Pure Water Occasional, April 21, 2018
In this late April edition of the Occasional you'll learn about our new softener pricing, hard water bypass, and the end of an era. Also, there are still problems in Flint, Nestle is taking Michigan's water, Texas fails in water quality, and dead zones exist in the Gulf of Mexico. Find out how bacteria survive in hot water heaters, why rainwater is so great, and as always, there is much, much more.
Concerned about how to treat a particular water contaminant or condition?
We've put together a very handy quick reference table that can be helpful. See it on the Pure Water Gazette website
. As you run down the list you'll be impressed by how many water contaminants are treated by filter carbon and/or reverse osmosis. A good undersink reverse osmosis unit has both - high quality carbon filters and a reverse osmosis membrane - making it by far the best choice for home drinking water.
Flint, Michigan announced it will close its four remaining free bottled water stations. Flint has been offering free bottled water for two years because of the lead crisis.
The L.A. Dodgers' final spring training game was cut short when sewage flooded the third-base area. The stadium's aging infrastructure was blamed.
Approval of a permit for a very large water development project in the Mojave Desert, previously denied by the Obama administration and not subject to an environmental impact study, brought forward questions about the developer's connections with the Trump family.
A Duke University study of coal ash ponds near 21 power plants in five Southesatern US states has found evidence that nearby surface waters and groundwater are "consistently and lastingly" contaminated by the unlined ponds. New Republic reported: "At more than 70 sites across the country, toxins like arsenic, mercury, and radium are leaching into groundwater from pond-like storage pits filled with the sludgy leftovers of coal burning."
Excess phosporous, primarily found in runoff from land application of manure, accounts for 66 percent of impaired conditions of US rivers. Also, it has created large areas of eutrophication - dead zones where aquatic life cannot survive- in the Chesapeake Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. Nutrient pollution is one of America's most widespread, costly, and challenging environmental problems, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency. A system devised by Penn State and USDA scientists removes 98 percent of phosporous and 93 percent of solids from wastewater, but it is not likely to be applied to dairy operations due to costs. Current EPA rules do not impose restrictions on phosphorous runoff.
Third grade reading scores in Flint, Michigan schools dropped sharply after the lead crisis, according to the Detroit Free Press.
Although it's only April, some areas of the Rio Grande River that sometimes run dry during summer months are already drying and leaving fish stranded. Biologists view this as very bad news and fear it may be a long, dry summer.
A reminder to make your plans for National Garden Hose Day
, which is now celebrated in June. Make your hotel reservations early. Hotels are filling up fast in cities hosting Garden Hose Day events.
We're redoing our softener offerings and our new page will offer metered, electronic units only, and at an increased price. We will still sell standard timer units and mechanical meter units, but these can only be ordered by phone.
We were long overdue for a price increase on softeners. Old prices are good until the new softener webpage goes up. (The wheels of progress turn slowly here, so that may be a while.)
Our standard softener will continue to be the reliable Fleck 5600-based unit, but we also have the new 5810 units (same price as the webpage 5600s), Fleck 2510 units, twin Fleck 9000 and 9100, and larger commercial sizes with Fleck 2750, 2850, and 3150.
And as a reminder, we are enthusiastic sellers of softener alternatives. We have been pleased with customer satisfaction of Watts OneFlow (also called ScaleNet) tank-style softener alternative systems with TAC technology. This product is growing rapidly in popularity as a no-salt alternative to conventional softeners.
We are also expanding our use of Siliphos sequestering technology. Siliphos offers low-cost protection against scale that can be added to existing filters or installed as a low-upkeep inline dispenser. It can be applied as whole house treatment or point of use protection for individual appliances like tank-less water heaters.
Read more about Siliphos here.
Closed Forever: End of an Era
by Gene Franks
Cupboard Natural Foods, a North Texas institution and for many years Denton’s leading natural food store, closed its doors for the last time in March of 2018 after over half a century in business.
The Cupboard was one of the old independent natural food stores that for decades were the main source of food for the select; that is to say, vegetarians, “health food nuts,” and others who had caught on that real food is a lot better than artificial.
The times, they are a-changin’
When the Cupboard came on the scene in the mid-1960s, its popularity led to the closing of a small natural food co-op that preceded it. The local appetite for natural foods wasn’t big enough to support two small stores. The Cupboard, virtually without competition, grew over the years and moved three times to larger quarters.
Things got bad, though, when two natural food chains opened locations in the neighborhood, and perhaps more importantly, when conventional supermarkets started putting in natural food sections replete with healthy sounding brands made by such health food stalwarts as Coca Cola and Nestle.
The demise of the Cupboard was bad news for us at Pure Water Products. We have had close ties with the store over the years. We had a popular (and profitable) water vending system in the store, plus filtration systems on ice machines, coffee machines, the cafe’s drinking water cooler, a produce preparation sink, and the misting system for the produce case. The store sent lots of customers our way. A good percentage of the store’s regular customers have our reverse osmosis units under their kitchen sink. Fully half of our current employees worked at the Cupboard at one time.
