The Pure Water Occasional for March 24, 2014 

In this early Spring Occasional, you'll hear about triclosan, triclocarban, solar distillers, and lead eating bacteria. News of the tragic Snonomish mudslide, heavy pollution from auto manufacturing, arsenic in Chilean waters, and frac sand mining. The sad story of the decline of Lake Urmia, yellow and brown tap water, and the great Reinvent the Toilet Fair. Finally, the coal industry's war on water,  how to remove chloramines from water for aquariums, 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.


The spreading plague of antibacterial products

by Jim Hightower

Have you had your daily minimum requirement of triclosan today? How about your dosage of triclocarban?

Chances are you have, but don't know it. These two are antimicrobial chemicals, which might sound like a good thing, except that they disrupt the human body's normal regulatory processes. Animal studies show, for example, that these triclos can be linked to the scrambling of hormones in children, disruption of puberty and of the reproductive system, decreases in thyroid hormone levels that affect brain development, and other serious health problems.

Yet, corporations have slipped them into all sorts of consumer products, pushing them with a blitz of advertising that claim the antibacterial ingredients prevent the spread of infections. The two chemicals were originally meant for use by surgeons to cleanse their hands before operations, but that tiny application has now proliferated like a plague, constantly exposing practically everyone to small amounts here, there, and everywhere, adding up to dangerous mega-doses.

Triclosan and triclocarban were first mixed into soaps, but then – BOOM! – brand-name corporations went wild, putting these hormone disrupters into about 2,000 products, including toothpaste, mouthwashes, fabrics, and (most astonishingly) even into baby pacifiers! Today, use of the chemicals is so prevalent that they can be found in the urine of three-fourths of Americans. They also accumulate in groundwater and soil, so they saturate our environment and eventually ourselves – one study found them in the breast milk of 97 percent of women tested.

For decades, corporate lobbying and regulatory meekness let this chemical menace spread. But now the Food & Drug Administration is finally questioning the continued use of the two triclos. For more information and action, go to the Natural Resources Defense Council:

Source: Jim Hightower's Email Newsletter.

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Solar desalination could cut costs, provide solution for drought-stricken areas

Introductory Note:  This short piece about an industrial-sized solar distillation project indicates that solar distillation is a "relatively new concept." Not so. Solar distillation has been around for a long, long time.  Whether it can be made commercially attractive on a large scale remains to be seen, but the concept, using free heat from the sun to perform the natural process of distillation to harvest fresh water from the sea, would seem pretty basic. Solar distillation has been practiced on a smaller scale for some time.  A "solar distillation" search will yield pictures and building plans for many small systems.  --Hardly Waite. 

The drought in California may prove to be one of the biggest challenges the state has ever faced, as a number of experts predict that it may continue for years or even decades. Even if these predictions are overstated, it is clear that in the short to medium term California will have to come up with solutions to provide the water needed by farmers, manufacturers and consumers.

The answer may come from a very unlikely source -- the sun. Solar desalination is a relatively new concept but WaterFX, a startup company that is developing the technology, says it is the perfect solution to drought. The technology produces freshwater from ocean water by separating salt and water through evaporation, Business Insider reported.

Solar desalination is a much more environmentally friendly technology than traditional desalination methods, which mostly rely on reverse osmosis. They require a significant amount of energy to complete the desalination process, which makes them rather costly. In addition, only about half of the seawater that is desalinated comes out as freshwater.

By comparison, solar desalination consumes just about one-fifth of the electricity needed by other desalination technologies, cutting operating costs by at least 50 percent, with a water recovery rate of roughly 93 percent, according to WaterFX chairman and founder Aaron Mandell. He explained that it will be possible to drive costs down even more as solar desalination advances further over the next few years.

 Source: Water/Waste Processing. 
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 Water News for the Week of March 24


A massive mudslide in Oso, Wash., about 60 miles north from Seattle, killed four people on Saturday.  A view of the hillside that gave way and collapsed near State Route 530 near Oso, Washington.

Ramapough Indian tribe demands cleanup of 'toxic legacy.' Ford produced more than six million cars at its plant in nearby Mahwah, N.J., from 1955 to 1980. Automobile paint containing lead, arsenic, benzene, chromium and other chemicals was sprayed on the cars rolling off Ford’s assembly line. But with large-scale production came large-scale pollution if soil and water.

HBO: Greenland is melting. Greenland recorded its highest temperatures ever in 2013. The equivalent of three Chesapeake Bays’-worth of water melts off the island every year, affecting sea levels around the world. Shane Smith embarks on an expedition to Greenland with a climate scientist to discover the reasons for the melting, and how the resulting sea level rise will mean devastation sooner than expected.

Rising energy demand a threat to strained water supplies. Rising demand for energy, from biofuels to shale gas, is a threat to freshwater supplies that are already under strain from climate change, the United Nations said in a report on Friday.

The fight over frac sand mining. Wisconsin governor Scott Walker has lauded the recent sand mining rush as a promising source for new jobs. Meanwhile, those who live near the mines protest the noise, lights, traffic, and the fine silica dust that coats their windows, decks and the clothes they hang out to dry. They worry that the dust is coating their lungs, too.

California drought: Ray of hope in fish-vs.-farms dispute. Tens of thousands of squiggling salmon fattening up on bugs and other nutrients on flooded cropland in the Sacramento Valley could soon provide a solution to the long-running dispute over who should get the bulk of California's diminishing supply of water: farms or fish.

Dying Lake Urmia reflects a broader problem in Iran. Lake Urmia, long counted among the world's largest saltwater lakes — almost 90 miles in length and stretching 34 miles at its widest point — is today a pitiful shadow of its former self. 

