1,4-Dioxane


Posted November 10th, 2019

 

Residential Water Treatment for 1,4-Dioxane

by Gene Franks

dioxaneskull02

As with many contaminants, most of the research done on 1,4-dioxane treatment is focused on large applications like wastewater treatment plants and municipal water suppliers.  Often, methods that prove effective for large operations are impossible to apply to residential treatment. In the case of dioxane, advanced oxidation processes involving hydrogen peroxide with ultraviolet (UV) light or ozone and anion exchange with specialty resins are used with some success to treat 1,4-dioxane. These large-scale methods are not practical for residential users.

Information about 1,4-dioxane as a residential contaminant and how to treat it is scarce and inconsistent.  For residential treatment the old standby products carbon filtration and reverse osmosis seem to be the best things available, although very little actual testing seems to have been done to establish their effectiveness.

One North Carolina State University researcher says, “Most in-home water filters, including activated carbon filters, don’t remove 1,4-dioxane effectively. Reverse osmosis filters are better, removing a significant portion of the chemical from tap water, but still fall short.”  Not exactly helpful if you’re designing a home treatment strategy, but typical of the information available. One leading internet vendor recommends whole house reverse osmosis at $10,000. Between the lines reading of the not-very-helpful advice on residential treatment indicates that filter carbon works, but not as well as one would hope, that it works best if there is long contact time (large filters and reduced flow rates), and that nutshell carbon seems to work better than coal-based. As for reverse osmosis, everyone agrees that it is effective but no one has established any hard information about rejection percentages.

To plan residential treatment for any contaminant, one needs to consider first  how the contaminant is taken in by humans. In this area, too, there is a disturbing lack of information and a lot of contradictory information about dioxane. Water contaminants can be ingested by drinking contaminated water, or breathed in as a vapor or taken in through the skin. Showering is a common hazard since the contaminant can be taken in through the skin or breathed in if it vaporizes.  Arsenic, to illustrate,  does not evaporate into the air and is not easily absorbed through the skin, so there is little need for “whole house” treatment. Chlorine, conversely, vaporizes easily in the shower and also penetrates the skin, so whole house chlorine treatment is important.

Information about dermal and inhalation exposure to dioxane varies so much that it is essentially useless. The consensus is that it evaporates so quickly that dermal uptake is minimal; but this, of course, makes it more likely that it is breathed in during showering. To complicate the issue, because so many bath products are possible sources of the chemical, it is hard to know how much exposure is avoided by treating the water itself. It certainly makes no sense to install an elaborate and expensive system to remove 1.4-dioxane from the water you shower with and then use a shampoo that contains the contaminant.
Treatment

Our recommendation for residential 1,4-dioxane protection is the same as for contaminants like fluoride, arsenic, and chromium. Install a high quality reverse osmosis unit that has at last two carbon stages for drinking water. An undersink  RO unit should be a standard feature in all homes.  For the whole house, carbon filtration, either as carbon block cartridge filters or a tank-style backwashing filter, provides broad protection against most contaminants.

dioxanewastedrums

Leaking underground storage tanks at hazardous waste sites and from discharges from manufacturing plants are important sources of 1,4-dioxane water contamination. Other significant sources of exposure to the chemical include personal care products like shampoos, deodorants and lotions as well as laundry products and household cleaning products. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Whole House” Reverse Osmosis for Less than $2500

 

The usual operating setup for “whole house” reverse osmosis is to allow the RO unit to produce water into an atmospheric (non- pressurized) storage tank and then use a pump to send the water into the home. This arrangement provides a large storage capacity for treated water (300 or 500 gallons is typical for residences). Standard whole house RO units might be capable of producing up to 1000 gallons or more per day to top off the storage tank as water is withdrawn and pumped to the home. Such setups require pretreatment for the RO unit and a shutoff system for the storage tank.

