The Pure Water Occasional for June 2, 2014
In this early June Occasional, you’ll hear about lead, phtylates and other garden hose contaminants and learn the amount of water in a pound of cow manure. Read about a citizens’ revolt against underground water storage, the environmental dangers of navigating the Arctic Sea, and the water woes of Everglades National Park, Bloemhof, South Africa, and Saint John Harbor. You’ll hear about an important fracking lawsuit, unsafe oil tank cars, and the daily water consumption of the average California pot plant. Plus, the weird concept of “Senior Water Rights,” tanneries in Bangladesh, and the ever present phosphorous problem. Finally, at the very end there is a whole lot of information about backwashing water filters, and, as always, there is much, much more.
To read this issue on our website, please go here.
Watering gardens with lead, BPA and phthalates
Garden hoses suited to water flowers — not us
by Blair Sanderson
Garden hoses are a hot commodity these days as gardeners get their vegetables and flowers in the ground, but should we drink from them?
Kevin Hurst is assistant manager of a Lee Valley Tools in Halifax, Nova Scotia, he said most people don’t read the fine print when they pick out a hose.
“On the back here, [there’s] a warning, ‘this product contains one or more chemicals known to the state of California to cause cancer and birth defects'”.
“I certainly wouldn’t let my kid, or any kid that I knew drink from a hose, it’s a completely unnecessary risk,” said Gideon Foreman, the Toronto, Ontario based executive director of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment.
“One of the concerns certainly around the garden hose is they are not meant to go into a child’s mouth,” he explained. “They’re not meant to be drunk from … they’re not regulated, and there is some danger that the chemicals in the hose, just like other plastics, can leach.
Many Garden Hose Manufacturers Now Market the Safety of Their Product
A non-profit research group in the U.S. called The Ecology Center decided to study which chemicals might be leaching into water being ingested by kids and sprayed on fruit and vegetable gardens.
Last year it tested 21 brands and models of hoses. Lead researcher Jeff Gearhart said they found a range of chemicals, including lead, leaching from those hoses.
“The level of phthalate plasticizers that leached into the water [were] four times higher than drinking water standards, and bisphenol A, which is another chemical we’re worried about, was 20 times higher than drinking water standards that are commonly used to measure water safety.”
The research found that hoses made with PVC and vinyl tended to leach more phthalates and BPA, while those with copper fittings were the worst for lead content.
Health Canada has also weighed in on this. The agency recommends people not drink from hoses, because in addition to the risk of leaching chemicals, dirt, bacteria and small insects can also present a health risk. In an email, a Health Canada spokesperson also suggested that people flush the hose thoroughly with cold water to remove material that may have accumulated in the standing water.
Nicole Mensour lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia with her two children, aged nine and seven. She said she’s not going to stop her kids from taking a drink out of the garden hose.
“I grew up and we all drank from the garden hose, none of us died from it,” she said. “It’s not like they’re drinking from it every day and filling up their water bottles … so it must be minimal.”
Still, the federal government is cracking down on chemicals like phthalates and BPA, banning or limiting them from a range of consumer products.
The California-based Ecology Center recommends you:
- Store your hose in the shade to prevent leaching.
- Choose a hose made of natural rubber or polyurethane.
- Look for lead-free hoses.
Source: CBC News.
New Technology Extracts Water for Cattle from Manure
EAST LANSING, Mich. — A technology for extracting drinkable water from manure is on its way to commercial application this year, Michigan State University said Thursday.
The technology is particularly useful for animal operations in dry regions where water is at a premium, the school said.
The McLanahan Nutrient Separation System is an add-on to an anaerobic digester, which extracts energy and chemicals from manure. The system adds ultrafiltration, air stripping and a reverse osmosis system to produce water that’s clean enough for cattle to drink.
This unspectacular pile of cow manure is 90% water. One thing that the United States has plenty of is cow manure. Our vast manure holdings may become a significant source of water for animals (and people?)
The system has value both in conserving resources and protecting the environment, said Steve Safferman, an associate professor of biosystems and agricultural engineering who is working on the project.
“If you have 1,000 cows on your operation, they produce about 10 million gallons of manure a year,” Safferman said in a statement. “Here in Michigan we have a tendency to take water for granted,” said Safferman. “But out west, for example, where drought remains an issue, the accessibility of clean water could make the difference between a farm remaining viable or going out of business.”
