Bird And Fish

Pure Water Occasional

An Email Publication About Water and Water Treatment

November 2010

In this nifty late Fall Occasional you'll hear about goldfish in Korean toilet tanks, the dangers of disrobing at the water plant, and the amount of lead in "lead free" faucets. You'll find out about dry cleaning chemicals, "perc," Levi's jeans, immortal jellyfish, greedheaded investors, and an 80-year-old sexually active swordfish. Learn the number of leaking gasoline storage tanks in Texas and the gallons of water produced by a one-inch rainstorm. On the technical side you'll find out what a collet is and learn which shower filter makes you sing better. Find out what evils Suez, the World Bank, and Haliburton have been up to. Why actor Mark Ruffalo is on the terror watch list, why the Philadelphia water department needs a spokesdog, why Fiji water no longer comes from Fiji, and, as always much, much more.

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

Read this issue online.

Hardly Waite

Water News for November 2010

While you were focused on giving thanks, celebrating Stan Musial's 90th birthday, and being groped at the airport, a lot of important things happened in the world of water. Read on to hear all about it.

Angry villagers stormed a water station in Thailand demanding that sluice gates be opened to relieve their flooded villages.

Very large amounts of dry cleaning chemicals (more than 400 times accepted levels) have been found in the water of Boulder, CO. "Experts believe the chemicals, which are common but potentially dangerous industrial agents, came from a coal gasification plant that operated in the area during the early 1900s."

The immortal jellyfish, Turritopsis Nutricula, is able to revert back to juvenile form once it mates. Marine biologists say the jellyfish numbers are skyrocketing because they need not die.

Levi's has been able to dramatically reduce the water needed to produce each pair of jeans -- 28 percent on average, and as much as 96 percent in some jeans products.

In spite of the phenomenal lack of success of water privatization schemes worldwide, the World Bank continues to pour big money into corporate water grabs.

South Korean authorities announced that in addition to the mobilization of tens of thousands of policemen to secure the G20 summit, they planned to place six goldfish in the toilet water tanks in the meeting complex to ensure water purity.

Haliburton has been issued a subpoena because of its failure to provide the EPA information necessary to proceed with its study of the effects of hydraulic fracturing of gas wells on drinking water. The eight other major companies involved in "fracking" have provided the information requested.

A Hollywood, Florida man was arrested after allegedly breaking into the local water treatment plant, removing his clothing, then turning off some power switches. He was charged with tampering with a public water system.

New research indicates that even new buildings' brass plumbing components can create serious lead-in-water health problems that could go undetected.

The Pebble Mine project poses a threat to the pristine waters of the Bristol Bay region, and Robert Redford is pissed. See this video.

In Kenya, the poor are charged more for water than the rich, and distribution is sporadic.

As the death toll from cholera continued to grow, USA Today reported, "Haiti's cascading crises come down to lack of clean water."

Immortal Jellyfish
The Immortal Jellyfish, Turritopsis Nuticula.

An 80-year old sawfish named Buzz has been moved to New Orleans to participate in a breeding program. (We do not include a picture of Buzz because he is way too scary.)

The water in Barstow CA is contaminated with perc(perchlorate), the chemical used to make explosives and rocket fuel.

Lockheed Martin has put up $35 million to clean up extensive VOC contamination in Tallevast, FL. It will cost much more. VOC testing showed "levels of contamination at 10,000 times more than the state’s applicable standard amount in certain areas." The contamination is believed to have been left behind by a previous owner of the property, a company that no longer exists.

In Cambodia some 350 people died, crushed during a bridge stampede, at a huge water festival in Phnom Penh.

Very large "eel ladders" have been built in the St. Lawrence River to help young eels navigate past power plants.

Suez, the water privatization giant, had its case thrown out of a French court when it tried to sue the makers of the water documentary FLOW: For Love of Water.

A spokesperson for the website commented:

"With 1.2 billion people around the world lacking access to safe, clean, affordable water, it is unconscionable that a company as powerful as Suez would choose to use its considerable influence to obscure the facts behind this crisis.

