The Pure Water Occasional for October 6, 2015
In this early fall Occasional, you’ll thrill at news about Tree Hut Shea Sugar Body Scrub, cannabis in the salad bowl, the Jajce waterfall, the WuHoo Award, skunk water, quagga mussels, sacrificial anodes, torrential rains and devastating drought. You’ll hear about trillions of microbeads, America’s oldest water distribution system, Coca Cola’s water replacement plans, Iran’s great salt lake, diver’s disease, America’s favorite seafood, and China’s massive Tarim Basin. Water mains, water heaters, water in paper bottles. Bottom drain tanks, Katalox Light, whale deaths in Alaska, and a rousing piece by Pure Water Gazette numerical wizard Bee Sharper. 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.)
Eight-trillion Microbeads pollute water daily
by Jareen Imam
Eight-trillion of these, enough to cover 300 tennis courts, go into our water supplies every day. Not to alarm you, but your daily morning regimen might be harming the planet’s oceans.
What’s the culprit? Microbeads. They are tiny, plastic beads that many companies have added to body scrubs, cosmetics, soaps — essentially hundreds of products, to create an exfoliating sensation for users.
There’s more than eight trillion microbeads entering aquatic habitats every day in the United States alone, according to a new study published in Environmental Science & Technology. It’s enough microbeads to cover 300 tennis courts daily.
A microbead is any plastic that is smaller than 5 mm, about three times the size of a pinhead. They are designed to wash down drains, but have added to the increased microplastic debris littering the Earth’s oceans and many freshwater lakes, the study states. Due to their size, plastic microbeads are difficult to clean up on a large scale.
Microbeads have even been subtly added to products like toothpaste. Despite their tiny size, they still pose a threat, according to Stephanie Green of Oregon State University and co-author of the study.
“Part of this problem can now start with brushing your teeth in the morning,” she said. “Contaminants like these microbeads are not something our waste-water treatment plants were built to handle, and the overall amount of contamination is huge,” she said.
Unlike Sprite shower filters, microbeads do not improve your singing.
The eight trillion microbeads entering the United States’ aquatic habitats on a daily basis is only a fraction of what is being dumped in waste-water treatment facilities. Eight hundred trillion of these plastic beads settle into a sludge and transform into a runoff from sewage plants and go on to pollute the waterways.
“We’re facing a plastic crisis and don’t even know it,” Green explained.
Some species of marine life mistake the small plastic particles for food, and scientists are currently examining how microplastics are affecting marine life once ingested and whether those chemicals can be transferred to humans if people consume these marine species later on, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Chelsea Rochman of the University of California, Davis and lead author of the study, said microbeads were one of many types of microplastics to be found in the gut content of the marine wildfire that they examined.
“We’ve demonstrated in previous studies that microplastic of the same type, size and shape as many microbeads can transfer contaminants to animals and cause toxic effects,” Rochman said. “We argue that the scientific evidence regarding microplastic supports legislation calling for a removal of plastic microbeads from personal care products.”
Scientists from the study are calling for a complete ban on microbeads. They say that public support for the effort is also growing. Companies such as Unilever and Johnson & Johnson have pledged to phase out the use of microbeads in their personal care products.
In June 2014, the state of Illinois became the first state to ban the production, manufacture and sale of products that contain plastic microbeads, according to NOAA. Although the study argues that the legislation does not go far enough to eliminate microbeads that claim to be “biodegradable” but are not. Connecticut, New Jersey, Colorado have implemented regulations or bans on the plastic products as well.
Authors of the study are calling for new wording in microbead legislation that will ensure a total ban on materials that are “persistent, bioaccumulative, or toxic” to be added to products that are meant to be wash down the drain.
Source: CBS4Indy.com (we added some images).
Gazette’s Famous Water Picture Series: The Waterfall at Jajce
Jajce is famous for its beautiful waterfall where the Pliva River meets the river Vrbas. The waterfall was thirty meters high, but during the Bosnian war, the area was flooded and the waterfall is now 20 meters high. The flooding may have been due to an earthquake and/or attacks on the hydroelectric power plant further up the river.
