The Pure Water Occasional for July 28, 2014
In this pre-National Garden Hose Day Occasional you’ll hear about Zombie swimming pools, Darby Dam, chikungunya, Scajaquada Creek, the St. Lawrence Seaway, and the Batang River. Meet Peter Gleick and Umbra. Learn about Crohn’s Disease from shower water, new concerns with rain barrels, the fracking-additive Excelyte, the fuel cost of seafood, and invasive plants, fish, mollusks and mussels. Bad news about water restrictions, earthquakes in Oklahoma, the rapid decline of the Colorado River, Halliburton’s mystery spill in Ohio, Israel’s warfare by water, and the dumping of medical wastes by the army. Fracking and more fracking; drought and more drought. The good news: National Garden Hose Day is only six days away, PWP has a new Easy-Off filter housing, and 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.)
Slamming Shut the Doors
A excerpt from an extensive Journal Sentinel study of Great Lakes devastation by Zebra and quagga mussels:
How invasive species changed the Great Lakes forever
A watershed moment has arrived for the Great Lakes.
After decades of regulatory paralysis, a federal judge has forced the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to begin requiring overseas ships to decontaminate their ballast water before discharging it into the five lakes that together span a surface area the size of the United Kingdom.
Despite their vastness, for thousands of years the inland seas above Niagara Falls were as isolated from the outside world as a Northwoods Wisconsin pond. That all changed in 1959. The U.S. and Canadian governments obliterated the lake’s natural barrier to invasive fish, plants, viruses and mollusks with the construction of the St. Lawrence Seaway, a system of channels, locks and dams that opened the door for ocean freighters to sail up the once-wild St. Lawrence River, around Niagara Falls and into the heart of the continent.
Small boats had access to the lakes since the 1800s thanks to relatively tiny man-made navigation channels stretching in from the East Coast and a canal at Chicago that artificially linked Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River basin.
But the consequences of opening a nautical freeway into the Great Lakes for globe-roaming freighters proved disastrous — at least 56 non-native organisms have since been discovered in the lakes, and the majority arrived as stowaways in freighter ballast tanks.
These invaders have decimated native fish populations and rewired the way energy flows through the world’s largest freshwater system, sparking an explosion in seaweed growth that rots in reeking pockets along thousands of miles of shoreline. The foreign organisms are implicated in botulism outbreaks that have suffocated tens of thousands of birds on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan. They are among the culprits responsible for toxic algae blooms on Lake Erie that threaten public water supplies.
The hope is the new ballast discharge regulations will shut the door to new invasions.
The reality: The Environmental Protection Agency has already acknowledged they are not stringent enough to do that job.
The agency blames a lack of technology to adequately disinfect ballast tanks. Critics blame a lack of resolve in getting tough with the relatively tiny overseas shipping industry that has done so much damage to this singularly important natural resource; an average of fewer than two such ships visit the lakes each day during the Seaway’s nine-month, ice-free shipping season.
“We can do much better,” says biologist Gary Fahnenstiel, who spent his career chronicling the ecological unraveling of Lake Michigan for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “If we really care about the lakes.”
Solving the Seaway ballast problem isn’t just about the Great Lakes, because the invaders have a history of making their way into waters across the continent. Out West, where Great Lakes invasive mussels are spreading as fast as boats are towed from lake to lake, states now have laws to throw people in jail and fine them thousands of dollars for transporting the same species Seaway freighters dumped on the continent with impunity.
Great Lakes advocates predict the bubbling frustration out West over the Seaway’s role in their troubles will erupt if — or when — Seaway ships unleash yet another invader.
Zebra Mussels (click for larger view)
“The industry has had this grace period to find solutions,” says Phyllis Green, superintendent of Isle Royale National Park in Lake Superior. “The grace period they have been given will hit the fan when they find the next one.”
The pressure is mounting inside the Great Lakes basin as well, because even as the EPA leaves this front door to the Great Lakes cracked open, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is under fire from Congress to shut the back door — the Chicago canal system that is the prime pathway for Asian carp to invade the lakes. Rebuilding the natural divide between Lake Michigan and the Mississippi River basin is a project that likely would take years and cost billions of dollars.
But it begs the question: Why spend all this money to close the back door if we aren’t going to shut and seal the front door as well?
Building a barrier to protect the upper Great Lakes from Seaway invaders would actually be simpler than restoring the natural watershed divide at Chicago. In fact, such a barrier already exists.
It’s called Niagara Falls.
Read the full study here.
