Water News for October 2011
While you were watching baseball and trying on your costume, a lot of important things happened in the world of water. Read on to hear all about it.
Texas' extreme drought has led to the
discovery of 8,000 year old artifacts at Lake Whitney.
The U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ)
announced that Trident Seafoods Corp., one of the world’s
largest seafood processors, has agreed to pay a $2.5 million civil
penalty and invest millions in seafood processing waste controls to
settle alleged violations of the Clean Water Act (CWA). Unauthorized
discharges of seafood processing waste lead to large piles of seafood
debris on the sea floor, creating anoxic, or oxygen-depleted,
conditions that result in unsuitable habitats for fish and other
A wastewater treatment
chemical started a massive fire in bone dry Waxahatchie, TX.
After some controversy and
a temporary withdrawal (probably resulting from pressure from
professional dental organizations) LULAC has reissued its July
of American Indians and rural residents told the state engineer in
October that their culture and way of life will end if he approves
the Southern Nevada Water Authority's request to pump water from
eastern Nevada valleys. Opponents
attacked the multibillion dollar pipeline project as prohibitively
expensive, unnecessary and potentially destructive in a way that
officials and regulators can't--or won't--f ix.
Refining, which discharges 500,000 to 800,000 gallons of wastewater
per day, most of it into Crow Creek (WY),
has been ordered to follow
much stricter rules than the previous "live or die"
Ryland Group Inc., one of the nation’s largest homebuilders, will
pay a civil penalty of $625,000 to resolve alleged Clean Water Act
violations at its construction sites, including sites located in the
Chesapeake Bay Watershed, the Department of Justice and the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced.
One of Florida's largest counties,
will stop adding fluoride to the water supply before the
end of the year.
The move affects 700,000 people.
The Pinella County fluoride rejection was fought by local and
national dental associations but was upheld in a subsequent vote.
There seems now to be a strong national trend toward dropping fluoride.
decision has drawn much attention from the press, including
a significant article in the New York Times.
|The city of Milford, MA has added massive carbon filtration
units to its water treatment process as a temporary fix for
trihalomethanes (THMs). The worker is smoothing the surface of the giant carbon filter bed.
Ysidro CA the bodies of two men were found in a wastewater treatment
IN has devised
plan to eliminate high levels of copper in its water.
a one-year investigation, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health
Administration (“OSHA”) concluded that the Southwestern Oklahoma
Development Authority ("SWODA") violated the Clean Water
Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act when it fired Gy Bennar for
reporting illegal wastewater treatment practices at the golf course
where he worked to the Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA")
and to Oklahoma environmental officials.
Metropolitan Council is considering legal action against 3M Co. after
state regulators said the agency may have to spend millions of
dollars on wastewater treatment plants to clean up a toxic pollutant
connected to the corporation's manufacturing sites. The issue
concerns the decades-long battle over
perfluorochemical (PFC) contamination in the Mississippi River and
groundwater in the east metro area, which already has cost 3M
millions of dollars in cleanup and remediation.
Coakley Landfill in North Hampton, N.H. is still creating
concerns for town officials although it has been closed for 26 years.
Local drinking water has been compromised.
Department of Natural Resources says that even in a water-rich stale
like Minnesota excessive pumping of ground water is damaging lakes
may start sending water north as four major U.S. water districts help
plan one of two huge desalination plant proposals in Playas de
Rosarito, about 15 miles south of San Diego. Combined, they would
produce 150 million gallons a day, enough to supply more than 300,000
homes on both sides of the border.
of chemicals that may disrupt hormonal and immune systems, including
several personal care products, have shown up in the drinking water
of six of 11 utilities tested across Tennessee, according to a new
report. The materials included the
insect repellent DEET, ibuprofen, caffeine, detergents, an antiseptic
in some hand sanitizers, hormones and two chemical compounds found in
plastics. One is BPA, which has been controversial in containers for
infant formula and baby food.
Water Technology magazine's website covers daily news items about water so thoroughly that you can read about momentous events like the possible sighting of a snake near a water treatment plant in Moab, Utah or the hiring of a new janitor at the Duluth, MN wastewater treatment plant. As you can guess, we were a little surprised and put out that Water Technology totally missed the installation of new gutters on the north side of our building.
