The Pure Water Occasional for June 30, 2014
In this pre-Independence Day Occasional, you’ll hear about sea cucumbers, exotic undersea life in the Pitcairn Islands, an embalming fluid spill in Virginia, gold dredging in Oregon, and the sad fate of Mississippi River shrimp. Water consumption advice from the People’s Pharmacy, the EPA’s 28-year slump, Detroit’s water dilemma, pharmaceuticals in Minnesota wells, water recycling in San Diego, wastewater dumping by Tyson Foods, aging infrastructure, water’s role in civil unrest in Iraq, and water shortages galore. Be forewarned that holiday BUI enforcement will be strict and that Verrucht, the world’s tallest waterslide, will not be open for the 4th. Finally, you’ll be glad to hear that the Great Lakes are on the rise, and you’ll delight at the news of Pure Water Products’ expanded offerings of single-tank aeration units. And, as always, there is much, much more.
To read this issue on the Pure Water Gazette’s website, please go here.
Why 28 years have passed since the EPA’s last chemical risk review:
Tens of thousands of chemicals have not been reviewed by the EPA, and people are starting to ask questions
by Peter Moskowitz
This week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hit a major milestone that some people, including leaders at the agency itself, think shouldn’t be celebrated.
On Wednesday, the agency released a final risk assessment for trichloroethylene (TCE), an industrial solvent used by artists, car mechanics, dry cleaners and others. The EPA’s in-depth report, released after a two-year analysis, shows that long-term exposure to TCE can cause cancer and other health issues, and recommends that workers take serious precautions if they must use TCE.
But in its press release, the EPA acknowledged there was something wrong — not with the risk assessment itself — but with its timeline: It was the first final risk assessment for a chemical issued by the EPA since 1986.
“The American public shouldn’t have to wait 28 years between … chemical risk assessments,” wrote Jim Jones, EPA assistant administrator of chemical safety and pollution prevention, in a blog post. “As the old adage goes, you have to walk before you can run.”
At issue is the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), the 38-year-old legislation that guides the EPA’s chemical review process. The EPA says the law is “badly in need of modernization,” and most lawmakers, chemical industry stakeholders and environmental experts agree.
The law essentially says that any chemical in use before the TSCA was passed is considered safe until proven otherwise and can be used without EPA oversight. That amounts to 62,000 chemicals, according to the EPA.
The EPA says the TSCA is the only major environmental law that has not been modernized.
The EPA and environmentalists contend that there are thousands of potentially dangerous chemicals in widespread use today. They can be found in everything from agricultural products like fertilizers to flame retardants that are used on things like airplane seats and kids’ toys.
The EPA could begin reviewing chemicals without a specific mandate to do so, and that’s exactly what it’s begun doing: TCE is one of 83 chemicals the agency has identified as posing possible risks to human health, and therefore in need of prompt risk assessments.
But without a legal mandate, the EPA says it doesn’t have enough staff or funding to carry out reviews in a timely manner, and doesn’t have the authority to require companies to hand over data on potentially harmful chemicals.
It picked TCE for its first risk assessment in nearly three decades essentially because it was low-hanging fruit.
“TCE is a good first candidate, because unlike most chemicals, EPA has a significant amount of data on the substance,” Jones wrote.
Without data on other chemicals, and with new chemicals entering the marketplace at a rapid rate, experts warn that the EPA is bound to fall further and further behind on its workload.
“There are thousands of chemicals used widely that have never been studied or proven safe,” said Richard Denison, a lead scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund. “We’ve dug ourselves in a very deep hole here.”
Denison said that, given the amount of chemicals out there, even if Congress passed a law mandating that the EPA start an extensive review process tomorrow, it would be decades before the agency worked through its backlog.
But, he said, there is a glimmer of hope that the way the EPA regulates chemicals will soon change.
Denison points out that for the first time since the TSCA passed in 1976, politicians are actively discussing updating the law. Even the American Chemistry Council, the lobbying group for the chemical industry, has acknowledged that the TSCA needs to change in order to ensure safety for Americans. No bill has shown a strong chance of passing yet, but at this point the fact that people are talking is enough for Denison to believe change is possible.
“For the first time you have the industry at the table; for the first time you have Republicans and Democrats discussing it,” he said. “That’s never happened in the last 40 years. That’s progress.”
Source: Aljazeera America.
Q & A from People’s Pharmacy: How Much Water Should I Drink?
Editor’s Note: Almost everyone who writes about health and nutrition has at some time chimed in on the topic of how much water a person should drink. Although we know of no one who believes in drinking zero water, quantity advice ranges from not much to gallons and gallons. The Gazette has consistently stuck with the radical “drink water when you’re thirsty” theory. Below is how the authors of the popular “People’s Pharmacy” weigh in on the topic. – Hardly Waite.
