|In this post election Occasional, you'll read about PFOA, PFOS, PFCs, AFFF, ancient water found under Canada, and an ancient sea cow in Spain. Find out how forests affect water turbidity, who is Not Afraid to Look, and why seabirds eat plastic. Learn about firefighting chemicals, the Lagoor River Cleanup, the new president's powers over the EPA and the California drought, a new bottled water with Brain-Octane Oil, and bottled water home delivery in Flint. News about water on Pluto, water contamination in Sudan, and a drug takeback program in Chicago. Finally, there is a comprehensive review of alternative water "softeners." And, as always, there is much, much more.
Pure Water Occasional for November 27, 2016
Effective with this issue, the full Occasional is no longer archived online, but most of the individual articles can be found on the Pure Water Gazette's website. Read the Gazette every day for the latest news feeds from the world of water.
Not Afraid to Look
Pure Water Gazette Famous Water Pictures Series
Since April, 2016 thousands of demonstrators have been camping out at the confluence of the Cannonball and Missouri Rivers on the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota. These peaceful water protectors
—representing more than 200 Native-American tribes, plus many nonnative allies—are demanding a halt to the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline
, which threatens the water and sacred land of the Standing Rock Sioux. Tensions are escalating—on the night of Nov. 20, North Dakota law enforcement deployed
water cannons, tear gas and rubber bullets against the unarmed group
in subfreezing temperatures.
On a hill above the Sacred Stone camp, a metal and concrete statue of a seated man surveys it all—the camp, the rivers, the impending construction, the often intense conflict—his expression calm but resolute. Not Afraid to Look,
completed in October, is the work of Charles Rencountre, a Lakota artist based in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Originally from South Dakota, Rencountre got his start as an artist 30 years ago by teaching himself to carve traditional, effigy-style Lakota pipes, as his grandfather did before him. Today Rencountre still focuses on effigies, though on a different scale, transforming the tiny carvings his ancestors made into monumental sculptures.
The statue at Standing Rock is based on one such effigy, a mid-19th-century Lakota pipe titled Not Afraid to Look the Whiteman in the Face. The piece features a bowl shaped like a white man's head; on the stem, an American Indian man sits looking directly at him. The pipe was made during a time of intense conflict between indigenous tribes and the U.S. government.
"It was a really difficult time for our people. We'd pretty much lost everything we knew," Rencountre said. "Some man out there in that world, that reality, was carving a pipe—it was a political piece that was saying, 'We're not afraid.'"
Adapted from an excellent article by Clara Chaisson. Read the full original in EcoWatch.
The Emergence of "Emerging Contaminants"
The EPA in 2006 made a deal with eight American companies that make or use perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) to stop doing so. These chemicals are parts of a larger class of chemicals known as perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs), which in turn falls under the larger group heading of “emerging contaminants." Emerging contaminants are defined as materials having “a perceived, potential, or real threat to human health or the environment.”
The companies say that they have complied, but the EPA has made little progress in setting up any real standards or guidelines about the dangers of lifetime exposure to the chemicals.
There is a need for such determinatation, since these man-made chemicals have been linked to a disturbing array of health effects, including obesity in children, reproductive problems and cancers. Used as a surface-active agent in a slew of products from coating additives – like Teflon – to cleaning products, these compounds don’t break down under typical conditions and are extremely persistent in the environment, says the EPA.
And while PFCs may no longer be in active production, they are still being used. And, as we're learning, there is no scarcity of them.
Telflon used in cookware coating, that was generally regarded as safe for many years, is no longer considered so. Teflon has been much in news. Far less publicized, outside the areas where it is being found in water supplies, mostly around military bases, is PFC-containing firefighting foam.
When jet fuel burns, it makes a fire that isn't easy to put out. Water doesn't work. So, half a century ago the 3M Corporation, with the encouragement of the US Navy, developed a product known as AFFF (Aqueous Film-Forming Foam) to put out airplane crash fires. AFFF contains PFOS and other compounds that break down to PFOA and other PFCs.
