Leonardo da Vinci’s Understanding of Watersheds

by Emily McBroom

“In rivers, the water that you touch is the last of what has passed and the first of that which comes; so with present time.” –Leonard da Vinci.

watersheds

Leonard da Vinci’s comparison of blood flowing through human arteries to the movement of water upon the Earth demonstrates his understanding of watersheds. In fact, da Vinci, along with Nicollo Machiavelli, used this knowledge of river systems to attempt a diversion of the River Arno from Pisa to Florence in the early 1500s as a military strategy. But that is another story for another time.

Da Vinci recognized that water flowed over and under the surface of the Earth in a connected, veinous pattern akin to the human anatomy. Water flows across and under an area of land to enter rivers, streams, and other water bodies to arrive at a common point. This is the description of a watershed.

 

Watersheds come in different shapes and sizes due to topography, geology, climate, and amount of development. For example, the Continental Divide in the United States determines which direction water will flow toward its most outward point. On the west side of the Rocky Mountains, the Colorado River flows toward the Pacific Ocean. On the eastern side, surface water flows toward the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean. Similar to da Vinci’s connection of the human body to water flows, our own understanding of watersheds tells us much about local water sources and quality.

 

Another way to think of a watershed is as a big bowl separated from other watersheds by ridges or elevation directing water runoff in a certain direction. Our water supply is located in one or more of those watershed bowls. The quality of the water we receive from either wells or utility companies is determined by the runoff of water within our watershed.

 

There are 78 major watersheds in the lower 48 states of the US of which the Mississippi drainage basin is the largest. It is also the third largest in the world after the Amazon in South America and the Congo in Africa. On a local scale, however, there are many smaller watersheds contained within the major ones.

 

Why do we care about watersheds?

Everything that occurs in a watershed can affect a stream, lake, or river. This can help individuals be aware of drinking water issues and treatment options. A watershed located in an area where livestock production is prominant may have a higher concentration of nitrates in the local water supply. Additionally, watersheds containing large urban areas can experience more flooding or runoff pollutants than rural areas.

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) provides an interactive map for locating your watershed.

 

Brackenridge plan to use chloramines to treat water leads to lead worries

by Madasyn Czebiniak

Editor’s Note: We’re reprinting this article from the April 29. 2017 issue of the Breckenridge (PA) Tribune-Review because it explains well the rationale of municipal water suppliers for switching from chlorine to chloramine as well as some of the consequent problems and issues resulting from the change. –Hardly Waite.

 

Pete Kristine doesn’t live in Brackenridge anymore. He grew up there, though, and visits his parents in their Nelson Avenue home just about every day.

Their house is old, as are many in Brackenridge, so Kristine believes it’s likely the house has water pipes that contain lead.

That’s one of the reasons he questions the Brackenridge Borough Water Treatment Plant’s decision to switch from chlorine to chloramines to disinfect the water it treats.

Chloramines can be more corrosive than chlorine, allowing lead in pipes to be released into the water.

Chloramines were the reason Washington, D.C., experienced “alarming” levels of lead in its drinking water between 2001 and 2004, according to reporting by The Washington Post.

According to the Post, when the Washington Aqueduct, which supplies city water, switched from chlorine to chloramines, the chloramines corroded the city’s pipes and caused lead to leach into the water supply. (more…)

Air Force thumbs its nose at new Michigan safe water law

by Garret Ellison

pfascontamination

An old fighter jet outside the Wurtsmith Air Museum on the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base grounds in Oscoda Township on Wednesday, June 1, 2016. The base closed in 1993, but dozens of township residents were advised not to drink their well water by state and local health officials this year after new residential well testing showed concerning levels of perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs), which were once used in fire-fighting foam at the base.

Editor’s Note: The article below is one of many we’ve referenced over the years detailing the US Military’s efforts to shirk its responsibility for cleaning up water pollution it has caused. The military has been notorious for playing fast and loose with environment safety and quick to abandon the messes it makes. The incident described below is one of many that have been reported recently regarding the very serious and difficult-to-remove water pollution caused by fire fighting foams.–Hardly Waite.

OSCODA, MI — The U.S. Air Force says it won’t provide safe drinking water to Oscoda residents affected by chemical pollution from the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base because a Michigan law seeking that is discriminatory.

The Air Force Civil Engineering Center coordinating Wurtsmith cleanup says the service branch is “not authorized” to comply with the requirements of Michigan Public Act 545 of 2016, a new state law which took effect in January.

