The Pure Water Occasional for July 31, 2016

In this deep summer Occasional, you’ll hear about our decrepit water infrastructure, soaring bottled water sales, flushable wipes that should not be flushed, guacamole-thick muck in Florida water, and mean-assed Stargazers in Virginia. Then there are KDF, TAC, NAC, HABs, OneFlow, FilterSorb, ScaleNet, Nestle, Kingsley Dam, and Soddy-Daisy. Also, arsenic, Siliphos, butyl, polyphosphates, and Spectraguard. Hear about lead testing, cyanobacteria, the most water-stressed cities and the cities with the best-tasting water, our great motorcycle giveaway, a clear RO tank, and,  as always, there is much, much more.

The Pure Water Occasional is a project of Pure Water Products and the Pure Water Gazette.

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.)

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You’ll sing better.

leakingmainThe Real Costs of the Aging US Infrastructure

How much will it really cost to fix our water problems?

by Louise Musial

Even though water is an essential part of everyday life, residents pay much less for it than cable television or any other utility. The current water rates do not accurately reflect the actual cost of supplying clean, reliable drinking water or wastewater management and discharge to the U.S. population.

In this era of new technologies, a blind eye is often turned to the things that should be addressed. One of the most important of those is the aging water and wastewater treatment infrastructure in the U.S.

Much of the drinking water and wastewater infrastructure with its million miles of pipes beneath streets is nearing the end of its useful life and needs to be replaced. Significant growth in urban areas of the country furthers the need for change.

According to the American Water Works Association (AWWA) study, “Buried No Longer: Confronting America’s Water Infrastructure Challenge,” if the country is to maintain even the current levels of water service, restoring existing water systems and expanding them to serve a growing population will cost at least $1 trillion over the next 25 years.

One trillion dollars may seem like a lot of money, but postponing infrastructure investments in the near term will only add to the problems in the years to come. According to the AWWA, the cost of fixing the water infrastructure could double to more than $2 trillion if action is not taken now. In the past year alone, 35 million gallons of raw sewage spilled into the waters of the Gallatin River in Big Sky, Montana, and $13 million of damage was incurred at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) when 20 million gallons of water spilled onto Sunset Boulevard.

The cost to implement new infrastructure will only increase with time, as will the odds of facing expensive water main breaks and other infrastructure failures. However, if action is taken now, it will leave time to plan and implement policies that will put the country on the right track for a more secure future. The $1 trillion required does not need to be invested overnight. Instead, it should be, by fiscal necessity, spread out over the next 20 years.

Even though water is an essential part of everyday life, residents pay much less for it than cable television or any other utility. The current water rates do not accurately reflect the actual cost of supplying clean, reliable drinking water or wastewater management and discharge to the U.S. population.

Replacing the nation’s antiquated pipes will require additional local investment including higher water rates. In the past, many municipalities have had to raise money through bonds, which can take years to get through red tape and voting. Programs are now in place to help expedite such issues, including the Water Infrastructure and Innovation Act Program. Congress enacted it in 2014 in an effort to offset the high costs associated with retrofitting and updating current water treatment systems.

In the most recent report by the American Society of Civil Engineers, the U.S. earned a grade of D for its water and wastewater infrastructure. It is not surprising given the fact that many of its most neglected water treatment systems are in need of maintenance and repairs and have not been upgraded in decades. And in 2009, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reported to Congress that it had assessed 16 percent of America’s stream miles and found 36 percent of those miles were unfit for use by fish and wildlife, 28 percent were unfit for human recreation, 18 percent were unfit for use as a public water supply and 10 percent were unfit for agricultural use.

Not only do citizens need reliable water treatment systems, but also industries, public and private, rely heavily on its infrastructure. If there is a delay to address updates to our water systems, the economy may be in jeopardy due to rising costs and the loss of valuable market share. The lead contamination in drinking water in Flint, Michigan, furthers this point.

Costs are inevitably rising, making the present an opportune time to use new technologies for change. Communities and the country can take many steps to ensure that water infrastructure lasts for generations.

Source: Water Technology.

Pure Water Gazette Fair Use Statement

Should You Be Worried About Arsenic in Your Water?

by Gene Franks

Humans have always had to deal with contradiction. What’s good today is bad tomorrow.  Science stakes out a rigid position and in most cases eventually decides that the opposite is true. The American Medical Association would like you to forget that it endorsed smoking and told mothers that breast milk was nutritionally inadequate just a few short decades ago.  Chlorine, coffee, fluoride, knee surgery, sugar, estrogen therapy, therapeutic bleeding–you could name dozens–have had their ups and downs.