World Bank clears Congo’s controversial dam project. The World Bank Thursday approved a $73.1-million grant in support of a controversial giant dam project in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Bank’s support drew criticism from some environmental and civil-society groups that have long opposed the project.

Chile’s arsenic-laden toxic water declared ‘environmental catastrophe’. Thirty years ago 20,000 tons of toxic smelting waste arrived by ship to the port of Arica and were transported to the edge of the northern city where they were left uncovered and exposed to the elements. Test shows school among locations in northern region serving up poisoned water as plant fails to filter mining chemicals and a generation of toxic waste.

Plane search hampered by ocean garbage problem. Another debris field, another new and so-far futile focus in the search for Flight MH370. Two weeks after the Malaysia Airlines jet disappeared, one thing has been made clear: The ocean is full of garbage, literally.

Madison Kipp to remove millions of gallons of contaminated groundwater. Madison Kipp Corporation is preparing to pump millions of gallons of contaminated water from underneath its east side plant to pull an underground plume of pollutants away from an aquifer tapped for the city's drinking water supply.

In this Friday, March 21, 2014 photo, an exhibitor from Loughborough University demonstrates the use of a toilet during Reinvent The Toilet Fair in New Delhi, India. Scientists who accepted the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s challenge to reinvent the toilet showcased their inventions in the Indian capital Saturday. The primary goal: to sanitize waste, use minimal water or electricity, and produce a usable product at low cost. India is by far the worst culprit, with more than 640 million people defecating in the open and producing a stunning 72,000 tons of human waste each day - the equivalent weight of almost 10 Eiffel Towers or 1,800 humpback whales.

 Bills target brown water issues. Lafayette Parish homeowners who have dealt for years with brown tap water that stains appliances but meets state drinking-water standards could see some relief with two bills filed with the state legislature.

Water quality prompts complaints in Minnetrista. As Crystal Jensen took a shower on Dec. 3, she was astonished — and then frightened — to find neon orange water all around her. She jumped out of the shower, filled the tub with the orange water and posted a picture of it on her neighborhood’s Facebook page.

 Green fracking? 5 technologies for cleaner shale energy. Critics decry fracking for consuming vast amounts of fresh water, creating toxic liquid waste and adding to the atmosphere's greenhouse gas burden, mostly because of increased risk of leaks of methane. James Hill is one of a handful of technology pioneers determined to change that..

Beefed-up bacteria get the lead out of water. Industrial activities such as battery manufacturing can pollute water with lead and other toxic heavy metals. Now, Chinese researchers have designed a way to use microbes to get the lead out. They have engineered bacteria that can detect the toxic metal and remove it from water.

Sao Paulo warned to take steps to avoid World Cup water shortage. The World Water Council is warning Sao Paulo, Brazil’s biggest city, to take emergency measures to conserve water as the region reels from a record drought or risk supply shortages during the World Cup.

 Deep caverns and old mine shafts are giving Mexico City a sinking feeling. City officials have discovered a yawning cavern just below the surface of a vital intersection, clawed out by gushing water from a busted storm drain. 

Who’s watching chemicals used in oil drilling? A case of alleged dumping of possibly thousands of gallons of chemicals into Odessa’s sewer system has local officials wondering who’s supposed to police the drilling industry.

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.

The Role of  Reverse Osmosis in Removing Chloramines from Water for Aquariums

The water disinfectant chloramine that is being used increasingly by  municipal water treatment plants is bad news for aquarium owners.  Chloramines kill fish,  so there is much interest in removing it from water for aquariums.

Reverse osmosis (RO) has been a favorite of aquarium owners over the years for providing superb-quality water for fish.  There is some concern, however, about RO’s ability to provide chloramine-free water.  The following is an attempt at a non-technical explanation of how RO deals with  chloramine.

First, there is much misinformation,  some of it provided by anti-chloramine groups, that indicates that chloramines are virtually impossible to remove from water.

The fact is, chloramine is removed from water with the same methods that remove chlorine–especially filtration through carbon.   Chloramine reduction just takes longer, which in many cases means that it requires a larger carbon treatment bed and/or greatly reduced flow of water through the bed.  Some carbons, called catalytic carbons, are manufactured especially to treat chloramine and they work much faster than standard carbons.

Chloramine is made by combining chlorine with ammonia.  The removal process involves breaking the bond between chlorine and ammonia then converting the chlorine to harmless chloride. The carbon prefilter of an RO unit (which handles the water very slowly) does a good job of getting rid of the chlorine.  The part that often disturbs people is what happens to the ammonia, since, theoretically, RO membranes aren’t very good at ammonia reduction.

The remaining ammonia can be removed easily by cation exchange,  provided by common water softener resin. There are pH and hardness requirements, however, so that not just any water can be run through a water softener with the assurance that ammonia will be removed.  The reverse osmosis membrane, however,  prepares the water so that  leftover ammonia can be easily removed by cation resin placed after the RO membrane.  Post-RO water is low in hardness and pH,  so a simple and inexpensive cation resin postfilter added to a good RO unit should produce water that is essentially chloramine free.  All filters must be kept fresh to assure success.

Another option is an RO unit with a deionizing (DI) post filter.  The process is the same.  The RO unit’s carbon prefilter breaks down the chloramine and converts the resulting chlorine to chloride.  The RO membrane reduces the total dissolve solids greatly, leaving the DI postfilter free to polish off the ammonia.

Either RO followed by a cation cartridge or a deionizing cartridge should assure excellent, chloramine-free water for fish (or for people, since the same strategies work with undersink drinking water RO units).

References –

Removing Chloramine and Ammonia from Aquarium Water.  (This article provides references to excellent Resin-Tech sources.)

Chloramine and the Reef Aquarium.


Please visit our RO Parts Page for tanks and accessories.

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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