Air Force spokesperson Mark Kinkade said the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), which created the Superfund program, only compels the U.S. government to comply with state law if it’s not discriminatory.

“The Michigan law does discriminate as it only applies to federal and state agencies, not to all entities and persons,” Kinkade said.

As result, the “Air Force is not authorized to comply with the mandates of Act 545 to provide an alternative water supply or to reimburse the state of Michigan when it provides an alternative water supply,” he said.

Public Act 545 amended Michigan’s Safe Drinking Water Act to require the state or federal government provide an “alternative water supply” to any Michigan property owner with a polluted well if state health officials issue a related drinking water advisory and the government caused the pollution.

Sen. Jim Stamas, R-Midland, sponsored the bill after military officials told him at a meeting last year that the Air Force would provide alternative water to affected properties if Michigan amended its laws to require that.

“I am extremely disappointed in the U.S. Air Force for not living up to its word and its responsibilities,” Stamas said. “The federal government needs to be held accountable for what they did, and I will be asking Attorney General Bill Schuette to pursue action to enforce the law.”

Messages left with Schuette’s staff late Friday were not immediately returned.

The Air Force claims the Department of Defense prohibits it from spending money to provide safe water unless a private well tests for chemical concentrations above the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency health advisory level.

PFAS (PFCs)

In Oscoda, toxic fluorocarbons called perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), or perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) — the official scientific name is in flux — have been leaching through from the base for decades. The chemicals were in firefighting foam the military began using in the 1970s but the plumes that resulted weren’t discovered until the late 1990s.

You probably have some level in your blood already.

The nuclear B-52 bomber base closed in 1993 after the Cold War.

The chemicals are considered “emerging contaminants” because their threat to human health is worrisome but still somewhat uncertain. They have been tied in animal testing to thyroid, kidney, liver, reproductive and other health problems.

Plumes of PFAS have spread across much of Oscoda near the base, into neighborhoods with many seasonal homes not connected to municipal water, which is safe. The main focus is on perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctyl sulfonate (PFOS), the only two of 19 different PFAS plaguing the area that the EPA has established advisory levels for.

In Feb. 2016, state and local officials issued an advisory, urging homeowners with a private well near the base to seek an alternative water supply.

However, only two properties since then have tested for PFOS or PFOA at concentrations above the EPA threshold, which was formalized last May at 70 part-per-trillion (ppt). Total PFAS, however — both PFOS, PFOA and the other 17 different variations of the chemical class — has tested at 20,000 ppt in some wells and the groundwater under large parts of Oscoda south and east of the base is testing between 50 and 300 ppt.

The plumes have also moved south of the Au Sable River and east of Van Etten Creek — two waterways previously thought of as natural buffers.

Site investigators say they still don’t know the full extent of the plumes.

Meanwhile, Air Force refuses to pay for permanent safe water.

U.S. Rep Dan Kildee, D-Flint, said that even though the pollution was not caused intentionally, ultimate responsibility for the problem falls on the Air Force, which he said needs to begin acting with “more urgency.”

Kildee, whose district includes Oscoda, says its time to consider “a plan to put all these households on the municipal water system.”

“We should at least know that cost and start thinking about doing that while we do other work,” he said.

No easy solutions for PFC contamination in Oscoda.

Kildee speculated the sheer scope of the military’s PFAS problem around the world is tied to the Pentagon’s reticence to spend more in Oscoda.

More than 600 current and former U.S. military installations are now dealing with a plume problem related to the use the PFAS-laden Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF), which the military and airports around the world have used since the 1970s to quash jet fuel fires.

The Air Force may be “concerned about how big this problem might be and if they commit to a really robust response here they may have to provide the same size response everywhere,” Kildee said.

“That’s conjecture but a logical conclusion one could draw.”

Denise Bryan, health officer with the local District Health Department No. 2, said many Oscoda residents feels victimized and exasperated with the Air Force.

Health risks associated with the chemicals are either unknown or have troubling consequences, yet “no money has come forward for the residents,” she said.

“We have a government agency saying this is their fault but they aren’t going to pay anything to fix it,” she said. “That’s the dichotomy.”

Bryan has helped organize the fourth in a periodic series of town hall meetings about the pollution, happening Tuesday, April 25 at Oscoda Methodist Church. Representatives will attend from the Air Force, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and Department of Health & Human Services.

