Pure Water Occasional, June 15, 2018
In this early summer Occasional, you'll learn why the governor of Vermont drank a glass of water, when National Garden Hose Day will be celebrated, how forest fires save water, what consumers told the WQA, how Nestle saves water in a South African dairy, who was inducted into the Water Polo Hall of Fame, how caffeine gets into water supplies, how to lower the pH of alkaline water, and why Proposition 65 probably won't affect water treatment dealers much. Hear also about brain eating amoeba in Louisiana, breaking water mains, progress with water recovery in Puerto Rico, Dosatron pumps (now available from Pure Water Products), PFOA, PFOS, the bold effort to refill the Sea of Galilee, and, as always, there is much, much more.
The brain eating amoeba, Naegleria fowleri, was detected in the water of Terrebonne Parish, LA.
A University of Cincinnati study found no evidence of groundwater contamination from recent oil and natural gas drilling in several Appalachian counties in eastern Ohio.
Israel has announced a plan to pump up the shrinking Sea of Galilee, the inland lake where Christians believe Jesus walked on water, with desalinated seawater. The project will pump 100 million cubic metres of water annually by 2022 into the lake. In 2017 Israel’s water authority said the sea, hit by years of drought, had reached its lowest level in a century.
The most important indication of pipeline health is how often pipes fail. A 2012 survey is updated with feedback from 300 utilities in 48 states, representing 200,000 miles of installed water mains. Break rates have increased 27% in the past six years, indicating failure of aging infrastructure. The pipe least likely to break: PVC. Most likely: cast iron and asbestos cement pipes. Cast iron pipes represent the largest pipe material inventory and 82% are over 50 years old.
An article from the Journal of the American Medical Association by Drs. David Cutler and Francesca Dominici asserts that the "Trump Envionmenatal Agenda May Lead to 80,000 Extra Deaths per Decade." The article sites evidence that "Scott Pruitt’s EPA and the White House sought to block publication of a federal health study on a nationwide water-contamination crisis, after one Trump administration aide warned it would cause a ‘public relations nightmare.'" (The "crisis" alluded to is the urgent need to set regulatory standards for perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). See article below.
Among the interesting findings from the Water Quality Association’s 2017 consumer study:
- When it comes to perceived water contaminants, the response for lead more than doubled since 2015. And, over half of respondents would be willing to pay more for home water treatment systems to remove lead (63%), arsenic (60%), pharmaceuticals (57%) and other contaminants.
- Boil water alerts tend to trigger purchase of water filtration systems.
- 62 percent of households across the United States either didn’t receive or don’t know if they received their community’s annual consumer confidence report (CCR) about the quality of their drinking water.
- The impact of the Green Movement's anti-bottled water campaign has had little effect on bottled water sales.
- The most common type of drinking water filters now are pitcher filters.
Puerto Rican officials claim that water service on the U.S. island has been restored to more than 96% of customers as of June 6, but the report of progress masks underlying problems. Outside of cities, service has been slower to be reconnected. Flow is often intermittent and the water quality is uncertain.
Nestle announced that one of its dairy plants in South Africa will reduce its water consumption by more than 50% during the first year of implementation by simply re-using the water recovered from the milk evaporation process. The company’s vision for the initiative is to become a zero water intake facility by means of reusing milk water. Cow's milk contains around 88% water.
Vermont Gov. Phil Scott bravely downed a glass of water at the Vermont Regional Airport to prove that the water was not contaminated with PFOA. The chemical has been found in wells serving the nearby Airport Business Park, but the wells at the airport itself remain PFOA-free.
The garden hose tug is the oldest and most cherished National Garden Hose Day tradition.
How Forest Fires Save Water
Too many trees in Sierra Nevada forests stress water supplies, scientists say
There are too many trees in Sierra Nevada forests, say scientists affiliated with the National Science Foundation (NSF) Southern Sierra Critical Zone Observatory (CZO).
That may come as a surprise to those who see dense, verdant forests as signs of a healthy environment. After all, green is good, right? Not necessarily. When it comes to the number of trees in California forests, bigger isn’t always better.
That’s in part because trees use lots of water to carry out basic biological tasks. In addition, they act as forest steam stacks, raking up water stored in the ground and expelling it as vapor into the atmosphere, where it’s accessible to humans and forest ecosystems only when it falls back to Earth as rain and snow.
That process — by which plants emit water through tiny pores in their leaves — is known as evapotranspiration. And according to researchers, excessive evapotranspiration may harm a fragile California water system, especially during prolonged, warm droughts.
New research published this week in the journal Ecohydrology shows that water loss from evapotranspiration has decreased significantly over the past three decades. That’s due in large part to wildfire-driven forest thinning — a finding with important implications for forest and water management.
