Pure Water Occasional, May 20, 2017
In this issue you'll read about chloramine treatment and lead corrosion. Then, Leonardo da Vinci and watersheds. Also, an archived article discussing the importance of getting your water tested before purchasing expensive equipment. Plus, is the Air Force responsible for cleaning up its chemical water pollution? Finally, a summary and link to on-going current water news. And, as always, there is much, much more. 

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For article archives and links to top daily water news, please visit the Pure Water Gazette.

Why Chloramine is Used Instead of Chlorine

by Madasyn Czebiniak

Editor’s Note: We’re reprinting this article from the April 29. 2017 issue of the Breckenridge (PA) Tribune-Review because it explains well the rationale of municipal water suppliers for switching from chlorine to chloramine as well as some of the consequent problems and issues resulting from the change. –Hardly Waite.
Pete Kristine doesn’t live in Brackenridge anymore. He grew up there, though, and visits his parents in their Nelson Avenue home just about every day.
Their house is old, as are many in Brackenridge, so Kristine believes it’s likely the house has water pipes that contain lead. That’s one of the reasons he questions the Brackenridge Borough Water Treatment Plant’s decision to switch from chlorine to chloramines to disinfect the water it treats.
Chloramines can be more corrosive than chlorine, allowing lead in pipes to be released into the water. Chloramines were the reason Washington, D.C., experienced “alarming” levels of lead in its drinking water between 2001 and 2004, according to reporting by The Washington Post.
According to the Post, when the Washington Aqueduct, which supplies city water, switched from chlorine to chloramines, the chloramines corroded the city’s pipes and caused lead to leach into the water supply. 
But Nick Colledge, water plant operator in Brackenridge, said that shouldn’t be a problem here.
Colledge said corrosion can be offset by adjusting the water’s acidity. He also said the plant will be testing sites where lead and copper have been detected in the past “to make sure we have everything where we want it.”
None of Brackenridge’s service connections contains lead, Colledge said.
Jeanne VanBriesen, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University whose research includes water treatment byproducts, said cases like Washington, D.C., have made water system operators well aware of what corrosion inhibitors they need to avoid problems.
Utilities making a change often will re-evaluate their corrosion control, she said. Kristine isn’t concerned about the plant’s service connections, but rather the pipes in older homes that may still contain lead. Tom Kristine, Pete’s father, said his home’s pipes haven’t been tested for lead.
“I guess that’s going to be the next thing, especially if they start to put chloramines into the water,” Tom Kristine said.
Lead not the real problem
Colledge said the real problem with much of the drinking water in the region is trihalomethanes, which are cancer-causing chemicals that form when organic compounds in water combine with chlorine.
Trihalomethanes are a common byproduct of using chlorine to disinfect drinking water. “Drinking water with the elevated trihalomethane levels over a long period of time can lead to cancer and a lot of other health problems,” Colledge said.
Chloramines can disinfect drinking water and produce fewer trihalomethanes. That’s why Brackenridge is making the switch.
Brackenridge’s treatment plant, which gets its water from the Allegheny River, always has experienced elevated trihalomethane levels during the summer, and plant operators have been trying to find ways to reduce them.
Although this is the first year Brackenridge will use chloramines, it has been working with the state Department of Environmental Protection and the Allegheny County Health Department for 10 years to try to lower the organics in the water.
Colledge said the plant applied for a permit to install a chloramine system in December 2015 and received DEP approval a year later. The DEP still must inspect the new system before it comes online in June. Brackenridge averaged between 70 and 75 parts per billion of trihalomethanes last year. The federal limit is 80 parts per billion.

The Fawn-Frazer Joint Water Authority — which serves Fawn, Frazer and parts of Buffalo, East Deer, Harrison and West Deer townships — also will get water treated with chloramines since Brackenridge supplies water to that authority. Fawn-Frazer was in violation of federal trihalomethane standards last year, averaging a little more than 84 parts per billion.
Colledge said Fawn-Frazer’s average was higher because its treated water is stored longer, giving trihalomethanes more time to form. “Fawn has to add more chlorine in their system to maintain their disinfectant levels — that makes the problem even worse,” Colledge said.