An open house is 2 to 4 p.m. and the meeting is 6 to 8 pm.

Providing updates — including progress toward reestablishing a local Restoration Advisory Board to coordinate cleanup efforts with Oscoda Township officials — is the main purpose, but Bryan thinks the meeting serves another one.

“It’s easy to say ‘no’ over the telephone, but when you get everyone affected in the room, then the Air Force has to look them in the face and tell them ‘no.'”

Source: Mlive.com.

Pure Water Gazette Fair Use Statement

 

How Changing Marijuana Laws May Affect California’s Water and Wildlife

Northern California has become the center of the state’s cannabis-growing industry, with inevitable environmental consequences. Will legalization and new regulations ease its impact or make the situation worse?

Gazette’s Introductory Note: After decades, we seem to be catching on finally that marijuana, the plant, is no big threat to humans, although the short-sighted efforts to make criminals of those who use and sell it have been devastating. Now that the days of “reefer madness” seem to be drawing to a close and state after state is making it legal to grow and use the plant, other concerns about marijuana are appearing.

IN NOVEMBER 2016, California legalized recreational marijuana. The decision, supported by 56 percent of the state’s voters, allows marijuana to be shared, traded, grown at home and smoked without a medical reason. Using it medically has been legal for 20 years.

Though complex and strict regulations still apply to growing, selling and buying marijuana, things will probably simplify over the next year. The heart of the state’s industry has long been in the north coast region known informally as the emerald triangle. Most growers – thousands of them in the heavily wooded counties of Humboldt, Trinity and Mendocino – currently operate illegally. However, many are now lining up at county offices to apply for cannabis production permits, and conservationists, growers and scientists are asking how the new era of pot production will affect the environment.

It may have positive effects. For instance, a grower seeking a commercial production permit must install a water storage system that can be filled in the wet winter season. Such a system would allow growers to keep plantations lush and green all summer without drawing water from creeks, which can easily be pumped dry during California’s hot and mostly rainless summers.

Mikal Jakubal, a Humboldt County resident who has grown marijuana for years at his residence alongside a tributary of the Eel River called Redwood Creek, believes cannabis can be grown sustainably, by capturing and storing water in the winter and minimizing the erosion from earth-moving activities such as building roads and clearing land to plant. Sediment that washes into creeks can smother the gravel beds where adult salmon and trout spawn, killing the unborn fish.

But Jakubal suspects many growers who apply for permits might make the required improvements only temporarily, reverting to less sustainable – and illegal – activities once they are on the books as legal growers.

“There is minimal ability to enforce standards beyond the initial inspection,” he says. “That’s just the reality. If you have hundreds or thousands of growers, all up dirt roads behind locked gates, and [authorities] have to give them advance notice of any site visit, it’ll be super easy to save your stored water, pump out of the creek all summer and then keep your tanks as back-up.”

Scott Bauer, a senior environmental scientist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, promises his department will be on close watch.

“The paperwork of getting permits is not just a formality,” he says. “You have to abide by it and we’re going to be checking on people. Someone who doesn’t follow the rules could lose their permit and would have to start over.”

Humboldt County’s planning and building department has received more than 2,300 applications for new growing permits since the November election. Already, the forests of the county may support somewhere between 8,000 and 10,000 pot growers, according to rough estimates.

The stress on the environment generated by cannabis farming has long been discussed by media and scientists, and while it is generally agreed that pot growing isn’t helping water resources or fish, no one is certain how harmful the industry actually is.

“It’s really important that the state regulates the industry, but it’s also important not to take our eye off the ball,” says Van Butsic, a researcher with University of California, Berkeley’s Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management. “The north coast’s salmon were mostly gone long before cannabis got here, and you’re not going to get them back by regulating it.”

Other impacts must be mitigated, too, he says; logging, dams, riverside development and large-scale public water diversions have all had great impacts on salmon runs.

Still, there is no doubt pot growing is having an impact on what remains of the region’s salmon runs. Bauer says he has seen streams that should have had water in them but had been emptied by just one grower’s irrigation line.

“A lot of these growers are diverting straight from the headwaters of small creeks that are the beginnings of our larger rivers, and we’ve seen them pumping these little streams dry,” he says. “Sometimes it’s one grower doing it, other times it’s 10 of them along a whole stream.”

Scott Greacen, executive director of Friends of the Eel River, is convinced new pot-growing operations, legal or not, will worsen conditions for fish in places.

