaning.” Use of the coating, they say, can cut the amount of water needed to flush toilets in half. Details. 
Acknowledging that past efforts have failed to curb the phosphorous runoff that fuels algal blooms in Lake Erie, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine unveiled his plan to address the green scourge: pay farmers to reduce runoff. More information.
Researchers at the University of Texas announced that the Nile River is several million years older than was previously believed. Fox News.
A Detroit property contaminated with uranium and other dangerous chemicals partially collapsed into the Detroit River on Nov. 26.

Shortly after the Regional Council of Veneto, in Italy, voted against climate-change legislation, its chambers were flooded. Harpers Weekly Review.

A whale found dead on a Scottish beach had a 220-pound ball of mostly plastic garbage in its stomach.

A California company announced a new technology called Sea-Thru which allows great underwater recording clarity by "removing the water from underwater images." Details. 

A report from a consulting firm hired by the the city of Newark concludes that of 198 filters tested for lead removal, all but five reduced lead to acceptable Environmental Protection Agency levels. That’s a 97% effectiveness rating. The report also found that when residents let the tap run for five minutes, the filters worked 99% of the time.The filters are the tiny end-of-faucet models provided to residents by the city.
Spillage of 4 million gallons of raw sewage into the ocean caused the closure of several beaches in Orange County, CA.
Out of control fires in the rain forest are affecting the water supply of Andean communities that depend on water from glaciers for their water supply. 

President Trump revealed plans on water conservation relief for small businesses and the origins of ocean trash on US shores.  See article below.
Rise of the Jellyfish
As oceans warm and oxygen levels are depleted, the lowly jellyfish is coming into its own. Unlike other sea life, jellyfish thrive in higher temperatures and can breed in polluted water that’s largely lacking oxygen. Over the last century, the average surface temperature of the world’s seas has risen by almost 1°C while oxygen levels in the sea have fallen by around 2 percent over the last 50 years. As the oceans get warmer, jellyfish are also spreading into areas that had historically been too cold.

The most promising suggestion for combatting the takeover by jellyfish is for humans to learn to like eating them. More from WaterOnline. See our article below, which appeared in a 2015 Occasional.

Jellyfish: Ancient, Gelatinous, Diverse

Jellyfish in a group are called a smack. The ignorant, however, just call them a bunch of jellyfish.

Some things you may not know about one of earth’s most ancient creatures.

They have been around longer than the oldest of dinosaurs, approximately three times as long. They go back at least 500,000,000 years.

Although they are called fish, they actually aren’t. They are zooplankton.

They are heartless and brainless and made almost entirely (up to 98%) of water. When exposed to air, they can actually evaporate.

Some, but not all, have eyes. One variety has 24 eyes, in fact, and has a full 360-degree view of the world.

One species, Turritopsis nutricula, has the ability to renew its cells and is, therefore, theoretically immortal.

They conveniently eat and defecate through the same orifice which serves as both mouth and anus.

Jellyfish are aquarium favorites.

Just to be different, they have a unique group name. A group of fish is called a school, but multiple jellyfish are referred to as a bloom, a swarm, or a smack.

They are deadly and they don’t mind to sting. One species can kill a human in a matter of minutes with a single sting. And jellyfish stings are very painful.

They come in all sizes. They range in size from a few millimeters in diameter to 440 lbs. The longest jellyfish has tentacles that can extend 120 feet.

Some are edible. They are a popular delicacy in places like Japan and Korea, but haven’t caught on in most parts of the world. In Japan they make jellyfish candy.
Jellyfish have been used in space experiments because of their similarity to humans as regards adaptation to zero-gravity environments.

Jellyfish live in every ocean and can be found from the surface to the deep sea.

See also in the Gazette: The Immortal Jellyfish.