We got the best product available, to
protect against flooding (should it ever rain again). Note the long guarantee. Photo by Katey Shannon. (Larger View.)
water filtration systems are being deployed in villages in
Senegal to help stem the high incidence of fluorosis among the local
EPA has announced a plan to set standards for disposal of wastewater
for fracking operations.
of a toxic mess in AZ left by several US companies is expected to take
up to 70 years.
has started funding plants to treat groundwater contaminated by perchlorate,
a component of rocket fuel.
Jersey health officials have found no evidence of increased cancer in
people living near a Northern New Jersey neighborhood where
chromium-contaminated groundwater was found.
in Arlington. TX, which is experiencing a
terrible drought, were flooded with treated water from the city's
levels of alum – a chemical compound used both in mining and water
treatment--were detected at the city of Waynesboro, Ga.’s drinking
water filtration plant. The plant has been closed. A recent fish kill
incident in the
area was also blamed on the same chemical.
Erin Brockovich received a warm reception at the First Assembly Church of
DeLand, NJ, where she addressed citizens' concerns about local water
contamination. "The DeLand
contamination was discovered in March and residents have been told
their wells likely were contaminated by the pesticide dieldrin
decades ago. The pesticide was banned for use on crops in 1974 but
used another 10 years for termite control."
Southbridge, MA the introduction of chloramine as a disinfectant set
of a bitter controversy.
that owners of a highly polluted North Carolina industrial
site pay $6.5 million as settlement in a
long-running fight over TCE
contaminated groundwater which residents say is responsible for
health problems, including tumors in children.
Pure Water Annie's Glossary of Common Water Treatment Abbreviations
by Pure Water Annie
most professions, the water treatment industry runs on initials.
Here are a few of the essential ones.
ANSI - American National Standards Institute.
ANSI sets the standards by
which organizations alike NSF and WQA certify water treatment
products. For a full explanation, see "ANSI/NSF: What's It All About?" in an earlier Occasional
DI – De ionization.
An ion exchange process that removes virtually all
the mineral content of
DBP - Disinfect ion by-product. Disinfect ion
by-products are potentially toxic chemical compounds that are formed
in extremely low concentrations during the disinfection of water
often, they are the by-product of chlorination.
EPA - Environmental Protection Agency. See the full article below.
GAC - Granular Activated Carbon.
Carbon prepared by a special process
for water treatment.
GPD - Gallons Per Day.
GPM - Gallons Per Minute.
MF – Microfiltration. Describes membrane filtration usually between
the sizes of
to 10 microns (µm).
It is often
distinguished from nanofiltration and reverse osmosis by the fact
that it does not require pressure (although pressure is often
NSF - National Sanitation Foundation.
A leading "third party"
certifying agency for water treatment equipment. For a full
explanation, see ANSI/NSF: What's It All About?
in an earlier
OEM - Original Equipment Manufacturer.
(A term that is vague and widely
misunderstood within and outside the water treatment industry.
water treatment parlance it means essentially "anyone who puts
stuff together or simply buys stuff from another source and sells it to somebody else for resale to the
ORP - Oxidation-reduction potential. A measurement of the electrical
potential of water for the oxidation-reduction process to occur.
PPB - Parts per billion. One
ppb represents one microgram of something per liter of water. See
PPM - Parts per million.
Same amount as Mg./l.
(milligrams per liter).
POE - Point of entry.
Used to describe treatment devices that treat all
the water entering a building. A "whole house filter."
POU - Point or use. Used to describe treatment devices that treat
at the point of use only. An undersink filter is an example.
PVC - Polyvinylchloride.
RO - Reverse Osmosis.
Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974.
See EPA article below.
TAC - Template Assisted Crystallization.
A technique of scale control
used as an alternative to conventional water softening.
TDS - Total Dissolved Solids. Measurement of all "solids"
(minerals or salts) dissolved in water.
TOC - Total Organic Carbon. The total amount of carbon bound in a water
UF – Ultrafiltration. Crossflow filtration method that operates
between microfiltration and reverse osmosis, between the 0.002 and
0.1 micron range.
UG/L – Microgram per liter.
One ug/l is the same as 1 ppb (part per
UV - Ultraviolet. Water treatment for microorganisms.
VOC - Volatile Organic Compounds. Organic chemicals that turn to vapor at
a relatively low temperature.