“How many regulated operators can you have along Redwood Creek and still have coho salmon in it?” says Greacen, referring to the Eel’s south fork tributary alongside which Jakubal, for one, grows his marijuana

California is the fifth state to legalize recreational pot, and it was the first state to legalize medical marijuana in 1996. Most growers in California operate at small production levels, often on rural mountain homesteads, and often using organic growing methods.

But Greacen discounts popular notions that pot is a low-impact crop. “All the talk about how this is a sustainable industry – it just doesn’t add up,” he says.

Butsic coauthored a paper published in 2016 in Environmental Research Letters in which he concluded that the legal marijuana industry poses a considerable potential threat to Chinook salmon and steelhead in the emerald triangle region.

Greacen says many northern California populations of coho and Chinook salmon and steelhead trout were barely clinging to existence in the years leading up to the drought, and the recent surge in marijuana growing activity has wiped them out. “This is what the process of extinction looks like. It’s really scary.”

Jakubal argues that the marijuana industry’s environmental problems are ultimately the result of economics – not necessarily anything fundamentally unsustainable about the crop. In the interest of healthy waterways, he says, pot must become cheap through widespread production and, probably, federal legalization.

“As long as it’s profitable, greedy people will do whatever it takes to make that money,” he says.

Butsic reckons the jury is still out on just how harmful the marijuana industry is to the environment – an area of research he says he is closely studying. But Greacen feels more certain that fish and pot cannot coexist under current circumstances.

“Maybe making Humboldt County the epicenter of legal weed isn’t the best idea if we also want to have salmon in our rivers,” he says.

Source: WaterDeeply.com

How about a bath instead of a workout?

There could be more benefits than relaxation and clean skin.

maninbathtub

 According to a recent U.K. university study, “An hour-long hot bath can boost metabolic health and cause an anti-inflammatory response similar to exercise.”

It was a small study with surprising results: Ten sedentary men, attached to glucose monitors (which recorded changes in their blood sugar for 24 hours) bathed in 104-degree water one day. The next day, they cycled hard enough to bring their body temperature up by about a degree, which is what also happens in a hot bath.

The bathers burned an extra 126 calories per hour (equivalent to a 25-30 minute walk). That was still less than the energy used for cycling the same amount of time, but was an 80 percent increase in energy expended over not bathing.

In addition, participants who bathed had, on average, 10 percent lower peak glucose levels — a boon for diabetics, but also good for the metabolic health of those who don’t have the disease. The finding was unexpected, according to the lead author of the study: “We think the reason is that the bath may encourage the release of heat shock proteins, which may help lower blood sugar levels by improving insulin controlled glucose uptake.”

In many cultures and throughout many centuries, hot bath (or saunas and steam sessions) have long been praised as important for overall wellness. Now scientists are starting to understand the underlying reasons for the health benefits of bathing, which might be regarded as a passive workout. Clearly, there are many benefits from physical activity that you don’t get from bathing, so soaking in a tub should not be regarded as a substitute for exercise, but it can be a healthful addition to your daily activities.

Source Reference: Mother Nature Network. Adapted from an article by Starre Vartan.

Vitabath tablets use plain old vitamin C to remove chlorine and chloramine from bath water and can increase the health benefits and enjoyment of a bath.

 

How bad is pharmaceutical pollution in the Hudson?

“There is a big universe of chemicals that we just don’t know what their impact is.”–Dan Shapley, water quality director of the Hudson Riverkeeper advocacy group.

 

treatmentplant

Treatment plants like the one run by the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission are unable to filter pharmaceuticals from human waste.

Scientists are taking samples of the Hudson River this month in an ambitious plan to measure how much pharmaceutical pollution gets washed into the waterway during heavy rains and to pinpoint its source.

Anti-depressants, blood pressure medicine, decongestants and other medicines have already been detected in the Hudson in preliminary samples. The latest round of testing is a larger sweep of the river, including the portion that passes by New Jersey, at a time of the year when pollution overall is washing into the Hudson at a greater rate due to runoff and sewage overflows.

Residue from medicine has made its way into rivers, streams and sources of drinking water for decades, but scientists have only begun identifying it recent years as testing has improved.

Little is known about their health effects on humans, but pharmaceuticals have had a major impact on wildlife. The Hudson study comes on the heels of a federal report that showed male fish in New Jersey’s Wallkill River — a tributary of the Hudson — were developing female reproductive characteristics, mostly likely due to hormone-based drugs that made their way into the water.