Fawn-Frazer authority Chairman Ed Adams did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Authority office manager Terri Hessom declined to comment on the use of chloramines and how they may affect the authority’s trihalomethane levels. Fawn-Frazer customers affected by the change were notified in their March water bills. “Overall, the chloramines had relatively the cheapest cost and the most guarantee for lowering the trihalomethanes,” Colledge said. Chloramines will be used from May through October, which is when the trihalomethane levels are higher because of warmer water temperatures. The plant will switch back to chlorine during cooler months, when there are fewer organic compounds in the river water.

Other issues to address
Colledge, along with the DEP, insist that water treated with chloramines is safe to drink. They have been used by numerous water systems for almost 90 years, and their use is closely regulated, according to DEP.
The DEP says 73 public water systems serving more than 4 million people in Pennsylvania have their water treated with chloramines, and about one-third of all public water systems in the United States use chloramine for residual disinfection.
The Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County has been using chloramines since the 1970s. But, Colledge said, those who use home dialysis equipment and residents who have ponds or aquariums would potentially have a problem if they don’t take action. To eliminate those issues, Colledge said residents with aquariums or ponds will need to buy a chemical that gets rid of chloramines as opposed to chlorine.

He said those who use home dialysis equipment should switch from a chlorine-type filter to a chloramine-type filter. And year-round use of chloramines can result in elevated nitrate levels in the water. That can be harmful to small children, Colledge said. “By switching to the chlorine over the winter and flushing our water system, we eliminate that problem completely,” he said.

Concerns linger
Still, the Kristines plan to voice their concerns about chloramines at Brackenridge’s council meeting this week. Borough officials plan to discuss the chloramine issue before council’s regular meeting.
“Whether it’s the trihalomethanes, whether it’s the potential lead release, whether it’s the chloramine, it just needs to be discussed openly and honestly with everyone that it’s going to affect in order to find the right solution for everyone,” Pete Kristine said.
“We’ll see what happens with this meeting,” Tom Kristine said. “Maybe they’ll reconsider or go some other route.”
Source: Breckenridge Tribune Review.
Leonardo da Vinci's Understanding of Watersheds
by EM

“In rivers, the water that you touch is the last of what has passed and the first of that which comes; so with present time." - Leonardo da Vinci

Leonard da Vinci's comparison of blood flowing through human arteries to the movement of water upon the Earth demonstrates his understanding of watersheds. In fact, da Vinci, along with Nicollo Machiavelli, used this knowledge of river systems to attempt a diversion of the River Arno from Pisa to Florence in the early 1500s as a military strategy. But that is another story for another time. 

Da Vinci recognized that water flowed over and under the surface of the Earth in a connected, veinous pattern akin to the human anatomy. Water flows across and under an area of land to enter rivers, streams, and other water bodies to arrive at a common point. This is the description of a watershed. Watersheds come in different shapes and sizes due to topography, geology, climate, and amount of development. For example, the Continental Divide in the United States determines which direction water will flow toward its most outward point. On the west side of the Rocky Mountains, the Colorado River flows toward the Pacific Ocean. On the eastern side, surface water flows toward the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean. Similar to da Vinci's connection of the human body to water flows, our own understanding of watersheds tells us much about local water sources and quality.

Another way to think of a watershed is as a big bowl separated from other watersheds by ridges or elevation directing water runoff in a certain direction. Our water supply is located in one or more of those watershed bowls. The quality of the water we receive from either wells or utility companies is determined by the runoff of water within our watershed. 

There are 78 major watersheds in the lower 48 states of the US of which the Mississippi drainage basin is the largest. It is also the third largest in the world after the Amazon in South America and the Congo in Africa. On a local scale, however, there are many smaller watersheds contained within the major ones. 

Why do we care about watersheds?

Everything that occurs in a watershed can affect a stream, lake, or river. This can help individuals be aware of drinking water issues and treatment options. A watershed located in an area where livestock production is prominant may have a higher concentration of nitrates in the local water supply. Additionally, watersheds containing large urban areas can experience more flooding or runoff pollutants than rural areas. 