For years AFFF has been used to put out fires and even more widely in training exercises, demonstrations, and testing activities on military bases around the nation. So it is not surprising that communities near military bases are finding PFCs in the soil and in their drinking water. With a lack of concern that has been characteristic of the military in matters of water safety, no effort was made to construct barriers to contain the foam, which sank down through the earth into the water table.
According to a Provisional Health Advisory issued by the EPA in 2009, the maximum levels that humans should be exposed to through drinking water is 0.2 ppb for PFOS and 0.4 ppb for PFOA. Although the agency has said repeatedly that it will update these numbers, it hasn’t done so since 2009.
According to one researcher, “In some of these places, huge amounts of chemicals from the foam have been found in soil and water. At Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida, for instance, one of the telomers that can decay into a chemical similar to PFOA was found at 14,600 ppb. Near the Naval Air Station in Fallon, Nevada, where fire-training exercises were conducted for more than 30 years, PFOA has been recorded in the groundwater at levels as high as 6,720 ppb. And, at the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Michigan, where crash trainings also took place for more than three decades, one plume of groundwater had concentrations of total PFCs between 100,000 and 250,000 ppb.”
While advanced countries like Sweden, the EU, and Canada have banned the use of existing stockpiles of foam containing PFOS, the US has no restrictions on its use. The US military has a stockpile of a million gallons.
Home water treatment for PFCs in drinking water? Studies done by the Minnesota Department of Health
find that both carbon filtration and reverse osmosis effectively remove PFCs.
Research has revealed that the world's oldest water, found deep below ground in Ontario, Canada, could host microbial life that has its own self-sustaining life-support system. These organisms, which are completely 'alien' to life on the surface. The ancient water, discovered 2.4 kilometers deep inside a Northern Ontario mine in 2013, was estimated to have been closed off from the planet's surface for some 2.65 billion years.
A sales tax proposal to clean up Florida's Indian River Lagoon passed by a large margin. The cleanup plan focuses mainly on removing nitrogen and phosphorus from the lagoon.
Paleontologists identified a rare fossil of an ancient sea cow in a slab of pavement in Gerona, Spain.
A process developed at the University of Houston will allow testing for Giardia and Cryptosporidium with a smartphone.
It was discovered that seabirds eat plastic because they like the way it smells.
Results: On Nov. 9, residents of seven towns in Maine voted to end fluoridation of it's drinking water.
A judge ordered delivery of bottled water to lead-tainted homes in Flint, Michigan, unless residents opt out or officials verify that a water filter has been properly installed.
A new study points to rapidly increasing population, an inefficient agricultural system, and extreme mismanagement of resources as the causes for Iran's current critical water shortage.
In a meeting with an ad hoc parliamentary committee in Khartoum, the former Minister of Urban Planning for Sudan confirmed that 62 out of every 1,000 children in the country die from the consequences of drinking water that is "unfit for human consumption." He added that 19.2 per cent of the children suffer from respiratory tract infections, 11.9 per cent of malaria, five per cent from chronic diarrhoea, 4.8 per cent from typhoid, 4.7 per cent from various skin diseases, and one per cent is afflicted with eye diseases.
Indian reseachers have developed a product called Dip Treat that is said to kill E. coli with a portable device consisting of sugar-laced paper.
About 270 river-miles downstream from the Dakota Access pipeline protest camp, the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe, which resides on a reservation on the Missouri River, is demanding $200 million from the US goverenment in compensation over alleged water-rights violations.
The consensus is that although the president-elect will not be able to "get rid of the EPA," as he promised, he will be able to significantly cripple environmental regulation by by starving the agency of funding.
Research revealed that as forest cover decreases, turbidity in water increases.
Scientists speculate that there may be water on Pluto. One expert stated: "We are in a new era where water seems to be more prevalent than we had previously thought."
There is a new bottled water on the market called Bulletproof Fatwater that is supplemented with "Brain-Octane Oil" that "puts your brain on full blast without weighing you down." How can we compete with that?
Trump’s Pledge to ‘Open Up the Water’ for Valley Farms: Easier Said Than Done
by Craig Miller
"We're gonna solve your water problems." --Donald Trump.