A century of forest management had kept wildfires to a minimum. But without fire, Sierra forests grew very dense. In recent decades, new policies have allowed nature to take its course, with wildfires helping to thin out overgrown forests.
“Forest wildfires are often considered disasters,” said Richard Yuretich, director of NSF’s CZO program, which funded the research. “But fire is part of healthy forest ecosystems. By thinning out trees, fires can reduce water stress in forests and ease water shortages during droughts. And by reducing the water used by plants, more rainfall flows into rivers and accumulates in groundwater.”
Using data from CZO measurement towers and U.S. Geological Survey satellites, researchers found that over the period 1990 to 2008, fire-thinned forests saved 3.7 billion gallons of water annually in California’s Kings River Basin and a whopping 17 billion gallons of water annually in the American River Basin — water that would otherwise have been lost through evapotranspiration.
Forest thinning has increased in recent decades in an effort to stave off disastrous wildfires fueled by dense forests. This study shows that restoring forests through mechanical thinning or wildfire can also save California billions of gallons of water each year.
“The need for forest restoration is being driven largely by the need to lower the risk of high-intensity wildfires and restore forest health,” said University of California Merced scientist Roger Bales, director of the Southern Sierra CZO and study co-author. “Downstream users who benefit from the increased water yield are an important potential revenue stream that can help offset some of the costs of restoration.”
Forested areas needing restoration are large, Bales said, but potential changes in water availability are significant. The total effect of wildfires over a 20-year period suggests that forest thinning could increase water flow from Sierra Nevada watersheds by as much as 10 percent.
The U.S. Forest Service says that 6 to 8 of the 21-million acres it manages in California need immediate restoration. Another 58 million acres nationally also require restoration. For California alone, restoration costs are estimated at $5 to $10B. But, according to the study authors, the restoration might help pay for itself.
“We’ve known for some time that managed forest fires are the only way to restore the majority of overstocked western forests and reduce the risk of catastrophic fires,” said James Roche, a National Park Service hydrologist and lead author of the new study. “We can now add the potential benefit of increased water yield from these watersheds.”
SOURCE: The National Science Foundation (NSF)
by Pure Water Annie
Pure Water Technical Writer, Pure Water Annie, Clears Up Turbidity
Turbidity can be thought of as the general cloudiness of water. It is actually a measurement of the degree to which particulate in the water interferes with light transmission. Suspended particles absord and diffuse light.
High turbidity can be determined without a water test.
A turbidity test uses an instrument that passes light through the water and measures the amount of interference from suspended particles. The turbidity test reports results on an artificial scale using nephelometric units, or ntu. Anything above one ntu is technically an EPA “action level” violation, although the human eye only begins to detect turbidity in water at about 4 ntu. Therefore, water that appears completely clear to the eye can have excessive turbidity with health implications.
Turbidity in groundwater is often from tiny mineral particles. These can include precipitated iron, clay particles, or calcium carbonate precipitation. In surface water turbidity is more likely suspended organic matter or other sediment.
The level of turbidity can, of course, range from invisible to the eye to highly colored water that is not transparent.
Turbidity in water is more than an aesthetic issue. It is a frequent indicactor of microbial contamination because microbes can attach themselves to suspended sediment. Turbidity also makes it more difficult to disinfect water with chemicals. The same is true with ultraviolet (UV) treatment because suspended particles can shadow microbial contaminants protecting them for the germicidal effect of the UV lamp.
Residential sediment treatment can range from the “sand trap”shown above, which relies on gravity to drop large particles from the water, to extremely tight membrane filters that can screen out sub-micron sized particles.
Treatment for turbidity is mainly by filtration. Sediment filters can be cartridge style, granular beds, or membrane-style. With large particles, simply holding the water in a tank will allow particulate to settle out. In municipal treatment, settling and filtration are often aided by chemicals like alum which promote coagulation and flocculation of small particles to form larger particles that settle or are filtered easily. The very tiniest of particles can be treated by membrane technologies like microfiltration, ultrafiltration, nanofiltration, and reverse osmosis.
This “microguard” cartridge filters out particulate (as well as bacteria and cysts) down to a very tight 0.15 micron absolute.
It is important to realize that turbidity in water is not just an aesthetic consideration. While crystal clear water is certainly more appealing to the eye and to the palate, turbidity is also an important health consideration because microbes thrive in unclean water. Even if water appears clear, it is a good idea to test for turbidity and to take high turbidity readings seriously.
When cloudy water clears from the bottom upward as in the picture, the problem is not physical particulate but simply excess air trapped in the water. This sometimes occurs when carbon filters are new.
