Study finds that refillable water bottles are fertile growing ground for bacteria

Reprinted from Toronto Sun.

Gazette Introductory Note: We recommend that as you read this you try to remember any recent accounts you’ve heard of outbreaks of illness resulting from the use of refillable water bottles. Remember that we live in an ocean of bacteria. It isn’t remarkable that water bottles are teeming with microorganisms; it would be remarkable if they weren’t. –Hardly Waite.

You need to keep hydrated at the gym so you chug water from a refillable water bottle.

You might want to think twice before doing that.

According to a study by Treadmill Reviews, reusable water bottles contain high levels of human-harming bacteria. Swabbing four different bottle styles, the study found the containers were crawling with more than 300,000 colony-forming bacteria units per square centimetre.

Conclusion: drinking from a refillable bottle may be worse than licking a dog’s toy, the U.K. Sun reported.

The study detected that the average water bottle had 313,499 CFU (colony-forming units of bacteria) compared to 2,937 CFU found on a dog’s toy.

Bottles with a slide-top spout contained the most germs with an average of 933,340 CFU.

Squeeze-top bottles are just as harmful with an average germ count of 161,971 CFC.

Screw-top lid bottles aren’t as bad with 159,060 CFU. Surprisingly, the least harmful were straw-top bottles with a fraction of an average compared to others at just 25.4 CFU.

While squeeze-tops weren’t as harmful as its slide-top counterparts, almost 99% of bacteria found on the bottle contained harmful traces of antibiotic-immune bacteria like E.coli, the study suggested.

Overall more than 60% of germs found on water bottles can make people sick.

The study’s researchers suggested using straw-tops or stainless steel bottles over plastic ones. Researchers also recommend not letting a half drunk bottle sit unattended for weeks.

Bottles should also be hand washed with a weak bleach solution or cleaned via dishwasher.

Pure Water Gazette Fair Use Statement

Rinsing Water Filter Cartridges: Getting the Air Out

by Gene Franks

When water filter owners ask how long they should rinse the filter cartridges in new water treatment units, or in units they are replacing the the filter cartridges in, they usually expect a simple answer and that’s what they usually get.  Actually, though, the answer can be quite complicated and in most cases there is not a pat answer.

We’re concentrating on carbon filters here, which are by far the most common in residential treatment units, but the same principles apply in varying degrees to other media, like calcite, ion exchange resins, or activated alumina.


If you have a carbon filter, you’ve probably noticed that a big blast of black stuff comes out of the faucet when you start up a new cartridge. This is called “carbon fines.” It’s just manufacturing left-overs,  small pieces of carbon that have to be washed out.  Some filters, you may also have noticed, put out virtually no fines. This is because the manufacturer has gone to the trouble to clean the carbon up well (often washing it with acid) to keep the “fines” from going into your RO membrane or your refrigerator.

The assumption is that when the fines have subsided and the water is running more or less clear, the cartridge is ready to use. Not so.  There are other considerations.  For example, brand new carbon filters can contain residuals of contaminants (like arsenic), and even NSF Standard 42 cartridges, which are certified to be safe, sometimes are labelled with the admonition to “place the cartridge in an appropriate housing and rinse for a minimum of 20 minutes before use.” Anyone who has tested a reverse osmosis unit after a cartridge change knows that you do not get a valid TDS (total dissolved solids) reading of membrane performance after the cartridge change.  This is because the new carbon postfilter, for up to a week after the cartridge change, is putting out “solids” that the meter can see but the human eye cannot. To be clear, the same “TDS throw” occurs in all new carbon filters, not just RO postfilters; it’s just that only RO units are routinely tested for TDS performance.

AirairWhat air inside a carbon block cartridge looks like

A fact that water treatment professionals are aware of but that water filter users seldom consider is that new carbon filters are mostly air. What makes carbon such an amazingly effective filter medium, in fact, is not only what is there but what is not there. It’s the countless tiny air-filled pores inside the carbon particles that provide enormous amounts of surface area for chemical contaminants to cling to that make carbon so effective.   The so-called “40-40-20” rule has it that most carbon filters are 40% air-filled space between carbon particles, 40% air-filled inner pores, and 20% actual solid carbon. In fact, depending on the type of product and the manufacturing method, most carbon filters are said to be 70% to 90% air.