We’re so used to contradictory information that people didn’t  get too excited when the EPA announced that the allowable safe level for arsenic in water really isn’t 50 parts per billion (ppb), as “the experts” have been telling us for years, but it is really only 10 ppb.

How did the government’s mandated “safe” level of arsenic in drinking water shrink overnight from 50 to 10 parts per billion? Does this mean that arsenic suddenly has become more lethal? Should we take the 10 ppb limit seriously, or is it just another Swine Flu-style fundraiser?

The new arsenic limit should definitely be taken seriously.  Arsenic poisoning is terrible. And lowering the level took some real political courage.  Water utilities that were overnight out of compliance were faced with very expensive treatment requirements, and they screamed loudly.

The big drop in arsenic allowable actually makes sense. The  initial  limit for arsenic was set at 50 ppb simply because test labs before 1975 weren’t able to detect arsenic at levels below 50 ppb.  As tests got better, it became obvious that 50 ppb was too high.

After much deliberation, the EPA, with intense political pressure from both sides of the issue,  proposed reducing the allowable to 5 ppb in 2000, although the final rule did not take effect until 2006.  The number by that time had been negotiated up to the current 10 ppb.  (Two states, North Carolina and New Jersey, have independently set the arsenic allowable at 5 ppb.)

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Arsenic Poisoning

Arsenic poisoning is implicated in cancers of the bladder, lungs, skin, liver, prostate and kidneys as well as non-carcinogenic endocrine, pulmonary, cardiovascular, and neurological damage. At around 60 parts per million in food or water it is an immediate threat to life and can result in sudden death.  (Note that that’s 60 parts per million, which is 60,000 parts per billion–or 6,000 times the current EPA allowable.)

The truth is that we get arsenic from lots of sources, including food. Rice, for instance, is often a source of unwanted arsenic. We get plenty of arsenic from our environment and certainly don’t need more in our water.  The only truly safe level of arsenic in water is zero.

From a water treatment standpoint,  arsenic reduction can be very easy or very complicated. Although plain carbon filtration can usually make a moderate reduction, the most commonly used strategies are reverse osmosis, anion exchange, distillation, and filtration with iron-based media. The complicated part is that arsenic exists mainly in two forms–As(III) and As(V).  Since As(III) is hard to remove and As(V) is relatively easy, the usual strategy is to convert As(III) to As(V) by oxidation to facilitate removal.  Here’s more detailed information.

Gazette Famous Water Picture Series

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Kingsley Dam, 1941 (Click for larger view.)

Gazette Introductory Note: At a time when dams have fallen into disfavor and many of the older dams are now seen as an expensive nuisance to be gotten rid of, the  75-year-old Kingsley Dam stands as an exception. A product of combined private and public funding, the world’s second largest earthen dam continues to provide electricity, entertainment, abundant water for agriculture, and important habitat for animals. –Hardly Waite.

The nation was changing quickly in 1910. Airplanes, radios and vacuum cleaners were new, and the Model T was a hot car. No one had an inkling about big things to come — things like World War I, Prohibition and the Dust Bowl. William Howard Taft was in the White House, and Nebraska still had a two-house Legislature.

It was against that backdrop that Charles McConaughy had his big idea.

McConaughy, a businessman and civic leader in Holdrege, Nebraska, dreamed of damming the Platte River and using the stored water to irrigate farmland.

Two years later, he gained his biggest financial supporter and promoter in George P. Kingsley, a banker in Minden, Nebraska. Together, McConaughy and Kingsley spent decades gathering support, acquiring the legal rights and procuring financing for the dam and lake.  The building of the dam was actually part of Roosevelt’s New Deal project. It provided 1000 jobs during the darkest days of the Great Depression.

Today that big idea is known as Big Mac, and it has delivered all that McConaughy and Kingsley envisioned — and more. The story of Kingsley Dam and Lake McConaughy can be told partially in numbers. Big numbers, of course:

» Construction extended from 1936 to 1941 and, at its peak, involved more than 1,000 workers.

» The dam was a quarter-mile wide at its base, stood 162 feet high and stretched 3.1 miles across the Platte River valley.

» It required moving 39 miles of state and federal highways, 33 miles of Union Pacific Railroad track, 22 miles of county roads, 20 miles of oil pipelines and the entire town of Lemoyne.

» It became the world’s second-largest earthen dam when completed.

» These days the reservoir waters 110,000 acres of Nebraska cropland, delivered via 575 miles of canals and pipelines.

The water stored behind Kingsley Dam cools the state’s largest power plant at Sutherland. It’s part of a system that is a source of water for four of Nebraska’s five largest cities: Omaha, Lincoln, Grand Island and Kearney.