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) provides an interactive map for locating your watershed.

People Say That Buying a Water Filter Without a Water Test is Like Baking a Cake Without a Recipe

by Gene Franks

Well, if they say that, they’re wrong.  It’s a lot worse than baking without a recipe,  for you not only risk spending a lot more than you need to but you are also likely to get something that doesn’t work for your situation.
Many water treatment issues require knowledge of several characteristics of water that can only be determined by testing.  For example, if you have well water, simple observation may tell you that you have iron in your water, but in order to treat the iron properly you need to know not only how much iron you have but also the pH of the water and often the dissolved oxygen content of the water.  It’s best to know if iron bacteria are present and if there are other problems that can be addressed at the same time.  Iron and hardness, for example, can often be cured with a single treatment device, and if there is odor in the water you can get rid of that as well if you choose the correct iron treatment.  You also need to know if there is manganese present, since iron and manganese can be reduced with the same treatment.  Simply buying an “iron filter” from a big box store or a website might work, but it’s likely to be only a partial solution to your problem or to be a complete waste of time and money.
A good water analysis can also alert you to serious problems you didn’t know you had–like an elevated level of arsenic or chromium–or it can give you assurance that your water does not have hidden contaminants that can damage your health.  If the water you drink every day has a dangerous amount of lead or pesticides, you definitely want to know it, but it is equally valuable to know that your water is not contaminated.
In fact, I believe that the great value of a water test is not necessarily finding out what’s bad about your water but specifically what is good about it.  When a good test shows that your water is safe and wholesome, the test is well worth the price for the reassurance it gives that you.
A good water analysis can alert you to serious problems you didn’t know you had–like an elevated level of arsenic or chromium–or it can give you assurance that your water does not have hidden contaminants that can damage your health.  If the water you drink every day has a dangerous amount of lead or pesticides, you definitely want to know it, but it is equally valuable to know that your water is not contaminated.

Please visit the Pure Water Products website to learn more about our National Testing Laboratories water test kits.
Airforce Thumbs Its Nose at New Michigan Safe Water Law
by Garrett Ellison
An old fighter jet outside the Wurtsmith Air Museum on the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base grounds in Oscoda Township on Wednesday, June 1, 2016. The base closed in 1993, but dozens of township residents were advised not to drink their well water by state and local health officials this year after new residential well testing showed concerning levels of perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs), which were once used in fire-fighting foam at the base.

Editor’s Note: The article below is one of many we’ve referenced over the years detailing the US Military’s efforts to shirk its responsibility for cleaning up water pollution it has caused. The military has been notorious for playing fast and loose with environment safety and quick to abandon the messes it makes. The incident described below is one of many that have been reported recently regarding the very serious and difficult-to-remove water pollution caused by fire fighting foams.–Hardly Waite.
OSCODA, MI — The U.S. Air Force says it won’t provide safe drinking water to Oscoda residents affected by chemical pollution from the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base because a Michigan law seeking that is discriminatory.
The Air Force Civil Engineering Center coordinating Wurtsmith cleanup says the service branch is “not authorized” to comply with the requirements of Michigan Public Act 545 of 2016, a new state law which took effect in January.
Air Force spokesperson Mark Kinkade said the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), which created the Superfund program, only compels the U.S. government to comply with state law if it’s not discriminatory.
“The Michigan law does discriminate as it only applies to federal and state agencies, not to all entities and persons,” Kinkade said.
As result, the “Air Force is not authorized to comply with the mandates of Act 545 to provide an alternative water supply or to reimburse the state of Michigan when it provides an alternative water supply,” he said.
Public Act 545 amended Michigan’s Safe Drinking Water Act to require the state or federal government provide an “alternative water supply” to any Michigan property owner with a polluted well if state health officials issue a related drinking water advisory and the government caused the pollution.
Sen. Jim Stamas, R-Midland, sponsored the bill after military officials told him at a meeting last year that the Air Force would provide alternative water to affected properties if Michigan amended its laws to require that.
“I am extremely disappointed in the U.S. Air Force for not living up to its word and its responsibilities,” Stamas said. “The federal government needs to be held accountable for what they did, and I will be asking Attorney General Bill Schuette to pursue action to enforce the law.”
Messages left with Schuette’s staff late Friday were not immediately returned.
The Air Force claims the Department of Defense prohibits it from spending money to provide safe water unless a private well tests for chemical concentrations above the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency health advisory level.

