Pure Water Occasional, March 25, 2018
In this early Spring Occasional you'll read about chlorine burns, the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch," water shortages, World Water Day, plastic in bottled water, PFC's, remineralizing RO water, ultrapure water, where to find parts for water filters, where to find information about water contaminants, and, as always, there is much, much more.
A new study has linked PFAS in water to weight gain and the inability to lose weight.
As time goes on, we see that the chemical assault on water caused by Hurricane Harvey was much worse than initially thought. Nearly half a billion gallons of industrial wastewater mixed with storm water surged out of just one chemical plant in Baytown, east of Houston on the upper shores of Galveston Bay. Benzene, vinyl chloride, butadiene, and other known human carcinogens were among the dozens of tons of industrial toxic substances released into surrounding neighborhoods and waterways following Harvey's torrential rains.
A scientific report released in February revealed the dumping of thousands of gallons of water contaminated with radioacive tritium, PCBs, and other toxins into the river from the inactive nuclear power demonstration (NPD) reactor in Rolphton, Ontario.
The size of the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch" is "increasing exponentially" according to new research.
There are almost 100,000 San Joaquin Valley residents living without access to clean drinking water.
The United Nations (UN) warned that water shortages could affect 5 billion people by 2050.
March 22 was World Water Day. According to the UN, some 2.1 billion people on Earth "lack access to safely managed drinking water services," while 1.8 billion others "use an unimproved source of drinking water with no protection against contamination from human feces." A number of informed sources believe these estimates to be low.
"Chlorine burns" have caused confusion and complaints around the nation. (See article below).
The news of plastic particles in bottled water got lots of attention:
This is the season for chlorine burns.
Here's Pure Water Gazette technical writer Pure Water Annie's explanation of what's going on in many cities around the country.
What Are Chlorine Burns?
by Pure Water Annie
Once a year, usually in spring, water suppliers that normally disinfect their product with chloramine, a mixture of chlorine and ammonia, perform a cleaning procedure known as a “chlorine burn.” The purpose is simply to clean out the pipes, ridding the distribution system of film and debris that has built up.
The clean-out is accomplished by simply switching disinfectants from chloramine to straight chlorine for a time, and usually upping the dosage a bit to speed things along. Compared with chlorine, chloramine is a rather weak disinfectant. Its weak performance allows sludge and scum, bacterial film, to build up in pipe walls and crevices. The yearly purge, or “burn,” with straight chlorine cleans things out.
Chloramine is substituted for chlorine as the regular disinfectant in an increasing number of city water systems. The switch from chlorine to chloramine has been going on for a number of years as suppliers seek ways to stay in compliance with Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards for DBPs, or disinfection by-products that are produced as a consequence of chlorination. Some DBPs are known carcinogens and the EPA requires suppliers to monitor them. Chloramine, a weaker disinfectant, does not produce DBPs.
Are chlorine burns a good idea? Good or bad, they are necessary, since without a periodic cleanout buildup in pipes would create significant problems for the water system. The practice does call into question, however, the wisdom of using chloramine rather than chlorine in the first place. As many argue, the burn and subsequent purging of pipes creates elevated levels of disinfection by-products in the system and higher than normal chlorine discharge into lakes and streams. In other words, for a short time we get concentrated doses of disinfectants and byproducts, which may be worse than what we would have with chlorine as the regular disinfectant.
The moral: With a good carbon filtration system in your home, you won’t even know when the burn takes place. The elevated chlorine levels, murky water, and dislodged sediment that your neighbors are complaining about, you won’t even notice.
PFCs are among the "emerging contaminants" that have been much in the news recently. Here's a succint explanation of these compounds from Evoqua:
PFOA and PFOS Perfluoroalkyl Compounds:
Perfluorooctane Sulfonic Acid (PFOS) and Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA)
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).
Where are PFCs Found?
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) (Agency, 2016). As a result the EPA has established a combined lifetime exposure of 70 parts per trillion for PFOS and PFOA.
If you're confused about all the products designed for "remineralizing" reverse osmosis water, the following brand new article from the Pure Water Gazette will probaby add to the confusion.
Reverse Osmosis Remineralizing Filters
by Gene Franks and Emily McBroom
A product that has gained surprising popularity in the last few years is the “remineralizing” postfilter cartridge for undersink reverse osmosis (RO) units.
The process of reverse osmosis removes some 95% of water’s mineral content and, as a consequence, produces water that is temporarily low in pH. For many years, vendors of non-RO drinking water systems have raised the argument (driven more by marketing than by science) that RO water lacks “healthful minerals” the body needs. This ignores the fact that our bodies obtain minerals readily and easily from the organic minerals in foods and really don’t need the difficult to assimilate inorganic minerals found in water. More recently, sellers of “alkalizers,” or “ionizer” machines which produce alkaline drinking water, have added fuel to the argument by claiming the pH of RO water is too low to be healthful.
