newsboyThe leading water news stories of the past year

Gazette’s Introductory Note: 2017 was an eventful year. We saw several “top water stories” lists. What follows is Water Online‘s choice for the top three water treatment stories of the year.


  1. Awareness Of PFC Contamination

Just as the country’s lead contamination crisis dominated mainstream and industry headlines alike in 2016, drinking water contamination caused by perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) was among the biggest news for the treatment community in 2017.

Lead contamination has stemmed from the presence of corroded lead service lines in much of the country’s infrastructure, while the main sources of PFC contamination appear to be firefighting foam used by the Air Force and Navy and through the manufacture of industrial products such as Teflon.

The issue found its way into consistent news coverage thanks to concerned community members in Hoosick Falls, NY. Once the red flag around the health consequences of PFC-contaminated water was raised, communities all over the country found themselves to be similarly affected. Communities in Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Washington, and elsewhere have all raised their own concerns around the issue.

While the U.S. EPA does not have any formal regulations that limit the presence of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) or perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), the two primary PFCs found in drinking water, the agency has issued a health advisory intended to guide utilities on just how dangerous they can be. The agency noted that exposure to PFOA and PFOS can result in development effects to fetuses, cancer, liver effects, immune effects, thyroid effects, and other health consequences. It sets a combined concentration of the two at 70 ppt, though the state of Michigan has proposed the much stricter limit of 5 ppt.

As the EPA balances the possibility of instituting stricter regulations on PFCs, it has launched a “cross-agency” effort to help address contamination and has become involved in some state-led investigations. Until further federal action, however, local municipalities are left to deal with the issue on their own.

  1. The Surge Of Fracking

While the practice of hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking, did not emerge in 2017, it certainly saw an uptick.

A combination of growing oil prices and encouragement from the current political climate has seen domestic fracking production increase steadily all year and some federal estimates project all-time highs for barrels produced per day in 2018. As the fracking production rises, so to do the produced water treatment technologies that can enable it.

Hydraulic fracturing works by using high-pressure water to drill through rocks and access oil deposits beneath them. The wastewater that stems from this process is highly contaminated and must be treated to at least some degree before it can be returned to source bodies. Increasingly, that treatment happens onsite, utilizing some of the latest decentralized treatment technology to have emerged. New projects launched this year leveraged solar power and cutting-edge filter technology to help fracking operations handle their wastewater. The solutions encouraged by the rise of fracking in 2017 could very well yield new technologies suited for treatment operations all over the country.

But along with the rise in fracking popularity and technology, the debate over the threat posed to source and drinking water quality intensified as well. The U.S. EPA has at times conflicted itself over its take on the safety of fracking, including a report that it kept hidden a report on potential health dangers. This year also had its fair share of reports that the practice poses no threat to drinking water safety.

With the practice poised to grow in 2018, the water quality debates it inspires will grow as well, as too will the novel treatment technology solutions it inspires.

  1. The New-Look EPA

When Donald Trump was elected president in late 2016, it took much of the country by surprise. Throughout his tenure in 2017, it became clear that surprises were just about the only thing one could rely on when it came to his administration.

Trump’s departure from nearly every policy and stance established during the Obama administration has undoubtedly made its way to the EPA. As such, it has had a profound effect on the drinking water and wastewater regulations in this country and the work of treatment utilities therein.

The new-look EPA, headed by former Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, can be summed up as one that is attempting to clear regulatory red tape for the nation’s businesses, which generally prefer fewer restrictions on their environmental practices. While this means that it is easier for treatment operations to adhere to their regulatory requirements, it can also pose challenges for keeping drinking water and source water safe.

For instance, the agency has been working hard to undo the Obama era establishment of the Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule, which sought to clarify which source waters fall under federal jurisdiction. Trump has issued an executive order looking to rescind and replace the Clean Water Rule, which contains WOTUS.

The EPA has also been cutting back on staff, scientists, and budget, all in an attempt to reshape the agency to be less inefficient and to clear the way for progressive industrial practices.

It’s anyone’s guess what the Trump administration has in store for 2018, but it’s clear that the new direction of the EPA will continue to have effect on the country’s treatment operations.


Water and the Human Brain

Posted January 18th, 2018

Water is Essential to a Healthy Brain

As a whole, the human brain is composed of roughly 73% water. Most of the brain is made up of two kinds of tissue: gray matter and (myelinated) white matter. The gray matter is about 80% water, while the lipid-rich white matter has about 70% water content. Also, on average, the water content of a female brain’s gray matter is 1.2% higher than that of its male counterpart. Your brain’s high water content is among the many reasons it’s essential to drink enough water each day, and part of the reason dehydration impairs your focus, memory and mood.