The system described on this page is a simple RO unit that uses a pressure tank which is very large version of the storage tanks used on undersink RO units. It is designed for use only in small homes — one or two people with low water use–or in other low use applications like offices, medical offices, or large homes with multiple sinks fed by the same RO unit,

This system features a ready-to-use  Axeon 300 gallon-per-day RO unit that includes pre-treatment for sediment and chemicals and has carbon post-filtration built in. It is coupled with a high capacity pressurized RO storage tank.  No RO shut-off or pressurization pump is needed. The pressurized storage tank sends water to the point of use and the RO unit turns on automatically to refill the tank.
lt30020

The classy Axeon L1-300 RO unit uses standard-sized housings and membrane for easy replacement. It is a fully automatic unit that shuts off and turns on in response to changes in tank pressure. It is shown here with an optional mounting stand but can also be wall mounted.

 

Installation consists of joining the RO unit to the storage tank.  We furnish the tee that joins the tank to the RO unit and sends water to the point of use.  Tanks come in 40, 60, and 80 gallon sizes.

 

romate80

ROMate 80 gallon pressurized RO storage tank. 

 

Links to pages with more information.

Axion L1-300 RO Unit.

RO Tanks.

 

 

EPA Proposes New Regulations For Lead In Drinking Water

  by Paolo Zialcita

This is a National Public Radio news report, issued in late October 2019.

leadpipefromnewark

The Environmental Protection Agency has announced a new proposal that would change how communities test for lead in drinking water. It’s the first major update to the Lead and Copper Rule in nearly 30 years, but it does not go as far as many health advocates had hoped.

The regulations are aimed at stopping people’s water from being contaminated through lead pipes that connect public water supplies to homes. The EPA’s website points out that ingesting lead “can be harmful to human health even at low exposure levels.”

The proposal that was announced Thursday would require water systems to keep a public inventory of where those lead service lines are and help homeowners replace them if their water is found to be contaminated with lead.

If a water test shows dangerous lead levels, utilities would also have to notify their customers within 24 hours.

“By improving protocols for identifying lead, expanding sampling, and strengthening treatment requirements, our proposal would ensure that more water systems proactively take actions to prevent lead exposure, especially in schools, child care facilities, and the most at-risk communities,” EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said.

 

Elizabeth Warren Joins Bernie Sanders In Opposition To Water Privatization

by Peter Chawaga

Editor’s Note:  Politics aside, we’re reprinting this article because it presents water issues that should be part of our national political discussion. Private/public ownership of water supplies, regulation of emerging contaminants like PFAS,  the Waters of the United States rule, and development and maintenance of water infrastructure should all be important campaign topics. We should not let political candidates continue to ignore them. 

There’s little doubt that the field of candidates vying for U.S. presidential election in 2020 represents a wide array of views on nearly every issue. But two Democratic frontrunners now appear unified on at least one major issue: the privatization of water systems.

Elizabeth Warren, a Democratic presidential nominee who leads her colleague according to some polls, released an environmental plan that emphasized the need for the nation’s water systems to be run publicly, among other things.

“America’s water is a public asset and should be owned by and for the public,” according to Warren’s plan. “A Warren Administration will end decades of disinvestment and privatization of our nation’s water system — our government at every level should invest in safe, affordable drinking water for all of us.”

More specifically, Warren advocates for harsher federal classification of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), the reinstatement of the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule, and investment into public water system infrastructure.

The emphasis on public water system management puts Warren firmly in alliance with Bernie Sanders, who has advocated for the same approach in the WATER Act that he released in February 2019 and in the Green New Deal, an expansive legislative proposal to revamp the country’s approach to environmental issues.

“Sanders introduced the WATER Act, which would help municipalities or state agencies bring treatment works back into public ownership,” per Common Dreams. “Months earlier, in November 2018, Sanders gave a forceful rejection of privately controlled water after voters in Baltimore easily passed Question E, which bans the privatization of the municipal water and sewer systems.”

By discouraging private water systems, both Warren and Sanders are highlighting research that indicates this management structure is less safe for consumers than public utility management.

“The private water industry serves 73 million Americans, according to National Association of Water Companies data,” The Huffington Post reported in a story on Warren’s climate plan. “For-profit water services put public health at risk, a 66-page paper by University of Louisville law professor Craig Anthony Arnold argues, because the profit motive incentivizes companies to provide better services to customers who pay more and to maintain infrastructure with an eye to the length of the firm’s contract.”

