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The Pure Water Occasional for November 25, 2013

With a frightening story about the planet-grabbing activities of jellyfish, the beneficial properties of toilets, the nature and the behavior of iron in well water,  plus the usual array of water stories from around the world.

Jellyfish Winning the Fight for Food–Against Humans

by Peter Hannam

When it comes to jellyfish on Australian beaches, getting stung may be the least of our worries.

Catostylus Jellyfish

Earlier this year, Whyalla faced a wipe-out unrelated to the predicted effects of the carbon tax when a massive jellyfish bloom threatened local fisheries and ecosystems.

Last month, the Oskarshamn nuclear plant in Sweden shut down a reactor after jellyfish clogged its seawater pipes, the latest in a series of similar incidents.

Wreaking havoc: Sweden’s Oskarshamn nuclear plant shut down a reactor after jellyfish clogged its seawater pipes. Photo: Bella Galil

”Most people just don’t have any idea about the havoc that jellyfish are causing,” said Lisa-ann Gershwin, a CSIRO research scientist and author of Stung! On Jellyfish Blooms and the Future of the Ocean. ”It’s right around Australia.”

Deadly box jellyfish and their peanut-size irukandji relatives are spreading further south along the Queensland coast as waters warm, harming tourism.

But a bigger threat is likely to come to fisheries in much cooler waters that are already being crowded out by blooms, many of them non-stinging jellies.


Virtually everything humans do to the biosphere seems to be to the advantage of jellyfish. Overfishing is removing their predators, such as anchovies, while discarded plastic bags choke sea turtles on the hunt for jellyfish.

Sweden’s Oskarshamn nuclear plant shut down a reactor after jellyfish clogged its seawater pipes.

Warmer seas resulting from the build-up of greenhouse gases also happens to be to the jellies’ liking, especially as breeding seasons are lengthened. Since warmer water holds less dissolved oxygen, predator fish spend more of their precious energy breathing.

”Warming water is a disaster for things that breathe and a dream come true for things that don’t breathe much,” such as jellyfish, said Dr Gershwin, who will speak at TEDxMelbourne on December 3. ”It amps up their reproduction, it amps up their growth rates … they breed more.”

Not that the jellyfish need much help to reproduce. Despite most jellyfish lacking specialised digestive, respiratory and even central nervous systems, the nebulous, often pulsating creatures have developed a variety of ways to breed over the past 500 million years.

Cloning, self-fertilisation and copulation are among the methods of different jellyfish species, while Turritopsis dohrnii has been dubbed a ”zombie jelly” for its apparent immortality. Cells from the corpse of this jellyfish can reform into a polyp and resume breeding.

As invertebrates, jellyfish lack carbonate hard parts, unlike many rivals and predators, meaning they are coping better as the oceans acidify due to increased carbon dioxide.

”They’re the last [ones] standing when everything else is disintegrating,” she said.

The problem is not just population explosions jamming up pipes and filling fishing nets but also the destruction of fish stocks, as jellies eat fish larvae and vital plankton. Jellyfish, in effect, eat ”up the food chain”, Dr Gershwin said.

”We’re in the weird, unexpected and incomprehensible position of being in competition with jellyfish – and they’re winning,” she said.

”It’s actually really scary.”

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald

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5 Ways Toilets Change the World

By Tanya Lewis

The toilet — one of life’s most mundane objects — plays a fundamental role in society.

Yet more than a third of the world’s population lacks access to even a basic pit latrine, and the problem may get worse. A recent statistical analysis predicts theworld population will hit 11 billion by 2100. From preventing illness to fostering education, here are five ways toilets change the world:

1. Keeping people healthy

Improper disposal of human waste can cause devastating illness. When people don’t have toilets, they defecate in the open, often near living areas or the rivers that supply water for drinking or bathing. For example, about 290,000 gallons (1.1 million liters) of raw sewage goes into the Ganges River in India every minute, according to the World Health Organization. [Through the Years: A Gallery of the World's Toilets]

Contaminated water causes diarrheal diseases such as cholera, which afflict many people on a chronic basis. In 2012, heavy rains in Sierra Leone and Guinea caused latrines to flood, bringing on a deadly cholera outbreak that killed more than 392 people and sickened more than 25,000 others, according to news reports.

Diseases caused by fecal contamination also lead to malnourishment, low birth weight, cognitive problems and stunted growth. Poor sanitation contributes to two of the three leading causes for preventable death among children under five years old.

2. Preventing blindness

Trachoma, the leading cause of preventable blindness, is carried by a fly that breeds exclusively on human excrement. The disease is caused by Chlamydia trachomatis, a bacterium that also causes the sexually transmitted disease Chlamydia. Flies and contact with eye discharge from an infected individual can both spread the disease.