WQA - Water Quality Association. The leading trade organization for water
Sound made by people who read too many definitions of water
See also Pure Water Annie's Glossary of Water Treatment Terms on the Occasional's website.
Numerical Wizard B. Bea Sharper ferrets out the watery facts that Harper's misses
of US golf courses that now use wastewater as a source for
number of years it will take to clean up TCE contamination left
behind by Motorola and other companies near Scottsdale, AZ – 70.
of water that are made undrinkable by a single drop of oil – 6.6.
of total water use that goes to agriculture worldwide – 70.
of water use that goes to agriculture in high income countries –
of water use that goes to agriculture in low and middle income
countries – 82.
of drowning among the causes of unintentional death in children -- #2.
average number of "submersion injuries" reported each year
by hospital emergency rooms -- 5100.
of Texas among states reporting drowning incidents-- 1.
drownings per year in Texas -- 140.
If you've wondered why environmentalist are so opposed to coal as an energy source, this excellent short article should give you a hint. --Hardly Waite.
United States produces 1 billion tons of coal a year, most of it
burned in the nation's 600 coal-fired utilities. In the competition
between energy and water, coal is in a league by itself. Roughly half
of the 410 billion gallons of water withdrawn every day from the
nation's rivers, lakes, and aquifers is used to mine coal, and cool
electric power generating stations, most of which burn coal.
Department of Energy forecasts that energy demand in the U.S. will
grow 40 percent in the next four decades, and much of that growth
will occur in the fast-growing southwest, Rocky Mountain region, and
southeast, where climate change is reducing rainfall and snowmelt.
Where coal falls in the nation's energy picture will be decided, in
large part, by the industry's access to fresh water.
though, also is the largest source of climate-changing emissions of
any industrial sector, as well as a significant source of water
pollution. Evidence of the unholy water and coal alliance is visible
along Virginia's Clinch River and one of its tributaries, Dumps
Creek. In the last half-century, three toxic spills have contaminated
the Clinch. But it's not unusual for state regulatory agencies to
turn a blind eye when coal companies violate the Clean Water Act. In
2009, a New York Times investigation found that state agencies
nationwide have taken action against fewer than three percent of
Clean Water Act violators.
excerpt above is from the excellent "Circle of Blue"
website—a treasure of information about world water issues. To read more.
a brief piece from an aquarium site that explains monochloramine and
its effects on fish. To read more.
chlorine is extremely unstable and dissipates quickly from water,
chloramines were developed and are now primarily used to maintain
water quality in pipelines that are often quite old and extend for
many miles. Chloramine (NH2Cl),
an inorganic compound that is a combination of chlorine and ammonia,
has been used for more than 90 years. But its proliferation began in
the mid-1980s. Of the three types of chloramine used in drinking
water, monochloramine, comprised of chlorine and ammonia, is most
often applied to public water systems.
received a terrible reputation when water utilities added the
compound and failed to adequately educate the public because it
resulted in massive tropical fish deaths for no apparent reason. The
Internet as we know it today was not available then, so aquarium
publications, fish clubs and pet shops did their best to spread the
word for coping with this problem.
is an invisible compound that fish take directly into their
bloodstream through their gills. Fish exposed to this compound
experience stress, damaged and burned gills, erratic behavior and
sometimes even jump out of the aquarium. It is a horrible, yet
preventable, death. Fish seen gasping at the water surface with
rapid, labored breathing could be suffering the effects of chloramine
poisoning (especially if these symptoms occur following a water
The EPA in a Nutshell
by Hardly Waite
EPA, aka USEPA, is an agency of the US Government that is charged
with protecting human health and the nation's environment by writing
and enforcing regulations (which must be passed into law by
EPA came into being on Dec. 3, 1970 as the result of a plan submitted
to Congress by President Nixon.
The agency now has about 18,000
full-time employees. The current administrator is Lisa Jackson.
EPA has regulatory authority in such diverse areas a air quality, oil
pollution, drinking water,
and radiation protection.
In regard to water, it is involved with the enforcement of the Safe
Drinking Water Act of 1974.
EPA is an often-maligned agency that is, unfortunately, subject to
the political whims of changing administrations.