While Warren alluded to these inherent flaws with privately-run drinking water systems, her plan did not outline whether or not she’d actively work against their formation as president. But it did make clear that if Warren were to become the next president of the United States, privately-run water systems would become far less common.

“[The] proposal did not make clear whether a Warren White House would take explicit steps to discourage municipalities from switching to private water,” per The Huffington Post. “But the campaign said an influx of federal funding to overhaul water infrastructure should make switching to private water services far less appealing.”

Article Source:  Water Online.

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Ultrafiltration


Posted October 12th, 2019

Ultrafiltration: Between Conventional Filters and Reverse Osmosis

by Gene Franks

In water treatment, the term “ultrafiltration” is used to describe a filtration process that separates out particles down into the 0.1 to 0.001 micron range.

That’s extremely small when compared with conventional filtration, but it’s large when compared with nanofiltration and reverse osmosis. Ultrafiltration is tight enough to strain out pesky colloidal particles that conventional filters can’t hold, and it rejects both organic and inorganic large molecule substances. It cannot, however, remove ions and organics with low molecular weights (sodium, calcium, sulfate, for example), which are readily removed by reverse osmosis.

Molecular weight, in fact, is the yardstick by which ultrafiltration systems are usually measured. For example, an ultrafiltration membrane that removes dissolved solids with molecular weights of 10,000 is said to have a molecular weight cutoff of 10,000. Such a membrane has a nominal pore size of about 0.003 micron.

Compared with reverse osmosis, ultrafiltration membranes have extremely high flux rates. (Think of flux as the speed that the product water goes through the membrane.) They can also be operated at much lower pressure. As with reverse osmosis, temperature can have a great effect on performance, with lower temperature resulting in reduced flux rate.

Unlike conventional filters, ultrafiltration membranes do not trap and hold contaminants but like the reverse osmosis membranes they act as a barrier, holding contaminants until they are washed away. Ultrafiltration works in the same cross-flow separation method as reverse osmosis.

Ultrafiltration membranes do not trap and hold contaminants but like the reverse osmosis membranes they act as a barrier, blocking out contaminants until they are washed away. Ultrafiltration works in the same cross-flow separation method as reverse osmosis.

One great advantage of ultrafiltration membranes is that they can operate at pressures much lower than those required for reverse osmosis. In fact, UF systems usually operate at pressures below 100 psi, and 50 psi operation is common.

 

How Buying a Reverse Osmosis Unit Can Make You Rich

richandpoor

Guess which man owns a reverse osmosis unit.

We usually just assume that ingesting water contaminants like lead and arsenic is not a good idea. We don’t think about the economic implications.  We want our kids to be as smart and as healthy as they can be without having to put a dollar sign on the loss in IQ points that could result from their consuming water that is tainted with lead.

A recent study conducted by researchers from the University of Arizona and funded by the Water Quality Research Foundation (WQRF) sought to do just that: to determine the economic benefits of using point-of-use (POU) devices to reduce health risks in drinking water. The study was designed to put a dollar value on the benefits of treating five drinking water contaminant categories–microorganisms, arsenic, lead, disinfection byproducts, nitrates and chromium–with POU equipment.

Lead was considered apart from the other contaminants, since the Flint, MI ordeal offered a convenient way to study lead exposure. Here’s what resulted, as reported by Water Quality Products magazine:

In the case of the water emergency in Flint, the study assumed all of the 98,310 Flint residents were exposed to lead levels of 25 µg/L in drinking water, and 20% of lead in drinking water is manifested in the body as blood lead levels. This corresponded to an average blood lead level of 0.5 µg/dL and a loss of 0.257 IQ points. Using the blood lead level to lifetime economic impact model, this corresponds to a lifetime loss of $5,381 per person and a total community cost of $435 million. The average household size in Flint is 2.42 persons, which equates to 40,064 houses. A five-year community wide intervention using one activated carbon filter with lead adsorption capabilities per household would have cost $11.1 million. A five-year POU RO implemented in every home would have cost $26 million. 