What Kind of Carbon Is Best?

or, How Is Filter Carbon Like a Parking Lot?

by Emily McBroom and Gene Franks

The “carbon” (often called “charcoal”) that is used for water treatment is made from a variety of raw materials. Someone has said that filter carbon can be made from anything that contains carbon, even peanut butter. Most filter carbon is made from coal–bituminous, sub-bituminous, lignite–and from nut shells, especially coconut shells.
Some of the characteristics that are considered by filter makers when choosing raw materials for the carbon products are:
  1. Surface area – square meters of surface per gram of carbon. The surface area determines how much adsorption can take place and what types of contaminants the carbon can take onto its surface.
  2. Iodine Number – indicates the ability of the carbon to adsorb small, low molecular weight organic molecules, like volatile organic chemicals.
  3. Molasses Number – indicates the ability of the carbon to adsorb large, high molecular weight organic molecules, like colors.
  4. Bulk Density – indicates the density as pounds per square foot in a column. In general,  the higher the density, the more surface area available for adsorption.
Water Quality Association training materials provide such a good explanation of how these four parameters apply to carbon suitability that we can’t resist borrowing it.

The inside surface of the activated carbon particle can be viewed as a large parking lot for organic molecules. Further, one can view the large molecules as semitrucks, and the small organic molecules as compact cars. Using this viewpoint, it is easy to illustrate a number of things. First, if most of the pores in the activated carbon are micropores (small parking spaces), the semitrucks are going to have a difficult time moving inside the parking lot, and they will have difficulty finding a parking site which fits. But, the compact cars will have an easy time. (This corresponds to a high iodine number.) Second, it the pores are mostly macropores (large parking spaces), the semitrucks will be able to get around fine, but it will be an extremely inefficient way to park compact cars. (This corresponds to a high molasses number.) Third, if there are only a few roads connecting the various areas inside the parking lot, the cars will all pile up, and the roads will act as a bottleneck. Ultimately, a large number of small cars can be parked, but the parking lot will fill slowly. This is what happens if there is not a suitable mix of micropores (small spaces)  and macropores (big spaces).

So, activated carbons made from lignite coal tend to have large pores (macropores) and make good parking spaces for big trucks, like tannins.

Carbons made from coconut shells have very small  pores (micropores) and are especially good parking spaces for very small molecules like VOCs, which are the compact cars of the organic chemical world.

But over the years, the most widely used carbon material of all is bituminous coal, because bituminous carbon has big pores and little pores and a lot of mid-sized pores (mesopores)  that are just right for parking the great many average-sized family sedans, SUVs, and pickups. In other words, bituminous carbon is widely used because it works pretty well for just about anything. Bituminous coal based activated carbons are frequently a good first choice for general dechlorination and reducing the concentration of a large range of organics.

All carbons, by the way, work well for removing chlorine and even chloramine, although contact time with the carbon needs to be about twice as long for chloramine as for chlorine. (Specially processed carbon called “catalytic carbon,” which is available in coal- or coconut-based, is much better at chloramine removal than standard carbon.) All carbons work well for taste/odor improvement, and we find no scientific basis to support the common belief that coconut shell carbons make water taste better than other carbons.

There are other considerations, of course, that are left out of the parking lot method for choosing carbon. An important one for residential users is a test called Ball-Pan Hardness.  It puts a numerical value on the hardness of the carbon–how much banging around it will take before it breaks down.  In this test coconut shell carbon always comes out way ahead of bituminous. This is significant for tank-style residential filters because when carbon breaks down because of the rolling and tumbling of repeated backwashing it gets into service lines. Think of it as the coconut shell parking lot having tougher walls and posts to withstand the banging it gets from those wild compact car drivers.

Carbon made from peanut butter, by the way, fares poorly on the Ball-Pan Hardness test but has an excellent Molasses number and great Surface Area.

How to Pick the Best Filter Cartridge

Places to visit for additional information:

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Pure Water Products, LLC, 523A N. Elm St., Denton, TX, www.purewaterproducts.com