The Pure Water Occasional for December 22, 2014
In this pre-Christmas Occasional, you’ll hear about perchlorate, the Reinheitsgebot, the spiffy Desalenator, Brummie water fleas, a new battery factory in thirsty Nevada, and the versatility of countertop reverse osmosis. You’ll find out how important beavers are for California’s creeks and why coal ash is now considered garbage, not toxic waste. There was lots of news about fracking protests and bans on fracking. Hear about Isis’ war on water and the EPA’s war on big-time polluters. And you’ll marvel once again at B. Sharper’s retelling of Timmy’s sad demise. And, of course, as always, there is much, much more.
To read this issue on the Pure Water Gazette’s website, please go here. (Recommended! When you read online you get the added advantage of the Gazette’s sidebar feed of the very latest world water news.)
The Effects of Perchlorate in Drinking Water
Perchlorate is used in rocket fuel, explosives, and fireworks manufacturing. In 2011, the Obama administration reversed a Bush ruling that perchlorate is of no consequence to health and instructed the EPA to go about regulating levels in water.
In Water Technology’s December Professor POU/POE, Technical Editor Dr. Joseph Cotruvo writes about perchlorate in drinking water.
In the article, Cotruvo explains that perchlorate is one of numerous anions competing with iodide transport that may cause indirect neurological and thyroid problems in people of high risk at sustained, high enough doses.
Cotruvo also discusses in the article how perchlorate can be present in amounts of parts per billion (ppb) in produce, dairy products and some fertilizers, adding, “It is not metabolized after ingestion and is excreted unchanged with a half-life of eight to 12 hours.”
He continues, “Perchlorate and other anions in the diet, (nitrate, chlorate, bromide), smoking (thiocyanate) and in drinking waters compete with iodide transport to the thyroid, which can reduce production of thyroid hormones, increasing the risk of hypothyroidism if iodine intake is not adequate. Perchlorate is more potent on a unit basis than the other anions, but they are present in much greater quantities than perchlorate in the total diet.”
Infants and pregnant women with inadequate iodine intake face the greatest potential health risks of excess perchlorate exposure, adds Cotruvo in the article.
Cotruvo reports that treatment technologies for perchlorate include anion exchange, reverse osmosis (RO) and potentially catalytic reduction and granular activated carbon (GAC).
“In 2008, EPA developed an interim [Drinking Water Health Advisory] of 15 ppb based upon the NRC recommendation. California’s MCL is 6 ppb and Massachusetts’ is 2 ppb,” notes Cotruvo in the article. “As of EPA’s 2011 determination to regulate perchlorate in drinking water, it is working on a proposed regulation that was originally expected in 2013, but has been delayed.”
You can find the entire December Professor POU/POE on perchlorate in drinking water here.
Main Source: Water Technology online.
Leave it to beavers: California joins other states in embracing the rodent
by Samantha Clark
Californians are crossing their fingers for more rain after three punishing years of drought have left streams, rivers and wetland parched.
One animal has the potential to restore these dry landscapes.
With their industrial buck teeth and flat tails, beavers and their dams offer a defense against drought, a solution to reversing the effects of climate change. The rodents are known as ecosystem engineers. And they once populated most of California (and the Bay Area) until fur traders nearly wiped them out in the 19th century.
“This state has lost more of its wetlands than all other states, and beavers can rebuild those wetlands,” said Rick Lanman of the Institute for Historical Ecology in Los Altos. “Knowing that it is native should help guide restoration efforts.”
Beaver dams bestow benefits to the environment that we humans can’t easily copy. They turn land into a sponge for water. Their gnawing and nesting promotes richer soil and slows down water, improving imperiled fish habitat. Their dams raise water tables, nourishing shrubbery alongside streams that stabilize eroding banks and add habitat for birds and deer. They also help the endangered California Red-legged frog.
After beavers move to a new area, at night, they drag a tree across a shallow stream to start a dam. They carry rocks and mud with their paws and branches with their big incisors. Water in these beaver ponds would otherwise flow away. So it’s no surprise that thirsty western states are turning to the furry critters with open arms.
“There’s a growing interest in using beaver as a habitat restoration tool,” said Michael M. Pollock, an ecosystems analyst with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Seattle. “They create good wetland habitat much more cheaply than other restoration methods.”