Cleaning Up After California’s Pot Farmers
An L.A. Times Editorial
Marijuana Farm in Northern California
Long known as the nation’s “salad bowl,” California has also become its marijuana bowl. The state produces as much as 70% of the cannabis sold in the United States, and its landscape bears the scars of both legal and illegal cultivation. Pristine habitat has been clear-cut to make way for pot farms, roads have been carved into hillsides, creeks have been pumped dry for irrigation and wildlife has been poisoned by pesticides and rodenticides. The effects of irresponsible cultivation, coupled with the drought, could doom the survival of some salmon species in Northern California.
Environmentalists now worry that damage to the state’s flora and fauna from marijuana growing will only increase as more states vote to legalize the recreational use of the drug. It’s essential that the various ballot measures being floated for California’s November 2016 election include not only rules for regulating marijuana farms but enough funding to enforce them and to mitigate the damage that’s already occurred.
Too often, however, the environmental impacts of cultivation are an afterthought. California legalized medical marijuana nearly 20 years ago, but state lawmakers largely ignored the exponential increase in cannabis cultivation. Now, officials estimate there are 50,000 marijuana plantations across the state. Yet the California Department of Fish and Game has 16 people to police pot farms and has been able to inspect fewer than 1% of the sites. Gov. Jerry Brown budgeted $3.3 million in 2014 to boost enforcement, but experts estimate that the state needs $25 million a year to regulate these plantations and enforce environmental laws.
Recent legislation around the country hasn’t made environmental protection a priority either. Neither Washington nor Colorado earmark tax revenue from the sale of recreational marijuana to help enforce rules on growers. (To be fair, those states have more indoor growing and haven’t experienced damage on the scale of California.) The California Legislature recently passed bills that regulate medical cannabis, but lawmakers removed a proposed excise tax that would have generated $60 million for environmental cleanup and enforcement. Instead, the bills would let state agencies raise fees on licenses to cover enforcement. The high cost of licenses, however, could prompt some growers to remain in the black market rather than come into compliance.
Until recently, there has been little opportunity and no incentive for growers to act responsibly. Any effort to legalize marijuana must ensure that this billion-dollar industry repairs the legacy of damage and becomes a responsible steward of the land.
Source: LA Times.
Several died in early October as South Carolina was lashed with torrential rains.
Federal protection sought for Joshua trees. Drought, more frequent wildfires and rising temperatures due to climate change are upsetting the delicate balance between life and death conditions for Joshua Tree National Park’s peculiar namesake plant.
Coca Cola is working to replenish water used in its beverage-making ventures. Full story from Business Wire.
A doctor found the snake in her bottle during the event at a political gathering in Raipur in India. The mineral water company called the incident a conspiracy and pointed out that the seal of the bottle was broken. The fate of the snake was not revealed. All bottles of water distributed at the event were recalled. Details from BBC News.
A wet winter won’t save California. As wildfires rage, crops are abandoned, wells run dry and cities work to meet mandatory water cuts, drought-weary Californians are counting on a savior in the tropical ocean: El Niño.
Central Contra Costa Sanitary District received the prestigious “WuHoo” Pollution Prevention Award for 2015 for its vigorous “Wipes Clog Pipes!” campaign. “So-called “flushable” wipes do not break down in sewers and can cause sewage blockages and backups that overflow onto streets and homes. Overflows pose enormous environmental and public health hazards. Flushed wipes also cause major damage at wastewater treatment facilities that can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to repair. “ Details.
The mystery of how gigantic rocks keep moving across the desert floor has been solved. It was water.
The federal government is investigating an alarming increase in whale deaths in Alaska.
Bottled water brand Just Water, available in Whole Foods stores, comes in an environmentally friendly mostly paper container. Details.
Lake Urmia, in Iran’s northwestern corner, was once the planet’s sixth largest salt lake, covering about 5200 square kilometers—a bit larger than the Great Salt Lake in Utah. Last year it shrank to 10% of its former size. Read Saving Iran’s Great Salt Lake.