When a new cartridge is put into service, it can take days for the air to work out completely. That’s why users sometimes experience cloudy water (if air is causing the cloudiness, the water in a glass will clear from bottom to top) and why there sometimes appears be a scummy substance at the top of a glass of water from a new filter. The scum is air trapped under the “skin” at the top of the water column.  Both the cloudy color and the scum will go away with time, and it’s nothing to worry about.

Diminished Performance Because of Air

While fines and trapped air are aesthetic problems with filter startup that goes away fairly quickly, there is actually diminished performance from a new filter cartridge or carbon bed in a large filter caused by trapped air that lasts longer.   I sometimes tell customers with new products that the water will taste and look better after a week or so,  when the new filters have had a chance to “mellow in.”  Mellowing in is a low tech way of saying that everything will work better when water has had a chance to push the air out of the millions of tiny crevices within the carbon, thus allowing the water to come into intimate contact with the carbon itself.

Large industrial filters have to be soaked for long periods after rebedding to drive the air out the carbon.  Hot water, which speeds the process up, is also used.  Henry Norwicki et al. in a recent Water Conditioning and Purification article actually recommend a 72 hour soak for small filter cartridges:

There are two ways to replace the nano-spaced concentrated air: 72 hours submerged soaking in tap water or using hot water to remove trapped air. Water forms larger conglomerates by hydrogen bonding of water molecules. Conglomerates of hot water are smaller and can better penetrate adsorption spaces than larger, cold-water conglomerates. Replacing filter soaking water with fresh water and turning the filter vertically upside down is also beneficial. Draining helps remove air bubbles. When air in nanospaces is replaced by water, bubbles go into bulk volume between media particles. Simple draining removes these bulk water bubbles. Water inside particles, however, is not removed by draining. Soaking for 72 clock hours is necessary and extra time is acceptable.

We’re a long way from recommending that customers soak filter cartridges for 72 hours before using them, but it helps to know what’s going on inside the filter and be a bit forgiving if water is cloudy and doesn’t taste as good as you would expect with brand new filter cartridges.

Enlargement of granular carbon shows countless pores that adsorb contaminants. The surface area of the pores is exceptional. A single pound of activated carbon has more surface area in its pores than 100 football fields. When the carbon is new, these pores are filled with air that must eventually work its way out.

Enlargement of granular carbon shows countless pores that adsorb contaminants. The surface area of the pores is exceptional. A single pound of activated carbon has more surface area in its pores than 100 football fields. When the carbon is new, these pores are filled with air that must eventually work its way out.

New Technologies That Save Water Should Be Taken with a Grain of Salt

Many water saving products work well, and yet  . . .

Vortech Tanks

Enpress, the tank manufacturer, makes the following advertising claim for its popular “Vortech” brand mineral tanks for backwashing filters and water softeners:

It’s proven – we have saved over 14 billion gallons of water and counting with our Vortech® and Mid-Vortech® distributor plate technologies since they were introduced 10 years ago!

The manufacturer is, of course, basing its “proof” on the assumption that everyone who uses the tank is taking advantage of the superior backwash flow performance of the tank as compared with conventional mineral tanks with gravel underbedding. While the manufacturer’s tests show that backwashing filters built in Vortech tanks can be backwashed with up to 30% less water, it’s safe to say that only a relatively small percentage of products using Vortech tanks are actually using 30% less water as compared with similar products that use standard mineral tanks.

The reason is that Vortech tanks don’t have magic properties that makes them automatically save 30% of the backwash water. To save water, they have to be set up by the installer to have either a shorter backwash/rinse cycle or to have a more restrictive backwash flow control device installed so that fewer gallons go out the drain line. We (at Pure Water Products) use Vortech tanks on all our filters, but we take a more conservative 20% reduction in regeneration water.  (Or first concern is to make sure the filter works properly. We we want to be sure it doesn’t fail because it’s starved for water.) If everyone used Vortech tanks with our setup, therefore, Enpress would have to say that they have saved 9 billion rather than 14 billion gallons.

When I asked one of our large suppliers for their setup formula for Vortech units, I was told that they set use the same setup for Vortech as for standard tank units. Although they advertise Vortech tanks as water savers, the Vortech units they make use exactly the same amount of water as their standard units. My guess is that this is the rule rather than the exception.