"Of course, given the company's checkered performance in water resource management, their reaction to the film is less than surprising. From Bolivia to Indonesia, Suez has left a trail of sewage overflows, contaminated drinking water, decaying infrastructure, political scandals and other examples of botched management in the wake of its attempt to profit off of local water systems around the globe."

A tax increase was blamed for the bottled water company Fiji Water's closing its operations on Fiji. (Will Fiji Water now be bottled in Brooklyn?)

The Philadelphia Water Department is seeking a spokesdog to spearhead its campaign to educate humans about the water quality consequences of dog droppings.

And finally, believe it or not, actor Mark Ruffalo has been placed on the state of Pennsylvania's Homeland Security's terror watch list. Mark, it appears, is a threat to pubic well being because of his film that exposes the degradation of drinking water caused by gas well fracking.

Pure Water Annie

How to Fix Leaks in Quick Connect Water Filter Fittings

by Pure Water Annie

Most modern undersink water filters and reverse osmosis units now use "quick connect" or push-in fittings to make plastic tube connections. These very convenient and efficient fittings make installation easy and provide years of leak-free service. But, alas, like everything in our imperfect world, even the best of quick-connect fittings sometimes need fixing.

Fortunately, when a quick-connect fitting develops a problem, it results in a tiny drip. It's rare--in fact, in my eons of experience, I've never seen it--for a correctly installed push-in fitting to "blow out" and cause a catastrophic leak.

The main causes of leaks in quick-connects are chemicals, especially chloramines in city water and stress. Chemicals eat o rings over time and there isn't much you can do but replace the o rings. Stress, which usually results from tubes being installed at a bad angle and/or pulled too tight, flattens the o ring in the fitting and will eventually cause it to leak. To avoid stress, use enough tubing and make gentle turns so that the tube can fit comfortably into the fitting as straight as possible.

If the o ring leaks, here's how to fix it.

Removing the Collet
O Ring
Black O Ring Inside Fitting

1. Turn off the water, release pressure by opening the faucet, and remove the tube from the fitting. To remove the tube, push in on the collet and at the same time, pull the tube out. (The collet is the little plastic ring that touches the tube. If you don't like getting technical, it's OK to call it the little plastic ring that touches the tube.)

2. Next, pull out the collet. Just grab it with your fingernails and pull it out.

3. Then, remove the o ring that's in the back of the fitting. You can fish it out with a small screwdriver or even a ball point pen. I, of course, use a hairpin.

Note that some quick connects (notably Mur-Lok brand), have two o rings. If there are two, remove them both.

4. Install a replacement o ring by poking it into the tube body. You can easily tamp it in with the end of the plastic tube that will go into the fitting.

5. Put the collet back in and the job is finished. Just push it in. When you insert the tube, the tube will tamp the o ring into place properly.

My experience has been that "fixed" fittings are as good as new ones. You usually don't need to replace the collet, but they're available and inexpensive if you want to.

For a lot more information about fixing quick connects, go to Pure Water Products' web page on the subject. You can buy quick-connect repair kits there, too. If you would prefer to replace the fitting rather than repair it, here's where John Guest Quick Connects are sold.

Murlok A transparent view of a quick connect fitting. This is a double o-ring Mur-lok fitting.

A Simmering Water War

by Jim Hightower

Here in my home state of Texas, we're suffering from withdrawal pains.

This is not caused by our addiction to alcohol or drugs – but to plain water. And to make our pain worse, it's not the people of Texas who are hooked on a destructive water habit – it's the boneheaded executives and greedheaded investors in coal-fired and nuclear-powered plants that generate electricity.

And don't laugh at Texas, for the same corporate addiction might be draining the fresh water supplies where you live. Question: which uses more water – your washing machine chugging out one load of laundry, or the power plant that provides the few kilowatts of electricity to heat the water for that one load? No contest. The power plant uses as much as 10 times more water to make the electricity than you use to fill your machine.

Sprite Shower Filters. You'll Sing Better!

It doesn't have to be this way. Solar and wind alternatives use almost no water to produce electricity – an advantage that today's "clean-coal" hucksters and nuclear speculators don't want you or your congress critters to realize. Indeed, their lobbyists are pushing hard at both national and state levels to get regulatory breaks and taxpayer subsidies to let these voracious giants keep mainlining our nation's water.