 

“There is a big universe of chemicals that we just don’t know what their impact is,” said Dan Shapley, water quality director of the Hudson Riverkeeper advocacy group. “It took years for us to understand that greenhouse gases change the Earth’s temperature, that nutrients added to water devastates coral reefs. We’re just starting to look at what pharmaceuticals can do.”

Most pharmaceutical pollution is believed to come from human waste, everyday medication that passes through a person unabsorbed. It also comes from people improperly disposing of their old medication in a toilet. Sewage plants are not capable of filtering pharmaceuticals before treated waste is released back into waterways. Other sources of pharmaceutical pollution include street or farm runoff containing animal waste.

The study — by Riverkeeper, Columbia University, Cornell University, CUNY and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency — is a continuation of work that began in 2015 to target pharmaceuticals, industrial runoff and other pollution in more than 200 miles of the river from New York Harbor to the George Washington Bridge to Albany.

Water samples taken two years ago found 83 of 117 targeted chemicals in the Hudson, ranging from the anti-depressants to blood pressure medication to the insect repellent DEET.

Researchers hope the latest work will allow them to pinpoint the sources of pollution. And they expect to find much more with samples taken last week, since untreated sewage was entering the Hudson due to heavy rain. Plus the study has expanded to south of the Tappan Zee Bridge, where the Hudson hits New Jersey.

The problem is not limited to the Hudson. Scientists across the globe have found fish, birds, otters and other mammals with significant amounts of over-the-counter and prescription drugs absorbed into their organs.

That was seen in North Jersey two years ago when a study by the U.S. Geological Survey found that male fish in two of North Jersey’s most protected areas — the Wallkill River in Sussex County and the Great Swamp in Morris County — had developed female sexual characteristics. The findings alarmed clean-water advocates, who say the problem may be more widespread, considering that most fish in North Jersey swim in waters that are even more likely to be tainted.

More than 100,000 people in upstate New York get their drinking water from the Hudson, Shapley said. Since no New Jersey community gets water from the Hudson, the most likely human exposure to pharmaceuticals is from eating fish.

New Jersey officials advise against eating more than a minimal amount of fish caught from the Hudson because of decades of industrial and sewage contamination. But anglers, many of them new immigrants, can be found along the riverfront casting their lines from Bayonne to Alpine, especially in warmer months.

Unlike the voluminous data on the health effects of bacteria and other pathogens in the region’s water, the science on pharmaceuticals is in its infancy.

“It’s a human fingerprint that’s more unique, because we haven’t been studying it for decades as we have with other pollution,” said Gregory O’Mullan, an environmental microbiologist at Queens College in New York.

Researchers hope the study will also help pinpoint the origin of the pollution. By measuring pharmaceuticals, scientists will be able to differentiate whether the pollution came from animals, untreated human sewage or a sewage treatment plant.

Animal waste remains a huge problem for rivers and streams, whether it’s from farms or, more likely in the case of New Jersey, from street runoff pushing animal feces into waterways.

“Having that information on the source is going to be very helpful when you speak to managers about how to fix the problem,” O’Mullan said.

His work is funded partially by $15,000 from the New York Sea Grant, which is slated to be cut under President Donald Trump’s proposed budget.

Dozens of New Jersey police departments accept old medication for proper disposal. For a complete list, visit www.njconsumeraffairs.gov/meddrop/Pages/Locations.aspx

Most frequently detected pharmaceuticals found so far in the Hudson River: 

Venlafaxine: 24 (anti-depressant)

Atenolol: 24 (beta blocker)

Lidocaine: 23 (local anesthetic)

Metoprolol: 23 (beta blocker) 

Trimethoprim: 19 (antibiotic) 

Pseudoephedrine:16 (decongestant) 

Valsartan: 16 (blood pressure) 

Theophylline: 14 (respiratory drug) 

Source: New York State Water Resources Institute of Cornell University 

Source: NorthJersey.com.

 

How Water Is Treated for Use in Homes

If you live in a city  . . .

your water comes to you in pipes from a municipal water supplier who gets water from lakes and rivers and sometimes wells, treats it a bit to make it clear, odor-free, germ-free, non-corrosive, and generally palatable, then pumps it through a maze of pipes to your home.

As part of its treatment, the city water plant adds chlorine or a mixture of chlorine and ammonia called chloramine to the water to kill pathogens. The treatment plant also adds other chemicals to clarify the water and prevent corrosion in pipes.  Some cities also add an industrial waste product called fluoride which is believed to prevent tooth decay.