Acute water crisis looms in Gaza, aid agencies warn
by Stephanie Nebehay
Editor’s Note: One of the very dirtiest forms of warfare is attacking civilian populations by destroying water infrastructure. If the report below is correct, Israel appears to have sunk as low as the US and Great Britain, who in the years preceding the first US attack on Iraq destroyed the country’s water and sanitation infrastructure with bombs, then purposely prevented repairs by sanctioning the import of parts needed to fix water and sewage plants. Sanctions covered even such essential water treatment tools as chlorine. As a result, tens of thousands of Iraqis, and especially Iraqi children under five, died of easily preventable waterborne diseases. Warfare of this type is simply an indirect application of biological warfare, which civilized nations claim to abhor. See “A Prayer for Water & Children” which is archived on the Gazette’s old website.–Hardly Waite.
Hundreds of thousands of Gazans are without water after Israeli air strikes that have wrecked the water and sewage system and the whole strip is threatened with a water crisis within days, aid agencies warned on Tuesday.
The eight-day assault has caused massive damage to infrastructure and destroyed at least 560 homes, the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA) said.
“Within days, the entire population of the Strip may be desperately short of water,” Jacques de Maio, head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) delegation in Israel and the occupied territories, said in a statement.
If hostilities continue, just as temperatures soar in the region, “the question is not if but when an already beleaguered population will face an acute water crisis”, he said.
“Water is becoming contaminated and sewage is overflowing, bringing a serious risk of disease,” de Maio added.
Several municipal water engineers have been killed in the conflict and Gaza’s water service provider has suspended all field operations until the safety of its staff can be guaranteed, according to the ICRC, an independent aid agency whose teams have helped with emergency repairs.
“Water is a problem and it can quickly turn into a catastrophe,” ICRC spokewoman Nada Doumani told a news briefing.
At least 184 Palestinians, most of them civilians, have been killed in the fighting, the worst flare-up in two years. The stated purpose of Israel’s bombing is quieting cross-border rocket fire from Hamas militants fired into southern Israel.
UNRWA said the destruction compounded the effects of eight years of Israel’s blockade of the enclave.
“The water and sewage network is barely functioning, and with the sustained bombardment of the past 8 days, it’s as good as destroyed,” UNRWA spokesman Sami Mshasha told the briefing.
“We’re looking at 90 million litres of untreated sewage that flows into the ocean every day because there is no electricity to treat it. Ninety percent of the drinking water is not fit for human consumption.”
The World Health Organization (WHO), a U.N. agency, warned last week that health services in the occupied Palestinian territory were on the brink of collapse among severe shortages in medicines and fuel for hospital generators.
Hamas militants fired volleys of rockets from the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, drawing a threat by Israel to abandon an Egyptian-proposed truce it had unilaterally accepted.
“We are extremely worrried as UNRWA that if the ceasefire being negotiated today does not succeed, then the much-talked about ground offensive might unfold and we might see an Israeli military incursion into Gaza,” Mshasha said.
If there is a truce, the ICRC hopes for better access to the increasing numbers of casualties, spokeswoman Doumani said.
The ICRC is “documenting violations of international humanitarian law” in the conflict, she said.
U.N. human rights chief Navi Pillay on Friday voiced serious doubts that Israeli’s military operation against Gaza complied with international law banning the targeting of civilians, and called on both sides to respect the rules of war.
Source: Chicago Tribune News.
Umbra on Rain Barrels
The except below is from Grist’s popular “Ask Umbra” feature. One rain barrel hazard that Umbra leaves out is getting the Rain Barrel Song in your head. Once there, it can stay for days. Umbra’s comments illustrate that owning and using even the simplest of objects can be really complicated.–Hardly Waite.
Rain barrels in general are unequivocally healthy for the planet. Simple systems designed to funnel rainwater from your roof into storage tanks, rain barrels relieve pressure on stormwater systems, reduce the energy used to treat and transport water, and save you roughly 1,300 gallons of tap water per summer. [But, there may be some drawbacks.]
Once it hits your roof, a raindrop may run over and collect a number of contaminants. Everything from roof-treatment chemicals to airborne heavy-metal pollutants to mold to the poop from roosting birds or squirrels may be swept into your clean-looking barrel. So while using the water to irrigate trees, shrubs, and flowers is universally smiled upon, some people get a little queasy about putting it on plants they’ll eventually be eating. Might those rooftop nasties make you sick?
I hate to rain on your parade, but there’s not a lot of research out there to provide a definitive answer. One 2013 study from Rutgers examined rain-barrel water for lead, zinc, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and E. coli bacteria. The water harbored no PAHs and little heavy metals, and most (but not all) samples were also low in bacteria. It is possible to have your runoff tested for contaminants at a local health department or well-water testing facility – but experts at Rutgers say testing thoroughly enough for meaningful results is likely impractical and expensive for home gardens.