To counter these arguments, RO vendors have created postfilter cartridges that add minerals while also raising the pH of low-mineral, slightly acidic reverse osmosis water. These cartridges are comprised mainly of two common water treatment minerals, Calcite and Corosex. Both have been used for decades in tank-style filters to raise the pH of acidic well water. Calcite is a pure form of crushed marble or limestone, refined into a granular medium suitable for use in a water filter. It works by dissolving slowly into the water, adding calcium and raising pH. Corosex is a brand name for manganese oxide, another natural mineral that dissolves to add magnesium and neutralize free carbon dioxide; thus, driving the pH down. Calcite is a milder pH treatment than Corosex, so the standard mix in most filters is at least 4/5 Calcite.
For RO remineralizing filters, Calcite is the main ingredient, and a dash of Corosex can be added to give the pH an extra upward bump. (Too much Corosex overcorrects and can produce alkaline, strong-tasting water.)
This simple inline cartridge manufactured by a leading filter company costs $16. It can easily be added to any standard RO unit. It contains Calcite to boost pH by adding calcium carbonate and improves the taste of the water with coconut shell carbon. It is inexpensive because it lacks any exotic ingredients.
While Calcite and Corosex are clearly the workhorse media of all RO remineralizing filters, an in-house survey of a dozen websites turned up a lot of other ingredients. Some ingredients were commonplace and some pretty exotic. It also revealed a wide range of prices and some interesting product claims.
Prices on the random sites we looked at go from $19.95 to $149 with the average around $65.
Here are some common product descriptions:
“Raises pH from 6.4 to 7.6.”
“Increases pH by 1.0-1.5 and provides alkaline water.”
“Increases pH, lowers ORP.”
“Remineralizes and raises the pH of water by at least 1 to 2 points.”
“Alkaline water. Boosts minerals and antioxidants.”
“To balance out and stabalize pH.”
“Makes water safer to drink.”
Provides “balanced mineral elution.”
“Balances the pH and puts essential minerals back into your water that your body can use.”
“Neutralizes acidic water, reduces leaching of metal plumbing components, and for use post RO to raise TDS.” (Obviously intended for multiple uses.)
Now for the ingredients.
There are the expected (Calcite and Corosex), the unexpected (KDF), plus a lot of exotic and unknown. Tourmaline figures prominently. According to Wikipedia, tourmaline is a semi-precious gemstone found in granite, pematites, and metamorphic rocks. It can also be found in sandstone. There is no indication what this might have to do with adding minerals to water, but one health and healing website explains:
Although it might be a stretch to say tourmaline has supernatural powers, it does have the uncommon and very special ability to generate an electric charge and emit negative ions and far infrared rays. Far infrared rays are invisible waves of energy. They’re able to penetrate all layers of the human body and reach the inner-most regions of tissues, muscles and bone. Through this, far infrared rays and negative ions gently soothe, stimulate and detoxify the body and mind. Negative ions are also incredibly important in determining mood.. . . Research has shown that mood disorders may be improved just as well through negative ion generators as antidepressants — but without the negative side effects. Why? Because these ions promote oxygenation to the brain and regeneration of the blood.
Other devices include neodyminium magnets (aka NdFeB, NIB, or Neo Magnet), whose contribution to RO water is not detailed. Then there is Pi Ceramic,
[which is] . . . induced from the highly energized state of infinitesimal amount of ferric ferrous salts that have excellent antioxidant effect of protecting human bodies from active oxygen (free radicals) that causes various diseases and stresses (removing harmful active oxygen cause cancer, diabetic, hypertension, etc.), neutralization actions from harmful toxins (controls oxidation reduction reaction; detoxification action) and prevent rotting (inhibition of microbial growth, such as virus and bacteria) in the intestines. In addition, they have calcium antagonism (Calcium antagonist properties), high vital activation energy (Life energy), small water molecule structure, contains abundance oxygen, equal pH to body (pH balance), boost immune system, and bio memory and ability to transfer biological information. . . .
Also there are Infrared Ceramics, which “. . .remove impurities from the water by cleaving the water molecule cluster. The impurity sticks to the ceramic, not allowing it to leach back into the water before it’s used.” Infrared ceramics, when used with tourmaline, according to one vendor, “help soften the surface tension, improve taste and increase drinkability.”
There are ceramic negative ion balls that that are made mainly of tourmaline plus “kaolin and high-grade clay by nanometer comminution technology, special formula and agglomeration techniques. . . .”
Then there is “Super Ceramic” which “contains over 10 Minerals and imparts a pleasant taste to the water emitting even more Far Infrared Rays.”
Finally there is “Edox,” which we could not identify. It is most likely a brand name for one or more of the other ingredients mentioned.
