Pure Water Occasional, September 28, 2019
Late September Issue

The Pure Water Occasional is produced by Pure Water Products and the Pure Water Gazette. Please visit our websites.

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Water News in a Nutshell

News reports about lead in municipal water prompted us to include three articles on the lead crisis in this issue.

The devastation and flooding caused by Hurricane Dorian and several other tropical storms was the leading water news event of the month. Tropical storm Imelda caused record flooding in parts of Texas. Also of note were Humberto, Kiko, Jerry, Mario, and Lorena. USA Today reported a record-tying six tropical storms going at once and said tropical storms are "forming like roaches."

Residents of West Point, Nebraska are being urged to use filtered or bottled water for drinking for the next few months until the city’s water plant is fitted with filters that can remove excess levels of manganese. One of the city's five wells is putting out water of 2,000 micrograms per liter (2 ppm). The acceptable level for manganese is less than 0.05 ppm.

Scientists relying on DNA evidence suggest that the elusive Loch Ness Monster is most likely a giant eel. Story.

Approximately 300 million tons of plastic are produced globally each year and up to 13 million tons of that is released into rivers and oceans, contributing to an accumulation of approximately 250 million tons of plastic by 2025. Since plastic materials are not generally degradable through weathering or ageing, this accumulation of plastic pollution in the aquatic environment creates a major concern. --Full Article.

The Trump administration's efforts to cancel the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) regulatory policy established under the Obama administration appear to be bearing fruit. The announced repeal of the 2015 ruling, stated in simple terms, restores the rights of corporate farmers, home builders, and real estate developers to pollute water on their own property although that pollution will eventually drain into streams, rivers, lakes, and drinking water reservoirs.

If drinking water on airline flights is important to you, Diet Detective has worked out an elaborate rating scheme and published the rankings of carriers. Their main message is that although some airlines do a better job of providing drinking water than others, the best policy is don't drink water on airplanes.

The non-profit Environmental Working Group released a study stating that "chemicals in the nation's drinking water could result in 100,000 cases of cancer in the U.S. over a lifetime." The group named disinfection by-products as the most dangerous cancer causers in tap water. Details.

An American man visiting Tanzania drowned while making a dramatic underwater marriage proposal. BBC for details.

In a classic bureaucratic blunder, the Portland, Oregon city council approved plans in 2017 for a $500 million water filtration plant only to learn two years later that the plant will cost at least $850 million because, believe it or not, the estimate did not include pipes to carry water to and from the plant. Apparently no one noticed.

The Arizona Elk Society has offered a reward of up to $2,500 for information leading to arrest and conviction of vandals who poured gasoline into a catchment tank designed to provide drinking water for wildlife. The Arizona Game and Fish Department maintains about 3,000 water catchments statewide to provide water for wildlife.

President Trump vowed some unspecified punitive action against San Francisco because of waste pollution consisting of used needles flowing into the ocean via the city's storm sewers. No one knows what rules the city is accused of violating. LA Times.

It was announced that cleanup for the leaking ash ponds from a Montana coal mining operation is expected to last for decades and cost up to $700 million. Talen Energy, handling the cleanup, announced that it will need to add 27 new wells to the 100+ already in place to capture contaminated water in addition to 54 injection wells that would pump clean water into the underground reserves to help flush out contaminants. The leaking ash ponds have contaminated groundwater in the area with boron, sulfate and other potentially harmful materials. The cleanup will go on for decades though demand for coal is in sharp decline. Associated Press.

In Jakarta Indonesian police used water cannons against students protesting strict new laws against adultery, black magic, and insulting the president's dignity. Water cannons are serious weapons.

Las Vegas Water Hog of the Year Award goes to the Prince of Brunei. "The property that used the most water last year is a 15.9-acre compound owned by the family of Jefri Bolkiah, prince of Brunei. The ultra-luxurious, sprawling Spring Valley mansion, secondary buildings and pools on Spanish Gate Drive used over 12.4 million gallons of water. That’s 93 times what the average Las Vegas water district household consumed last year." Las Vegas Sun.


Lead Service Lines Must Be Replaced

Lead service lines are a menace to public health. Millions of such pipes still feed Americans’ homes.

A Bloomberg Editorial

Sept. 9, 2019

Once more an American city faces a lead crisis, with thousands of residents unable to drink from their taps. Lines for bottled water have stretched into the hundreds. Politicians are scrambling to overhaul the water system — and fast. This time it’s happening in New Jersey’s largest city, Newark. 
Like the fiasco in Flint, Michigan, the Newark lead crisis had its own unique causes, including mismanagement and political infighting. But the two debacles have one crucial thing in common: pipes. Specifically the lead pipes installed decades ago, by the millions all over the country, to connect mains to houses and businesses. Pipes that can shed invisible molecules of metal when water passes through.