Commonly used sediment filters:
Simple wound string, spun polypropylene and pleated cartridge filters. These are available in a large range of “tightness” ratings that are stated in “microns.” Cartridge filters range in size from tiny to very large. Probably the most common residential whole house sediment filter is the popular ten-inch “Big Blue.”
“Spin down” separators that are usually measured by “mesh” size. These have long lasting screens that are cleaned by simple blow down process.
“Sand traps” that allow large particles to drop from the water into a specially designed filter tank.
Backwashing filters that contain specialty media designed to trap sediment. The newer natural zeolite media can filter down to 5 microns.
California's New Proposition 65 Rule
The Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986 (Proposition 65) requires businesses to provide warnings to consumers in California of products that cause cancer, birth defects, or harm to health. These warnings have been visibly present in restaurants, for example, in CA but are so common they have become unnoticeable. Two years ago a task force got together to figure out a way to make consumers more aware of these warnings.
What is new to the law?
It’s simpler to understand: On each warning sign there will be a yellow triangle with an exclamation point. The wordage will change from “this products contains…” to “this product will expose you to…”, then, 1 or 2 chemicals will be listed.
There are about 1,000 chemicals listed on Prop 65.
How will this affect vendors?
Sellers will be required to put Prop 65 warnings with new language on products that are subject to this law. Manufacturers have the primary responsibility for placing these warnings. Manufacturers can either label the product or provide notice to the retailer that the product may provide exposure to a listed chemical. They should also provide the warning materials.
Many water treatment products will not be affected by the law and don’t require the warning.
Information above is from a Webinar provided to members by the Water Quality Association.
Dosatron NSF-Certified, Water Powered Chemical Injector
Dosatron has the only water powered chemical injector that is NSF/ANSI 61 & 372 Certified. The NSF-certified 14 gallon per minute Dosatron D14 unit is ideal for injection of water treatment chemicals like chlorine and hydrogen peroxide in residential applications.
Water-powered pumps offer several advantages. They are very easy to install, require no electricity, and feed the injected chemical proportionally, depending on the rate of flow through the pipe. This means they can be installed at any place in the water line without flow switches or the expensive metering equipment required with electric pumps installed after the well’s pressure tank.
The fully adjustable D14 Dosatron injects at a flow rate of 1:500 to 1:50. It is a compact pump that installs directly into the water line. As water runs to the point of use, the pump injects the water treatment chemical into the line. It can be used to disinfect non-potable water or to pre-treat for iron, manganese, and hydrogen sulfide filters. The pump is so light that it can be supported by the pipe itself, or it can be wall mounted (bracket is included) and installed with hose connections.
The D14WL2NAF is the NSF-certified, drinking water grade of Dosatron units. It should not be confused with Dosatron models intended for agricultural use that are sold on many websites.
Dosatron offers an easy way to add chlorine or hydrogen peroxide treatment. These units are durable and easy to service, and parts are readily available.
What are PFCs?
PFCs are a family of man-made compounds that are not naturally occurring in the environment. Perfluoroalkyls repel oil, grease, and water, and as a result were used as protective coatings in cookware, carpet, clothing, paper, and cardboard packaging, as well as in fire-fighting foams. They are very stable compounds that are resilient to breakdown in the environment. The most common perfluoroalkyl compounds are perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA).
PFOS and PFOA
PFOS and PFOA compounds were produced in large quantities in the United States and have contaminated air, water, and soil at locations where they were produced or used. As a result, PFOA and PFOS are found in air and dust; surface and groundwater; and soil and sediment. The highest levels of PFOS and PFOA are typically at or near a facility that produced or used the compounds. Since they are found in air and dust, they appear in remote locations where flooding and groundwater migrate them through the soil.
Health Effects of PFCs
The most common exposure to PFOS and PFOA is through ingestion, with drinking water supplies being the primary route for exposure. Typically, populations near facilities where PFOS and PFOA was manufactured or used have the highest levels of these compounds in their drinking water. Health advisories by the EPA indicate that exposure to PFOS and PFOA over certain levels may result in adverse health effects, including developmental effects to fetuses during pregnancy or to breastfed infants (e.g., low birth weight, accelerated puberty, skeletal variations), cancer (e.g., testicular, kidney), liver effects (e.g., tissue damage), immune effects (e.g., antibody production and immunity), thyroid effects and other effects (e.g., cholesterol changes). As a result the EPA has established a combined lifetime exposure of 70 parts per trillion for PFOS and PFOA.
The best and most commonly applied water treatment for PFCs in general is the old standby, granular activated carbon.
Caffeine - How It Gets Into Our Water
All caffeine comes into the environment through humans.
It turns out that our bodies don’t absorb all the caffeine we consume. Some gets expelled in our urine and ends up entering sewage systems or the environment, posing a threat to wildlife and perhaps to our health.