Trachoma affects about 21.4 million people, according to the World Health Organization. Of these, about 2.2 million are visually impaired and 1.2 million are blind.

3. Keeping women safe

In places without toilets, women must travel farther away to relieve themselves, which places them at risk of sexual violence. To avoid that danger, many women use so-called “flying toilets” — basically plastic bags that they keep in their houses. Flying toilets are a breeding ground for nasty microbes, such as the bacterium responsible for the blindness-causing disease trachoma.

4. Promoting school attendance

Talking about toilet matters is taboo in many places, particularly among women. Young girls may stop attending school if the building lacks private toilet facilities, which ultimately limits these girls’ access to education.

But the solution isn’t always straightforward. For instance, some aid workers have suggested installing public toilet blocks. However, when toilet blocks were installed in Bhopal, India, as part of a study in November 2008, men were twice as likely as women to use them.

5. Saving energy

Wastewater from toilets contains about 10 times the amount of energy, in biochemical form, as that needed to treat it. Scientists and engineers are developing ways of processing wastewater to save energy andreclaim drinking water.

For instance, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation started the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge to develop sanitary, waterless toilets that don’t require a sewer connection or electricity, and would cost less than five cents per user per day.

Clearly, a toilet is far more than a place to store waste.

Source:  LiveScience.

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HUMANS, being a terrestrial species, are pleased to call their home “Earth”. A more honest name might be “Sea”, as more than seven-tenths of the planet’s surface is covered with salt water. Moreover, this water houses algae, bacteria (known as cyanobacteria) and plants that generate about half the oxygen in the atmosphere. And it also provides seafood—at least 15% of the protein eaten by 60% of the planet’s human population, an industry worth $218 billion a year. Its well-being is therefore of direct concern even to landlubbers.

That well-being, some fear, is under threat from the increasing amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, a consequence of industrialisation. This concern is separate from anything caused by the role of CO2 as a climate-changing greenhouse gas. It is a result of the fact that CO2, when dissolved in water, creates an acid.

Go to The Economist website for the rest of the article.


Water News of the Week


The good and bad news about frog abnormalities. On average, amphibian deformities at U.S. National Wildlife Refuges are lower than expected. But in abnormality “hotspots,” rates can approach 40 percent.

Puerto Rico's glowing lagoon goes nearly dark. A glowing lagoon off Puerto Rico's northeast coast has gone nearly dark and biologists on Tuesday were trying to find out why. Theories range from an increase in construction runoff to inclement weather to people clearing mangroves to allow larger boats into the area.

In Oklahoma, water, fracking – and a swarm of quakes. Seismologist Austin Holland wants to start an earthquake. He is proposing to inject pressurized water into porous rock in an area of Oklahoma already known to be earthquake-prone, to see whether injections of oil industry wastewater are contributing to a "swarm" of earthquakes rocking the state.

Farm animal regulation lags in Maryland. More than four years after Maryland first moved to regulate its largest poultry and livestock farms, nearly 30 percent, or 169 operations, still do not have required state permits mandating measures to control polluted runoff from their chicken houses or feedlots.

Only half of drugs, other newly emerging contaminants removed from sewage. Only about half of the prescription drugs and other newly emerging contaminants in sewage are removed by treatment plants, according to a new report by the International Joint Commission, a consortium of officials from the United States and Canada who study the Great Lakes. 

Leaky sewer lines delivered TCE to homes. A report commissioned by the city is boosting suspicions that early semiconductor companies spread pollution throughout northeastern Mountain View by dumping toxics into leaky sewer lines. 

No prison time for ex-Crestwood officials over contaminated well. Two former Crestwood, Ill., officials who helped hide the village's use of a polluted well were sentenced to probation as federal prosecutors lamented that they could not go after the man they believe masterminded the money-saving scheme. 

City's aging sewer system in crisis. With crumbling walls and clogged pipes, the aging San Francisco Sewer System is in crisis and it’s putting residents at risk, especially if and when a major earthquake hits. 

Tainted water testing lab flourished under lax New York state regulators. Even after armed federal investigators raided its offices in 2010 and the New York DOH suspended its state certification in early 2012, Upstate Laboratories Inc. continued its lucrative business of testing water samples from landfills and wastewater treatment plants. 

Yup'ik villages ravaged by fierce Alaska storms. Halfway across the world from the typhoon-ravaged Philippines, several small, remote communities at the northwestern tip of Turtle Island have been declared disaster areas from damage wrought by severe storms and flooding in mid-November. 

Transportation department settles with EPA over waste disposal wells. Alaska's transportation department has agreed to pay $332,000 for violations of federal pollution laws at state vehicle maintenance stations, officials said Tuesday. 