Government agencies are hosting a workshop series in a few western states and writing a guide on how to use beavers for restoration. California Fish and Wildlife is starting to embrace the beaver, a shift beaver advocates applaud.
“Our effort now is to show its many sides, sides that have always existed,” said Kevin Shaffer, a fisheries manager for state Fish and Wildlife. “We are investigating how beaver promote habitat and water conservation through their habitat manipulation. We are also creating public and scientific information about the beaver, its ecological role and current regulations and laws affecting its management and conservation.”
Other arid states in the West have comprehensive policies for managing beavers. California allows beaver to be hunted or relocated and killed if they cause trouble. Utah has a beaver management plan, and New Mexico recently mandated that its Fish and Wildlife come up with a plan too. Oregon, Washington and Idaho have relocation programs.
“It would be great if we could recognize the benefit of the beaver and to resolve conflict nonlethally and manage them to continue receiving those benefits,” said Kate Lundquist, director of the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center’s Water Institute, a group that is drafting beaver policy recommendations for state Fish and Wildlife.
So how would California look if beavers bounced back? A lot wetter, perhaps. Beavers once were an integral part of a vast network of wetlands throughout the state.
Locally, they range from Salinas to Sonoma County.
Given away by girdled willow branches, beavers live around the Lexington Reservoir and in Pescadero in the Santa Cruz Mountains. A mile-long stretch in the upper Los Gatos Creek has at least 10 dams. Parts of the creek have separated into beaver ponds, which provide needed refuge when flows are reduced from the reservoir up the mountain. The ponds are great rearing habitat for struggling young coho salmon and steelhead trout.
“Beaver ponds are beneficial because they also create a lot of wetland that provide a lot of food for fish,” Pollock said.
Beavers can also help reverse the rising temperatures of water, which can harm fish. The deep pools created by their dams have cooler water at the bottom.
“With a range of temperature conditions, fish are able to find the temperature that is ideal for them at a given time,” Pollock said.
Since beavers moved to the Alhambra Creek in downtown Martinez, the area has seen new species flourish. By moving mud, the beavers create a haven for bugs.
“Because we have an insect bloom, we have a bloom of all the different fish and animals up the food chain,” said Heidi Perryman, founder of the beaver advocacy group Worth a Dam and who led the effort to save a Martinez beaver family from extermination. “We’ve identified three new species of fish and seven species of bird. And we see more otter and mink than we ever saw before.”
In San Jose, a beaver has taken refuge in the dry Guadalupe River. The critter’s dam outside a dripping storm drain created a tiny oasis.
“They can get by with very little,” Pollock said. “In a number of cases, they’ve built on streams that have run dry and because they have built the dams, water flows again.”
Because beavers are so good at recharging ground water, they can make streams flow when they would otherwise run dry such as during the summer months.
California called on beavers to prevent erosion from the 1920s and 1940s in nearly half the state’s counties, including those in the Bay Area and Santa Cruz, according to a recent paper proving that beavers are native in nearly all of the state. The beaver population grew from less than a thousand to 20,000 by 1950. No one knows today’s population.
A beaver family can improve damaged land at a cheaper cost, but restoration isn’t as simple as moving in a beaver family. They can inflict serious destruction on culverts and agriculture lands as well as flood homes and other urban areas.
State Fish and Wildlife is experimenting with artificial beaver dams to avoid moving the animal and the damage they can cause.
Still, some other Western states are reintroducing beavers to help mitigate problems related to climate change. California is on its way.
Source: Santa Cruz Sentinel.
Water News for the week ending December 22, 2014
California will need 11 trillion gallons of water to end epic drought. Forget about the possibility that a single “atmospheric river” storm could end California’s worst drought in at least 1,200 years, NASA researchers said Tuesday.
Germany Reaffirms Ban on Fracking
Germany says it is not going to loosen restrictions concerning its moratorium on fracking. A report in Der Spiegel had said the government was considering making it easier to extract shale gas and allow test drilling.
The government said on Monday it has no plans to lift the ban on fracking, Reuters reported.
France and Bulgaria have already banned fracking, while Germany has had a moratorium on the drilling technique for the last two years. However, the German government is coming under pressure from the country’s energy industry to allow fracking. They fear that they will become less competitive on the global market, due to rising energy costs at home and cheaper gas in the US, due to the popularity of fracking in North America.