This seems to mean that if each of the 40,064 houses had an RO unit that cost $648.96 to buy and maintain, and each of the 2.42 persons who lived in that home saved the $5,381 that would have been lost because of ingestion of lead, the per household profit resulting from RO ownership would be $12,265 from lead-avoidance alone. What is more, if instead of the RO unit the home installed an activated carbon filter with lead adsorption capabilities, which costs only $277, profit (savings less the cost of the filter) for the 2.42-person home would be even more, $12,637!

Clearly, the filter is the better choice since you can get the same dollar savings from lead removal that you would from the RO unit at a lower purchase price. More bang for your lead-removal buck. Of course, if you factor in the costs of exposure to arsenic, nitrates, chromium, fluoride, sodium, and more–items the RO removes but the filter doesn’t–the extra $400 you pay for the reverse osmosis unit doesn’t look all that bad.

richroowner

 A reverse osmosis unit is like money in the bank. The more contaminants they find in the water, the more you save.

The Water Quality Products article suggests that the cost saving figures that resulted from the Arizona study can be “leveraged” by water treatment professionals “to talk to their regulators and utilities about this study and encourage the acceptance of POU devices as a risk mitigation strategy.”

We at Pure Water Products will probably leave the leveraging to others and stick to our usual strategy of pointing out that with or without the dollar consideration, and whether you live in a 2.42-person home or a 6.79-person home, an undersink reverse osmosis unit should be a standard household appliance, not an optional item. What a great value! A device that produces pure, great tasting, contaminant-free water at a small cost. Getting rich in the process is just icing on the cake.

Reference Source: Water Quality Products.

 

Researchers find antibiotic resistant genes prevalent in groundwater

Historically, indirect reuse treatment methods in which an environmental barrier is an intermediary step in the water cleaning process have been more popular than the direct “toilet to tap” process. While indirect methods of water reuse treatment were, from a public perception and appetite, considered more reliable, it is actually direct reuse “toilet to tap” approaches which do not introduce an environmental buffer that produce safer, more pure water for potability. The reason for this lies in the way ARGs in the environment can contaminate potable reuse water. These findings were highlighted in a study published in Environmental Science & Technology Letters.

How ARGs Spread through Water Treatment Systems

While some ARGs are naturally occurring in microbial communities, antibiotics, ARGs and antibiotic resistant pathogens are on the rise in water sources as a result of the overuse of antibiotics in general. In a typical water treatment cycle, wastewater is treated first at a wastewater treatment facility. The study found that this water remains high in ARGs, as they persist throughout the treatment process. From here, water intended for potable reuse is further purified using advanced physical and chemical techniques including reverse osmosis—a process that uses a partially permeable membrane to purify drinking water.

In an indirect reuse schema, the purified water will be infused back into an environmental buffer, like a groundwater aquifer. Later, water is pulled from the aquifer and further treated at a drinking water treatment plant before being added to the public water supply. In contrast, in direct reuse approaches, purified water does not return to an environmental buffer, but instead, remains within the engineered water cycle, going from the wastewater treatment plant to the water reuse plant to the drinking water treatment plant and then out to your tap

Looking at the differences in ARGs between various water sources is incredibly important in considering future health hazards, like development of super bugs, said Smith. Since wastewater treatment plants are not generally designed for removal of micro-pollutants like antibiotics, they tend to persist in treatment systems, leading to high densities of ARG resistant bacteria at different stages of treatment. When this water is introduced into an aquifer, where ARGs are already naturally occurring, it can become contaminated with ARGs and antibiotic resistant bacteria. To further complicate the issue, ARGs are easily transferred through horizontal gene transfer, increasing the risk for antibiotic resistant pathogens.

“ARGs are not regulated in any way and are a challenging emerging contaminant of concern due to our reliance on biological treatment in the engineered water cycle,” Smith said. “Because they are biological contaminants—small fragments of DNA that are released to the environment—bacteria present in receiving environments can uptake them, becoming resistant themselves, and further perpetuating the spread of resistance.”

Wastewater reuse is the prevailing option for dealing with a mounting pressure on global water supply and might be preferable to options like desalination, which is expensive and energy inefficient by comparison. However, the danger of spreading antibiotic resistance is one that should inform which methodologies gain more traction and investment as we look ahead Smith said. Eliminating unknowns that persist in the environmental water buffers could be one way to ensure water that reaches our taps is clean of ARGs and other harmful contaminants.