Israeli forces use a faecal-smelling substance called skunk water or simply skunk to combat Palestenian protesters. It is rumored that skunk is being purchased by a few US police departments to for use in crowd control. Although its makers claim that skunk is made of 100% natural ingredients, the foul-smelling liquid induces vomiting and the smell lingers on the skin for days and longer. Skunk is dispensed by high-pressure hoses capable of breaking windows to introduce the odor into homes. Dousing with skunk often requires replacement of furniture. Details from BBC.
Beneath China’s Tarim Basin there exists an underground ocean with ten times the water of the Great Lakes.
The Tarim basin in China’s northwestern Xinjiang province, which covers about 350,000 square miles, is one of the driest places you could imagine. Surrounded by mountains that block the passage of moist air from the ocean, it doesn’t get much rainfall — less than 4 inches annually. And the shallow, silt-laden Tarim river doesn’t provide much water, either.
Paradoxically, though, Chinese scientists have discovered that the Tarim basin actually has an enormous supply of water — 10 times the amount in all five of North America’s Great Lakes combined, in fact. The problem is that the water in a gigantic aquifer that they describe as an underground ocean. It’s too salty for the region’s impoverished residents to use, but it apparently plays a role in helping to slow climate change. Read more.
Drilling has begun at Morpeth in Australia in hopes of finding what is thought to be a pre-historic underground river that could help provide fresh water during drought. More from Weatherzone.
Drinking sufficient amounts of water before diving can significantly reduce the risk of decompression illness, or diver’s disease, according to promoters of the “More water, less bubbles” campaign in Malta.
As if diminishing water levels aren’t enough, Las Vegas water authorities are having to combat an invasional of quagga and zebra mussels.
Vandals broke into St. Mary’s church in Sunderland and urinated in holy water. Details.
Big trees first to die in severe droughts.National forests whose names come from their large, majestic trees, such as redwoods and sequoias, may need to rethink their brands as droughts increase in frequency and severity. New research finds it’s the large trees that suffer most and are first to die.
Shrimp’s Dirty Secrets: Why America’s Favorite Seafood Is a Health and Environmental Nightmare
by Jill Richardson
Americans love their shrimp. It’s the most popular seafood in the country, but unfortunately much of the shrimp we eat are a cocktail of chemicals, harvested at the expense of one of the world’s productive ecosystems. Worse, guidelines for finding some kind of “sustainable shrimp” are so far nonexistent.
In his book, Bottomfeeder: How to Eat Ethically in a World of Vanishing Seafood, Taras Grescoe paints a repulsive picture of how shrimp are farmed in one region of India. The shrimp pond preparation begins with urea, superphosphate, and diesel, then progresses to the use of piscicides (fish-killing chemicals like chlorine and rotenone), pesticides and antibiotics (including some that are banned in the U.S.), and ends by treating the shrimp with sodium tripolyphosphate (a suspected neurotoxicant), Borax, and occasionally caustic soda.
Upon arrival in the U.S., few, if any, are inspected by the FDA, and when researchers have examined imported ready-to-eat shrimp, they found 162 separate species of bacteria with resistance to 10 different antibiotics. And yet, as of 2008, Americans are eating 4.1 pounds of shrimp apiece each year — significantly more than the 2.8 pounds per year we each ate of the second most popular seafood, canned tuna. But what are we actually eating without knowing it? And is it worth the price — both to our health and the environment?
Understanding the shrimp that supplies our nation’s voracious appetite is quite complex. Overall, the shrimp industry represents a dismantling of the marine ecosystem, piece by piece. Farming methods range from those described above to some that are more benign. Problems with irresponsible methods of farming don’t end at the “yuck” factor as shrimp farming is credited with destroying 38 percent of the world’s mangroves, some of the most diverse and productive ecosystems on earth. Mangroves sequester vast amounts of carbon and serve as valuable buffers against hurricanes and tsunamis. Some compare shrimp farming methods that demolish mangroves to slash-and-burn agriculture. A shrimp farmer will clear a section of mangroves and close it off to ensure that the shrimp cannot escape. Then the farmer relies on the tides to refresh the water, carrying shrimp excrement and disease out to sea. In this scenario, the entire mangrove ecosystem is destroyed and turned into a small dead zone for short-term gain. Even after the shrimp farm leaves, the mangroves do not come back.