Question: Is it possible to overhydrate? When I was growing up, no one carried a bottle of water around. Now it seems as if everyone is constantly sipping bottled water throughout the day.
One friend believes that if she doesn’t drink at least eight to 10 glasses of water daily, she is jeopardizing her health. Couldn’t consuming too much water lead to dangerously low sodium levels by dilution?
Answer: People used to drink when they were thirsty, but these days there is a widespread belief that the more water we drink, the healthier we will be. Unless someone has had a kidney stone, there is no evidence that extra fluid consumption throughout the day is beneficial. If the kidneys are working properly, medical guidelines suggest that thirst is a good indicator for when you need to drink.
People who are sweating heavily, such as marathon runners in hot weather, may be thirsty enough to drink a lot of water. They need to be careful to replace electrolytes as well, since overhydration with plain water can lead to sodium depletion (hyponatremia). This can be life-threatening.
Cutting off water to Detroiters another wrong turn for Motor City
by Scott Martelle
Editor’s Note: This editorial from the LA Times is one of several recent pieces detailing the water dilemma in Detroit. With the city in bankruptcy and officials trying desperately to cut expenses, water services for the city’s unemployed poor are being cut off because of overdue water bills. This raises the moral question of the ownership of water and the basic human right to use it. Is water not like air, a human necessity that we all have a right to? It also brings to question the responsibility of the federal government. If our government can come to the rescue of banks and auto manufacturers, should it not also lend a hand to the poor in need of water? –Hardly Waite.
A few years ago Chrysler made a splash with an Eminem-narrated ad for one of its cars billed as “imported from Detroit,” a clever play on the market-share battles between the domestic automakers and the Toyotas, Hondas and Mercedeses of the world. But the campaign also reinforced a sense of Detroit as a place not quite of this country.
This week, it feels even less so.
The city’s water department has been shutting off the tap to thousands of Detroiters over unpaid water bills. Big deal, you think. Pay the bill, get the water turned back on. But that’s not so easy in a place of such broad, deep and unrelenting poverty. Activists this week petitioned the United Nations for help, and an official there obliged, opining that, “when there is genuine inability to pay, human rights simply forbids disconnections.” A nonbinding opinion, but it did spotlight the problem, which was the activists’ point all along.
But there’s more than good agit-prop going on here. Denying people access to one of the givens of modern society — reliably potable water — should not happen in a country that, despite seven years of economic troubles, remains one of the richest in the world. Granted, there likely are water users in Detroit who can afford to pay but have been skating. But there are uncounted others who don’t have the means to pay. Is the solution to shut them off, and create potential public health catastrophes in the process?
Compounding the issue is the city’s bankruptcy. Kevyn Orr, the emergency manager appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder, has been looking at either selling the city’s water department — which supplies Detroit and 127 surrounding communities, about 40% of the state’s population — or working out a lease arrangement, which one presumes would mean layoffs and other cutbacks. But all those unpaid bills on the books complicates the city’s bargaining position.
The problem boils down to the same issues that sent Detroit into bankruptcy last summer: a collapsed urban economy and
community. As I’ve written before, decades of corporate and government policies (recent corruption scandals haven’t helped) have brought Detroit to this juncture. The city’s population has dropped by more than 1 million — in excess of 60% — since 1950, and as the New York Times reports, more than 26,000 houses in the city face tax-delinquency foreclosures. A Detroit anti-blight project this spring counted 40,000 mostly abandoned properties it described as “candidates for removal,” nearly half of the 80,000-plus buildings and vacant lots it catalogued as causing blight. It is that exodus and collapsed tax base that fed the city’s budget problems, and all this cutting and privatizing might balance the city budget, but it will do nothing to help the city as a community.
The problems are staggering. The official unemployment rate of around 15% for the city is almost irrelevant given how many Detroiters have quit looking for work. Nearly 4 in 10 city residents live below the federal poverty line, as do more than 5 in 10 children. And two-thirds of the city’s children live in homes receiving some form of public assistance.
There are no easy answers to that kind of poverty. But shutting off a basic necessity like water only exacerbates the problems. People should pay their bills, of course, but in a climate of such abject poverty, our notions of what is fair and right should shift from dollars and cents to life and health. A city of deep poverty in which people lose access to clean water is a recipe for a public health problem of a Third World magnitude.
The city, regional and the state governments have proved they aren’t up to the task, and the Obama administration has been sympathetic, and offered some cash, but has also said it will not bail out the city, even though it did bail out the auto industry, to great success.
This is the toughest part to swallow: Businesses get the eye and the checkbook of the federal government. Poor people, and dying communities, not so much. Maybe if Detroiters enticed their cross-river neighbors in Windsor, Canada, to invade, the city could import some directed humanitarian assistance from Washington.