Private interests now want to build four new, water-sucking power plants in our state – even though Texas already produces far more electricity than it needs. Where would they get the billions of gallons of water they'd use each year? From the Colorado River, draining it and the region's Highland Lakes of the essential and scarce H2O that supplies millions of people in the Austin area and downstream.

Wherever you live, it's time for a citizen's intervention to break this costly habit. For information and action tips, contact Public Citizen Texas at


Pure Water Gazette Numerical Wizard B. Bea Sharper Ferrets Out the Facts about Water that Harper's Misses

Number of chemicals estimated to be in use in the United States: 75.000.(and rapidly growing).

Number of chemicals currently monitored under U.S. drinking water standards: 75.

Number of annual lung cancer deaths attributed to radon: 20,000.

Estimated number of leaking underground gasoline storage tanks in Texas: 21,000.

Percentage of the 2,700 most widely used chemicals for which human health effects data exists: 7%.

Estimated percentage of violations of the Safe Drinking Water Act that are not reported: 90%.

Number of people killed worldwide each day by waterborne diseases: 25,000.

Percentage of U. S. homes that have no running water: 2%.

Percentage of the Mexican population that has to haul or carry water: 15%.

Average times per day that water faucets are turned on in U.S. households: 70.

Estimated percentage of water used by U.S. families that could be saved by simple conservation methods: 50%.

Gallons of water produced by one inch of rain falling on one acre of land: 27,154.

If present water consumption patterns continue,  fraction of the Earth's population that will be living in water-stressed conditions by the year 2025: two persons in three.

Radium and Uranium in Water

The surprising revelation that Houston's water has for some time had excessive amounts of uranium and radium prompted the Water Quality Association of America to issue a press release on the reduction of these substances by "final barrier" or point-of-use treatment by homeowners.

The standard way to get both radium and uranium, in fact all radioactive substances, out of drinking water is reverse osmosis or a distiller. For "whole house" treatment, cation softening (a standard water softener) removes radium, but for uranium the best treatment is a strong base anion exchanger (a softener-like device with a different resin).

For complete information about both radium and uranium in water, see the Occasional's Water Treatment Issues section.

Is Your Faucet Making You Sick?

By Doug Linney

By now we've all heard the dangers of lead -- at any level. The American Heart Association, the Centers for Disease Control, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the World Health Organization, and every other health-based organization that has reviewed the available studies have concluded that there is no safe level of lead in the human body. Human lead exposure has been associated with reduced cognitive function, aggressive behavior, increased criminal activity, digestive ailments, nervous system disorders, cardiovascular impairment, and bone marrow damage, just to name a few. Recent medical research has demonstrated that many of these ailments are caused by low levels of lead exposures -- levels that were previously believed to be safe. Lead in our bloodstream robs us of our future, as it is particularly toxic to our children's health. Furthermore, unlike other toxins that our bodies can remove, lead accumulates over time and can have adverse impacts throughout adulthood and can even shorten our lives.

But, after years of government programs to reduce lead exposure, maybe you feel safe, right? The gas you put in your car no longer contains lead. You were careful to repaint your house with lead free paints, and you avoid buying those brightly-painted imported toys that seem to be recalled with alarming frequency. And of course, last year when you remodeled your kitchen you installed a brand new faucet with packaging claiming to be "lead free" to replace that old leaky one. Surely that new faucet doesn't contain lead.

However, the EPA still estimates that as much as "20 percent of human exposure to lead may come from lead in drinking water. How can that be? How can we still be accumulating substantial quantities of lead in our bloodstream from our drinking water?"

Federal Law Is not Entirely Protective

Under current federal law, the faucet that is labeled "lead free" can contain as much as four percent lead. In addition, federal law allows some small lead concentrations to leach out of your faucet and into the water you and your family drink. The typical household faucet manufactured over the last fifteen years can contain a quarter pound of lead! Older faucets manufactured before 1996 can contain double that amount. We know that a faucet containing so much lead is likely to leach lead into the drinking water used in our homes.

The existing laws rely on a standard that assumes a "small" amount of lead leaching from our faucets is safe. Since there are many ways that we can still be exposed to lead, we should be eliminating lead exposure wherever we can. Getting lead out of faucets is something we know can be done, and we cannot delay.