Sewage treatment plants usually do a good job removing caffeine, and the treated wastewater they release back to the environment is generally free of it.
But in a number of recent studies, caffeine has been detected in water sampled from remote streams – far from urban areas and sewer systems. This suggests our appetite for caffeine has crossed some unseen threshold, and is beginning to impact the environment.
Literally, through us. There are no natural sources of caffeine in North America. So any caffeine found in water samples surely came from humans, whether in beverages, food or pharmaceuticals. That’s one result of a study recently conducted by the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board.
“When we started getting results, we realized it’s way more prevalent than just from leaky sewer lines and septic systems,” said Carey Nagoda, a water resource control engineer for the water board. “So that was kind of a puzzle.”
Nagoda analyzed nearly 100 water samples over a seven-year period from throughout San Diego County and part of Orange County. They came from a range of sites encompassing raw sewage and treated wastewater in urban areas, as well as streams in remote open-space areas where there is no human development.
For example, Cedar Creek Falls, a popular hiking destination in Cleveland National Forest, is one area where the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board has detected caffeine in the water.
The results of the study showed that samples from urban areas tested positive for caffeine, which was not surprising. Samples from untreated (raw) sewage contained between 0.052 and 8.5 micrograms per liter, while those taken near active septic systems ranged from 0.029 to 1.19 micrograms per liter.
What was surprising was that more than one-third of the samples from open-space areas tested positive for caffeine. The samples from these areas ranged from 0.032 to 0.662 micrograms per liter, or similar to those samples taken near septic systems.
The areas known for high recreational use – like fishing, horseback riding, hiking, camping – were the ones that had high caffeine levels, suggesting that visitors in these areas may not be practicing good habits, whether by urinating too close to streams or leaving waste behind.
The results also suggest that other contaminants found in human waste, such as pharmaceuticals and pathogens, could be polluting these areas.
Numerous studies have shown that caffeine is toxic to a variety of wildlife at high concentrations. The effects are less clear in cases of continual exposure at low levels because little research has been done in this area. So far, clear toxic thresholds have yet to be firmly established.
To cite an example, one study showed that mussels exposed to caffeine may face a risk of genetic mutation. Other research at UC Irvine found that caffeine in seawater may contribute to coral bleaching.
Studying caffeine contamination is complicated. Researchers learned, for example that caffeine is easily aerosolized, so a Starbucks in the neighborhood can skew test results.
Currently, there are no water-quality standards established for caffeine in wastewater effluent.
At present, the best defense against caffeine in our water depends on the habits of individuals. It matters where you urinate. One expert advises: “… don’t dump leftover caffeine beverages or containers where they could enter streams or storm drains. And when enjoying the outdoors, exercise proper bathroom practices. That means using a designated restroom or outhouse whenever available. If that’s not possible, choose a proper site at least 200 feet from any waterway. Residents should do their part to help reduce caffeine release to the environment. The cumulative effect on ecosystem health is not known at this time.”
Removing caffeine from water in the home? While caffeine at levels that might be in tap water is not considered a contaminant of concern for human health, filtration through standard activated carbon filters should reduce it significantly. There is currently no plan to regulate levels of caffeine in tap water.
Treating High pH Water With Acid Injection
by Gene Franks
High pH in home water is treated far less frequently than low pH. In general, there are few negatives to high pH, but it can produce a soda taste and even cause corrosion in piping and fixtures made with metals such as brass, copper, zinc, aluminum and iron. Very high pH can also cause chlorination to be ineffective.
High pH can be reduced with specialized ion exchange media, but the most common treatment is to inject a mild acid into the water line. It is normally a “point-of-entry” treatment.
With wells, the normal place to inject the acid is just before the pressure tank.
To inject you need a chemical feed pump made of materials that resist corrosion (plastic, in other words) and a solution tank to hold the acid. The most commonly used acid for pH reduction is acetic acid, which is plain old supermarket grade white vinegar. It is safe, effective, economical, and readily available. Acetic acid is usually injected in about a five percent solution. Other popular weak acids available to residential users are citric acid, a bit stronger than vinegar, which is fed in a one percent solution, sodium bisulfate (potable water grade), fed at one percent, and alum, fed in a two-percent solution.
Hydrochloric and sulfuric acids are usually used only with industrial applications and in cases where alkalinity is extremely high.
As with most treatments in which a solution is fed into a water line, pH reduction will involve some trial and error. I suggest that you start with the solution strengths given above, set your pump at its medium setting, and give it a try. Check the pH downstream of the feed (but before any water treatment equipment) after a couple of days and adjust your solution strength or pump setting as needed.
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Thanks for reading and be sure to check out the next Occasional!