Salt Increase in US Rivers

Posted January 13th, 2018

US rivers need a diet of lower salt—or our drinking water will suffer

Researchers find an increase in salts and pH in nation’s waterways, putting aquatic organisms and drinking water at risk


As an Arctic blast of cold sweeps through most of the U.S., many of us see the salt trucks working hard to keep us safe—however, this generous spreading on the roads is part of a much larger problem in our water.

Roughly 37 percent of the drainage area—the land where precipitation falls off into creeks, streams, rivers, lakes—in the lower 48 states suffers from excess salts. But that’s just half the story: about 90 percent of these same drainage areas also have increased pH, which means they’re becoming more alkaline, according to a new study published  in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

These two trends can spell trouble for wildlife, drinking water pipes, and, ultimately, our health.

We’re seeing a “change in the composition of salts,” said lead author, Sujay Kaushal, a researcher and professor of geology at University of Maryland. Different salts affect the pH of water in distinct ways and there’s been an uptick in the salts that make water more alkaline, a phenomenon Kaushal and colleagues dubbed “freshwater salinization syndrome.”

It’s the first study to tease out a link between increasing salinity and pH in our waters.

They examined U.S. Geological Survey data over the past 50 years. They didn’t just look at sodium chloride, which is what we put on fries, but a whole host of different sodium ions. These “cocktails” of salts can be more toxic than just one salt, Kaushal said.

Salt content and pH are “fundamental aspects of water chemistry, so these are major changes to the properties of freshwater,” said co-author, Gene Likens, president emeritus of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies and a professor at the University of Connecticut.

There is the usual culprit of those road salt spreaders, but certain building materials—such as asphalt and gypsum—also contribute salts to waterways, Kaushal said.

“And there’s a cascading affect,” he said, “adding salts to the environment accelerates the release of more salts” that are within building materials and trapped in soils.

Elevated salinity and pH is a double-whammy: both can kill aquatic organisms. High salinity can trigger the release of toxic metals, carbon, nitrogen and phosphorous from nearby soils into streams.

Elevated pH and too much salt in water can also put our drinking water infrastructure at risk—making water more corrosive to surrounding pipes and allowing metals to leach into drinking water (such as what happened in Flint). Salts also can coat the linings of pipes, Kaushal said, and, if they build up, can constrict the flow of water.

High salt in water can spur high blood pressure in people on sodium-restricted diets.

“Given increasing impacts on ecosystems and human welfare, increased salinization and alkalinization of freshwater is now a pervasive water quality issue,” the authors wrote.

Some of the nation’s biggest rivers—including the Mississippi, Hudson, Potomac, Neuse and Chattahoochee rivers—had the most dramatic changes in salts and pH. The researchers point out that many of these rivers are also drinking water sources.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency does not regulate salts as drinking water contaminants.

Kaushal said there are some solutions, such as more discriminate, accurate spreading of fertilizers and road salts, or, for road salt, applying it as brine prior to big snows. “We have to maintain safety on our roads, but can we do this more efficiently?” he questioned, adding that some states and communities have started using organic de-icers and mixing salts with beet juice and sugars.

One way to prevent degrading building materials from releasing salts into water would be to regulate how close roads and developments are to waterways, he said.

Source: Environmental Health News.

Pure Water Gazette Fair Use Statement

 Does TAC (Template Assisted Crystallization) treatment make soap work better?

by Emily McBroom and Gene Franks

One of the much touted virtues of conventional water softeners is that they make soap lather better. Many a softener has been sold using in-home sales demos that fill the homeowner’s heart with visions sudsy showers, silky-soft laundry, and  big bags of money saved on soap purchases.


With the salt-free TAC units, the emphasis is usually on more mundane items like scale-free pipes and water heaters than on silky hair and spot-free dishes. We sell TAC units only with the promise that they will prevent scale buildup in pipes and appliances.  As for soap performance, we always say we don’t know.  Some customers have told us that soap does, in fact, lather better with TAC and some aren’t sure.


To settle this weighty question once and for all, we decided to do a quick test.