A more responsible farming system involves closed, inland ponds that use their wastewater for agricultural irrigation instead of allowing it to pollute oceans or other waterways. According to the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program, when a farm has good disease management protocols, it does not need to use so many antibiotics or other chemicals.
One more consideration, even in these cleaner systems, is the wild fish used to feed farmed shrimp. An estimated average of 1.4 pounds of wild fish are used to produce every pound of farmed shrimp. Sometimes the wild fish used is bycatch — fish that would be dumped into the ocean to rot if they weren’t fed to shrimp — but other times farmed shrimp dine on species like anchovies, herring, sardines and menhaden. These fish are important foods for seabirds, big commercial fish and whales, so removing them from the ecosystem to feed farmed shrimp is problematic.
Additionally, some shrimp are wild-caught, and while they aren’t raised in a chemical cocktail, the vast majority is caught using trawling, a highly destructive fishing method. Football field-sized nets are dragged along the ocean floor, scooping up and killing several pounds of marine life for every pound of shrimp they catch and demolishing the ocean floor ecosystem as they go. Where they don’t clear-cut coral reefs or other rich ocean floor habitats, they drag their nets through the mud, leaving plumes of sediment so large they are visible from outer space.
After trawling destroys an ocean floor, the ecosystem often cannot recover for decades, if not centuries or millennia. This is particularly significant because 98 percent of ocean life lives on or around the seabed. Depending on the fishery, the amount of bycatch (the term used for unwanted species scooped up and killed by trawlers) ranges from five to 20 pounds per pound of shrimp. These include sharks, rays, starfish, juvenile red snapper, sea turtles and more. While shrimp trawl fisheries only represent 2 percent of the global fish catch, they are responsible for over one-third of the world’s bycatch. Trawling is comparable to bulldozing an entire section of rainforest in order to catch one species of bird.
Given this disturbing picture, how can an American know how to find responsibly farmed or fished shrimp? Currently, it’s near impossible. Only 15 percent of our total shrimp consumption comes from the U.S. (both farmed and wild sources). The U.S. has good regulations on shrimp farming, so purchasing shrimp farmed in the U.S. is not a bad way to go. Wild shrimp, with a few exceptions, is typically obtained via trawling and should be avoided. The notable exceptions are spot prawns from British Columbia, caught in traps similar to those used for catching lobster, and the small salad shrimp like the Northern shrimp from the East Coast or pink shrimp from Oregon, both of which are certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council. However, neither are true substitutes for the large white and tiger shrimp American consumers are used to.
The remaining 85 percent came from other countries and about two-thirds of our imports are farmed with the balance caught in the wild, mostly via trawling. China is the world’s top shrimp producer — both farmed and wild — but only 2 percent of China’s shrimp are imported to the U.S. The world’s number two producer, Thailand, is our top foreign source of shrimp. Fully one third of the shrimp the U.S. imports comes from Thailand, and over 80 percent of those shrimp are farmed.
The next biggest sources of U.S. shrimp are Ecuador, Indonesia, China, Mexico, Vietnam, Malaysia and India. Together, those countries provide nearly 90 percent of America’s imported shrimp. Interestingly, Ecuador’s shrimp industry exists almost entirely to supply U.S. demand, with over 93 percent of its shrimp coming up north to the U.S. The vast majority of those shrimp (almost 90 percent) are farmed. Sadly, shrimp production is responsible for the destruction of 70 percent of Ecuador’s mangroves. Farming practices in other countries range from decent to awful, but there’s currently no real way for a consumer to tell whether shrimp from any particular country was farmed sustainably or not.
Geoff Shester, senior science manager of Monterey Bay’s Seafood Watch, says that ethical shrimp consumption is a chicken and egg problem. On one hand, the solution is for consumers to show demand for responsibly farmed and wild shrimp by eating it but on the other hand, ethical shrimp choices are not yet widely available. Seafood Watch is working with some of the largest seafood buyers in the U.S. to help them buy better shrimp, but it’s currently a major challenge.