It provides flows for habitat critical to endangered species. It recharges the south-central Nebraska aquifer from water oozing out of the canals. And, since 1984, a hydroplant on the dam generates electricity.

The estimated annual economic benefits of the dam and lake for irrigation, hydropower generation and recreation range from $556 million to $806 million, according to a study by the federal Bureau of Reclamation.

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Kingsley Dam Today (Click for larger view.)

 

Consumer Options for “Softening” Water

Siliphos

Siliphos consists of glass-like polyphosphate silicate spheres that prevent scale and stop corrosion.

There are a variety of strategies used to prevent scale buildup on pipes and fixtures. These are generally lumped together and called “softening” devices, although “softening,” if the meaning is removal of the “hardness” minerals calcium and magnesium, can only be properly applied to the conventional ion exchange water softener or or to reverse osmosis units. Here’s a look at the most popular scale-fighting strategies, starting with the conventional water softener itself.

Ion Exchange

Although the origin of the conventional water softener is not too clear, it likely goes back to the early 1900s.

The softener works by “exchanging” sodium for calcium and magnesium, so that the hardness minerals are actually absent from the water and cannot cause scaling of pipes or spotting on dishes and automobiles or cause soap to fail to lather. Actually, conventional softeners can be used to do a lot more, like removing iron and manganese from well water and, in specialized formats, dealing with tough contaminants like ammonia, lead, strontium, barium, and radium.

The effectiveness and reliable, predictable performance of the softener have made it popular, but it is not without its problems and its detractors. The ion exchange softener uses a fair amount of water to regenerate its resin, it puts salt into the environment, and its product water can have a “slickness” that many  dislike. Although the newer, more sophisticated softeners use less water and less salt than early models, they still use salt and water, and many cities have banned or restricted their use. We should add that softeners are among the most aggressively marketed consumer items and, consequently, they are sometimes sold for too high a price and to consumers who don’t really need them. If you need one, they’re great, but beware of silver-tongued marketers.

Polyphosphates

The use of phosphates to inhibit scale buildup goes back to the early 19th century. Phosphate treatment does not remove hardness minerals but “sequesters” them to prevent hardness scale deposits. Preventing scale with phosphates has wide application. Polyphosphate cartridges (which often combine phosphate with carbon to add taste/odor improvement to scale prevention) are very popular in restaurants, for example, to protect equipment such as coffee machines from scale while providing good-tasting water. Polyphosphate can also be fed as a liquid into a water stream to protect home appliances and to prevent hardness buildup on buildings and sidewalks from irrigation water. The popular Siliphos cartridges are an application of phosphate technology.

Other Corrosion Control Methods

There are highly concentrated chemicals that can be pump fed into the water stream to protect large reverse osmosis membranes from calcium scaling. Spectraguard, for example, is used to protect reverse osmosis membranes from calcium scaling even when inlet water is extremely hard. It can replace a water softener for RO pre-treatment.

The popular treatment medium KDF, most often used  for chlorine reduction, as in shower filters, for example, is also marketed as a scale preventer. KDF uses the “redox” process of passing water over dissimilar metals to modify the structure of scale-causing minerals and converting hardness to Aragonite. There are variations on this technique that use metal bars inside pipes rather than granular KDF media.

Magnets, Electro-Magnets and the Newer Methods, TAC and NAC.

Over the past few decades consumer demand for non-traditional scale prevention methods has led to the development of a number of magnetic and electro-magnetic devices. Treating scale with natural magnets actually goes back to the late 19th century. Currently there are a great number of electro-magnetic and other electronic systems on the market, ranging from simple and inexpensive to very complex and very expensive. The effectiveness of electro-magnetic devices is often debated.

By far the most popular new “salt-free” technologies, however, are NAC (“Nuclear Assisted Crystallization”) and TAC (“Template Assisted Crystallization”), which have become very big in the residential market. These work both as tank-style units, which require no backwash, no electricity, no salt, no drain connection, and cartridge-style units for smaller applications. Like other alternative methods, they do not actually soften water by removing hardness minerals, but instead purport to convert hardness to microscopic crystals. As with other non-traditional softening methods, NAC and TAC units do not actually remove anything from the water, so their performance is essentially impossible to quantify with a test. These units cost a bit more than conventional softener, but do not consume water, salt or electricity. The media, however, is expensive and requires replacement, usually after 3 to 5 years. TAC/NAC units are also more fragile than softeners,  requiring protection from sediment, chlorine, copper, and iron.