In May 2013, German breweries warned Chancellor Angela Merkel that if fracking was given the green light, it could damage the country’s legendry beer industry. Germany has water purity laws dating back 500 years. Under Germany’s famous beer purity law, known as the “Reinheitsgebot,” brewers are only allowed to produce beer using malt, hops, yeast and water. Read the full article.
New York state bans fracking for natural gas
New York has become the first state to enact a ban against fracking despite sitting on rich natural gas deposits, a decision that goes against the energy orthodoxy of the rest of the United States.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the ban on Wednesday, which will prohibit fracking for natural gas. The governor cited unresolved health concerns and questionable economic benefits as reasons for the measure.
During a state cabinet meeting, Cuomo said he would defer to his environmental and health commissioners to recommend a ban on fracking. The state has had a moratorium on shale gas development since 2008 as it underwent an environmental review. Both commissioners concluded that shale development carried unacceptable risks that haven’t been sufficiently studied.
“I cannot support high volume hydraulic fracturing in the great state of New York,” said Howard Zucker, acting New York State Health Commissioner. He equated fracking to second-hand smoke, the health risks of which were not fully understood until many years of scientific study were conducted.
Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens said there are a number of reasons that make fracking less economically beneficial than had been anticipated, including the low price of gas and the high local cost of industry oversight. Additionally, large areas would be off-limits to shale gas development because of setback requirements, water supply protections and local prohibitions.
The Department of Environmental Conservation will issue a final environmental impact statement early next year. After that, the agency is expected to issue an order prohibiting fracking.
The Marcellus Shale – a rock formation that sits under New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia – contains large natural gas deposits of interest to oil and gas companies. The method for releasing the gas involves drilling vertically and then horizontally blasting the rock apart to release the gas using chemically treated water at high pressure.
The fracking method has yielded tens of billions of dollars of profits for oil and gas companies, and turned the US into an energy supplier rather than an importer. However the methods used have led to national protests and complaints over air and water pollution, increased earthquakes, property devaluation and health impacts. Source.
EPA Coal Ash Standards a Setback for Environmental Groups
Six years ago, there was a massive spill of coal ash sludge in Tennessee. Three years later, tons of coal ash swept into Lake Michigan. Last February, there was another spill and gray sludge spewed into the Dan River in North Carolina.
With each disaster, environmentalists sounded alarms and called for the byproduct of burning coal to be treated as hazardous waste. On Friday, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released the first standards for the coal-burning waste, but they were hardly what environmental groups were hoping for.
The EPA ruled that the ash can be treated like regular garbage, meaning regulating the stuff will be left up to states and watchful citizens.
“We had to go to court to force EPA to issue this first-ever coal ash rule, and unfortunately, we will be back in court to force coal plants to clean up their ash dumps and start disposing of their toxic waste safely,” said EarthJustice attorney Lisa Evans.
Added Scott Slesinger of the Natural Resources Defense Council: “Unlike the majority of environmental standards ? which are backstopped by federal enforcement ? this rule all but leaves people who live near coal ash dumps to fend for themselves.”
The coal industry supported the less strict classification, arguing that the ash wasn’t dangerous, and that a hazardous label would hinder the ash recycling market. About 40 percent of coal ash is reused, in products such as cement.
In this week’s top water story, the EPA decided that the persistent water pollutant coal ash is garbage, not toxic waste.
Although environmentalist opposed the nomination of Joseph Pizarchik to lead the federal Office of Surface Mining, time has proven them wrong and he is seen as a friend of water. Newsmaker.
Using nothing but sunlight, the Desolenator turns polluted or salty water into enough drinking water for a small family. Water heats up on the solar panel until it’s boiling, and then the device uses the electricity from the solar panel to boil it more. The vapor is pure and safe to drink, while salt and heavy metals like arsenic are filtered out. The unit is intended as an affordable, single-family drinking water provider. Details about this compact solar distiller.
Governor Cuomo’s decision to ban fracking in New York was certainly influenced by actions in many small communities that were working to keep their own air and water safe regardless of the state’s decision. Washington Post.
In spite of budget cuts, the EPA managed to get a lot tougher on polluters—especially big ones—during the past year.
The EPA Gets Tougher on Big Polluters
The following is from the Daily Caller.
In 2014, the Environmental Protection Agency charged 187 defendants with environmental crimes and sentenced offenders to a combined 155 years of jail time. That’s more than double the amount of jail time eco-offenders were sentenced to in 2010, according agency data.