Between the city water plant and the home lie miles of pipe, some of it very old,  made of a variety of materials and in varying states of repair.  The water is affected a lot by pipe materials and by contaminants that can enter the water if the pipe leaks or is broken. The water that leaves the treatment plant is not the same water that enters the home. A lot of things happen to it along the way.

Most city water plants do a praiseworthy job of taking some pretty dirty raw water from a lake or river, getting the mud and sticks out of it and turning it into water that looks clear, tastes good, and won’t cause a cholera epidemic. They supply galvanizedpipewater that is of really high quality for hosing down driveways and flushing toilets. People who have watched a plumber cut open a pipe entering their home, however, usually don’t feel good about drinking their tap water anymore, or even bathing in it.

This very decent water delivered by the city can be made excellent in the home, which is, after all, where the fine polishing of water should take place. Home treatment makes much more sense than trying to supply top quality drinking water for flushing toilets and mopping floors.

Point of entry treatment for city water most often consists of cartridge or tank-style activated carbon filters to remove disinfectants (chlorine or chloramine).  If the water is “hard” (meaning that it has lots of calcium and magnesium in it), it can be treated with a conventional water softener or one of the several newer “salt-free” alternatives. Treatment for hardness is mainly done to protect pipes and fixtures and to make water more aesthetically pleasing.  Adding a point-of-entry ultraviolet (UV) unit to assure bacteria-free, cyst-free water for the whole home is becoming more popular, especially in light of the increasing number of “boil water” alerts.

For point-of-use treatment for the water that you’re going to drink, cook with, or make ice with,  a variety of countertop and under-the-sink systems are available, from simple, very tight carbon filters that improve taste and odor and remove chemicals to the more comprehensive treatment, reverse osmosis. The real king of point of use drinking water systems is reverse osmosis.  A good undersink reverse osmosis unit can provide top quality drinking water for a moderate cost.  RO, as it’s called, removes virtually anything one would want removed from water, including the more difficult contaminants like arsenic, lead, chromium 6, fluoride, chloramines, trihalomethanes, and a wide range of pesticides, herbicides, “pharmaceuticals,” and so-called “emerging contaminants.”

If you live outside the city  . . .

your water usually comes  to you from a well on your own property. A well is essentially a hole in the ground with a pipe through which water in an underground pool is sucked up to the surface. It’s like drinking from a glass with a drinking straw. Also,  many non-city dwellers pull their water through pipes directly from a pond or stream and treat it themselves.

If you have a well or draw water from a lake or river, you are your own water treatment superintendent, so you need to pay attention to what you’re about. The first thing you should do is get a good, comprehensive water test. This will cost you a couple of hundred dollars, but it will pay for itself easily in what you’ll save by not purchasing unnecessary or inappropriate equipment. If the test shows that your water  is perfect, the peace of mind you gain will pay for the test.

The reason the well test is needed is that you don’t have the benefit of the testing that’s done for you with city water. If there’s arsenic in the city’s water source, the city is obligated to take care of it and to tell you about it. If there’s arsenic in your well, the only way you’ll know is by having a good test done.

With private water sources there is a much greater chance that extreme treatment will be needed. Here are some of the common issues with well, river and pond water, along with some of the ways they can be corrected.

Bacteria — pathogens like E. coli can be controlled by chlorination or ultraviolet treatment.

Iron and manganese— treated with iron filters that often require pre-treatment with aeration or chlorine. Small amounts of iron and manganese can also be treated with a water softener.

Hydrogen Sulfide (rotten egg odor) — treated by chlorination or aeration followed by filtration.

Arsenic, Chromium — reverse osmosis for drinking water. (Frequently left untreated for point of entry.)

Pesticide, Herbicide, general chemical contamination –Carbon filtration.

Tannins (tea colored water) Ion exchange and carbon filtration.

Sand, Sediment — Backwashing or cartridge style sediment filters.

Dissolved Solids (high mineral content) — Reverse osmosis.

ro4stage

Whether your water comes from a city, a lake, or your own well, an undersink reverse osmosis unit is your most complete drinking water option.

Lakes Are Getting Saltier


Posted April 10th, 2017

Lakes are getting dangerously salty, and it’s our fault

by Mary Beth Griggs

Salt. You might be happy to have it in your pasta water and your oceans, but in your friendly neighborhood freshwater lake, it’s an unwelcome intruder.