Manure also “contains large amounts of nutrients, carbon and pathogens that can have an environmental impact if not properly managed,” said Safferman.
A particular issue is ammonia “that would otherwise be lost in the atmosphere,” said Jim Wallace, a former Michigan State student now employed by McLanahan Corp., which is working to develop the technology. “Ammonia is a negative from an air-quality standpoint.”
About 90 percent of manure is water. The system now extracts about 50 gallons of water from each 100 gallons of manure, and Wallace said developers are aiming at raising that to 65 gallons.
Source: South Bend Tribune.
Rockledge drops well plan for reuse water
by Scott Gunnerson
Rockledge, FL – Paint is peeling away on the large handmade, roadside sign on Florida Avenue that protested a plan in the city to store treated wastewater underground for future irrigation.
The sign, that features a guinea pig, was erected in 2010 by the Save Our Aquifer group that fought the city’s efforts to pump reused water underground because a fear of arsenic contamination.
The image of a vulture is perched on similar sign on Barton Boulevard near City Hall that draws attention to about $3 million in taxpayer money that had been spent on the aquifer storage and recovery well.
This month, Rockledge city officials abandoned plans to use the controversial well, and the weathered signs throughout Rockledge are the next to go.
“We are going to take the signs down,” said Mark Jacobs, president of Save Our Aquifer, a grassroots group that Rockledge residents formed to oppose the well.
“I’m tired of looking at the signs. It is over and they are not going to do anything that would release the arsenic.”
The Rockledge City Council accepted a recommendation from the city’s water resource committee to rescind the potable water well ban within one mile of the city’s water plant, where the well is located.
“It is something on the books that we would basically have to do again, so it makes sense to rescind it,” said Rockledge City Manager Jim McKnight, who expects the ban could be lifted in July after the city council votes on the issue at the next two meetings.
The council also instructed city staff to monitor technological advances that might allow the well to be used without a concern that oxygen-rich water would release arsenic from limestone.
“We are concerned about the arsenic levels,” McKnight said. “We are watching different places and what they are doing to condition the water so it doesn’t mobilize arsenic.”
The well, located at the city’s sewer plant, was expected to store up to 120 million gallons of treated wastewater underground to meet anticipated demand for irrigation use during dry periods.
The introduction of a metered system to track customer usage and the addition of surcharges for using more than 30,000 gallons a month has muted the need for added capacity.
“We had some people using over 200,000 gallons a month on a single-family lot,” McKnight said. “We went to metering and it has probably given us 30 percent more water.”
Jacobs believes the meters were a major reason plans for the ASR well stalled.
“Once they put the meters in, they found they didn’t have a shortage,” Jacobs said. “People are conserving more, so there is no need to store it.”
Now Jacobs has a new mission, removing the hand-painted Save Our Aquifer signs that were made from hurricane-shutter plywood that his neighbor threw out.
“They are getting weathered,” Jacobs said. “Some are in need of a paint job, so that is another good reason to take them down.”
Source: Florida Today.
Water News for the Week of June 2
Environmentalists warn fire retardant used in wildfires may have toxic consequences. In the effort to save homes and lives, more than 100,000 gallons of fire retardant were dropped during the fires in San Diego. Now, some environmentalists are warning that the retardant can have a dark side. It is toxic in certain amounts and has the potential to kill fish and contaminate our waterways.
Eco Pond in Everglades Nat’l Park (Click for larger view.)
$2 billion plan to restore Everglades stuck in Congressional limbo. In the 20th century the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers drained much of Florida’s Everglades to prepare the wetlands for development. At the dawn of the 21st century, Congress directed the corps to restore the Everglades to a more natural condition. It’s proving to be a very slow process.
Saint John harbor cleanup completion to bring ‘priceless’ results. Saint John’s habit of pumping raw sewage into the ocean is about to come to a formal end. The New Brunswick city will soon be celebrating the completion of its harbor cleanup, an infrastructure project that started nearly a decade ago and cost almost $100 million.
Officials pitch lake cleanup plan. Top officials with several Vermont state agencies said they are ready to collaborate to clean up phosphorus pollution in Lake Champlain, as the state submitted a new plan for doing so to the Environmental Protection Agency.