The first challenge is that labeling and certification programs do not yet exist to identify which farmed shrimp meet sustainable production standards. The second challenge is that even when such programs are in place, the U.S. demand will likely greatly exceed their supply.
Shester’s advice to consumers right now is “only buy shrimp that you know comes from a sustainable source. If you can’t tell for sure, try something else from the Seafood Watch yellow or green lists.” Knowing that many will be unwilling to give up America’s favorite seafood, he advocates simply eating less of it and keeping an eye on future updates to the Seafood Watch guide to eating sustainable seafood.
Jill Richardson is the founder of the blog La Vida Locavore and a member of the Organic Consumers Association policy advisory board. She is the author of Recipe for America: Why Our Food System Is Broken and What We Can Do to Fix It..
Water Pipes: An Underground World We Neglect
More than a million miles of underground pipes distribute water to American homes. Maintaining that complex network is an extremely expensive and never-ending ordeal.
Some pipes date back to the 1800s. As they get older, they fail in different ways. Some split and rupture, with an estimated 700 main breaks occurring around the U.S. every day. The most devastating failures damage roadways, close businesses and shut off service for hours or days. If pipes are particularly bad, they can contaminate water.
Utilities have long struggled to predict when to replace pipes, which have vastly different life cycles depending on the materials they are made from and where they are buried. Some might last 30 years, others more than 100. Sophisticated computer programs are helping some water systems prioritize the order in which pipes should be replaced, but tight budgets often mean the fixes don’t come until it’s too late.
Replacing a single mile of water main can cost from $500,000 to more than $1 million, but doing so is far more disruptive to customers if it fails first. Experts say a peak of up to 20,000 miles of pipe will need to be replaced annually beginning around 2035, up from roughly 5,000 miles currently. Des Moines Water Works alone has 1,600 miles of distribution pipes.
The Philadelphia water department, the nation’s oldest, is already spending tens of millions of dollars more per year to replace its worst pipes. Yet the city saw more than 900 water main breaks in the most recent budget year. In June, two massive breaks forced evacuations and damaged cars, homes and businesses.
New Orleans once boasted about not raising water rates for two decades. But in 2012, the city approved 10 percent increases on water bills for eight straight years as part of a plan to fix a crumbling system. The average household’s monthly water-and-sewer bill will climb to $115 by 2020. The extra money will help replace deteriorating mains damaged by Hurricane Katrina.
The massive main break that flooded the UCLA campus in Los Angeles in 2014 — ruining its basketball court and inundating buildings and fields with millions of gallons of water — was widely seen as a wakeup call for failing infrastructure. But a year later, the city’s response illustrates how large of a problem many systems face.
The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is moving from a 300-year replacement cycle to a 250-year cycle for its 7,200-mile water distribution system, still far slower than the 100-year cycle many experts recommend. The department is proposing a 3.8 percent annual water rate increase for five years, which would go largely toward system improvements and gradually raise the typical household water bill by $12.30 per month. Heavier users would face steeper increases.
What can I do about a problem water heater?
Odor from a hot water heater can be a perplexing problem. Theories of cause and cure abound. Usually blamed on hydrogen sulfide gas, water heater odor is most often associated with well water, but it can happen with city water as well. Here’s advice from the Minnesota Department of Health. –Editor.
Unless you are very familiar with the operation and maintenance of the water heater, you should contact a water system professional, such as a plumber, to do the work.
- Replace or remove the magnesium anode. Many water heaters have a magnesium anode, which is attached to a plug located on top of the water heater. It can be removed by turning off the water, releasing the pressure from the water heater, and unscrewing the plug. Be sure to plug the hole. Removal of the anode, however, may significantly decrease the life of the water heater. You may wish to consult with a reputable water heater dealer to determine if a replacement anode made of a different material, such as aluminum, can be installed. A replacement anode may provide corrosion protection without contributing to the production of hydrogen sulfide gas.
- Disinfect and flush the water heater with a chlorine bleach solution. Chlorination can kill sulfur bacteria, if done properly. If all bacteria are not destroyed by chlorination, the problem may return within a few weeks.