These pipes, known as service lines, were made from lead until well into the 1980s (even though lead’s dangers have been known for centuries). When the government banned lead from new pipes in 1986, it did nothing about the hundreds of miles of pipe still underground. At least 6 million such pipes (and likely many more) are still in use, serving households in almost one-third of the country’s water districts.
Lead is a neurotoxin. Its effects on the brain are well-known: learning disabilities, behavioral problems, anxiety and depression. It can also trigger heart, liver and kidney disease. Growing children are especially vulnerable. There is no safe level of exposure. 
Right now, the standard practice is to treat water with anti-corrosion chemicals before sending it to households. Sometimes this works, but not always — as Newark shows. The city’s long-established corrosion control practice appears to have stopped working after the city made an unrelated tweak to the water supply. As is often the case, nobody saw it coming. As long as there’s lead in the pipes, the risk remains.

Why not just replace the pipes? That’s what Newark is doing — albeit belatedly — and what more than half a dozen other cities have done. The National Drinking Water Advisory Council recommends this approach. Granted, full replacement is costly and complicated, not least because most service lines are partly privately owned. But success in cities such as Lansing, Michigan, and Madison, Wisconsin, has shown that the legal and financial obstacles are surmountable. The state of Minnesota recently found that every dollar invested in lead-pipe replacement would yield $10 in savings.

Other cities have adopted more modest policies, such as replacing lines to day-care centers or requiring service lines be replaced when properties change hands. Whatever the approach, states can help by requiring home sellers to disclose the existence of lead service lines, for example — much like federal law requires sellers to disclose lead paint. States should also be more aggressive in tracking and publicizing the location of lines, and lay the legal groundwork to help communities fund replacement efforts. The federal government should provide grants to defray some of the cost.

It would be money well spent. Researchers at New York University say lead poisoning costs the U.S. $51 billion annually. And remediation works: Plans to phase out lead have proved to be spectacular public-health successes, though they were met with grumbles at the time.

In ancient times, people drank from lead vessels because they didn’t know any better. There’s no longer any excuse.


Lead Pipes That Tainted Newark’s Water Are Found Across US

A drinking water crisis in New Jersey is bringing new attention to an old problem: Millions of homes across the U.S. get their water through lead pipes.

by David Porter and Mike Catalini

Pure Water Gazette Editor’s Note: This AP article is the best we’ve seen on the massive lead pipe problem that American water systems are facing. We’ve added a couple of pictures. We ask you to read this article carefully. It is sobering.

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — A drinking water crisis in New Jersey’s biggest city is bringing new attention to an old problem: Millions of homes across the U.S. get their water through pipes made of toxic lead, which can leach out and poison children if the water isn’t treated with the right mix of chemicals.

Replacing those lead pipes is a daunting task for cities and public water systems because of the expense involved — and the difficulty of even finding out where all those pipes are. Only a handful of states have put together an inventory of the buried pipes, which connect homes to water mains and are often on private property.

Do you feel good about drinking water that came to your home through this pipe?

But after drinking water emergencies in Washington, D.C., Flint, Michigan and now Newark, some experts are calling again for a rethinking of the theory that treating the pipes with anti-corrosive agents is enough to keep the public out of danger. Instead, the lead lines should be replaced, they say.

“It’s hard to come up with an argument against it,” Manny Teodoro, a public policy researcher at Texas A&M, told New Jersey lawmakers this week.

“Look, lead service line replacement is expensive, but it’s also removing poison from the bodies of ourselves and our children. It’s difficult to think of many things that are more important.”

Done correctly, chemical treatment should be enough to keep water in line with federal regulations, according to Peg Gallos, executive director of the Association of Environmental Authorities, a group representing water utilities. But in cases where the chemicals fail, pipe replacement becomes an option, she said.

People in about 15,000 households in Newark were told to drink only bottled water last month after the Environmental Protection Agency warned the city’s efforts to control lead contamination weren’t working. Since then, residents in the largely poor, mostly black and Hispanic city have had to line up in summer heat for cases of free water distributed by government agencies.

The crisis has unfolded over several years, with city officials insisting until recently that everything was under control.