What we’re left with then . . . is your personal tolerance for risk. I can tell you that plenty of gardeners do dip into the rain barrel to water their veggies. Experts can tell you the risk is minimal, but the practice is not entirely without peril. You should definitely skip it if your roof is copper or has been treated with chromated copper arsenate or zinc (used to prevent algal growth). If not, though, you must decide for yourself.
Feeling lucky? It’s smart to take some precautions. Water the veggies and herbs with a drip or trickle irrigator rather than pouring on the plants themselves; this minimizes direct contact and harnesses the filtration power of the soil. Water in the morning to allow for drying and UV light disinfection, and don’t use rainwater close to harvest time. Always, always wash your veggies thoroughly with potable water before you eat them. You might also consider installing a “first flush” feature that diverts the first few gallons from any rain into a separate barrel, as these are the most likely to contain troublesome additives (though other research casts doubts on this system’s efficacy, too). And finally, make sure to keep your barrel clean throughout the season.
Feeling not so lucky? That’s OK too – you can find loads of other uses for that water. Use it to wash your car, top off the pool, clean your gardening tools, and flush your toilet. And as I mentioned up top, rainwater is A-OK to use on non-edible plants. In fact, it’s even better than tap water because it doesn’t contain chlorine or calcium, which may harm beneficial bugs in the soil.
Source: Grist (Ask Umbra)
Water News Items for the week of July 28, 2014
This week’s water news was again dominated by drought and fracking.
The hospital disinfectant that’s being used in fracking. Excelyte is an EPA-approved solution that addresses major controversies associated with fracking: pollution of groundwater with toxic chemicals, release of hydrogen sulfide that endangers oil field worker’s lives, and excess wastewater.Fracking seems to have more going against it than for it, but a South Carolina-based company is hoping the oil and gas industry will mitigate environmental damages and health concerns with its latest product, Excelyte.
Californians face $500 fines for water waste under new restrictions. Measures for water conservation in drought-stricken California are getting tougher. The Water Resources Control Board’s emergency regulation now prohibits watering outdoor landscapes, washing driveways and sidewalks, using a hose to wash cars and turning on outdoor fountains.Residents who do not comply will face a $500 fine and water agencies that fail to comply with the requirements for water conservation will be fined up to $10,000 a day, the board said in a statement.
Wastewater injections trigger series of Oklahoma earthquakes. A series of earthquakes in Oklahoma occurring within hours of one another has added evidence to earlier scientific claims that the unusual seismic activity registered in the state recently is caused by fracking-related operations.
Fracking Litigation, involving efforts to ban or limit the process at a local level, is taking place in many areas of the country, with mixed results. Here are a couple of current stories:
Can your town ban fracking? Depends on the state. A judge struck down a fracking ban in Longmont, Colorado Thursday – a victory for oil and gas companies, and a blow to environmentalists trying to halt fracking at the local level. As more and more cities and towns mull fracking bans, courts are weighing in with decisions that vary widely by state.
Texas border fracking standoff: NY court ruling may affect outcome. In a precedent setting decision, New York State’s Court of Appeals recently ruled in favor of two towns that cited water concerns when they banned fracking. That ruling is expected to be cited by fracking opponents in Texas who favor local rather than state control.
Under water: The EPA’s struggle to combat pollution. For years, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been frustrated in its efforts to pursue hundreds of cases of water pollution – repeatedly tied up in legal fights about exactly what bodies of water it has the authority to monitor and protect.
Colorado River Basin drying up faster than previously thought. Seven Western states that rely on the Colorado River Basin for valuable water are drawing more heavily from groundwater supplies than previously believed, a new study finds, the latest indication that an historic drought is threatening the region’s future access to water.
What seafood guzzles the most gas? What does fuel have to do with seafood? Diesel is the single largest expense for the fishing industry and its biggest source of greenhouse gases. Find out which fish are most fuel intensive, and also learn the fuel footprint of other flesh foods.
Halliburton fracking spill mystery plagues Ohio waterway. On the morning of June 28, a fire broke out at a Halliburton fracking site in Monroe County, Ohio. As flames engulfed the area, trucks began exploding. Thousands of gallons of toxic chemicals spilled into the Ohio River, which supplies drinking water for millions of residents. More than 70,000 fish died.
Return to the rivers: Connecticut’s waterways reflect state history. The widely held assumption that Connecticut was complete wilderness when the first European settlers arrived in the early 17th Century is belied by what archaeologists have found along the state’s rivers. Excellent article with good pictures.
Disgust and outrage along New York’s Scajaquada Creek. Two New York state senators are demanding the Department of Environmental Conservation take aggressive action to address sewer overflows that have contaminated Scajaquada Creek. Excellent news video showing results of ineffective environmental control.