Taste and Common Sense
Regardless of the exotics, the main ingredient of all remineralizing products is plain and simple Calcite. Calcite is mainly pure calcium carbonate, CaCO3. It is the principal constituent of limestone and marble. It may also have traces of other minerals such as manganese, magnesium, iron, boron, and bromine. (See Britannica.com).
If you believe reverse osmosis water needs mineral supplementation to be “healthful” (we don’t!), RO water filtered through a small bed of Calcite will meet the requirement. And, if you want a pH above the low 7’s, you can buy a Calcite cartridge that has a just pinch of Corosex added to it.
Although water straight from the RO unit is wonderful, we like Calcite filters because they can make exceptionally good tasting water. With or without remineralizing, pure reverse osmosis water tastes great and is the best value drinking water that can be produced in the home.
While we think that water straight from the RO unit is wonderful, water can indeed by too pure for human consumption. Here's a new article from the Pure Water Gazette.
Ultrapure Water Is Not For Drinking
What is commonly referred to as “ultrapure” water goes beyond what is considered pure drinking water. In fact, it is not considered “fit” for human consumption. It is water so clean that it is used as an industrial solvent for cleaning semiconductors, producing pharmaceutical products, and for cooling in power plants.
Typical production of ultrapure water includes use of microfiltration membranes to remove particles from the water, ion exchange and reverse osmosis (RO) membranes to remove ions, UV light to kill bacteria and degassing membranes to remove dissolved oxygen.
We think of reverse osmosis, which can turn sea water into excellent drinking water, as taking “everything” out of water, but when it comes to water needed for many technical processes RO water isn’t even near clean enough. Ultrapure water requires 12 filtration steps beyond RO with the final filter having pores 20 nanometers in width. (Twenty nanometers is 0.02 microns.)
Ever wonder why nuclear power plants are built on the shores of lakes and rivers?
Well, it isn't so workers can enjoy the scenery. It's because nuclear plants are great water gluttons.
Nuclear plants use water to create steam that powers the turbines that create electricity and they require great quantities of water to remove and dump the excess heat created by the reactor core.
The excess heat that is returned to the water source in the form of water that is much hotter than the ambient water is a signficant polluter of the local environment.
Water Filter Parts We Sell And Others Don't
The picture shows an important water filter part. If you don’t recognize it, it’s a spring from the pressure release button on a Big Bubba high volume filter. It might seem like a pretty insignificant part, but if you have a Big Bubba supplying your home and it springs a leak at the pressure release button, being able to get this spring can be what decides whether you have water for your home or not.
Now, I would like you to try an experiment. Go to a Google search bar and type in “big bubba pressure release button” or something similar. You’re likely to find us, Pure Water Products, among the first results. Look at our page and you’ll see that we offer the button. If you look at other finds from the first page, you’ll almost certainly discover that they don’t sell it. And if you order it from us, you’ll also find that we have it in stock and will ship it in most cases the day we get your order.
The point is, we don’t just sell products. We support them as well. Here are some examples:
We have a full RO Parts Page that not only sells every part for our RO units (and many others as well), but explains how to choose the right part. (Type “ro parts” into a Google bar and we’ll be on the first page.)
We have a full parts page for aeration equipment, emphasizing AerMax, the brand that we sell.
We have a full parts page for countertop water filters. We don’t know of any other on the WWW.
We have a full selection of parts for the WellPro Dry Pellet Chlorinators that we sell. If your chlorinator fails because you need a $3.50 pellet dam, type “wellpro pellet dam” into a Google bar and you’ll find it at the bottom of our regular WellPro page with an illustration to show you how to identify the part.
We have an entire website that sells nothing but classic blue housing Pura ultraviolet equipment. We stock every screw and every O-Ring. If your unit freezes and the sump cracks (this happened a lot last winter), we can send you a replacement. Break the quartz sleeve, we have it in stock and can get it to you overnight so that you won’t be without water. When the manufacturer changed its housing style a few years ago, we went to considerable trouble to put up a one-of-its-kind model identification page so that Pura owners can identify their unit and get the right part.
We have a page that sells quick connect fittings and a page that sells parts for quick connect fittings. We sell parts for softeners and backwashing filters, parts for Stenner injection pumps, complete parts for Watts R12 large RO units, replacement heads for Aquatec pumps, O rings for everything, including the membrane housing O rings for a Watts R12 RO unit that Watts doesn’t even have.
In short, we have parts for most of the things we sell, and parts for some things we don’t. So if you find that the Big Bubba you got from the train wreck dealer on eBay has a cracked pressure gauge and a spring missing from the pressure release button, don’t despair. We love selling parts to people who bought their Big Bubba elsewhere.
Information About Water Contaminants
Our main website has an extensive collection of information about water contaminants with suggested treatments.
Places to visit on our websites
Thanks for reading and be sure to check out the next Occasional!