Numerous city schools switched to bottled water because of lead contamination in 2016. Tests in 2017 found that 1 in 10 Newark homes had nearly twice as much lead in their water as allowed by the federal government. The state Department of Environmental Protection issued a warning to the city and public health advocacy groups complained, but Mayor Ras Baraka defended the safety of the city’s water by sending residents a brochure condemning what he said were “outrageously false” claims about lead contamination.

Later, consultants concluded the city’s corrosion control treatment for one of its main water supplies wasn’t working. New chemicals were introduced this spring, but it will be months before their effectiveness can be accurately gauged. The city handed out filters beginning last fall, but then the EPA warned that they might not be working.

Newark’s water crisis shares some similarities to the ones in Flint and Washington, D.C.

Flint’s lead levels spiked in 2014 after the city switched its water source from Lake Huron, which was being treated with the anti-corrosive orthophosphate, to the Flint River, which was not treated. Washington’s high levels between 2000 and 2003 resulted from the city’s switching anti-corrosion chemicals from chlorine to chloramine.

Lead Pipe from Newark

Experts estimate there could be as many as 10 million lead service lines nationwide but only five states require inventories or maps of their locations, according to the Association of State Drinking Water Administrators. A handful of other states have set up voluntary reporting.

That leaves dozens of states with incomplete knowledge of where and how much of the toxic plumbing they have.

“The biggest problem we face is we don’t know where these lead pipes are,” said Marc Edwards, an environmental engineering professor at Virginia Tech University. “In Flint, ultimately we had to dig up every single yard to find out what pipe was there because the records were so bad.”

Newark is now racing to try and replace all of its roughly 18,000 lead service lines, with the help of a county-backed, $120 million loan.

While cost is a factor — in Newark, it will cost about $10,000 per home to replace the pipes — so is the diffuse nature of water utilities. Teodoro estimated there are about 50,000 water systems in the U.S., many of them small systems. And in many cases the location of pipes isn’t even written down, Mary-Anna Holden, a commissioner on New Jersey’s Board of Public Utilities, told lawmakers recently.

“I asked the superintendent ‘Where’s the map of the system?’ He’s pointing to his head. Like his grandfather and great-grandfather had started the water system so he knew where every valve was,” Holden said.

The most common source of lead in water comes from pipes, faucets and fixtures, rather than from water sources, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Congress banned the use of lead in water pipes in 1986, citing lead’s harmful effects on children’s nervous systems. In 1991, federal regulators began requiring water systems to monitor lead levels in drinking water and established a limit of 15 parts per billion.

Since the Flint water crisis, some states have gone farther. Michigan last year lowered its threshold to 12 parts per billion. Experts say no amount of lead is safe for children.

Kim Gaddy, 55, works as an environmental justice advocate for Clean Water Action. She’s a renter in Newark and had her lead service lines replaced by the city shortly before the two positive lead tests led to the city handing out bottled water.

She says she thinks it’s time for state and federal officials to require replacing lead service lines, no matter what the cost might be.

“My message would be let’s protect the health of (residents) and provide them with safe, affordable drinking water from the taps,” Gaddy said.

Common Sense About Lead in Drinking Water

by Gene Franks

To protect yourself from lead, you could drink nothing but bottled water. That isn’t a bad solution. Or, you could a) write letters to city officials demanding action, b) wait for all the lead water pipes to be replaced, c) keep drinking tap water and hope for the best, or, d) get yourself a good water filter. If you choose a through c, good luck. If you choose d, I have some advice.

First, lead is a drinking water issue. While whole house lead solutions are available, it is usually more practical to treat drinking water only. For lead-free drinking water, you have some good choices: a steam distiller, reverse osmosis, or a substantial carbon filter with lead removal resin added. Of the three, reverse osmosis is the most practical. Reverse osmosis removes lead by its nature, without the need for special cartridges. Reverse osmosis, of course, has the advantage of treating not only lead but virtually all contaminants that can be found in city water.

Lead reduction cartridge filters vary in quality, but any reasonably-sized undersink or countertop filter from a trusted filter maker will provide excellent, lead-free water. I underline “reasonably sized.” The pitcher filters provided free by cities don’t really qualify as water filters. They are novelty items made for pick up sales in discount stores. The early tests done on the city-provided filters in Newark that lead to a blanket “filters don’t work” warning were done with city-provided pitcher filters with only enough lead capacity for 30 gallons of water. They have a warning light for cartridge replacement that is there to inspire confidence. You really don’t need a warning light: you need more resin.
full-sized drinking water cartridge with lead removal rating of 2500 gallons from a reputable filter maker actually costs considerably less to operate than the tiny novelty systems.

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