Water News for June 30
“We’re going to run out of water someday. It’s going to happen. It’s just a matter of when.” — Jack Watts, a Texas well driller. Read his story, and the story of our dwindling water supplies, in this excellent Dallas Morning News piece.
Roanoke Co., Virginia, residents near wreck cautious about wells. Residents of more than half a dozen homes at Windy Gap in Roanoke County are still being advised not to use their well water nearly two weeks after a crashed tanker truck spilled toxic embalming fluid into soil on the mountain only yards from where they live.
Dying for Fiji’s sea cucumbers. Sea cucumbers, referred to as “bêche-de-mer” or “trepang” when sold as dried food, are declining in numbers worldwide. But the issue is not just about losing species. Without them we may lose a local, natural buffer against the breakdown of coral reefs, altering both the geochemistry and biology of the reef. Sea cucumbers, such as this highly valuable white teatfish (Holothuria fuscogilva), are exported as a dried product.
Experts foresee shortages as the nation’s freshwater supply dwindles. A federal survey of water managers revealed that – even under normal conditions – nearly every U.S. state will experience freshwater shortages sometime within the next decade. The article includes a map: see how your state is rated for water reserves.
San Diegans are already drinking pee. The yuck factor has largely gone away over the past decade. Only about a quarter of San Diegans supported sewage recycling in 2004. Now the figure is close to three-quarters.
Missouri’s Attorney General has filed a lawsuit against Tyson Foods, accusing the company of illegally discharging untreated industrial wastewater into Clear Creek in the southwestern part of the state.
According to the legal documents, the incident led to the death of up to 100,000 fish. The lawsuit includes six counts for pollution of state waters and violations of the state’s hazardous waste laws. The Attorney General is seeking financial penalties for Tyson Foods and compensation for the damage caused to the creek. In addition, the lawsuit asks the company to reimburse the state’s costs for investigating the incident.
The discharge occurred on May 16, when Tyson Foods’ facility at Monett released highly acidic wastewater into the city’s sewer system. Due to the unusually high acid concentration in the untreated water, the city’s biological wastewater treatment system failed, resulting in wastewater contaminated with high levels of ammonia flowing into Clear Creek, the Attorney General Office said.
Tyson Foods caused damage to Clear Creek and threatened its usability as a resource for communities in Southwest Missouri, so the company will be held accountable and will be required to make sure a similar incident does not happen again, Koster commented.
Meanwhile, a Tyson Foods spokesman said that the company was very sorry for the incident and was taking corrective action.
Aging water infrastructure ‘nearing the end of its useful life. Even though a government report revealed that most experts foresee water shortages within the next decade, countless gallons of water are currently wasted every day by an aging and inefficient infrastructure.
The Much-Awaited Opening of Verruckt, the World’s Tallest Waterslide, Has Again Been Delayed
A water park in Kansas has been forced to delay the opening of the world’s tallest water slide for the third time and hasn’t set a new date for its debut.
Schlitterbahn Waterpark in Kansas City announced this week that Verruckt, a 17-story, 168-foot-tall water slide, would not open on Sunday as scheduled. The park’s news release did not give a reason for the latest delay, although earlier this week two media sneak preview days were canceled because of problems with a conveyor system that hauls 100-pound rafts to the top of the slide.
Verruckt, which means “insane” in German, was certified as the world’s tallest water slide in April by Guinness World Records. The slide sends riders on four-person rafts plummeting at 60 mph to 70 mph.
With July 4 upon us, this week’s water news had several pieces about stricter enforcement of BUI (boating under the influence) laws.
Good News: The Great Lakes Are on the Rise
After reaching historic lows in 2013, water levels in the Great Lakes are now abruptly on the rise, a development that has startled scientists and thrilled just about everybody with a stake in the waterfront, including owners of beach houses, retailers in tourist areas and dockmasters who run marinas on the lakeshore.
Lakes Michigan, Huron and Superior are at least a foot higher than they were a year ago, and are expected to rise three more inches over the next month. Lake Ontario and Lake Erie are seven to nine inches higher than a year ago.
Scientists say the reversal of fortunes for the lakes is partly a result of the most bone-chilling winter in memory for many Midwesterners. The thick and long-lasting ice cover on the lakes kept the water colder and slowed evaporation. Heavy snowfall and a rainy spring allowed the lakes to make even more gains. Full story from the New York Times.
ISIS, water scarcity: Is climate change destabilizing Iraq? A series of U.N. reports released earlier this year found that global warming is already destabilizing nation states around the world, and Syria has been no exception. Is a hot, dry summer contributing to unrest in Iraq?
Study finds antibiotics, pharmaceuticals and more in Minnesota groundwater. A government study finds that measurable levels of antibiotics, detergents and other consumer chemicals are turning up in Minnesota’s groundwater. The chemicals apparently come from landfills, septic systems and sewage treatment systems.