Reuse: The next wave for water conservation? California is leading the way in municipal wastewater re-use near its source for a variety of purposes, from wetlands restoration to irrigation — and, yes, drinking. As water scarcity becomes a closer reality, people have no choice but to overlook the “yuck factor” that may have constrained the pursuit of reuse in the past. 

Rio's Olympic waterways full of trash, sewage. Rio de Janeiro's endless beaches and lush tropical forest will be a photographer's dream during the 2016 Olympics. But zoom in on the likes of once-pristine Guanabara Bay, and the picture is of household trash and raw sewage. 

Scientists: Climate change to worsen Lake Erie algae. Climate change has exacerbated Lake Erie’s algae problem and is likely to worsen it in the coming decades with more powerful storms and warmer temperatures, two government scientists said during a live Internet presentation Tuesday. 

Millions of lives at risk over Zimbabwe government water provision failures. The Zimbabwe government has been warned that it is putting millions of lives at risk by failing to provide access to clean water in Harare, with a leading human rights group calling the water situation a serious crisis. 

Clean up Kenya's Lake Nakuru. The Nakuru county government has been urged to put stringent pollution control measures to manage the effluent and solid waste flowing to Lake Nakuru National Park. Solid waste is the biggest problem, officials say. 

What happened to toxins in L.A. Seafloor Superfund site? Scientists are investigating a mystery off the coast of Los Angeles: the process by which 200,000 pounds of toxic material at a badly contaminated seafloor site seem to have dispersed.

Progress against pollution evident. An annual report shows “continued compliance” among the 13 significant industrial users that discharge pretreated effluents into Muskogee’s wastewater treatment plant. Compliance is important because excessive levels of chemicals and other pollutants could upset the balance of the wastewater treatment process.


Understanding Iron in Well Water

Gazette Introductory Note:  Iron is among the most persistent problems faced by residential well owners.  It is also among the least understood.  The following article from the Minnesota Department of Health website is a concise overview of the iron issue.  Our main website, www.purewaterproducts.com, has in-depth information on the treatment of iron by a variety of methods.  We also welcome phone or email information requests about treatment of iron issues in residential wells.–Gene Franks, Pure Water Products.

What do these have in common – a taconite mine in northern Minnesota, the color of your blood, a rusty pail, and yellow or red stains on sinks and plumbing fixtures? The answer is - Iron. Iron is the fourth most abundant mineral in the earth’s crust. Soils and rocks in Minnesota may contain minerals very high in iron, so high in fact, that taconite can be mined for its iron content. Iron gives the hemoglobin of blood it’s red color and allows the blood to carry oxygen. The iron in a metal pail turns to rust when exposed to water and oxygen. In a similar way, iron minerals in water turn to rust and stain plumbing fixtures and laundry.

Iron in Well Water

As rain falls or snow melts on the land surface, and water seeps through iron-bearing soil and rock, iron can be dissolved into the water. In some cases, iron can also result from corrosion of iron or steel well casing or water pipes.

Health Concerns

Iron in well water usually does not present a health problem. In fact, iron is needed to transport oxygen in the blood. The human body requires approximately 1 to 3 additional milligrams of iron per day (mg/day). The average intake of iron is approximately 16 mg/day, virtually all from food such as green leafy vegetables, red meat, and iron-fortified cereals. The amount of iron in water is usually low, and the chemical form of the iron found in water is not readily absorbed by the body. Iron bacteria, that may be associated with iron in water, are not a health problem.

Iron may present some concern if certain bacteria have entered a well, since some pathogenic (harmful) organisms require iron to grow, and the presence of iron particles makes elimination of the bacteria more difficult.

Iron Problems

Iron in water can cause yellow, red, or brown stains on laundry, dishes, and plumbing fixtures such as sinks. In

addition, iron can clog wells, pumps, sprinklers, and other devices such as dishwashers, which can lead to costly repairs. Iron gives a metallic taste to water, and can affect foods and beverages – turning tea, coffee, and potatoes black.

Forms of Iron

Iron can occur in water in a number of different forms. The type of iron present is important when considering water treatment. Water that comes out of the faucet clear, but turns red or brown after standing is “ferrous” iron, commonly referred to as “clear-water” iron. Water which is red or yellow when first drawn is “ferric” iron, often referred to as “red- water” iron. Iron can form compounds with naturally occurring acids, and exist as “organic” iron. Organic iron is usually yellow or brown, but may be colorless. Water containing  iron bacteria is said to contain “bacterial” iron.