Will the California Drought Expected to End After January Inauguration?
President-elect Donald Trump might have trouble living up to one of his more sweeping campaign promises in California.
On the stump in Fresno last May, he made headlines
for declaring, “There is no drought” here.
It’s a bit unclear from his remarks whether he was voicing an opinion or simply reporting what some farmers told him at a pre-rally gathering. Either way, he was badly mistaken.
Though conditions have improved over much of the state since then, about 73 percent of California remains in some level drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor
, and nearly 43 percent is still classified in “extreme” or “exceptional” drought, including much of the San Joaquin Valley.
‘Don’t Even Think About It’
But Trump also made a pledge to the assembled crowd in Fresno.
“We’re gonna solve your water problem,” he told the audience. “We’re gonna get it done and we’re gonna get it done quick. That one’s an easy one. Don’t even think about it.”
It’s unclear how much the candidate had thought about it as his comments displayed a blend of confidence and confusion. He expressed bewilderment at the current water allocation policies, which require that a certain volume of water remain in the rivers to protect the environment.
“You have a water problem that is so insane. And it’s so ridiculous, where they’re taking the water and shoving it out to sea,” he said.
“And I’m asking everybody, why, why, why, and nobody can explain why they do this.”
Actually, a lot of people could’ve explained that. About a thousand of them were gathered in Sacramento this week for the Bay-Delta Science Conference
, where scientists and policy makers meet every other year to review the latest research supporting the environmentally fragile Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
“This was more sloganeering than fact, in the middle of the drought,” observed Jeff Mount, a senior fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California. He says a certain amount of California’s river water must flow to the sea, to keep salt water from creeping in and contaminating both drinking water and farm land — especially during droughts.
“The share that went to the environment during the worst of the drought—2014 and 2015—was vanishingly small,” he recalls.
It’s unclear how high California’s water issues will actually rank on the Trump administration’s agenda, though anxiety rose in conservation circles last week when Trump gave a spot on his transition team to Devin Nunes, a San Joaquin Valley Republican congressman and vocal proponent of pumping more Delta water to farms. (Nunes floated a “Turn on the Pumps” bill
in 2009 that failed in congress.)
“It will be uphill for [Trump] to make big changes here,” suggests Jay Lund, who heads the Center for Watershed Sciences at UC Davis. Like Mount, he’s a grizzled veteran of California water debates.
“There’s a lot of state law, state regulations that would have to be overcome,” says Lund. “I think pretty much anything that anyone wants to do is gonna get petty thoroughly vetted.”
Mount says an executive order from the White House to suddenly crank up the pumps would violate both state and federal law, beginning with the federal Endangered Species Act, which relies on formal studies known as “biological opinions” to set protections for sensitive habitat.
“He could write it, but it would be illegal,” wrote Mount in an email to KQED. “It would be inconsistent with the biological opinions, and the President cannot unilaterally alter the BOs. The project operators would run the risk of civil (and in a different world) criminal penalties.”
Mount says such an order would also run afoul of the Clean Water Act and California law, though in times of drought, even more fundamental laws apply to the distribution of water.
Campaign promises are one thing, says Mount, but, “Now they have to govern, and the laws of physics apply to everyone equally.”
Drug Take-Back Program Aims at Protecting People and Water from the Outrageous Amounts of Leftover Drugs
Cook County, Ill., adopted an ordinance that will provide more than 5 million residents with convenient access to safe drug disposal. The ordinance makes Cook County the largest jurisdiction in the U.S. to require drug companies to safely dispose of unwanted medications, and adds to the two states, nine counties and two cities in the U.S. with similar drug take-back laws.
More than $1 billion in leftover drugs are thrown in the trash, flushed or consigned to medicine cabinets each year.
Prescription drug abuse is the fastest growing drug problem in the U.S., and nearly 70% of people who begin using prescription drugs non-medically get them from a family member or friend, often from medicine cabinets. Drugs left in the home also put seniors, children and pets at risk for accidental poisoning. When flushed or put in the trash, over-the-counter medications and prescription drugs can contaminate drinking water and harm aquatic species.