Unfortunately, salt is butting into lakes more and more frequently as humans move closer and closer to lakes, pouring increasing amounts of salt on the roads in the winter. In a study published Monday in PNAS, researchers looked at 371 lakes scattered across the northern United States and southern Canada from Minnesota and Michigan to Maine and Ontario, an area known as the North American Lakes Region.

The researchers scoured public records to find relatively large lakes (covering about 10 acres) with 10 years worth of data about the water body’s chloride levels. Then they looked at the area surrounding the lake to see how many roads were nearby. If even one percent of the land surface within a buffer zone extending 1,640 feet from the lakeshore was paved, then the lake was extremely likely to have rising salinity levels.

“Lakes are really good at showing long term environmental change,” says lead study author Hilary Dugan. Unlike rivers, which tend to show salt contamination in steep spikes, lakes show a steady change over time.

Many kinds of salt used on roads are chemically similar to table salt—NaCL—or sodium chloride. The presence of salt messes with water’s ability to freeze into a slippery, icy layer on the roads in winter. But when the weather warms, all that salt gets washed off the impervious road surfaces, sidewalks, and parking lots. It ends up accumulating in the soil, and eventually getting washed out by rain and snowmelt into surface waters like lakes and streams as sodium and chloride components.

Just like having too much salt is bad for you, too much chloride can be bad for the environment. It can kill off plants, and make waters less hospitable for native plants and algae.

Salt becomes noticeable in drinking water at about 300 milligrams per liter, or one teaspoon of salt in five gallons of water, says Dugan. That’s when you start tasting the difference, and it’s around that concentration that salt starts to put stress on freshwater plants and animals, which have adapted to live in extremely fresh water.

Road salt impacts the environment in other ways as well. While on the road, it can attract salt-loving animals like deer, increasing the possibility of both roadkill and traffic accidents.

Chloride can also make water more corrosive. In Flint, Michigan, researchers found that the chloride from road salt made the water in the Flint River so corrosive that when the city switched water sources, the water ate away at the lead pipes, creating the ongoing water crisis.

But there is still hope.

“The good news is that we can always improve water quality,” Dugan says. Unlike phosphorus or other pollutants that can lurk in sediments in a lakebed for long periods of time, chlorides stay in the water column, and can gradually be flushed out of a lake as new water enters the lake. “If you improve the water going into a lake you have the potential to freshen the lake,” Dugan says.

Daunted by the rising price of salt, governments have already started to adopt more conservative salt-use measures, only using the amount necessary to ensure public safety. But homeowners can help cut back too. A single 12 oz coffee cup is all you need to salt a 20-foot length of driveway. Dugan also recommends only salting at temperatures that you know will be effective. Below 15 degrees Fahrenheit, dry salt on a surface is useless, and won’t prevent ice from forming.

Dugan says that while this is the largest study of its kind—analyzing salinity levels in lakes across a broad region—there are still plenty of questions to answer, including what happens over time as conservation measures are put in place, and people start using less salt.

We started sprinkling salt on the roads back in the 1940’s and have kept at it ever since. That’s tons of salt lurking in the environment, in soils and other surfaces. Even if we start making changes to how we handle winter weather, it will take awhile to get all that salt out of our systems.

Source: Popular Science.

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Americans’ Fears About Water Pollution Hit A 16-Year High

A new poll finds Americans are more concerned about their drinking water than they are about any other environmental issue.

The U.S. population appears to be more concerned with polluted water than it has been in over a decade, just as the Trump administration is rolling back water protections.

According to a new Gallup poll, 63 percent of respondents said they worried “a great deal” about pollution of drinking water, while 57 percent of overall respondents also said they were concerned about pollution of rivers, lakes and reservoirs.

The percentage of respondents with water concerns is at its highest level recorded in Gallup’s annual environmental poll since 2001. That number also surpasses the percentage of respondents who are concerned with the four other environmental issues included in the poll — air pollution, climate change, the loss of tropical rainforests and the extinction of plant and animal species.

The pollsters say respondents’ water pollution concerns are likely linked to the high-profile drinking water crisis in Flint, Michigan, which has elevated an issue that is often out of sight and out of mind.

It appears that is particularly the case for lower-income and minority Americans who live in communities like Flint.

The poll found that lower-income respondents were far more concerned with water pollution than more affluent ones. The same was true for non-white respondents, 80 percent of whom said they were concerned with water pollution, compared to just 56 percent of white respondents.