The EPA, however, charged significantly fewer people for environmental crimes in 2014 compared to 2010, reflecting the agency’s strategy of going after larger, more lucrative criminal and civil cases.
“By taking on large, high impact enforcement cases, EPA is helping to level the playing field for companies that play by the rules, while maximizing our ability to protect the communities we serve across the country,” Cynthia Giles, head of the EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, said in a statement.
EPA data shows the agency forced companies and other offenders to pay $9.7 billion in actions and to pay for “equipment to control pollution and clean up contaminated sites” as well as $163 million in civil penalties and criminal fines. The agency also got offenders to pay $453.7 million to clean up Superfund sites.
EPA enforcement actions resulted in 141 million pound reduction in of air pollutants and a 337 million pound reduction in water pollutants, according to agency data. Enforcement actions also cleaned up 856 million cubic yards of contaminated aquifers.
“Despite challenges posed by budget cuts and a government shutdown, we secured major settlements in key industry sectors and brought criminal violators to justice,” Giles said. “This work resulted in critical investments in advanced technologies and innovative approaches to reduce pollution and improve compliance.”
But probably EPA’s most startling statistic is its more than doubling of prison sentencing for environmental criminals in the last four years. In 2010, the EPA successfully charged 289 defendants, garnering 72 years in prison sentences.
Jail time for offenders has now doubled to 155 years among a successfully convicted group of only 187 defendants.
So who were some of the top environmental criminals of 2014?
Mark Kamholz, the environment control manager at the Tonawanda Coke Corporation, was convicted of violating the Clean Air Act and other federal laws and sentenced to one year in prison, 100 hours of community service and a $20,000 fine.
All this for “releasing coke oven gas containing benzene into the air through an unreported pressure relief valve” and because a coke-quenching tower did not have federally mandated pollution control technology, says EPA. Kamholz order another employee to conceal the fact a pressure valve was releasing pollutants into the air.
The Tonawanda Coke Corporation was hit with fines as well. The company was forced to pay a $12.5 million penalty and pay $12.2 million in community service payments for violating federal environmental laws. The EPA says this is “one of the largest fines ever levied in an air pollution case involving a federal criminal trial.”
Ohio waste disposal company owner Benedict Lupo was sentenced to two years in prison and a $25,000 fine for ordering his employees to dump waste from hydraulic fracturing operations into a tributary of the Mahoning River. Lupo illegally dumped fracking waste into the tributary 30 times in 2012 and 2013, having his employees dump the waste at night when nobody else was around.
Robert Lewis, a hazardous waste transporter, was sentenced to 10 months in federal prison for illegally storing hazardous waste in a self-storage facility in Macon, Georgia. He also illegally stored waste in Rex, Georgia and at his home in Albany.
And finally, Benjamin Pass, the owner of a recycling business, was sentenced to 42 months in prison and forced to pay $21 million in fines for “mishandling of used oil contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) that led to widespread contamination and millions of dollars in clean-up costs.” Read the full article.
Research finds wind at work in fostering algae. Wind has emerged as the most important weather-related factor contributing to harmful algal blooms in western Lake Erie, according to the preliminary results of a scientific study that was presented recently at the 47th annual American Geophysical Union fall meeting in San Francisco.
Brummie Water Fleas are slated to be the first animals from UK waters to go into space.
“Water War” being waged by Isis
An Iraqi official warned on Saturday of a “humanitarian disaster” after Islamist militants diverted Al-Roz River away from Bildoz district in the eastern province of Diyala, affecting thousands of people in what he described as a “water war,” in an interview with a local news outlet. Full story.
The Number of Nights Before Christmas that ‘Twas: 1
by Bee Sharper
Editor’s Note: Pure Water Gazette numerical wizard Bea Sharper writes only in the Harper’ s Index number format. This makes fiction difficult, but you’ll see that she carries it off well in the piece below. We print Bea Sharper’s Number of Nights before Christmas that ‘Twas every Christmas season. We promise you can only read it here; it won’t be in the New York Times. — Hardly Waite.
Number of nights before Christmas that ’twas: 1
Number of creatures, including mice, that were stirring: 0.
Stockings that were hung by the chimney with care: 16
Approximate number of visions of sugar plums dancing in Timmy’s head: 43.
Time when Timmy settled down for his long winter’s nap: 10:30.