Yellow or red colored water is often a good indication that iron is present. However, a testing laboratory can determine the exact amount of iron, which can be useful in determining the best type of treatment. In addition to testing for iron, it can be of value to also test for hardness, pH, alkalinity, and iron bacteria. County health departments may offer some of these tests. Private testing laboratories can be contacted about their services and fees. Most advertise in the phone book under “Laboratories-Testing.”

The amount of a dissolved material in water is usually reported as the number of milligrams per liter (mg/L). This is the weight of material in 1 liter (approximately 1 quart) of water. A milligram per liter is approximately equal to 1 part per million (ppm). Iron in amounts above 0.3 mg/L is usually considered objectionable. Iron levels are usually less than 10 mg/L.

Controlling Iron

The most common method for controlling iron in water is water treatment. In some circumstances, another alternative is to use a different water source that is low in iron, such as a public water system or a well drawing water from a different water-bearing formation. In some cases, a new well may be an option, however, it is difficult to predict what the iron concentration will be. Neighboring wells may be an indicator, but the iron content of two nearby wells may be quite different.

Water Treatment

Treatment of water containing iron depends on the form(s) of the iron present, the chemistry of the water, and the type of well and water system.

Clear-water iron is most commonly removed with a water softener. Manufacturers report that some units are capable of removing up to 10 mg/L, however 2 to 5 mg/L is a more common limit. A water softener is actually designed to remove hardness minerals like calcium and magnesium. Iron will plug the softener, and must be periodically removed from the softener resin by backwashing. Also, if the water hardness is low and the iron content high, or if the water system allows contact with air, such as occurs in an air-charged “galvanized” pressure tank, a softener will not work well. Ion exchange water softeners add sodium to the water which may be a concern for persons on a sodium restricted diet.

Red-water iron can be removed in small quantities by a sediment filter, carbon filter, or water softener, but the treatment system will very quickly plug up. A more common treatment for red-water iron and clear-water iron in concentrations up to 10 or 15 mg/L is a manganese greensand filter, often referred to as an “iron filter.” Aeration (injecting air) or chemical oxidation (usually adding chlorine in the form of calcium or sodium hypochlorite) followed by filtration are options if iron levels exceed 10 mg/L.

Organic iron and tannins present special water treatment challenges.Tannins are natural organics produced by vegetation which stain water a tea-color. In fact, the tannins in coffee or tea produce the brown color. When tea or coffee is made with water containing iron, the tannins react with the iron forming a black residue. Organic iron is a compound formed from an organic acid and iron. Organic iron and tannins can occur in very shallow wells, or wells being affected by surface water. Organic iron and tannins can slow or prevent iron oxidation, so water softeners, aeration systems, and iron filters may not work well. Chemical oxidation followed by filtration may be an option.

Well Treatment

Iron bacteria are organisms that consume iron to survive and, in the process, produce deposits of iron, and a red or

brown slime called a “biofilm.” The organisms are not harmful to humans, but can make an iron problem much worse. The organisms naturally occur in shallow soils and groundwater, and they may be introduced into a well or water system when it is constructed or repaired.

Treatment options for elimination or reduction of iron bacteria include physical removal, heat, and chemical treatment. The most common treatment is “shock” chlorination of the well and water system. See Iron Bacteria in Well Water. Remember, iron bacteria need iron to survive. Eliminating the bacteria will not eliminate the iron – both well treatment for the bacteria, and water treatment for the iron will be needed.

Source:  Minnesota Department of Health.

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 Iron Treatment Products from Pure Water Products

Here are a few of the many products from our main website that are used in the treatment of iron.  The same products can be used to reduce manganese, but the application may be different.

Water softeners.  Softeners work well with iron and manganese, but conditions must be right.  Softeners work best for iron reduction at a low pH, with low dissolved oxygen,  and when the amount of iron does not exceed four or five parts per million.  Softeners should be used only with ferrous (clear water iron).  For treating iron, we recommend that you undersize the softener, regenerate it very frequently, and use the simplest (and cheapest) timer control.  You don't need a state-of-the-art electronic metered softener to remove iron.

Iron filters. Both Birm and Filox work well if conditions are right.  Filox is king of iron filter media: it works over a large pH range and handles higher concentrations of iron.  Birm works well at pH above 6.8 and fairly low amounts of iron.  Both require a significant amount of dissolved oxygen.  Birm and Filox work with both ferrous (clear water) and ferric (red water) iron.  Many other filter media work well for iron if the iron is pretreated with chlorine or air.


For small amounts of iron, here's a suggestion:


The Pentek Iron Reduction Cartridge, pictured above,  a top quality iron oxide cartridge, treats up to 3 parts per million iron.  Details.   This 4.5" X 20" cartridge can be used in our standard 20" housings.



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


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.


Write to the Gazette or the Occasional:   pwp@purewaterproducts.com


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