Gold dredging may end in Oregon’s Rogue River. This summer will likely be his last for suction dredging in the Rogue River. Environmental studies show that the practice causes elevated mercury levels.
Is Minnesota drugging its water? In an extensive national survey involving 118 wells in Minnesota, researchers found that about one third of them contained antibiotics, detergents or other contaminants. These chemicals were not found in surface waters but rather in the deep aquifers of our state.
In an extensive national survey involving 118 wells in Minnesota, researchers found that about one third of them contained antibiotics, detergents or other contaminants. The statewide survey was conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.
These chemicals, suspected of coming from landfills, septic systems and sewage treatment plants, were not found in surface waters but rather in the deep aquifers of our state.
No chemicals found exceeded present drinking water quality standards but in some cases, certain antibiotics, antihistamines and flame-retardants that were found have no standards.
Not surprisingly, the source of these contaminants comes from us – consumers using prescription and over-the-counter medicines, lotions, detergents, and plastic-making ingredients.
And it comes from manufacturers. For instance, plastic microbeads used in cosmetics and lotions don’t break down and get into our waterways. Read the full editorial from the Mankato Free Press.
Unique underwater world discovered in Pitcairn Islands. An expedition has revealed the unique underwater treasures of the Pitcairn Islands. The discovery increases the pressure on the UK government to create the world’s largest marine protection area around the Pacific sea.
North Carolina Senate approves ash-pond cleanups. The North Carolina Senate gave tentative approval Tuesday to a bill that makes Duke Energy close its 33 coal ash ponds in the state within 15 years, but blocked a vote on shifting costs away from consumers.
Life on the Mississippi: Tale of the lost river shrimp. The 20th-century re-engineering of the Mississippi River wreaked havoc on natural systems and devastated once-abundant populations of native river shrimp. A tale of human arrogance in action. As one biologist said: “Ninety percent of science is zeroes.”
Pure Water Products Now Offers A Wide Selection of Single Tank Aeration Systems for Residential Wells
One of the most significant developments in recent years in the treatment of the persistent residential well water issues of iron and hydrogen sulfide is the development of aeration systems that put the filter and the aeration treatment in the same tank.
Air is one of the most effective treatments for well water with the problems of rotten egg odor and red and black staining. Air adds no chemicals to the water, requires no routine maintenance, and is inexpensive to apply.
Closed-tank aeration is a long established method for preparing iron, hydrogen sulfide, and manganese for removal by filtration. Closed tank aeration systems have until recently consisted of two separate treatment tanks: Air is introduced into the water in the first tank, then filtration of the “oxidized” particles is carried out in the second tank.
The treatment units described here perform both functions, aeration and filtration, in a single tank. This single tank system uses the filter tank itself to perform the aeration.
Single tank units require no electrical pumps, no solenoids, and no external venturis. Single tank units are compact, require little electricity, and are very easy to install, set up, and maintain. Most of all, they are very effective.
With our single tank aeration/filtration units, air is drawn into the treatment tank in the same way that brine is drawn into a water softener resin tank. During the nightly regeneration phase, air is pulled into the tank and water is expelled. As the tank refills with water, the air is compressed into a tight pocket that sits above the filter media. Water entering the tank sprays down through the air pocket, where contaminants are oxidized and prepared for removal by the filter media in the bottom 2/3 of the tank. In a single tank aeration system, the entire tank becomes an oxygen-rich chamber favorable to optimal performance by the filter media.
Pure Water Products Single Tank Aeration Systems are based on our years of experience with closed tank aeration (see ourAerMax units). They feature the superb Fleck SXT 5600 and SXT 2510 air induction control systems. For the single tank units we also use the superior Vortech mineral tanks which need no gravel underbed and can save up to 30% of water needed for regenerating the unit. It’s the best compact aeration unit we can build, and we feel that it’s the best single tank unit on the market.
Single tank technology can be used with a variety of filter media. For our standard offering we present basic units with proven media, Birm and Centaur catalytic carbon, which work well with residential-sized aeration units and are very effective for contaminant levels to 5 to 8 ppm iron and hydrogen sulfide and for service flow rates to seven or eight gallons per minute.
For more challenging water conditions with higher contaminant levels and where higher service flow rates are needed, we have Filox units. Filox is king of iron/manganese media, and following aeration it treats significant levels of hydrogen sulfide as well.
We can also provide specialized single tank units with other media, like Calcite, ChemSorb, Filter Ag, coconut shell carbon, and Iron Blend. Information and pricing upon request.
Fleck 5600 AIO Control. For smaller-sized aerating filters.
Fleck 2510 AIO Control. For larger filters and tougher jobs.
Please see our full offering of single tank units with Birm, Catalytic Carbon, and Filox on our main website. Or call us for more details.
Please visit our RO Parts Page for tanks and accessories.
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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