The very last purchase at the Cupboard before it closed forever was made by me. It’s a classy Portland Bee Balm display box. I can’t believe I was lucky enough to get it. The store sold out its merchandise at discounts that grew day by day, then sold its furnishings and equipment–even the light fixtures, and old adding machines that had been in a store room since 1991. On the very last day I laid down two quarters for the Portland Bee Balm box, which now holds pens and pencils on my desk. During the closeout I picked up a lifetime supply of 60% off tamari and olive oil, plus lots of things I never thought I would buy, like Umeboshi Plum Vinegar. I wish now I had tried Portland Bee Balm while I had the chance. Not likely I’ll find it at Kroger’s.
Hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico, A Summer Problem
In 2012 the EPA issued a grant to the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority for the purpose of combating hypoxia.
A large area in the northern Gulf of Mexico is called the “dead zone.” The problem is known technically as hypoxia. Hypoxia means low oxygen and is primarily a problem in coastal waters. The Gulf of Mexico dead zone is an area of hypoxic waters at the mouth of the Mississippi River. Its area varies in size, but can cover up to 6,000 to 7,000 square miles. The dead zone is caused by nutrient enrichment from the Mississippi River, particularly nitrogen and phosphorous.
Hypoxic waters have dissolved oxygen concentrations of less than 2-3 ppm. Hypoxia can be caused by a variety of factors, including excess nutrients, primarily nitrogen and phosphorus, which promote growth of algae. As dead algae decompose, oxygen is consumed in the process, resulting in low levels of oxygen in the water.
Nutrients can come from many sources, including any of the following:
Fertilizers from agriculture, golf courses, and suburban lawns
Erosion of soil full of nutrients
Discharges from sewage treatment plants
Deposition of atmospheric nitrogen
Water Heaters and Bacteria
Harmful bacteria can grow in water that is up to 122º F. At temperatures of 140º or higher, they are almost completely eliminated. When heaters run at low temperatures (about 99º –human body temperature–would be the worst) water heaters can become virtual hotbeds for bacterial growth. An example of an organism that thrives in the water heater is Legionella (the microbe that causes Legionnaires’ Disease). Surveys have shown that a third of water heaters tested contained Legionella. The organism can cause illness when it is either breathed in or ingested during showering. Though you don’t hear a lot about Legionnaires’ Disease, there are between 10,000 and 20,000 cases each year in the US.
In addition to temperature, the type of heater matters in assessing the risk of Legionella. Gas heaters, which are heated from the bottom and not subject, therefore, to stratification in the tank (hot water rising to the top because it is lightest), are far less likely to support Legionella than electric heaters. Though not a lot of research has been done, bacterial growth in tankless water heaters regardless of the heat source seems unlikely.
The best temperature for your water heater is something of a tradeoff which must consider energy savings (the hotter you run the water, the higher your energy bill), the danger of scalding, and the possibility of bacterial contamination. If you have a tankless heater or a conventional gas heater, lower temperatures can be used. With electric, you might choose to run the temperature at 140º and install anti-scald faucets.
Texas Ranks First in Water Violations
by Sara Jerome
Ranking Texas worst-in-nation for water violations, a new report is raising questions about whether Texas regulators are doing enough to protect the water supply.
The new report from Environment Texas Research and Policy Center tallied up how many times “major industrial facilities released pollution that exceeded the levels allowed under their Clean Water Act” during a 21-month period.
In Texas, that happened 938 times, more than any other state. Ranked second was Pennsylvania with 633 times and third was Arkansas with 567 times. Rounding out the top five were Louisiana (535 times) and Ohio (491 times).
The report provided examples of facilities that violated multiple times and questioned whether overseers at the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) are doing enough to respond, according to The Texas Observer.
“Between January 2016 and September 2017, Ineos USA’s facility in Brazoria County violated their permit to dump wastewater into Chocolate Bayou eight times. In all cases, the company released waste with high levels of E. coli, a bacteria that indicates the presence of feces. The facility has been out of compliance with the Clean Water Act a total of 12 months out of the last three years. TCEQ hasn’t fined the facility once,” the report said.
The facility makes polymers used in pipes and pharmaceuticals, The Observer reported. It is just one among 132 industrial facilities to violate its wastewater permit last year.
For context, the reporter noted that Texas has a large number of industrial facilities.
“However, the state also ranks first in facilities that exceeded pollution standards multiple times and for facilities that broke permitted limits seven times or more,” The Observer added.
Luke Metzger, executive director of Environment Texas, spoke to The Texas Observer.
“TCEQ has a lax enforcement regime,” he said. “That contributes to the high exceedance levels. Many facilities don’t have any pressure to comply with the permits.”
Previous reporting has found that state agencies in Texas have not done enough to respond to air pollution, as well. A report from The Texas Observer said the agency is toothless against companies that are “too big to fine,” and therefore focuses on businesses that are “too small to fight back.”
