On Labor Day, with the Occasional staff on strike, I’m taking some liberties with the Occasional’s format. This issue contains some reprints and some fresh material. It presents news items in a new format designed to be better and a lot less work for me. Happy Labor Day.–Gene Franks, Pure Water Products.
To Chloraminate or Not to Chloraminate: That Is the Burning Question Many City Water Departments Are Facing
Introductory Note: Chloramine is not new. It has been used as a disinfectant in US water supplies since the 1920s. Nevertheless, when cities contemplate the change from chlorine to chloramine as their water disinfectant, there is usually controversy, sometimes heated. The change to chloramine is very important to aquarium owners, to beer and bread makers, to dialysis clinics, and to the small number of people whose skin or respiratory system seems to be especially sensitive to chloramine. There are also plumbing issues to be considered. To water treatment dealers, chloramine represents a challenge, since it is considerably more difficult to remove than chlorine.
Since people usually form opinions based on how an issue affects them personally, I thought it would be good to reprint a chloramine article that looks at the issue from a different angle. The piece reprinted below, in slightly truncated form, concerns the decision being considered in Marion, Ohio about whether to switch to chloramines or to seek out a completely different substitute for chlorine. As you will note, and the most outspoken opponents of chloramine usually ignore this, the option to stick with chlorine as usual is actually not an option for the city because sticking with the status quo has already been vetoed by the EPA. The city’s water has been found to be in violation of EPA standards, so a change is required. In the article below, Aqua Ohio, the water supplier for the city, is getting pressure from several sources.
(Note that the terms “chloramine” and the plural “chloramines” are often used interchangeably. This is because although “monochloramine” is usually the water treatment product, chloramine actually exists in other forms, depending on water conditions such as pH.) –Gene Franks.
Chloramines: Best option? Adapted from the Marion Star.
MARION — City Council asked Aqua Ohio to come up with alternative methods to using chloramines in the local water supply, but the company maintains that chloramines are the best option.
Council will hear from Aqua officials and the general public after the regularly-scheduled meeting at 7:30 p.m. Monday. Aqua has met with the county commissioners and with City Council in the past. The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency will address the municipal services committee at 6:30 p.m.
Chlorine disinfection has been used in the US since 1904, and chloramination is almost as old.
Council drafted a 45-day moratorium and gave it a first reading two weeks ago, in case Aqua did not comply with the wishes of council or the public. Council would issue a $10,000 fine for every day that Aqua put chloramines into the water if the moratorium were to go into effect.
Ed Kolodziej, the president and Chief Operating Officer of Aqua Ohio, said his company would have to “make a choice” if it came down to abiding by council’s ordinance or by federal regulations.
Chloramines are created when ammonia reacts with chlorine in the water. Aqua planned to switch the treatment process for Marion water from chlorine to a two-step process of chlorine and chloramines. Tom Schwing, Aqua Ohio’s environmental safety and compliance manager, said this is to stay in compliance with Ohio Environmental Protection Agency regulations.
According to the EPA, chlorine alone forms many byproducts, including trihalomethanes (THMs) and haloacetic acids (HAAs). Some THMs are carcinogens. The EPA wants water systems to measure the output of these byproducts every quarter. In the past, Schwing said, the EPA averaged all the separate test sites together to see how many THMs and HAAs are in the water. Now, the EPA will look at how many of these byproducts are at each individual site, and keep a running average over the last four quarters.
Some of the Marion areas are at risk of going over the EPA’s limit, Schwing said, so Aqua needs to find a sanitation method that keeps the water cleaner for longer periods of time while it is in the pipes.
Chloramine forms a lower level of THMs and HAAs, but it has some health risks, according to the EPA. People on dialysis and people with fish tanks should not use chloraminated water because the ammonia is harmful when inserted directly in the bloodstream.
People from across the country have reported negative effects of chloramines, from skin rashes and respiratory problems to damage in their house’s pipes. Several groups have been established to combat the use of chloramines. Aqua said there have been no studies proving that chloramines cause any negative effects, but a group of Marion residents and some members of local government are worried about the chemicals’ potential to harm.
Kolodziej and Tom Schwing, Aqua Ohio’s environmental safety and compliance manager, said chloramines are the most cost-effective option for staying in the EPA’s guidelines.