“Lessening the global spread of antibiotic resistance will require an interdisciplinary approach that spans environmental and clinical systems. We must act fast before we enter a so called ‘post-antibiotic world’ where bacterial infections become impossible to treat,” Smith said.

 

Source: University of  Southern California.

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El Paso County to participate in CDC study on PFAS contaminants in drinking water

Gazette Introductory Note: — Citizens of El Paso County in Colorado have unintentionally become research subjects in a 5-year experiment to learn how ingesting high levels of PFAS can affect human health. Although the report below doesn’t mention it, the high levels of PFAS in area water came from firefighting foam used at Peterson Air Force Base and the Colorado Springs airport.

The CDC announced in September 2019 that doctors across the U.S. will be conducting a study to investigate the long term side effects of drinking water contaminated by PFAS and PFCS — man-made chemicals that can get into groundwater, soil, and eventually into your cells.

The PFAS levels in El Paso County (Colorado) have registered more than 1,000 times higher than the health advisory limit set by the Environmental Protection Agency for similar chemicals. And while clean up efforts have taken place, in some cases the damage has already been done.

In the next few months, hundreds of residents in El Paso County will be invited to join this new study that looks at the relationship between exposure and health outcomes.

“It’s a group of chemicals that was created in the 1950’s,” said Liz Rosenbaum, founder of the Fountain Valley Clean Water Coalition. “Our organization started in November of 2016. Our main focus was understanding what PFAS was and what this contamination meant to our community.”

“This new research study is a great step forward in understanding the health effects from this contamination to the residents of the community who lived here before 2016,” she said.

So what makes this study different? Seven major medical institutions will work together on this multi-site study. In Colorado, the grant has been awarded to Dr. John Adgate at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus.

His team will look at exposures in El Paso County by taking blood samples from 1,000 adults and 300 children.

They’ll look at the immune system, increased cancer risk, fertility, and issues with growth.

“The big unknown with PFAS compounds is what the human health effects are from long-term exposure,” said Dr. John Adgate.

Dr. Adgate has already been working with citizens in the Fountain area for the past few years and he’s excited to work on the national study and answer important questions.

“What happened there is sort of an unfortunate natural experiment because we have people who are highly exposed and got much higher than national background levels of number of the PFAS compounds in their blood,” he said.

Concerned citizens like Rosenbaum say it’s important to understand these contaminants so we don’t repeat similar mistakes.

Each institution has been given one million dollars in grant money. The study starts in late 2019 and will run for 5 years.

Source: KDRO

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More about PFAS from the Pure Water Gazette.

 

Fluoride and IQ in Children


Posted October 2nd, 2019

Study Links Fluoridated Water To Lower IQs In Babies

By Peter Chawaga

Many public drinking water supplies contain fluoride, which is added by water systems to help prevent tooth decay in consumers. But a new study has called into question whether those health benefits are outweighed by potential health risks.

“A study of 512 Canadian mothers and their children, published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics … suggests that drinking fluoridated water during pregnancy could damage kids’ brains,” according to Insider. “In the study, boys between the ages of 3 and 4 years old whose mothers drank fluoridated water had slightly lower IQs (about 4.5 points lower, a small but noticeable difference when you consider that the average IQ score is around 100 points.)”

The study results have raised some red flags for consumers, adding fuel to an ongoing anti-fluoride movement. Fluoride addition began at public water systems as early as the 1940s, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention crediting the program with reducing cavities by about 25 percent in consumers. But opponents have linked the mineral to adverse health effects — including IQ loss — for years.

“This new study, if further evidence supports it, may give more scientific weight to the idea that fluoridated water is not the best route to prevent cavities,” per Insider.

However, for now, scientists are arguing that while this study is worth factoring into the equation, it is not enough on its own to completely condemn the practice of fluoridating drinking water.

“[Neurology professor David Bellinger] says it’s important not to read too much into a single study, but this one certainly raises important issues,” NPR reported. “Though it will no doubt play into the decades-long controversy over whether to add fluoride to public water supplies, he says that is misleading. The study found even in cities that had fluoridated water, women got most of their fluoride from other sources, such as food, tea and toothpaste.”