High Efficiency Softener Resin

The same is true for the extra efficient softener resins. Resin that can be regenerated with 4 pounds of salt per cubic foot of resin only saves salt if the installer sets it up that way. Resin itself doesn’t automatically save salt. In fact, softeners in general are among the products that are often advertised as salt and water efficient yet are set up exactly like standard models. The most sophisticated water softener does not automatically save water if it is not set up properly at installation.

Water Saving Reverse Osmosis Membranes

High efficiency RO membranes, like the new Pentair GRO units, are great water savers and they perform as advertised.  But, they only save water if they are set up correctly. The membrane itself does not automatically save water: it has to be paired with a drain line flow restrictor that matches the membrane. It is the flow restrictor that actually governs how much water goes out the drain line, not the membrane. If you buy a GRO membrane from Amazon and put it on your RO unit, it will only save water if you pair it with a properly sized flow restrictor.

There is a new RO unit just on the market that boasts “3 gallons of drinking water to 1 gallon of concentrate.” We haven’t seen it or seen an explanation of how it works. We’ve had excellent performance from the Pentair GRO with its 1 to 1–one gallon of RO permeate water for one gallon to drain–ratio, but 3 to 1 seems to good to be true.

The Permeate Pump

The RO “Permeate Pump” is now a recognized water saver, and if you install it properly your revere osmosis unit will definitely fill its tank faster and shut off faster and therefore run less water to drain. The pump can be installed with or without a shutoff valve and there is disagreement about which way is better.  The good thing is they save water either way, and it’s easy to tell if you have it installed right: if it makes a thumping sound, you got it right.

Advanced tanks, water saving membranes, and high efficiency resins are all significant water savers, but you should not think you’re saving water just because you own them.  Most products of this type work only if  you set them up right.


Posted June 27th, 2017

Perfluoroalkyls in a nutshell

What are PFCs?

PFCs are a family of man-made compounds that are not naturally occurring in the environment. Perfluoroalkyls repel oil, grease, and water, and as a result were used as protective coatings in cookware, carpet, clothing, paper, and cardboard packaging, as well as in fire-fighting foams. They are very stable compounds that are resilient to breakdown in the environment. The most common perfluoroalkyl compounds are perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA).


PFOS and PFOA compounds were produced in large quantities in the United States and have contaminated air, water, and soil at locations where they were produced or used. As a result, PFOA and PFOS are found in air and dust; surface and groundwater; and soil and sediment. The highest levels of PFOS and PFOA are typically at or near a facility that produced or used the compounds. Since they are found in air and dust, they appear in remote locations where flooding and groundwater migrate them through the soil.

Health Effects of PFCs

The most common exposure to PFOS and PFOA is through ingestion, with drinking water supplies being the primary route for exposure. Typically, populations near facilities where PFOS and PFOA was manufactured or used have the highest levels of these compounds in their drinking water. Health advisories by the EPA indicate that exposure to PFOS and PFOA over certain levels may result in adverse health effects, including developmental effects to fetuses during pregnancy or to breastfed infants (e.g., low birth weight, accelerated puberty, skeletal variations), cancer (e.g., testicular, kidney), liver effects (e.g., tissue damage), immune effects (e.g., antibody production and immunity), thyroid effects and other effects (e.g., cholesterol changes). As a result the EPA has established a combined lifetime exposure of 70 parts per trillion for PFOS and PFOA.

Water Treatment?

The best and most commonly applied water treatment for PFCs in general is the old standby, granular activated carbon.