Its authority was
noticeably weakened during the years of the George W. Bush
In a 2008 survey conducted by the Union of Concerned
than half of the nearly 1,600 EPA staff scientists who responded
online to a detailed questionnaire reported they had experienced
incidents of political interference in their work.
EPA has the tough job of walking a tightrope between
environmentalists and commercial interests.
It is unpopular most of
the time with both groups.
It may not be a perfect system, but the
nation would certainly be the worse without it.
The EPA sets the MCL (Maximum Contaminant Level) for selected chemical substances that can pollute water. We have often pointed out the MCL are "politically negotiated" rather than based on the best scientific evidence. The regulations can also be altered by judicial action. Here's a cut from the EPA website that explains why there is currently no established limit for chloroform, a dangerous DBP and known cancer causer. It illustrates how the process works (and why you should not necessarily feel that you can rely on the government of monitor and protect against dangerous water contaminants).
I hope you won't mind that I snipped out some of the bureaucratic jargon to make it readable by humans.
of the Maximum Contaminant Level Goal for Chloroform From the
National Primary Drinking Water Regulations
In December, 1968 EPA Promulgated National Primary Drinking Water Regulations for disinfectants and disinfectant byproducts that included a MCLG (Maximum Contaminant Level Goal) of zero for chloroform.
was challenged by the Chlorine Chemistry Council and the Chemical Manufacturers Association, and the U. S. Court of Appeals for District of Columbia Circuit found that EPA had not used the best available, peer-reviewed science to set the MCLG as required by the Safe Drinking Water Act.
The Court issued an order vacating the zero MCLG.
Today the EPA is removing the MCLG for chloroform from its NPDWRs to ensure that the regulations conform to the Court's order. (You can read the full ruling on the EPA's website.)
and RO Units
the years much attention has been given to the growth of bacteria in residential reverse osmosis units.
Traditional dealerships have sold
"sanitation" services to rid units of bacteria buildup, and
the instructions that come with some RO units recommend a complex
sanitization process at startup and
as routine maintenance during the life of the unit.
The need for such diligence is questionable.
Some sellers (including us) essentially ignore the issue of
bacterial growth within RO units.
We do this with awareness of the undisputable
fact that there are bacteria everywhere. If you eat a salad, it's
teeming with friendly bacteria.
Harmless heterothrophic bacteria inhabit RO units. It is not more necessary, however,
to run disinfectant
through your RO unit on a scheduled basis than to dip your lettuce
and tomatoes in laundry bleach before you eat them.
This is not to say that we never disinfect an RO unit.
All RO units
bacteria that can become a nuisance in
post filter housings or dispensing faucets, so running a disinfectant through the post-membrane end of the unit can sometimes keep their numbers down.
RO units, this is unnecessary.
I was particularly interested in an article in the Oct. 2011 issue
of Water Treatment and Conditioning Magazine that
focused on RO units in Russia. Here's an excerpt:
Microbiological Safety In RO Units
RO membranes reject practically all bacteria,
accumulating tanks and replaceable cartridges are not sterile. As a
consequence, all RO water tanks contained a lot of bacteria. Even
though mostly suprophytic[sic] microorganisms are not supposed to be
harmful, they can be annoying. They are not hazardous to health, but
in considerable quantities they can change water taste and odor
and sometimes cause an allergic reaction. It should be noted that
Russian test studies have shown that even very thorough cleaning and
sterilization of all RO components, including the carbon
blocks, the permeate tank interiors, tubing, etc., plus hygienic
assembly, did not make any noticeable difference to the very
significant colony-forming unit (CFU) count of the mostly saprophytic
microorganisms appearing in the filtered water, and in the biofilm
formation inside the permeate tank after six months of regular home
use. A typical Russian consumer uses the same system for many years
without any sterilization. Complex consumer water appliances (e.g.,
regular water softeners and RO filters) are always significantly
contaminated with microorganisms after prolonged use. Fortunately,
nonpathogenic microorganisms are much better survivors than any other
provide effective postfiltration at the exit from water-on-water systems, accumulating tanks were equipped with a cartridge
combining a carbon-block and a hollow-fiber microfiltration membrane.
This microfilter removed at least 99.9999 percent of all bacteria.
Due to high permeability of microfiltration membranes, postfilters
had a low hydrodynamic resistance, which provided a supply of pure
water from the storage tank at a rate of 1.89 liters per minute (0.5