Dangerous Levels of Lead in Our Plumbing

Household plumbing continues to be an alarming source of lead exposure. EPA has a warning for consumers on its web page that brass faucets are the single greatest contributing source of lead in consumers' drinking water. The EPA estimates that up to 20 percent of human lead exposure is the result of lead in our plumbing, including faucets. Public health departments in nearly every state across the nation and as well as the EPA all provide warnings on their web sites about the dangers from the lead that lurks in your plumbing.

They advise against using hot water directly from the tap for human consumption. This is because hot water causes more lead to leach out of plumbing. They also advise that you run the cold water tap for several minutes before drinking water from it. This is to help clear the water that has been collecting lead while it sits in the pipes.

No such warnings can be posted at the millions of drinking fountains located in schools across the country, where rampant violations of state and federal lead standards have been documented. In 1998 the California Department of Health Services estimated that 18 percent of California's public elementary schools had lead levels in drinking water that exceeded the federal action level. Comprehensive sampling by the Los Angeles Unified School District in 2008 found that 30 percent of their schools were dispensing water with unsafe levels of lead. Widespread lead contamination has also been found in water from school drinking fountains in Seattle, Baltimore, Roanoke, and Ontario, California.

Abundant research has demonstrated time and time again that lead is particularly lethal to children. Yet, more than a decade after the problem with lead in school plumbing was widely recognized, little progress has been made to fix it, in large part because new plumbing components still contain lead!

Waking Up to the Dangers of Lead?

In September 2008 the EPA lowered the lead standard for air emissions based on their recognition of new medical studies demonstrating the dangers of exposure to lead at levels previously thought to be safe. These new medical studies make it clear that any exposure to lead, whether through air or water, is dangerous and demonstrate how important it is for our children's future health that we get the lead entirely out of our drinking water systems.

In 2006 California started a revolution to finally make our faucets safe by adopting a law that essentially eliminates lead from drinking water plumbing. Vermont and Maryland have already followed California's lead by passing similar laws. U.S. Representative Anna Eshoo has now introduced H.R. 5289 to get the lead out of all drinking water faucets and plumbing sold in the United States. Of course, the battle isn't won. The plumbing industry continues to resist, seeking amendments that would allow industry to bypass federal governmental regulation and continue manufacturing and selling unsafe faucets.

Doug Linney is President of East Bay Municipal Utility District.

Water Contaminant of the Month: Lead

Lead rarely occurs naturally in water. It gets there from mining operations or industrial processes, but most often it gets into drinking water through plumbing fixtures. Low pH can be a factor, because as the pH of water goes down, its ability to leach metals from pipes and fixtures goes up.

The risk of lead poisoning is highest in children and pregnant women. Children absorb 30-75 percent of the lead they ingest; while adults absorb only about 11 percent. Effects of lead poisoning include brain, kidney and red blood cell deterioration, coma and convulsions, and high blood pressure. Lead-damaged children experience slowed physical growth, hearing problems, and reduced intelligence.

Lead is powerful stuff. While most water contaminants are measured in parts per million, the EPA's maximum contaminant figure for lead is only 15 parts per billion.

The best water treatment for lead is prevention in the form of replacing pipes with very old solder joints (the Safe Drinking Water Act imposed limits on lead in solder in 1986) and fixtures that can leach lead. Raising the pH of acidic water and amendments in total alkalinity levels can dramatically lower lead content as well. Phosphate-based corrosion inhibitors are also effective.

Actual lead removal is done fairly easily in drinking water with any good reverse osmosis unit. There are also cartridge filters with lead-removal properties built into them. KDF, special ion exchange resins, and activated alumina cartridges can all be used to reduce lead in drinking water.

For whole house lead treatment, a standard water softener can be an effective lead remover, but reduced flow rates must be observed. There are also carbon block cartridge style filters, but these restrict service flow considerably.

For more information about lead removal, see the Occasional's Water Treatment Issues page on lead.

Suggested reading this month from the Pure Water Gazette's archive: Please, Please, Don't Buy Me Another Tie, by Hardly Waite.

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

Write to the Editor.

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