Quick Reference Table for Water Contaminant Treatment



Acidic Water Soda ash injection; Sodium Hydroxide injection; Calcite
Acrylamide Carbon (with moderate probability of success)
Alachlor Carbon
Alpha particles Reverse Osmosis; distillation
Alum (Aluminum Sulfate) Reverse Osmosis; distillation
Aluminum Water softener; Reverse Osmosis; distillation; electrodialysis
Ametryn Reverse Osmosis, carbon, and UV used together
Ammonia Water softener with previous removal of calcium and magnesium; deionization; natural zeolite, chlorination
Antimony Reverse Osmosis; coagulation/filtration
Arsenic Ion exchange; Reverse Osmosis; distillation
Asbestos Reverse Osmosis
Atrazine Carbon
Barium Ion exchange; Reverse Osmosis; lime softening; electrodialysis
Benzene Adsorption with carbon; ozone
Benzo(a)pyrene (PAHs) Carbon
Beta particles and photon emitters Ion exchange-mixed bed; Reverse Osmosis; distillation
Cyanotoxins UV; Reverse Osmosis; nanofiltration;  carbon; chlorination
Total Coliforms (including fecal coliform and E. Coli) UV; chlorine/chloramine disinfection; ultrafiltration; Reverse Osmosis; ozone
Beryllium Activated alumina; coagulation/filtration; ion exchange; lime softening; Reverse Osmosis
Alkalinity Aeration; acid injection; anion exchange
Bisphenol A (BPA) No recommended treatment
Boron (Borate) Reverse Osmosis; ion exchange; increasing pH
Bromates (Potassium Bromate and Sodium Bromate) Prevention by pH alteration; anion exchange; ammonia impregnated carbon
Brackish Water Reverse Osmosis; distillation
Bromine (Bromide) Reverse Osmosis; carbon; UV; dialysis
Cadmium Reverse Osmosis; cation exchange; dialysis
Carbaryl (Sevin) Carbon; coagulation; ozone
Calcium Ion exchange; Reverse Osmosis; deionizers; dialysis; distillation; ultrafiltration
Carbofuran Carbon
Carbon dioxide Aeration; deionization; raising pH with Soda Ash injection
Carbon tetrachloride Air stripping;  carbon; coconut shell carbon; Reverse Osmosis
Chloral hydrate Carbon
Chloramines Carbon; catalytic carbon; ascorbic acid, UV
Chlordane Carbon
Chloride Reverse Osmosis; electrodialysis; distillation;  anion exchanger
Chlorine Carbon; KDF
Chlorine dioxide Carbon (possible success)
Chlorite Carbon (possible success)
Chloroacetones No recommended treatment
Chlorobenzene Carbon; Carbon with packed tower aeration
Chloropicrin Chemical oxidation
Chlorpyrifos Coagulation; carbon; ozone
Chromium Reverse Osmosis; distillation; strong base anion exchange regenerated with caustic soda
Color Carbon; anion exchange after water softener; iron/manganese removal methods
Copper POE applications and plumbing fixtures protected by cation exchange, pH control, and film-creating compounds such as polyphosphates; POU treatment: Reverse Osmosis, distillation, and carbon
Corrosion Increasing pH; Reverse Osmosis to reduce chlorides; carbon filtration to reduce chloramines/chlorine; lowering temperature of hot water heater; sediment filtration; decrease flow rate
Cryptosporidium Carbon; Reverse Osmosis; nanofiltration; UV; ozone; distillation
Cyanazine (Bladex) Carbon
Cyanide Reverse Osmosis; electrodialysis; chlorination, retention, and filtration; Carbon  with packed tower aeration
1,2-Dichloropropane Carbon with packed tower aeration; carbon
1,3-Dichloropropene/ 1,3-Dichloropropane Carbon; hydrolosis
1,4-Dioxane Biological activated carbon; UV or ozone with hydrogen peroxide
2,4-D (2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid) Carbon
Dalapon Carbon
DBCP (1,2-Dibromo-3-chloropropane) Carbon and packed tower aeration;  carbon
DDT (Dichlorodiphenyltrichlorethane) Carbon; coagulation
DEHA [Di(2-ethylhexyl) adipate] Carbon
DEHP [Di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate] Carbon
Diazinon (Spectracide) Hydrolosis
Dichloroacetic Acid (DCA) Prevention through pre-filtration to remove organic matter or pH adjustment prior to treatment
o-Dichlorobenzene Carbon with packed tower aeration; Carbon
p-Dichlorobenzene Carbon with packed tower aeration; carbon
1,2-Dichloroethane GAC with packed tower aeration; activated carbon
1,1-Dichloroethylene GAC with packed tower aeration; activated carbon
cis-1,2-Dichloroethylene GAC with packed tower aeration; reduction by Reverse Osmosis
trans-1,2-Dichloroethylene GAC with packed tower aeration; reduction by Reverse Osmosis
Dichloromethane (DCM) GAC with packed tower aeration
Dicofol Hydrolosis; possible treatment with activated carbon
Diflubenzuron Activated carbon
Dimethoate Chlorination and GAC
Dinoseb GAC
Dioxin (2,3,7,8-TCDD) GAC
Diquat GAC
Diuron (DCMU) Activated carbon
Edetic Acid (EDTA) Ozone with activated carbon
Endocrine disruptors (EDCs) Nanofiltration; Reverse Osmosis; activated carbon; distillation; ozone; advanced oxidization
Endosulfan Activated carbon
Endothall GAC
Endrin GAC
Epichlorohydrin (ECH) No recommended treatment; limited usage
Ethylbenzene GAC
Ethylene dibromide GAC
Fenitrothion Hydroloysis
Flouride Reverse Osmosis; distillation; filtration through activated alumina
Formaldehyde GAC
Foaming agents Coagulation/flocculation; sedimentation; filtration; activated carbon
Giardia lamblia Filtration of 1 micron size or below; UV; Reverse Osmosis; ozone; shock chlorination
Glyphosate (Roundup) GAC
Haloacetic acids (HAA5) Pre-filtering prior to disinfection treatment; activated carbon; Reverse Osmosis
Hardness Water softener; Reverse Osmosis; lime softening; polyphosphates; siliphos
Heptachlor GAC
Heptachlor epoxide GAC
Heterotrophic plate count (HPC) N/A