In any case, the findings of this study are almost certain to spur more research into the topic. While the controversy around fluoride in public drinking water supplies won’t die down any time soon, more research may better inform the approach taken by drinking water utilities.

Source: Water Online.

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More about fluoride from the Pure Water Gazette.

 

 

Common Sense about Lead in Drinking Water

by Gene Franks

In ancient times, people drank from lead vessels because they didn’t know any better. There’s no longer any excuse.–Bloomberg News Editorial. 

Lead’s toxicity has been known for centuries, but lead remained a popular choice for water service lines installed up to the 1980s. It’s more flexible and durable than iron. About 6 million lead service lines are still in use today, connecting households to water mains. Prior to 1986, copper pipes inside a person’s home could also be joined with lead solder.Olga Khazan in The Atlantic.

Some sobering information has surfaced because of the attention focused on the out-of-control lead contamination problems of Flint and Newark. We learn, for example, that the nation’s drinking water infrastructure has so many lead-emitting metal pipes that we can’t begin to count them, and, what is worse, we don’t even know where they are.

Here are some points to ponder:

  •  Lead in water supplies is not a new problem. It is mainly public awareness of the problem that is new.
  • The strategy for protecting the public from lead in water pipes, apart from vague, yet-to-be-funded proposals to replace the pipes, has been chemical treatment aimed at keeping pH high and adding sequestering chemicals. This seems to work most of the time, but the result isn’t predictable. Water treatment is complicated, and success can depend on variables like temperature, flow rate, and other chemicals present. Pipes and conditions in your home may be completely different from those where the supplier’s test was taken. Success of this strategy is also heavily dependent on the skill and dedication of the local technicians maintaining the system.
  • Testing required by federal regulators is sporadic. Tens of millions of gallons of water pass through the pipes between mandated tests. Finding no lead at a test site on Elm Street doesn’t mean there isn’t lead in a home on Maple Street. I used to say that the way testing is conducted is like checking one passenger at the airport and if he doesn’t have a bomb,  you assume that the next ten million passengers are also bomb free. Actually, with lead it’s worse that that: it’s more like testing one passenger and assuming that the next ten million passengers as well as the passengers at the airports of surrounding cities are bomb free. The odds that you are protected from lead by a test done five miles from your home six weeks ago are pretty bad.
  • The message we get from water suppliers seems to be: Be patient. We’ll get this fixed. You can count on us. Be sure to run your tap five to fifteen minutes before you drink the water. When things are really bad, they give free bottled water or provide a cheap pour-through water filter.

Conclusions

To protect yourself from lead, you could drink nothing but bottled water.  That isn’t a bad solution.  Or, you could  a) write letters to city officials demanding action, b) wait for all the lead water pipes to be replaced, c)  keep drinking tap water and hope for the best,  or, d) get yourself a good water filter. If you choose a through c, good luck.  If you choose d, I have some advice.

First, lead is a drinking water issue.  While whole house lead solutions are available, it is usually more practical to treat drinking water only. For lead-free drinking water, you have some good choices: a steam distiller, reverse osmosis, or a substantial carbon filter with lead removal resin added. Of the three, reverse osmosis is the most practical. Reverse osmosis removes lead by its nature, without the need for special cartridges. Reverse osmosis, of course, has the advantage of treating not only lead but virtually all contaminants that can be found in city water.

Lead reduction cartridge filters vary in quality, but any reasonably-sized undersink or countertop filter from a trusted filter maker will provide excellent, lead-free water. I underline “reasonably sized.” The pitcher filters provided free by cities don’t really qualify as water filters. They are novelty items made for pick up sales in discount stores. The early tests done on the city-provided filters in Newark that lead to a blanket “filters don’t work” warning were done with city-provided pitcher filters with only enough lead capacity for 30 gallons of water. They have a warning light for cartridge replacement that is there to inspire confidence. You really don’t need a warning light: you need more resin. A full-sized drinking water cartridge with lead removal rating of 2500 gallons from a reputable filter maker actually costs considerably less to operate than the tiny novelty systems.