The three biggest contributors are agricultural lands, producing 40 percent of the phosphorus flowing to the lake; river bank erosion, blamed for 22 percent; and forestry, contributing 15 percent.
Among the fixes: fencing to keep cows out of rivers; temporary bridges so logging machinery doesn’t have to roll through streams; and stormwater ponds on the edges of housing and commercial developments. On the first one, the problem is less cows “pooping in rivers” than trampling the vegetation along their banks.
New technology extracts valuable fertilizer from waste. A new $3 million wastewater treatment process to be unveiled next week is designed to earn money for Madison’s sewage plant while reducing runoff of harmful nutrients into lakes and streams.
As Arctic sea ice melts, new sea routes are connecting the Atlantic and the Northern Pacific Oceans for the first time in two million years. Click for larger view.
Arctic shipping: Good for invasive species, bad for the rest of nature. Some marine biologists worry that ships carting cargo through the Arctic’s newly opened waterways are introducing invasive species to the area—and bringing invasive species to some of America’s most important ports.
Bloemhof, South Africa, reeling from water failure. The town of Bloemhof was still reeling late Thursday from a water-depleted week that saw a baby dying, schools shutting down and back-up water tanks running out. By nightfall, the municipality was confident that water had been restored. But residents of Boitumelong township were skeptical.
An incredible amount of water pollution in Bangladesh comes from tanneries set up to produce cheap leather goods for the US and Europe.
Nearly 4,000 California companies, farms and others are allowed to use free water with little oversight when the state is so bone dry that deliveries to nearly everyone else have been severely slashed.
Their special status dates back to claims made more than a century ago when water was plentiful. But in the third year of a drought that has ravaged California, these “senior rights holders” dominated by corporations and agricultural concerns are not obliged to conserve water.
Why do these tank cars carrying oil keep blowing up? Millions of gallons of crude oil are being shipped across the country in “the Ford Pinto of rail cars” – a tank car whose safety flaws have been known for more than two decades.
Texas fracking verdict puts industry on notice about toxic air emissions. A nearly $3 million jury verdict against a Texas oil and gas company highlights regulatory failures and health risks linked to fracking. Although the case concerned air quality mainly, the verdict may set a precedent that will open the way for water damage suits.
A study maintains that medical marijuana is draining some of California’s streams. A pot plant, according to this article, consumes about 6 gallons of water a day.
Basics of Backwashing Water Filters
Editor’s Note: The article below is adapted from an information page from Pure Water Products’ main website, purewaterproducts.com. It is one of scores of similarly informative pages on the site. If you want to find out something about water treatment, purewaterproducts.com is the best place to start. It is well indexed and supported by an internal Google search that makes things very easy to find.
Although a backwashing filter may look like a water softener and be the same size, it’s a different animal. Softeners are “ion exchangers”, not filters.
A backwashing filter is a simple device that consists of a large tank called a “mineral tank” that is filled with a filtering substance called a filter medium. (The plural is media.) Water enters the top of the tank through a special control valve and passes downward through the medium, which removes impurities and holds them. Some media do not hold impurities, but cause a change to occur. Calcite, for example, dissolves and in the process increases the pH of acidic water. Carbon changes chlorine to chloride. The treated water then enters a tube at the bottom of the mineral tank, passes upward through the tube (called a riser), and exits the filter via the control valve.
When the filter medium is saturated with contaminants, the control valve initiates a backwash. The backwash is an operation in which water passes backward through the filter at a rapid rate. It enters the tank at the bottom via the riser tube, then passes upward through the filter medium, exiting at the top, via the control valve, and flows to drain. The rapid upward flow, in addition to washing away stored impurities, fluffs and resettles the medium bed, preparing it for another filtering cycle.
Filter media are selected according to purpose. Some of the more common are Birm (iron removal), Filter Ag (sediment removal), Calcite (increase pH of acidic water), KDF55 (chlorine and lead removal), KDF85 (iron and hydrogen sulfide reduction), Manganese Greensand (iron and sulfide removal), etc.