Hexachlorobenzene (HCB) GAC
Hexachlorobutadiene (HCBD) GAC
Hexachlorocyclopentadiene GAC with packed tower aeration
Hydrogen Sulfide Oxidizing with gas: chlorine, aeration, hydrogen peroxide, ozone, potassium permanganate followed by filtration of oxidant and elemental sulphur; open tank aeration; carbon for small amounts; changing sacrifical anode of hot water heater
Iodine-131 Reverse Osmosis
Iron Ferrous Iron removal: Water softener; oxidation with air, ozone, potassium permanganate, chlorine, or hydrogen peroxide; filtration with Filox, Birm, and Greensand; Ferric Iron removal: filtration with wound string filter; backwashing filter; Heme Iron removal: scavenger anion resin; oxidation with chlorine followed by mechanical filtration
Iron Bacteria Chlorination
Lead Reverse Osmosis; water softeners; removing the source; corrosion control methods in pipes including pH and alkalinity adjustment; calcium adjustment; silica or phosphate-based corrosion inhibition
Legionella Heat and flow-rate management; UV; ultrafiltration
Lindane GAC
Magnesium Water softener; Reverse Osmosis
Malalthion and Malaoxon Activated carbon
Manganese Ion exchange; oxidation/filtration; chemical feeding then filtering through greensand, carbon, or filter ag
MCPA (4-(2-methyl-4-chlorophenoxy)acetic acid) GAC; ozone
Mercury Activated carbon; Reverse Osmosis; distillation; ion exchange; sulfide precipitation; starch xanthate
Methane Atmospheric aeration
Methanol (Methyl Alchohol) Ozonation with UV
Methoxychlor GAC
Methyl Tertiary-Butyl Ether (MTBE) Coconut shell carbon; reduction through carbon block filtration
Metolachlor (S-Metolachlor) GAC
Molinate GAC
Monochloracetic Acid (MCAA or Chloroacetic Acid) No recommended treatment; formation during water disinfection may be prevented with pre-filtration to remove organic matter, or pH adjustment
Mutagen X and MX Analogues Activated carbon
Naphthalene Activated carbon
NDMA (N-Nitrosodimethylanime) Reverse Osmosis removes 50%
Nickel Strong acid cation exchanger; reduction through activated carbon and RO
Nitrite (measured as Nitrogen) Ion exchange; Reverse Osmosis; electrodialysis; distillation and blending
Nitrate (measured as Nitrogen) Ion exchange; Reverse Osmosis; electrodialysis; distillation and blending
Nitrilotriacetic Acid (NTA) Activated carbon
Norovirus Reverse Osmosis; nanofiltration; ultrafiltration; chemical oxidation; UV; distillation
Odor Activated carbon; oxidation/reduction; chlorine dioxide; ozone; hydrogen peroxide
Oryzalin Activated carbon
Oxamyl (Vydate) GAC
2-Phenylphenol (OPP) Activated carbon
Paraquat dichloride Activated carbon
Parathion (Ethyl Parthion) Activated carbon; hydrolysis
Pendimethalin GAC
Pentachlorophenol GAC
Perchlorate Reverse Osmosis; anion exchange; carbon adsorption; distillatin
Perfluorinated Chemicals (PFCs) Activated carbon; Reverse Osmosis
Permethrin Activated carbon
Pesticides Activated carbon; Ultrafiltration; Reverse Osmosis
pH Raising pH: feeding soda ash, caustic soda, sodium bicarbonate, or potassium hydroxide; calcite; corosex; Lowering pH: feeding sulfuric, hydrochloric acids, phosphoric acid, acetic acid, citric acid, vinegar into water
Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products (PPCPs) Chlorine; ozone; activated carbon; Reverse Osmosis
Phosphates Alum; sodium aluminate; ferric chloride; precipitated with lime to hydroxyapatite at pH of 10 or more and then filtered
Picloram GAC
Pirimiphos-methyl Activated carbon
Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) GAC
Polynuclear Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) GAC
Propanil Activated carbon
Pyriproxyfen GAC
Tetrachloroethene/Perchloroethylene (PCE) GAC with packed tower aeration
Radon Point-of-entry devices: GAC, Aeration systems
1,2,3-Trichloropropane (TCP) GAC
2,4,6-Trichlorophenol (Dowicide 2S) GAC
Temephos Adsorption with activated carbon
Terbuthylazine (TBA) GAC
Tetrachloroethanes Activated carbon
Thallium Activated alumina; ion exchange
Toluene GAC with packed tower aeration
Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) Reverse Osmosis, Distillation, Deionization.
Toxaphene GAC
Trichloroacetic Acid (TCA) No recommended treatment; can be reduced during chlorination with coagulation and pH regulation
1,2,4-Trichlorobenzene (TCB) GAC with packed tower aeration
1,1,1-Trichloroethane GAC with packed tower aeration; activated carbon
1,1,2-Trichloroethane GAC with packed tower aeration; activated carbon
Trichloroethene (TCE) Activated carbon adsorption; reverse osmosis (70-80 % removal); air stripping
Tritium No known treatment
Turbidity Depends on amount and nature of particles present; Likely use of sediment filters
Uranium Reverse Osmosis; anion exchange; activated alumina; electrodialysis; enhanced coagulation/filtration
Selenium Reverse osmosis; anion exchange; distillation
Silica Ion exchange with strong base anion resin; coagulation/filtration; reverse osmosis; ultrafiltration; lime softening/precipitation in large flows
Silver Reverse Osmosis; distillation; strong acid cation exchange for reduction
2,4,5-TP (Silvex) GAC
Simazine GAC
Spinosad DT (Spinosyns A and D) Activated carbon
Styrene GAC with packed tower aeration
Sulfate Reverse Osmosis; strong base anion exchanger
Vanadium Ion exchange
Vinyl chloride GAC with reverse osmosis; distillation; air stripping
Volatile Organic Chemicals (VOCs) Activated carbon; coconut shell carbon; reverse osmosis; aeration with activated carbon
Xylenes (total)