Scale Prevention Offerings from Pure Water Products

We do not sell magnets or electronic conditioners, but we do offer small polyphosphate cartridges and feed systems (pumps, tanks, media) for larger applications. We have Spectraguard for large RO protection. We have KDF in bulk, in cartridges, and in shower filters. We have all sizes of TAC (OneFlow, formerly branded as ScaleNet), and NAC (Filtersorb). With these we stock media, cartridges, and pre-built units. We ask customers to remember that TAC/NAC systems are not water softeners. They are scale preventers, and they do not do all the things that conventional salt-based softeners do.

And, yes, we do have lots of plain old water softeners, both single tank and twins,  in different formats and sizes. They cost about 1/4 as much as the telemarketers’ systems, but you don’t get a free year’s supply of soap.

It’s Istanbul Not Constantinople

Just as Constantinople was renamed Istanbul, Watts Water Quality’s star descaling product ScaleNet is being rechristened as OneFlow. The popular TAC medium is being rebranded to share a name already in use by another branch of the company.

In addition to the name change and a couple of minor alterations in the delivery hardware, the new OneFlow product will be offered at a higher  price.

oneflow

The new OneFlow unit looks exactly like the old ScaleNet unit, except for the decal and the  price tag.

Look for the new ScaleNet (OneFlow) pricing on our main website.  We will also be adding FilterSorb to our website offerings. FilterSorb is a competing salt-free conditioning system that will be priced lower than the OneFlow units.  Here are the main residential sizes and prices.  These are, of course, subject to change.

Description

GPM Rating

Price

FilterSorb 8 X 44 with 3 liters of Filtersorb.

10

$677.00

FilterSorb 9 X 48 with 4 liters of Filtersorb

12

$884.00

FilterSorb 10 X 54 with 5 liters of Filtersorb

15

$1,075.00

 

Water News

In spite of a 17-year drought, Phoenix is offering water to Nestle to sell as bottled water.

This year, bottled water sales are expected to surpass soda sales for the first time.

More than 2.5 billion people don’t have access to basic levels of fresh water for at least one month each year – a situation growing ever more critical as urban populations expand rapidly.  Where are the world’s most water-stressed cities?

 

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HABs

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) launched a new website to educate the general public on harmful algal blooms (HABs). The site also features a voluntary reporting system.

Some algal blooms—or the overgrowth of algae and cyanobacteria—on rivers, lakes and oceans can produce toxins that can cause illness in animals and humans, contaminate drinking water or seafood, or damage the local environment.

HABs are an emerging public health issue. In recent years, toxin-producing HABs have caused the shutdown of the water supply of a major U.S. city, resulted in massive fish die offs, and sickened hundreds of people and animals with a variety of skin, breathing, stomach and intestinal symptoms. Because animals are more likely to swim or drink from water that may contain an HAB, they are often the first affected when one occurs. Therefore, it is important to understand the possible health effects before swimming, fishing, or letting pets drink or play in suspicious-looking water.

Visit the new CDC website.

Two dozen islands in Indonesia have disappeared since 2005 because of black-market mining for sand (Harpers Weekly Review).

The dilemma of “flushable wipes”

“The composition of modern sewage is vastly different than influent from just a few decades ago, and pump stations, headworks facilities, and other equipment within water resource recovery facilities (WRRFs) were never designed to handle it. One of the biggest culprits is the increased use of “flushable” consumer wipes and other nondispersible fabrics that end up in the waste stream, which eventually clog pumps, pipelines and sensitive treatment.” Read about the heroic efforts of the wastewater treatment industry to deal with a major problem.

Why Life Without Water Is Impossible

A study in this week’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences provides the strongest evidence yet that proteins—the large and complex molecules that fold into particular shapes to enable biological reactions—can’t fold themselves.

Rather, the work of folding is done by much smaller water molecules, which surround proteins and push and pull at them to make them fold a certain way in fractions of a second, like scores of tiny origami artists folding a giant sheet of paper at blazingly fast speeds. Learn how water is involved in the essential business of protein folding and why the process could not take place without water.

Best Tasting Water? — Bloomington, MN

The American Water Works Assn. (AWWA) announced that the city of Bloomington, Minn., has won the 12th annual “Best of the Best” Tap Water Taste Test. Sponsored by Avista Technologies Inc. and composed of regional winners from water-tasting competitions across North America, the event was held at AWWA’s Annual Conference and Exposition in Chicago, Ill.

The city of Iola, Kan. was awarded second place and the village of Canajoharie,N.Y. was awarded third place. The People’s Choice award winner, as determined by the conference attendees, was awarded to City Corporation, Russellville, Ark.  Full story.