These findings did not come as a surprise to water experts.

Nneka Leiba, deputy director of research at the Environmental Working Group, said the situation in Flint is just one example of a water quality concern likely weighing on Americans’ minds. A report released last year found that 5.2 million Americans’ drinking water supplies are tainted with cancer-linked synthetic chemicals.

“People who may have been complacent about water quality in the past have realized that there should not be complacency, that there is an issue and we should take it seriously,” Leiba told The Huffington Post. “The reality is setting in because real examples are happening.”

Though some of these examples have been many years in the making, the poll’s findings take on heightened meaning at a time when the Trump administration is pushing to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency’s “waters of the U.S.” Clean Water Rule and slash the EPA’s budget significantly ― actions that could impair the agency’s ability to effectively intervene in future crises.

Michael Kelly, spokesman for Clean Water Action, a national advocacy group, said the heightened concerns amid these proposed cuts to the EPA were “not a coincidence.”

“I think people are seeing the assault that is coming from the Trump administration and Congress and it focuses them,” Kelly said. “People know we can’t do much if we don’t have access to clean water, so when they see those things being put at risk, they’ll tell pollsters they’re concerned.”

Advocates are confident these concerns won’t be dissipating anytime soon, even in light of positive developments in Flint.

Last week, on the heels of news that the EPA will award $100 million to the city, Flint and the state of Michigan agreed to a plan to replace the city’s lead water lines by 2020.

At the same time, other cuts President Donald Trump has proposed for water initiatives have raised serious concerns among environmental and public health groups.

Among those cuts is the proposed elimination of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s $498 million water and wastewater loan and grant program, which helps struggling rural water utilities fix their infrastructure systems. Cutting the program, advocates fear, could devastate small towns that are already struggling to consistently deliver safe drinking water to their residents.

Peter Gleick, co-founder of the Pacific Institute think tank, which studies water policies, believes these kinds of cuts will “massively weaken rather than strengthen” federal water protection efforts — and that won’t go unnoticed by voters.

“We know from history that the more these issues are ignored by or actively worsened by politicians, the more the public cares and acts,” Gleick said. “Politicians who ignore growing threats to our tap water do so at their own risk.”

 Source: Huffington Post.

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Mercury Levels in Great Lakes Fish Is on the Rise

fish

The amount of mercury found in fish tissues has dropped steadily over decades since the 1970s. That corresponded with the reduction of pollution coming from Midwestern smokestacks as regulations tightened, pollution prevention technology improved, and coal-fired factories and power plants went offline.

But over the last several years, that started changing. Scientists are finding mercury levels rising in large Great Lakes fish such as walleye and lake trout. Curiously, it’s occurring with fish in some locations but not others. Researchers are still trying to figure out why.
The mercury levels are not surpassing U.S. Environmental Protection Agency thresholds. But researchers want to determine if what they are seeing is a temporary trend or a trajectory that’s only going to worsen.
Mercury is a heavy, silvery metal, unusual in that it’s liquid at room temperature. It’s naturally occurring, but is rare to find uncombined with other elements. It is toxic to humans and animals — and unlike many other toxins, mercury remains in the environment for very long periods of time, moving up the food chain and compounding inside animals that ingest it. The EPA has found that mercury in water has the potential to cause kidney damage from short-term exposures at levels above the maximum contaminant level of just 0.002 parts per million. Mercury can inhibit brain development in fetuses and children, and harm immune systems and adult heart function.

Many types of mercury in the environment tend to pass through fish when ingested. But a type known as methylmercury tends to be absorbed into fish tissues. As small fish eat contaminated insects, and medium-sized fish eat the smaller fish, and large game fish eat the medium fish, those mercury concentrations get magnified exponentially, a process known as bioaccumulation.

Although reasons for the gradual but steady increase in mercury in Great Lakes fish are unclear, the leading theory ties the increase to gradually warming water temperatures. Also climate change has resulted in a lot of flooding which causes re-suspension of sediments. What was buried can become exposed, increasing the availability of mercury in lake water. Invasive species such as the zebra and quagga mussel population which change the diet of lake fish are also suspected as a cause of rising mercury levels.

The need for continued close monitoring of mercury levels in the lakes is critical, and this comes at a bad time in light of  President Trump’s 2017 budget proposal that calls for elimination of virtually all Great Lakes restoration funds.

Excerpted from USA Today.

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