GAC with packed tower aeration; activated carbon

What is DOC and How Is It Treated?

Dissolved organic carbon (DOC) is a general description of the organic material dissolved in water.

Organic carbon occurs as the result of decomposition of plant or animal material, and a small part of the organic carbon  may then dissolve into the water.

Organic material (including carbon) results from decomposition of plants or animals. Once this decomposed organic material contacts water it may partially dissolve.

DOC does not pose health risk itself but may become potentially harmful when in combination with other aspects of water. When water with high DOC is chlorinated, harmful byproducts called trihalomethanes may be produced. Trihalomethanes may have long-term effects on health. That is why DOC is a consideration when water is chlorinated.

Not only can Dissolved Organic Carbon promote the formation of trihalomethanes (THMs) in chlorinated water, it can also  interfere with the effectiveness of disinfection processes such as chlorination, ultraviolet and ozonation. DOC can also promote the growth of microorganisms by providing a food source. In addition, it can add taste, odor and color.

Organic content is usually higher in surface water than in well water.

Removal of dissolved organic carbon is more commonly done by municipalities and water suppliers than by homeowners. City water suppliers have treatment strategies to draw on that aren’t available to residential users. They are also in a better position to prevent the formation of DOC, which is usually easier than treating it.

Treatment methods effective in removing DOC from water include: coagulation/flocculation processes, biological filtration, granulated activated charcoal and distillation. For residential water treatment, GAC is the most common and the most practical treatment. Distillers can be used for drinking water only.

Usually treatment is recommended if concentrations of DOC are greater than 5 mg/L.  At that level, it is likely that chlorination will result in the formation of THMs in excess of EPA standards. Above 5 mg/L color of the finished water also becomes objectionable.  For concentrations of less than 2 mg/L, color is usually not an issue and THM creation will be small.