- Increase the water heater temperature to 160 degrees Fahrenheit (71 degrees Celsius) for several hours. This will destroy the sulfur bacteria. Flushing to remove the dead bacteria after treatment should control the odor problem.
Source: Minnesota Dept. of Health.
Gazette Numerical Wizard B. Sharper fills in the the numerical blanks that Harper’s misses.
According to a company press release, the number of cans of drinking water that have been provided by Anheuser-Busch in support of disaster relief efforts – 73,000,000.
Year by which Coca Cola aspires to be “water neutral,” replenishing as much water as it uses in its beverages – 2020.
According to 2005 research, the number trees on earth for each human – 61
Number of trees we lose annualy to toilet paper, timber, farmland expansion, and other human needs – 15 billion.
Gallons of bottled water sold in 2012—9.7 million.
Gross profii from these sales – $11.8 billion.
Average cost per gallon – $1.22.
Annual cost of bottled water for a family that consumes 3 gallons of bottled water per day –$1,335.
Annual cost for the same family if they drank tap water prepared by a $200 water filter – >$220.
Percentage of plastic water bottles that end up in landfills – 70%.
Approximate number of years it takes a plastic water bottle to degrade – 1,000,
Number of potentially harmful chemicals found by a German scientific study in a single plastic bottle of water – 24,000.
Number of pinheads that would fit onto a plastic microbead used in soaps and cosmetics – 3.
Number of microbeads that go into our water supply daily – 8 trillion.
Number of tennis courts that a day’s supply of microbeads would cover – 300.
Year in which Illinois became the first state to ban microbeads – 2014.
Estimated number of marijuana plantations now operating in Calfiornia – 50,000.
Percentage of US marijuana that is grown in California – 70%.
Factor by which the quantity of water in China’s underground Tarim basin exceeds the water contained in all the US Great Lakes combined – 10.
Average annual shrimp consumption by US citizens in 2008 – 4.1 lbs.
Percentage of Ecuador’s total shrimp production that is exported to the US – 93%.
Estimated number of major city water pipe breaks that occur in the US daily – 700.
Cost of replacing a single mile of water main piping — $500,000 to $1,000,000.
This tank comes with a convenient garden hose fitting so that drain water can be directed outdoors or to a sink for floor drain.
Bottom Drain Backwashing Filters Are Ideal for Summer Homes, Hunting Cabins, and Other Locations Where Tanks Must Be Drained For Winter
Pure Water Products’ residential-sized backwashing filters are now available with a bottom drain feature that allows easy draining of the filter without removing the control valve.
This feature is especially valuable for those who need to drain the water from filters that are not used in winter.
With this filter the tank can be drained completely and quickly without the need even to disconnect it from plumbing. The tank setup includes a bottom grid installed inside the tank to hold the media so it will not leave the tank as the tank is drained, a valve to release water from the tank, a garden hose connection so that the drained water can be directed to a drain or outdoors, and a vacuum release port to allow water to leave the tank. The vacuum port can also be used to replenish media in neutralizing filters without removing the filter’s control valve.
The tank can be supplied with any standard filter style, such as carbon, catalytic carbon, birm, calcite, Filter Ag, ChemSorb (Micro Z), Katalox Light, or multi-media.
It is currently available in the most popular size, 10″ X 54″, only.
The bottom drain tank is only one of many options that we offer in backwashing filters. We now sell residential backwashing filters with ten different media choices, six control valves, and 5 standard tank sizes. We pro-program control valves before shipping and provide customers a “setup sheet” that includes programming information. We also provide complete phone and email support if there are installation or operation questions. We feel that we have the best backwashing filter program available for residential customers.
Please visit our website or call for information.
Please visit our RO Parts Page for tanks and accessories. We also have dedicated parts pages for countertop water filters, undersink filters, and aeration equipment. We stock parts for everything we sell.
Thank you for reading. Please come back next week.
Places to Visit on Our Websites in the meantime.
Garden Hose Filters. Don’t be the last on your block to own one.
Model 77: “The World’s Greatest $77 Water Filter”
”Sprite Shower Filters: You’ll Sing Better!”
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