In Oscoda, toxic fluorocarbons called perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), or perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) — the official scientific name is in flux — have been leaching through from the base for decades. The chemicals were in firefighting foam the military began using in the 1970s but the plumes that resulted weren’t discovered until the late 1990s.
You probably have some level in your blood already.
The nuclear B-52 bomber base closed in 1993 after the Cold War. The chemicals are considered “emerging contaminants” because their threat to human health is worrisome but still somewhat uncertain. They have been tied in animal testing to thyroid, kidney, liver, reproductive and other health problems.
Plumes of PFAS have spread across much of Oscoda near the base, into neighborhoods with many seasonal homes not connected to municipal water, which is safe. The main focus is on perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctyl sulfonate (PFOS), the only two of 19 different PFAS plaguing the area that the EPA has established advisory levels for.
In Feb. 2016, state and local officials issued an advisory, urging homeowners with a private well near the base to seek an alternative water supply. However, only two properties since then have tested for PFOS or PFOA at concentrations above the EPA threshold, which was formalized last May at 70 part-per-trillion (ppt). Total PFAS, however — both PFOS, PFOA and the other 17 different variations of the chemical class — has tested at 20,000 ppt in some wells and the groundwater under large parts of Oscoda south and east of the base is testing between 50 and 300 ppt.

The plumes have also moved south of the Au Sable River and east of Van Etten Creek — two waterways previously thought of as natural buffers.
Site investigators say they still don’t know the full extent of the plumes.
Meanwhile, Air Force refuses to pay for permanent safe water.

U.S. Rep Dan Kildee, D-Flint, said that even though the pollution was not caused intentionally, ultimate responsibility for the problem falls on the Air Force, which he said needs to begin acting with “more urgency.”
Kildee, whose district includes Oscoda, says its time to consider “a plan to put all these households on the municipal water system.”
“We should at least know that cost and start thinking about doing that while we do other work,” he said.
No easy solutions for PFC contamination in Oscoda.
Kildee speculated the sheer scope of the military’s PFAS problem around the world is tied to the Pentagon’s reticence to spend more in Oscoda.
More than 600 current and former U.S. military installations are now dealing with a plume problem related to the use the PFAS-laden Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF), which the military and airports around the world have used since the 1970s to quash jet fuel fires.
The Air Force may be “concerned about how big this problem might be and if they commit to a really robust response here they may have to provide the same size response everywhere,” Kildee said.
“That’s conjecture but a logical conclusion one could draw.”
Denise Bryan, health officer with the local District Health Department No. 2, said many Oscoda residents feels victimized and exasperated with the Air Force.
Health risks associated with the chemicals are either unknown or have troubling consequences, yet “no money has come forward for the residents,” she said.
“We have a government agency saying this is their fault but they aren’t going to pay anything to fix it,” she said. “That’s the dichotomy.”
Bryan has helped organize the fourth in a periodic series of town hall meetings about the pollution, happening Tuesday, April 25 at Oscoda Methodist Church. Representatives will attend from the Air Force, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and Department of Health & Human Services.
An open house is 2 to 4 p.m. and the meeting is 6 to 8 pm.
Providing updates — including progress toward reestablishing a local Restoration Advisory Board to coordinate cleanup efforts with Oscoda Township officials — is the main purpose, but Bryan thinks the meeting serves another one.
“It’s easy to say ‘no’ over the telephone, but when you get everyone affected in the room, then the Air Force has to look them in the face and tell them ‘no.'”
Source: Mlive.com.
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  Follow daily water headlines and links to full articles from Environmental Health News at the Pure Water Gazette.

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