The best home treatment for DOC is carbon filtration.

Garden Hose Day Coming June 21

Posted June 10th, 2017

Hard to believe, Garden Hose Day is again upon us

Moving National Garden Hose Day from August to June makes the holiday’s promoters look like geniuses.  Last year’s event, on its new June 21 date, exceeded expectations in terms of crowd sizes, enthusiasm and product sales.

Although Minneapolis has become the unofficial capitol of Garden Hose Day activities, communities large and small around the US are holding Garden Hose celebrations this year. The Garden Hose Tug, an enhanced variation of the good old fashioned Tug O’ War game, remains the main event in most Garden Hose Day celebrations, although garden hose crafts contests, in which contestants show objects they’ve created from garden hoses, are expected to run a close second in popularity at this year’s events.


Last year Cleveland added a canine division to the Garden Hose Tug. In the final round, the event winner, Little Arnold, on the left, bested Spot, his weightier opponent, in less than four minutes.

The common garden hose is one 0f life’s treasures that we take for granted.  When you think of it for what it is–a very inexpensive portable pipe that can bend around corners, roll up for storage,  and carry high volumes of water quickly over great distances–it deserves our admiration as one of civilization’s simple but awe-inspiring achievements. For simplicity, for efficiency, and for utility, the garden hose is right up there with the canoe, the bicycle and the clothes line in the list of man’s greatest creations. For gardening, car washing, filling pools–for more of our routine activities that we can recount–the humble garden hose saves time, money, and labor. But for many of us, the garden hose is of greatest importance because it evokes happy memories of childhood and summer days.

We urge you to go to a garden hose event in your neighborhood this year.


An attractive garden hose basket that is a popular item in Amazon garden hose stores. In addition to the almost limitless array of decorative hoses, there are special nozzles, colorful hose bibs, manual and electrically-powered hose dispenser/retractors,  hose splitters, hose repair kits, hose unions, hose protectors, and more.  Related items include lawn equipment, car wash paraphernalia,  clothing,  books about gardening, patio cooking, landscaping and washing cars, patio furniture, lawn sprinklers,  gardening tools–the list is endless. Yes, even X-rated products that include sex toys and clothing with suggestive phallic mottoes and pictures were on the market this year.


How does caffeine get into our water?

It turns out that our bodies don’t absorb all the caffeine we consume. Some gets expelled in our urine and ends up entering sewage systems or the environment, posing a threat to wildlife and perhaps to our health.

Sewage treatment plants usually do a good job removing caffeine, and the treated wastewater they release back to the environment is generally free of it.

But in a number of recent studies, caffeine has been detected in water sampled from remote streams – far from urban areas and sewer systems. This suggests our appetite for caffeine has crossed some unseen threshold, and is beginning to impact the environment.


All Caffeine Comes into the Environment Through Humans

Literally, through us. There are no natural sources of caffeine in North America. So any caffeine found in water samples surely came from humans, whether in beverages, food or pharmaceuticals. That’s one result of a study recently conducted by the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board.

“When we started getting results, we realized it’s way more prevalent than just from leaky sewer lines and septic systems,” said Carey Nagoda, a water resource control engineer for the water board. “So that was kind of a puzzle.”

Nagoda analyzed nearly 100 water samples over a seven-year period from throughout San Diego County and part of Orange County. They came from a range of sites encompassing raw sewage and treated wastewater in urban areas, as well as streams in remote open-space areas where there is no human development.

For example, Cedar Creek Falls, a popular hiking destination in Cleveland National Forest, is one area where the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board has detected caffeine in the water.

The results of the study showed that samples from urban areas tested positive for caffeine, which was not surprising.  Samples from untreated (raw) sewage contained between 0.052 and 8.5 micrograms per liter, while those taken near active septic systems ranged from 0.029 to 1.19 micrograms per liter.

What was surprising was that more than one-third of the samples from open-space areas tested positive for caffeine. The samples from these areas ranged from 0.032 to 0.662 micrograms per liter, or similar to those samples taken near septic systems.

The areas known for high recreational use – like fishing, horseback riding, hiking, camping – were the ones that had high caffeine levels, suggesting that visitors in these areas may not be practicing good habits, whether by urinating too close to streams or leaving waste behind.

The results also suggest that other contaminants found in human waste, such as pharmaceuticals and pathogens, could be polluting these areas.