One of the conventional tests that home-demo sellers have used to impress prospective customers is the simple soap demo.  It is done with a dropper bottle of tincture of green soap and a small test bottle. You put some water in the test bottle, add a drop a soap, give it a shake, and see how much suds appear in the bottle. The result is predictable: The hard water sample is suds-free and the soft water sample is topped off with a big frothy head of suds.


Here’s what our test looked like when we tested untreated tap water, water softened with a conventional softener, and water treated with a small TAC unit that we made for the test.


1. Denton municipal tap water.  Mildly hard: 6 grains per gallon (Hach titration test).  Soap test result: almost suds free.




2. Denton municipal tap water processed by our office water softener: Hardness = 0 grains per gallon (Hach titration test).

The result: lots of lasting suds.


3. Finally, we tested tap water treated with a small TAC unit made with Watts Scalenet (OneFlow) media, 1/4 liter in a 9.75″ X 2.5″ filter cartridge in a standard sized housing.  The cartridge was rinsed for 5 minute rinse at 0.5 gpm, then tested.  The result:

Hardness = 6 grains per gallon (standard Hach titration test). This is as expected. TAC units do not remove calcium and magnesium, which is what is being tested with a conventional hardness test.

Tested with the soap test: medium suds.



So that proves it. TAC improves soap performance.  Although this is not a peer-reviewed, double blind test, and as far as we know no one has tried to verify the results, we’re satisfied that TAC-treated water makes soap lather a little bit better than tap water. (“Little bit” is a technical term that we use in testing to indicate an amount somewhere between “just a tiny bit” and  “a whole lot.”)

Fleck’s new 5810 control valve now ready for internet sales


Pentair’s recent release of its internet policy covering the newest Fleck control valves, the 5810 and 5812, clears the way for us to offer filters and softeners made with these valves on our website.

Although we won’t have 5810 or 5812 products on the site for awhile, and filter or softeners now sold with a Fleck 5600 or Fleck 2510 can now be ordered by phone with the new Fleck 5810.

The versatile 5810 will work on any standard residential filters and softeners on our website, and unit prices are essentially the same as units with Fleck 5600 SXT control.

More Information from Pentair.


2.5″ = 2.75″


The standard sized residential mineral tanks up to 13″ in diameter have a threaded top hole for the control head that is 2.5″ in diameter.  At least, that’s the official size.  Filter and softener owners planning to replace a control head sometimes measure the hole and are dismayed to find that they have a non-standard tank because the inside diameter of the threaded hole measures 2 3/4 inches rather than 2 1/2 inches.  Actually, all is well.

This is not uncommon with pipe thread sizes. There is a theoretical size and an actual size. Likewise, a 1/4″ pipe size pipe fitting fits a hole that measures quite a bit larger than 1/4″.


The moral: when buying fittings or replacing filter controls, go by the theoretical size rather than the actual.


Lake Champlain’s creatures feed on diet of plastic ‘microtrash’

by Mike Polhamus


A ruler marked in millimeter increments shows the size of these “nurdles,” tiny and relatively uniform but unidentified pieces of gray rubber found throughout Lake Champlain.

Plastic fibers, apparently from people’s clothing, are accumulating in Lake Champlain fish, plankton and birds, according to a SUNY Plattsburgh professor who is researching “micro” trash ingested by the lake’s aquatic organisms.

The fibers are suspected of introducing harmful substances like heavy metals and hydrocarbons — with which they bond readily — into creatures that ingest them, said Danielle Garneau, who teaches at the university’s Center for Earth and Environmental Science.

Garneau said she and other researchers found accumulations of the fibers in the innards of 14 species of Lake Champlain fish, as well as in zooplankton and cormorants from the lake.

The researchers also found flowing into the lake significant quantities of other tiny plastic particles that pass through Vermont’s wastewater treatment plants, including unidentified tiny gray rubber pieces called nurdles. Garneau said the nurdles’ origin is a mystery but that they’re distributed throughout the lake.

Lake Champlain from Battery Park in Burlington.

The nurdles and many other forms of plastic microtrash found throughout Lake Champlain appear to pass through most aquatic organisms, or to otherwise become undetectable, unlike the fibers that concentrate in their guts, Garneau said.

These fibers are primarily made of polyester and rayon, suggesting that many of them originated in the performance clothing Vermonters favor for outdoor activities in the species’ habitat, Garneau said.

The fibers seem to “biomagnify” up the food chain, she said, meaning predators accumulate garbage fibers from their prey, and those fibers then end up in whatever eats those predators, and so on.