Number of clatters that arose on the lawn: 1.
Total number of miniature sleighs seen by Timmy when he tore open the shutters and threw up the sash: 1.
Number of tiny reindeer that were pulling the sleigh: 8.
Exact number of little old lively and quick sleigh drivers seen by Timmy: 1
Number of little round bellies the lively and quick sleigh driver with a nose like a cherry had: 1.
Total number of toys he had in his bundle when he came down Timmy’s chimney: 176.
Number of stairs Timmy quietly crept down in order to watch Jolly Old St. Nick go about his work: 14.
Countertop Reverse Osmosis Doesn’t Have to Sit on the Countertop
by Gene Franks
A Basic “Black and White” brand countertop RO unit.
The countertop reverse osmosis unit pictured above produces top quality reverse osmosis water at the rate of a couple of gallons per hour. The water quality is equivalent to that produced by an undersink RO unit costing double the price. It is an extremely versatile machine that can be used for many purposes.
The countertop RO unit is most commonly used as a bottled water maker, installed to the sink faucet and allowed to produce water into a bottle. When the bottle is filled, you turn the unit off. You can then leave it in place or remove it. The drain water (all reverse osmosis puts out a trickle of reject water) exits via a separate hose that is simply dropped into the sink.
The usual way to get water to the unit is with the standard diverter valve, like the one below, hooked to the kitchen faucet. You pull out the knob to divert water into the RO unit. The knob stays out until you turn off the water.
Standard Diverter Valve
However, there are many other uses and methods of installation. For example, the RO unit can be attached directly to a water line in a laundry room or patio–anywhere there’s a water source and a place to send the drain water. With a simple adapter it can take its water from a garden hose or outdoor faucet for use on a patio or greenhouse.
With modern day sink faucets, especially those with pull-out sprayers, it is often impossible the use the diverter valve. In this case the RO unit can be fed from an undersink water source identical to the inlet line used for undersink filters and RO units. In these installations, the feed line is pulled from under the sink and attached to the RO unit with a push-in fitting. After water has been produced, the RO unit is removed and the feed line is conveniently stored under the sink. See the picture below.
A simple adapter like the one in the picture can be used to provide water from a kitchen or laundry room undersink to a countertop reverse osmosis unit. The blue-handled valve can be located at a more convenient place nearer the delivery end of the tube if desired. When not in use, the tube can be removed from the RO unit and stored under the sink.
Here are some more ideas for countertop RO units.
Aquarium filler. Water is collected in a large container for subsequent addition to the aquarium. The RO unit can be turned off and on manually, or a simple automatic shutoff system can be added to the RO unit that turns it off when the container is full. The shutoff system is inexpensive and easy to add to an existing countertop RO unit.
Outdoor pond filler. The unit can be allowed to fill the pond when it is turned on manually or it can be installed to top off the pond and shut off automatically with a float valve when the pond is full. A garden hose adapter (see below) will allow the user to produce RO water from a garden hose.
Final rinse water for a spot-free car wash. The water for car washing is usually captured in a small tank, then pumped to provide pressure for the car wash. A deionizing cartridge can be added to provide zero-TDS water if desired. The standard countertop RO unit can make up to 50 gallons of RO water per day (and it can be easily modified to produce more). The pump setup is easy to make from standard water treatment parts.
High quality water for plants, either in small outdoor gardens or greenhouses. This application also requires capturing then pumping the water to the point of use, although small drip systems can be designed that take water directly from the RO unit. For small operations, the water can be produced into a small tank and then dipped out with a bucket or pitcher to water plants.
High quality water for dehumidifiers or other appliances that require water that does not leave mineral deposits. Again, it is easy to modify the RO unit so that it feeds water to the appliance upon demand.
This handy fitting screws onto the end of a garden hose or outdoor faucet to make an easy connection to a countertop RO unit. It is provided free for the asking when a Black and White countertop RO unit is purchased.
Please visit our RO Parts Page for tanks and accessories. We also have dedicated parts pages for countertop water filters, undersink filters, and aeration equipment. We stock parts for everything we sell.
Thank you for reading. Please come back next week.
Places to Visit on Our Websites in the meantime.
Garden Hose Filters. Don’t be the last on your block to own one.
Model 77: “The World’s Greatest $77 Water Filter”
”Sprite Shower Filters: You’ll Sing Better!”
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