Numerous studies have shown that caffeine is toxic to a variety of wildlife at high concentrations. The effects are less clear in cases of continual exposure at low levels  because little research has been done in this area. So far, clear toxic thresholds have yet to be firmly established.

To cite an example, one study showed that mussels exposed to caffeine may face a risk of genetic mutation. Other research at UC Irvine found that caffeine in seawater may contribute to coral bleaching.

Studying caffeine contamination is complicated. Researchers learned, for example that caffeine is easily aerosolized, so a Starbucks in the neighborhood can skew test results.

Currently, there are no water-quality standards established for caffeine in wastewater effluent.

At present, the best defense against caffeine in our water depends on the habits of individuals.  It matters where you urinate. One expert advises: “… don’t dump leftover caffeine beverages or containers where they could enter streams or storm drains. And when enjoying the outdoors, exercise proper bathroom practices. That means using a designated restroom or outhouse whenever available. If that’s not possible, choose a proper site at least 200 feet from any waterway. Residents should do their part to help reduce caffeine release to the environment . . . .The cumulative effect on ecosystem health is not known at this time.”

Removing caffeine from water in the home? While caffeine at levels that might be in tap water is not considered a contaminant of concern for human health, filtration through standard activated carbon filters should reduce it significantly. There is currently no plan to regulate levels of caffeine in tap water.

200 Years of Rubbish

Editor’s note:  When Lord Byron wrote almost 200 years ago that “man marks the Earth with ruin, but his control stops with the shore,” he didn’t know what deep ocean scientists would eventually find on the ocean floor, 4 kilometers below the surface in a remote spot far off the coast of Australia.  The following is from a piece by Bryan Nelson describing the finding of a  bizarre, deep sea fish without a face that has not been seen for nearly 150 years.

Aside from discovering strange and wondrous organisms, the expedition has also uncovered a monstrous reality happening at the bottom of our oceans: the amount of trash sometimes seems to outnumber the fish.

“There’s a lot of debris, even from the old steam ship days when coal was tossed overboard,” said the lead researcher. “We’ve seen PVC pipes and we’ve trawled up cans of paints. It’s quite amazing. We’re in the middle of nowhere and still the sea floor has 200 years of rubbish on it.”

The ocean’s abyssal plains are becoming our planet’s waste baskets, as toxins and dreck pile up in trenches and other low places of the sea floor. In fact, earlier this year scientists detected “extraordinary” levels of toxic pollution in the Mariana Trench, the deepest part of the world’s oceans.

It’s therefore increasingly important that researchers document the unique biodiversity of these little-studied parts of our planet to establish a baseline, so that future studies can more accurately calculate the impacts of pollution in these remote habitats.

Read the whole article (and see a picture of the faceless fish).

Water Use Doesn’t Always Conform to Conventional Logic

According to Quartz:

The word “organic” is a powerful marketing tool. In clothing—just as in focottonplantsod—brands love to tout their use of organic agricultural products to show they’re doing their part to fight the industry’s outsized environmental footprint. They know consumers want products they believe are better for them and the planet. “Organic,” which generally means something was grown without synthetic additives or pesticides and wasn’t genetically modified, seems to promise as much.

But the reality isn’t always so simple. Your organic cotton t-shirt may have actually used up more resources to produce than one made of conventionally grown cotton, and could have a greater overall impact on the environment.

One major reason, as various speakers pointed out at a May 23 panel held by Cotton Inc., a research group that serves the cotton industry, is that conventional cotton varieties have a higher yield, meaning a single plant will produce more fiber than its organic counterpart. That’s because conventional cotton has been genetically engineered for that purpose. In the past 35 years, cotton yields have risen 42%, largely due to biotechnology and better irrigation techniques.

Organic cotton, by definition, comes from plants that have not been genetically modified. Because of that difference, to get the same amount of fiber from an organic crop and a conventional crop, you’ll have to plant more organic plants, which means using more land. That land, of course, has to be tended and irrigated.

It will take you about 290 gallons of water to grow enough conventional, high-yield cotton to produce a t-shirt, according to Cotton Inc. To grow the same amount of organic cotton for a t-shirt, however, requires about 660 gallons of water. The disparity is similar for a pair of jeans.

Water required to grow organic cotton to make a pair of jeans is 2641 gallons as compared with 1135 gallons for conventional jeans.

More information from Quartz.

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