Rainwater can be an excellent source of water for residential use. One inch of rainfall provides 620 gallons of water per 1,000 square feet of roof area.
The pH of rainwater ranges from neutral to slightly acidic. It is naturally soft, so if it's used in the home it will not cause scale formation on applicances, shower heads, and faucets.
Contrary to popular belief, rainwater is not completely free of contaminants. Air contains particles, liquids, and gases formed by natural processes, such as erosion of land sufaces resulting in dust, salt-spray from ocean wave action, biological decay, forest fires, chemical reactions of atmospheric gases and transportation (including aviation) and construction. As it falls to earth, rainwater picks up some of these contaminants. Nevertheless, rainwater has much less of these pollutants than ground or surface water.
Standard water treatment for rainwater for use in homes regularly includes sediment filtration, carbon filtration, and ultraviolet, for microbial inactivation.
Source: Water Conditioning & Purification Magazine
Do You Want "Hard Water Bypass" For Your Home Water Filter?
The answer is yes, in almost every case, you do want your home whole house water filter or softener to operate with a “hard water bypass” feature. This is something you don’t have to specify when you buy a filter or softener because it is assumed that you want it. In fact, you have to go to some trouble to buy a product with “no hard water bypass” equipment installed.
“Untreated water bypass,” by the way, would be a more accurate name for the feature, but industry tradition says “hard water” although the concept applies to both filters (which don’t soften water) and water softeners.
What the “hard water bypass” feature does is send water to the home if there is a demand for water while the softener or filter is in its regeneration cycle. So, if the softener is regenerating at 2:00 AM and someone flushes a toilet, the softener bypasses its treatment tank and sends hard water to fill the need. The assumption is that it’s better to have a few gallons of hard water in the home’s water lines than to have un-flushed toilets. And if the softener starts its regeneration while you’re in the shower, you would probably prefer to be able to get the shampoo out of your hair even if it means a few gallons of raw water get into the home’s water lines.
The most obvious reason you don’t want a “no hard water bypass” product on your home system, though, is for fire protection. You don’t want your home to burn down because your water softener refuses to send hard water to sprinklers during its regeneration cycle.
So, why would anyone want a “no hard water bypass” unit? If you were supplying a machine that would be damaged by receiving untreated water, the no hard water bypass system is invaluable. Or, if you were topping off a fish pond, you certainly would prefer delaying the operation a bit to sending chlorinated water to your fish.
Here’s another example:
A well owner fills a large storage tank direct from his well, then pumps water from the storage tank to his home. He filters the water for iron before it reaches the storage tank. The storage tank calls for water when the water level drops below a certain point. If the storage tank calls for water while the iron filter is regenerating, the home owner would probably prefer for the filter to wait until the regeneration is finished rather than top off the tank with untreated water.
Except in special cases like these, you want “hard water bypass.” That’s why you don’t have to ask for it. On residential filters and softeners, you get it without asking.
Nestle is Pumping Michigan Dry
The Swiss bottled water company is approved to pump 400 gpm for the Ice Mountain brand, amid fierce opposition from residents and environmentalists alike.
The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) has approved a permit for Nestle Waters North America to increase the amount of water it withdraws from the White Pine Springs well near Evart, Mich., from 250 gpm to 400, as reported by The Detroit Free Press. MDEQ’s approval comes despite heavy opposition from residents of Osceola County, Mich., where the pumping station is located. Residents have argued that the pumping station has harmed local groundwater reserves and streams, including the Twin Creek River since Nestle began pumping in the early 2000s for their bottled water brand Ice Mountain. Osceola Township rejected the permit request, but their rejection was overturned by county and state Appeals Courts.
Michigan residents also argue the groundwater extraction laws are in need of an update and are displeased by the fact that Nestle only pays $200 per year for the MDEQ extraction permit, but not for the water itself. Public opposition to the bottled water brand’s expansion was overwhelming according to Michigan Sen. Rebekah Warren who serves on the Senate’s Natural Resources Committee.
“Michiganders know that no private company should be able to generate profits by undermining our state’s precious natural resources, which is why an unprecedented number of people spoke up to oppose this permit,” Warren said. “Out of 81,862 comments filed by the people of our state, only 75 of them were in favor of the permit.”
Moving forward, MDEQ plans to monitor surface water and do periodic biological surveys to ensure local aquatic life and habitat is not damaged, according to The Detroit News. Additionally, they have acknowledged that the majority of the public comments opposed the permit, but stated that most of them related to public policy which was not a part of the administrative permit decision.
Gazette Comment: While cities are cutting water service to customers too poor to pay water bills, companies like Nestle are pumping 400 gallons per minute of free water from the White Pine Springs well to sell at a premium price. Nestle is harvesting over half a million gallons per day of free water from a single source, and US golf courses require over 2 billion gallons of irrigation water per day (that’s almost 2,000,000 gallons per minute). Try to keep this in mind if someone tells you you shouldn’t own a reverse osmosis unit because it “wastes” five or six gallons of water a day.
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Thanks for reading and be sure to check out the next Occasional!