Pennsylvania’s complicated groundwater contamination. In places in Pennsylvania, well water is unfit to drink, polluted with iron and manganese, but the source of the contamination is complex. Fracking, coal mining, and natural methane formations in the ground combine to muddle the picture.
Army floats compromise on medical waste area. Representatives of the U.S. Army on Wednesday offered a compromise proposal for an area near a neighborhood trail in Silver Spring where syringes, scalpels and other medical waste were found two years ago.
Could bathroom showers trigger Crohn’s disease? The bacteria which may be responsible for Crohn’s disease could be lurking in one in 10 showers, scientists at Lancaster University believe.
“Zombie” swimming pools are becoming a significant health risk in Florida because mosquitos love them. With thousands upon thousands of neglected swimming pools — or “algae-caked cesspools” as Florida Today calls them — comes an elevated risk of being infected with mosquito-borne viral diseases including dengue fever and chikungunya.
Go North, Young Man
Cupertino. California’s Stevens Creek Reservoir
In one of the many recent pieces about the devastating drought in California, PRI interviewed Peter Gleick, President of the Pacific Institute. Gleick’s forcast for the future includes a predicted population shift. People, of necessity, follow water, and the West and Southwest, our high growth areas, are running out of it. Gleick points out that a fifth of the world’s fresh surface water is in the great lakes. He continues:
With climate change, I think we’re going to see higher and higher temperatures. We’re going to see more extreme events in the western U.S. The climate models suggest unfortunately that the Southwest is going to get drier, not wetter, which is the opposite of what we would like if we had any choice in the matter. I think there will be fundamental changes in agriculture. I think we’re not to be able to afford to spend as much water in the west on agriculture as we currently do. And potentially I think we’re going to see the Midwest and the Northeast begin to advertise, hey, come back home. There’s not as much water in the Southwest, and it’s hotter and hotter in the Southwest, and our climate is increasingly attractive. And that’s going to be a turnaround from the old days when the Southwest advertised and drew people from the Midwest and from the North because of their more attractive climate.
Read the full PRI report here.
Ex-top official of East Orange water agency admits concealing chemical in drinking water. A former top official of the East Orange Water Commission admitted today to conspiring to hide elevated levels of an industrial solvent in drinking water pumped to more than 80,000 residents in the city and neighboring South Orange, state authorities said.
In scarred Chinese Tibetan city, devotion to sanctity of life. In Yushu, a largely Tibetan city where more than 3,000 people died in an earthquake four years ago, the faithful have been flocking to the Batang River to rescue a minuscule aquatic crustacean that would hardly seem deserving of such attention.
New Easy-Off Water Filter Housings Make Cartridge Changes Easy
by Gene Franks
Sometimes standard items work so well that it’s hard to see how they can be improved. This has been the case with what is commonly called the “Big Blue” water filter containers that hold the standard-sized 4.5″ diameter filter cartridges — either 10″ or 20″ in length.
Sizes 3 and 4 are “Big Blue” units. (Click for larger image.)
There is now an improvement over the Big Blue that makes cartridge changes easier, makes o-ring replacement usually unnecessary, and virtually assures leak-free cartridge replacement.
Our new Easy-Off housings from Viqua use a unique lock ring seal that simply presses the sump. With conventional housings, the sump is screwed into the cap by twisting the sump. The lock-ring design does away with the problem of pinched o-rings and o-rings that are flattened by over-tightening.
The picture shows the lock ring held by the wrench. The ring can actually be hand tightened onto the blue threads of the cap to make a perfect seal. Only the ring turns; the sump itself does not turn but is pressed tightly against the cap by the tightening of the lock ring.
The advanced housing has other features that set it apart from conventional filter vessels. One very nice feature is a pre-tapped cap that allows for easy addition of a pressure gauge. The bottom of the sump is also pre-tapped and capped so that the sump can be drained from the bottom if desired.
A pressure gauge can be easily installed on the cap.
Bottom drain plug can be removed with a screwdriver.
One final note: The Easy-Off housings work only with radial style cartridges. They can’t be used for axial filters. Radial style includes all carbon blocks and sediment cartridges. Axials are mainly media cartridges: cartridges with an impermeable outer shell that are usually filled with granular media. The test is, if you can pick the cartridge up and look through the center hole like a telescope, the new housings will work. If you can’t see all the way through, the cartridge can’t be used with the new Easy-Off housings.
The new housings are sold with wrench, mounting bracket, and screws, so the only thing more you need to make a whole house filter is a filter cartridge.
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!”
Write to the Gazette or the Occasional: firstname.lastname@example.org
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