Water operator pleads innocent

An Ohio operator of a small city water plant has been charged with two counts of recklessly failing to provide timely notice of individual lead tap-water test results to affected consumers and one count of recklessly failing to provide timely system-wide public education in violation of safe-drinking water laws. This story is of interest because it is recurring frequently around the nation. Few of us really know how lead testing is done and what a city’s being “in compliance” really means. Just because the city is “in compliance” does not guarantee that the water in your home is lead free. Details.

Beneath California there may be vast stores of useable water. And there may not be. Stanford research draws mixed reactions.

toxicmuckSmelly, “guacamole-thick” muck is fouling a stretch of beaches promoted as Florida’s “Treasure Coast.”

stargazer

Stargazers, “the meanest things in creation,” are normally deep ocean fish, but have been found in the sands at Virginia Beach. More.

Sanctioned Pollution

In line with a strong trend among cities in Tennessee, the Northwest Utility District Commission in Soddy-Daisy, Tennessee voted 6-1 to end fluoridation.  Arsenic, barium, beryllium, cadmium, chromium, copper, mercury, lead, selenium, and thallium are among the ingredients that were being added to water by the fluoridation product the district was using. One official described the fluoridation process as nothing less than “sanctioned pollution.”

fluorideconcretepitting

The pitted concrete floor in a Soddy-Daisy water treatment facility caused by the fluoride solution being added to municipal drinking water helped convince officials that water fluoridation is risky business. Gasses from the fluoride used in water treatment peeled paint from doors and walls in the treatment room. 

Are algae blooms becoming more common? No matter how you slice or dice it, all the indicators of climate change seem to favor these types of blooms.

What’s Inside a Reverse Osmosis Tank?

Among the most frequently asked questions about the small storage tanks used for home reverse osmosis units is what type metal they are  made of.  The answer is that it doesn’t matter from the point of view of water purity because the water does not touch the walls of the tank itself.

In some tanks, especially older style tanks, the water is contained within a bottle made of an inert rubber material called butyl. The butyl bladder is surrounded by a pocket of air that pushes the water out of the tank. The only metal that the water touches is the threaded top stem of the tank where the water enters and  exits the tank.  In most modern tanks, the top stem is made of stainless steel.

Many current metal tanks use a slightly different arrangement.  Below is  a cutaway of a top quality modern Aquasky RO tank.

In the Aquasky tank the  upper and lower halves of the tank are divided by a butyl partition, which can be seen through the window that has been cut from the tank. The upper portion of the tank contains a polypropylene liner that is visible in the picture.  The water touches only the butyl partition on the bottom, the polypropylene liner, and the stainless tank neck.  It does not touch the metal of the tank itself.

Beneath the bladder is an air-filled compartment that provides pressure to push the water from the tank when the faucet is opened.  The small blue cap at the bottom left of the picture covers the valve where air is added to the tank.

And finally, what the world has been waiting for, a clear RO tank.

rotankclear

The tank above, which we received as a promotional sample from a Chinese manufacturer, is made of clear plastic and has a  replaceable transparent plastic bag that holds the purified water. An air charge on the outside of the bag drives the water out of the tank.The picture shows the tank filled with water. Click the picture for a larger view.

For a selection of RO tanks:

Small undersink units.

Larger tanks, up to 80 gallons.

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Win this Native American Chief Motorcyle

Pure Water Products’ Unique Recycled Contest

To be clear, it’s the contest that’s recycled.  The motorcycle is brand new.

One of our suppliers is giving away this beautiful Native American Chief motorcycle. As beautiful as it is, we  don’t need a big motorcycle, so if we win, we’ll make a random drawing from those who enter our contest and give the motorcycle to the winner. While this may seem like a long shot, by our calculation your chance of winning this motorcycle from us is at least 3,586,334 times better than your chance of winning the Texas lottery. Plus, it’s free.

To enter, just give us your email address. No name or phone number needed–just your email address.  If you entered earlier, please don’t enter again. 

To enter by email, just send your email address to pwp@purewaterproducts.com. Please add the subject line: Motorcycle Contest. Deadline is November 30, 2016.

 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:

Garden Hose Filters.  Don’t be the last on your block to own one. And don’t forget that National Garden Hose Day is just around the corner.

Model 77: “The World’s Greatest $77 Water Filter”

Sprite Shower Filters: You’ll Sing Better!”

An Alphabetical Index to Water Treatment Products

Our famous whole house Chloramine Catcher

Single Tank Aerators for Iron and Hydrogen Sulfide

Pure Water Occasional Archive: Sept. 2009-April 2013.

Pure Water Occasional Archive: April 2013 to present.

Write to the Gazette or the Occasional:   pwp@purewaterproducts.com

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