In addition to potentially introducing harmful chemicals into organisms, the fibers are believed to interfere with their digestion in larger quantities, said Rachael Miller, founder of The Rozalia Project, a Vermont water advocacy group.

Miller said people often envision milk jugs and broken portable toilets when they think of large-scale aquatic plastic trash problems such as the garbage patches in the North Atlantic and the Pacific.

But the garbage patches consist primarily of tiny pieces of plastic found in greatest concentrations at the center of vast oceanic gyres that form the marine currents driving the world’s weather patterns, Miller said.

“That’s worse news than if it were a big floating island of trash, because microplastic is a much more difficult pollution problem to deal with,” she said. A milk jug is easy enough to lift out of the ocean, she said, but it becomes much more difficult to remove after sunshine and waves break it down into millions of microscopic fragments.

The tiny fibers that Garneau and her fellow researchers are finding accumulated in Lake Champlain organisms probably came from clothes, she said.

Research suggests the fibers escape into the environment not just from wastewater from washing machines, but also from air pumped out of clothes driers, Miller said.

Wastewater treatment plants aren’t designed to remove the fibers or other particles of plastic, and so the best way to reduce their spread is to prevent them from leaving the house in the first place, Garneau said.

Miller invented a device meant to catch the fibers while they’re floating in washing machines.

Both women said there is evidence people can help by washing their clothes in ways that don’t break down fabrics. This means liquid detergent instead of powdered, soft water instead of hard, cool water instead of hot, and gentle cycle instead of heavy duty.

“Microplastics are not just a phenomenon at the center of ocean gyres,” Miller said. “We have microplastics in urban harbors and in Lake Champlain. … It’s important that people understand this is a problem right at our toes, and not just thousands of miles away.”


What an oil spill looks like

Posted November 27th, 2017


What an oil spill looks like

The Canada to Texas Keystone Pipeline spilled oil in Amherst, S.D., on  Nov. 16, raising questions of groundwater protection. TransCanada Corp., the pipeline’s owner,  has as of late November recovered 44,400 gal, the equivalent of 1,057 barrels, though an estimated 210,000 gal were released during the leak. The site of the oil spill lies only 20 miles from the Lake Traverse Reservation, the home of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate.

Currently, the pipeline stretches 2,147 miles from Hardisty, Alberta to the Texas coast. Since 2010, the pipeline has suffered three leaks in North and South Dakota. Before constructing the pipeline, TransCanada released a spill risk assessment that estimated the chance of a leak of more than 50 barrels to be no more than once every 11 years.

Tank Tip: How to Fix a Crooked, Tipping Mineral Tank


We get occasional calls about tanks for large filters or softeners that lean to the side. If your tank looks like the leaning tower of Pisa, there’s an easy way to fix it.

Before you load the tank with media and before you hook it to your plumbing,  straighten it by simply picking it up and tapping it on a solid floor to arrange the tank to sit straight in its base. The tank will move easily in its base when you tap the base against a solid surface.

The tank is not attached to its base–it’s simply sitting in it.  Sometimes tanks get out of line during shipping and an adjustment is needed.  Once you get it straight and in place, load it and install it to your plumbing.  Once fixed, it will stay put.



Pipe Sizes

Posted November 25th, 2017

The Diameter of Pipes and Plastic Tubes: Double is More Than Double


The rule of thumb in pipe sizing is twice the diameter equals four times the flow.  Two one-inch pipes do not equal a two-inch pipe. It actually takes four one-inch pipes to carry the same load as a single two-inch pipe. Therefore, if you split a two-inch pipe into two one-inch pipes, you are cutting its flow capacity in half.


People who plumb with large pipes are usually aware of this, but with smaller tubing it’s easy to overlook this basic law of nature.


With the small flexible plastic tubing used for undersink filters and reverse osmosis units it is important to know that what is called 1/4″ tubing is measured by its outside diameter.  With 1/4″ tubing, the inside diameter, the path that the water flows through is actually about 1/8″. What we call 3/8″ tubing is roughly 1/4″ inside diameter, so following the rule of thumb of pipe flow, a 3/8″ OD tube will actually carry four times the water flow as compared with the 1/4″ OD tube.  This is a very important fact to keep in mind if you’re planning to send water from your RO unit across the room to an icemaker or refrigerator. Especially if your run is long, you’ll have a much better result with 3/8″ tubing than with 1/4″.