Some media have numerous applications, like the very useful and widely used GAC, or Granular Activated Carbon, which is used to remove chlorine, the by-products of chlorination, pesticides, herbicides, and chemicals in general. GAC, following proper pretreatment, also removes iron and hydrogen sulfide. It comes in various formulations made from a variety of materials (bituminous coal, coconut shells, wood, etc.), each with its own special properties. Centaur® catalytic carbon, a specially processed version of GAC, is aimed at special problems like chloramines in city tap water and iron and hydrogen sulfide in well water.
How To Choose
Choosing a backwashing filter can be a simple or a complex matter. You should not expect a backwashing filter to be a magic, one-step solution to any problem. Often, in fact, it is the final stage of a more complex treatment system.
Below is a brief problem-oriented suggestion list. It will give you a place to start.
City Water Problems
Chlorine/Chloramines and Taste/Odor
The standard medium for removal of chlorine, both free and combined, and for the enhancement of taste and odor in city tap water is granular activated carbon (GAC). Centaur® catalytic carbon, a specially prepared carbon, is designed for effective removal of chloramine. For chloramine removal from city water, catalytic carbon is the medium of choice, but standard carbon will work well if the filter is sized large enough and the flow rate is kept within recommended limits.
KDF55, an excellent long-term remover of free chlorine, is not effective against chloramine or combined chlorine. It is often mixed in small quantities with GAC to enhance its performance.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a practical way to get significant, dependable fluoride reduction with a residential backwashing filter. Activated Alumina, the most commonly used medium for fluoride removal, requires very low flow rates and must be used in large quantities. These problems make it impractical for use in standard “whole house” filters.
Although reduction of fluoride by standard GAC is not claimed by manufacturers, the reality is that carbon often reduces fluoride. Although fluoride reduction by carbon filtration may depend on many variables (pH, mineral content of the water, etc.) that make performance uncertain, a good carbon filter is probably your best bet for fluoride reduction in city water, but we don’t recommend that you buy a carbon filter for the purpose of reducing fluoride.
For general chemical reduction — removal of pesticides, herbicides, etc.— carbon (GAC) is the standard. Filter carbon is made from a variety of substances, the most common being bituminous coal. Coconut shell carbon is generally regarded as the medium of choice for the removal of chlorine, chlorinated solvents, or Volatile Organics. Centaur® carbon is specially prepared for the reduction of chloramine.
“Hardness” is an overabundance of calcium and magnesium. It is removed by a water softener, which is an ion exchanger, not a filter. Go here to see water softeners.
Well Water Problems
You should not simply purchase a filter with “iron removal” media and expect it to solve your iron problems. Although a simple Birm filter is sometimes all that’s needed, iron removal often requires pretreatment by chlorination or aeration or some other oxidization strategy. In many cases, a common water softener is a great iron removal tool. A free-standing Birm filter will usually work quite well to remove a reasonably small amount of iron if your water has a pH of 7.0 or higher and there is sufficient dissolved oxygen in the water to be treated. If pH is low, an ordinary water softener may be your best choice for removal of small amounts of iron.
Backwashing filters with calcite, or calcite combined with Corosex, can increase the pH of acidic water to neutral. They can also remove sediment and, if the water is properly oxidized, they can also remove iron. Increasing pH is often necessary as a pretreatment for iron removal with aeration.
Hydrogen Sulfide Removal
Small amounts of hydrogen sulfide, the noxious gas that produces the “rotten egg” smell that wells are sometimes plagued with, can be removed by carbon filters and KDF/carbon combinations. If the problem is significant, you’ll get best results by oxidizing the contaminant with aeration or chlorination before filtering with carbon.
Most standard filter media (carbon, Birm, etc.) will provide good filtration of larger particles, 20 microns and larger. Filter Ag is a particularly good medium, being light and easy to backwash. For the very best in sediment removal, Multi-Media filters, or filters using a natural zeolite and sold under brand names like Micro Z and ChemSorb, are superior. ChemSorb, if properly sized, can filter down to <5 microns.
“Hardness” is an overabundance of calcium and magnesium. It is removed by a softener, not a filter. Go here to see water softeners. It can also be “sequestered” by the feeding of phosphate into the water stream, greatly reducing its ability to damage plumbing fixtures.
Links to Backwashing Filter Information
Properties of the most common filter media.
Our most popular backwashing filter in a convenient size that fits most residential situations.
Includes a variety of filter sizes. All filters have Fleck control valves.
To read this issue on the Pure Water Gazette’s website, please go here.
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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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