Of the available water treatment options, they said, three would work in Marion and would reduce the harmful byproducts in the water. One is chloramines, one is a granular-activated carbon (GAC) filtration system, and one is an ozonation and biological filtration process.
Kolodziej said chloramines are a smaller capital investment, and they cost consumers less. He said the addition of chloramines to the water would be an 80 cent increase per month on customers’ water bills, and the other two options would be upwards of $13 per month. Building a facility for chloramines would cost Aqua about $790,000 and preparing the system for the other two options would be about $10 million each, he said.
Schwing said Aqua’s other facilities, such as the ones near Lake Erie, draw water from cleaner sources and can use different methods for keeping the water safe. He said only certain methods work for Marion. He also said that since Marion’s water supply stays in the pipes longer, chloramines will help keep the disinfection byproducts low in the outlying areas.
Schwing said there are downsides to the other methods of disinfection, and that Aqua would have to pay for testing and construction before implementing new methods. The chloramination equipment is currently under construction at the plant.
GAC filters can prevent or remove the disinfection byproducts, and would absorb any bad biomaterial, according to the Siemens water technologies website. Ozonation would take this process a step further by injecting ozone into the water before running it through a GAC filter or another biological filter. According to Ozone Technology, Inc., ozonation will react with the water and increase the effectiveness of the biofilters downstream.
Chloramine use elsewhere
Three Ohio cities use chloramines for water sanitation: Youngstown, Warren and Struthers. Struthers gets water from the Struthers division of Aqua Ohio. Youngstown gets water from the Mahoning Valley Sanitary District (MVSD), and Warren has its own city water department.
Tom Holloway, chief engineer for the MVSD, said the district has been using chloramines for a long time — even before the process was approved by the EPA.
“We’ve been doing it for years, and no complaints,” he said.
The city of Warren has been using chloramines since 2005, according to water department director Robert Davis.
“We had very little opposition to it on our end,” he said. “It was more of the fish owners that have to get special chemicals. There was a concern for that more so than the water itself.”
He said the city looked at several options, and then took a lot of time to educate the residents once the water company decided to use chloramines. He said he isn’t aware of any complaints since the switch.
“I think with anything new, residents and customers are not always receptive to change,” he said. “If you change the chemistry, there is always a concern. But if you meet the regulations, and even exceed them, you gain public trust and they understand. We haven’t had any episodes or public complaints. I have no knowledge of anything close to rashes or anything.”
The city of Louisville, Ky., also uses chloramines, and has since the 1970s. Kelly Dearing-Smith, strategic communications manager for Louisville Water Co., said she has never had a customer complaint in the five years she has been in her position. She has been with the company for 15 years.
Louisville used chlorine as the primary disinfectant, and chloramines as secondary. This is what Aqua Ohio has proposed for Marion. Dearing-Smith said chloramines are a way to keep the public healthy.
“There are two parts to delivering water,” she said. “One is making it, and then you have to make sure it’s just as safe. That’s where chloramines come into play. They last longer, and they don’t put you at risk for some of the byproducts.”
Aqua’s Tom Schwing said the Struthers division of Aqua has used chloramines since 2006, and said he has received no complaints about the water.
Chloramines are also used in other countries, including Finland, Great Britain, Spain and Sweden, according to European water treatment company Lenntech. According to the Canadian public health department Health Canada, chloramines are used in several provinces Alberta, British Columbia, Newfoundland, Ontario, Quebec and Saskatchewan.
However, there are many areas and countries that don’t use chloramines. The nearby city of Delaware uses chlorine gas for its water sanitation. Tom Hinson, water manager for the city, said Delaware draws its drinking water from both ground and surface sources.
“I’ve never run a plant that uses chloramines,” he said.
Hinson said the city will be changing to a different filtration system in a few years, and is building a new plant for its customers.
The Del-Co Water Company also uses chlorine, according to the company website.
The city of Cincinnati draws its water in part from the Ohio River. Jeff Swertfeger, assistant superintendent for the Water Quality Management Division, said the city uses a granular-activated carbon filter and a chlorination process to keep the water clean. The city will add an ultraviolet disinfection process later this summer.
