Bird And FishPure Water Occasional

An Email Publication About Water and Water Treatment

October 2011

In this Halloween Occasional, you'll hear of developments at Portland's penguinarium, desalination at Playas de Rosarito, and pollution at Coakley Landfill. Learn what Erin Brockovich was doing at a church in Wayne, GA, how artifacts were discovered at Lake Whitney, and how piles of seafood waste came to litter the floor of the ocean. Pollution of water by TCE, DEET, copper, DBPs, and uranium. You'll hear of Pure Water Products' amazing new gutters, a giant carbon filter in Milford, MA, and sun-powered water treatment devices in Senegal. Pure Water Annie explains TAC, UG/L, OEM, and ZZZ. Find out which president started the EPA, which state leads the nation in drownings, how many gallons of water are ruined by a drop of oil, and the percentage of our water that goes into coal production. Learn what inhabits RO tanks, how the EPA determines its standards, what LULAC now says about fluoride, and, as always, much, much more.

The Occasional is overseen by Pure Water Gazette editor Hardly Waite and underwritten by Pure Water Products.

To read this issue on our website.


Hardly Waite

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 living organisms.

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 anti-fluoride proclamation.

Dozens 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.

Frontier 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" standard.

The 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, Pinellas, 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. The Pinellas decision has drawn much attention from the press, including a significant article in the New York Times.

Giant Carbon Filter
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.

In San Ysidro CA the bodies of two men were found in a wastewater treatment plant.

Valparaiso, IN has devised a plan to eliminate high levels of copper in its water.

Following 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.

The 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.

The 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.


Portland is making major improvements to its zoo, including a water filtration system for its penguinarium, that will save 6.5 million gallons of water per year.

Minnesota's Department of Natural Resources says that even in a water-rich stale like Minnesota excessive pumping of ground water is damaging lakes and streams.

Mexico 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.

Traces 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.

Jesus Truck Small
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.)

Solar-powered water filtration systems are being deployed in villages in Senegal to help stem the high incidence of fluorosis among the local population.

The EPA has announced a plan to set standards for disposal of wastewater for fracking operations.

Cleanup of a toxic mess in AZ left by several US companies is expected to take up to 70 years.

NASA has started funding plants to treat groundwater contaminated by perchlorate, a component of rocket fuel.

Black Forest Mine
Colorado officials are demanding that the Cotter Corp. clean up a mine that's leaking uranium.


New 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.

Homes in Arlington. TX, which is experiencing a terrible drought, were flooded with treated water from the city's treatment plant.

Elevated 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.

E. Brockovich
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."

In Southbridge, MA the introduction of chloramine as a disinfectant set of a bitter controversy.

The EPA is demanding 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.


PW Annie

Pure Water Annie's Glossary of Common Water Treatment Abbreviations


by Pure Water Annie


Like 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 water.

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 supplies. Most 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 0.1 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 applied).

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 Occasional.

OEM - Original Equipment Manufacturer. (A term that is vague and widely misunderstood within and outside the water treatment industry. In 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 public.")

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 ug/l.

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 water at the point of use only. An undersink filter is an example.

PVC - Polyvinylchloride.

RO - Reverse Osmosis.

SDWA. 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 sample.

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 billion.)

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 treatment professionals.

ZZZ- Sound made by people who read too many definitions of water treatment terms.

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


Number of US golf courses that now use wastewater as a source for irrigation--1,000 +.

Estimated number of years it will take to clean up TCE contamination left behind by Motorola and other companies near Scottsdale, AZ – 70.

Gallons of water that are made undrinkable by a single drop of oil – 6.6.

Percentage of total water use that goes to agriculture worldwide – 70.

Percentage of water use that goes to agriculture in high income countries – 30.

Percentage of water use that goes to agriculture in low and middle income countries – 82.

Rank of drowning among the causes of unintentional death in children -- #2.

Annual average number of "submersion injuries" reported each year by hospital emergency rooms -- 5100.

Rank of Texas among states reporting drowning incidents-- 1.

Average drownings per year in Texas -- 140.

Coal Sucks Water

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.

The 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.

The 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.

Coal, 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.

The excerpt above is from the excellent "Circle of Blue" website—a treasure of information about world water issues. To read more.

Chloramines and Fish

Here's a brief piece from an aquarium site that explains monochloramine and its effects on fish. To read more.

Because 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.

Chloramines 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.

Chloramine 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 change).

The EPA in a Nutshell

by Hardly Waite

The 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 Congress).

The 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.

The EPA has regulatory authority in such diverse areas a air quality, oil pollution, drinking water, fuel economy, and radiation protection. In regard to water, it is involved with the enforcement of the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974.

The 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 administration. In a 2008 survey conducted by the Union of Concerned Scientists more 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.

The 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.

Removal 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. The MCLG 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.)

Bacteria and RO Units

Over 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 host harmless 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. In most 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

Though 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 microorganisms.

To 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 gpm).

Suggested reading this month from the Pure Water Gazette's archive: The Clean Water Crisis by Chris Mayer. )

Model 77: "The World's Greatest $77 Water Filter"
Sprite Shower Filters: You'll Sing Better!
An Alphabetical Index to Water Treatment Products

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