Water Treatments that Work and Those that Don't
by Gene Franks
The eminent water treatment specialist Peter S. Cartwright, a man of long experience and unchallenged expertise in the field, recently published a two part article in Water Conditioning and Purification
magazine (October and November 2016) that concentrates on some of the shady areas of water treatment. Mr. Cartrwright skips the obvious health-related humbugs like "alkalizers" and concentrates on the technical aspects of genuine water treatment issues like scale prevention, TDS reduction, and removal or inactivation of bacteria and cysts.
Mr. Cartwright focuses first and foremost on devices that "soften" water. For decades now there have been numerous attempts to replace the conventional ion exchange water softener. Currently in North America some 785,000 residential and 60,000 commercial water softeners are sold annually, so there are strong incentives to tap into that market with alternative products. Conventional ion exchange water softeners, which actually remove scale-forming calcium carbonate (hardness) from water by exchanging it for sodium, work well and their performance can be easily verified by a simple test. However, there are many environmental and aesthetic objections to conventional softeners, so the quest for a workable alternative has been intense.
Mechanical Vortex Style "Softener"
In his discussion, Cartwright does not include alternate technologies like membrane devices (reverse osmosis and nano filtration) and sequestering systems (polyphosphates). He divides alternative scale reducing systems into five groups:
Magnetic devices that use one or more permanent magnets either attached to a pipe or inside the pipe.
Electromagnetic systems, more sophisticated than natural magnets, that also attempt to influence the way that treated scale-forming minerals behave without actually removing the minerals.
Mechanical devices that are designed to alter the pressure and flow pattern of water and somehow alter its chemistry in the process (see picture above).
Electrostatic systems that typically use two electrodes charged with high voltage DC current which alter the calcium carbonate as the water stream passes between them so that surface scaling is reduced.
Catalytic devices. These come in many configurations and sizes but are mainly housings that hold a proprietary medium designed to impart scale-reducing properties to water that passes through it. Unlike conventional softeners, they do not require power, backwashing, or chemicals. The technology is usually referred to as TAC (Template Assisted Crystallization), although one leading manufacturer calls its product NAC (Nucleation Assisted Crystallization).
What all these systems have in common is that they aim (and claim) to convert calcium carbonate into a form that does not stick to surfaces. The explanation involves the two crystalline forms of calcium carbonate, calcite, which forms hard scale, and aragonite, which supposedly does not attach to surfaces to form scale. (Although there are other constituents of hardness scale, like iron, silica, sulfate, and manganese, the main culprit is calcium carbonate in crystalline form, to that's what most treatment strategies focus on.)
So, do any of these five strategies actually work?
According to Peter S. Cartwright:
With hundreds of manufacturers who have offered thousands of devices to the industry over the years, it is difficult to make all-inclusive statements. At the risk of doing so, my conclusion is that, with the exception of TAC, no [scale preventing] device has actually survived rigorous third-party scientific credible testing to support the reduction claims made for it.
Cartwright describes TAC technology as follows:
This process, which came on the scene in 1998, appears to minimize scaling without requiring regeneration or utilizing ion exchange. TAC utilizes polymer beads, not unlike the ion exchange resin in traditional water softeners. These beads, however, contain microscopic nucleation sites that cause calcium and magnesium crystals to form at the site and ultimately detach from the resin into the water as insoluble particles. These colloidal-sized particles do not attach to surfaces and are carried out with the water. As a result, although TAC does not actually remove hardness, it does minimize scale attachment to surfaces. This process requires no power, chemical addition or backwashing. The life of the resin is typically about three years. It has been thoroughly tested by credible, third-party institutions and has been shown to generally perform as claimed; however, the local water chemistry appears to have an effect on performance. For example, TAC has been shown to be ineffective for silica removal.
TAC units are simple upflow systems that contain only a few liters of TAC resin. No regeneration is required, but they should be protected from sediment and media life is extended if they are protected from chlorine.