He said the GAC process does an “excellent job” of removing the harmful compounds in the water.
What’s next for Marion
La Rue said Aqua would recommend chloramines as the best option for the water system at the Council meeting on Monday. This means that if Council votes to issue the 45-day stop and Aqua goes ahead with the chloramination process, the company will face fines.
Ralph Cumston, D-1st Ward, said people are nervous about chloramines, and said he hopes Aqua has other solutions.
“It’s going to be interesting,” he said of the meeting.
He also said he is looking forward to hearing the EPA speak.
Reference: Marion Star.
This Week’s Water News
If you read water news items regularly, you are aware that this weeks leading stories are very much like last week’s. The same water issues present themselves again and again. The high level of water contamination in India and China; sewage and wastewater spills that threaten drinking water supplies; large new sanitation and water treatment plants are being built, but many more are needed; algae problems and dead zones caused by over-use of fertilizers (along with the usual promises to do better); industrial polluters galore; novel technologies (like this week’s use of french fries grease and the idea of fracking with natural gas rather than water); illegal dumping. The water polo scores: 6-4, 2-0, 4-3, 4-1. And, as always, much, much more.
Links to water stories are as fragile as butterfly wings. These links were good when I tested them, but web publishers sometimes move things around or kill them quickly.
High levels of contamination: How effective are the water purifiers you use? Millions of people in India fall prey to waterborne diseases every day. And this may be happening in spite of the use of water purifiers. Toxic chemicals such as arsenic, lead and disease-causing bacteria have contributed to an alarming increase in water contamination. Bombay Economic Times, India. 1 September 2013.
New efforts on stormwater runoff finally came after decades of pushing. For decades, stormwater runoff was viewed as nothing more than excess water, a nuisance to be piped or allowed to flow downhill, not a harmful mixture of chemicals and bacteria that would eventually turn lakes and rivers green, and feed thick patches of vegetation that range from annoying to toxic. Lakeland Ledger, Florida. 1 September 2013.
Neighbors sue rural Georgia city to fix sewer system that spews waste into yards and fouls creek. Monesa Coney bought her young sons a videogame console this summer to keep them from playing in her yard, where heavy rains are followed by foul-smelling liquid that bubbles up from the town’s sewer system. Associated Press. 1 September 2013.
When polluted Mukuvisi turns out to be a blessing. For residents of Glen Norah, Hopley Farm and others living around Mukuvisi River near Pambudzi roundabout area, the river has become their only source of water. This unfortunately has exposed them to various dangers that include water-borne diseases from the heavily contaminated river. Harare Herald, Zimbabwe. 31 August 2013.
Restoration success and work in progress: Pennsylvania. The $97 million project in Erie, Pa. removed polluted sediments from the bay and led to cleaner water, fewer fish tumors and the replacement of paved areas with permeable surfaces that trap polluted runoff. Great Lakes Echo, Michigan. 31 August 2013.
Northwest Territories project focuses on climate change adaptation. A project set to begin this week in Ulukhaktok will look at climate change adaptation in Canada’s Western Arctic. One aim is to learn how traditional knowledge can be adapted to a changing environment, said the project’s lead researcher. Northern News Services, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Yukon. 31 August 2013.
Ghana gets $3m sanitation support from Japan. The Government of Japan is providing support to help upgrade sanitation and hygiene in four districts in the Northern Region of Ghana with a grant facility of $3 million. The districts were selected because of their low sanitation coverage as compared to other districts in the region. Ghanaian Chronicle, Ghana. 31 August 2013.
Boat club members paddle through pollution on Newtown Creek. Rowing through one of the city’s most polluted waterways may not sound like the best way to spend a summer day but one group of people decided to spend their Friday kayaking for a cause. New York WCBS TV, New York. 31 August 2013.
Polk County must find a way to clean runoff from storms. Sixty-five of Polk County’s 171 largest lakes don’t meet minimal water-quality standards because of stormwater runoff. Another 81 lakes may be in trouble, though the Department of Environmental Protection says there’s not enough data to be sure. That’s not all. Lakeland Ledger, Florida. 31 August 2013.
Agency seeks tough rules to reduce Lake Erie algae. The U.S. and Canada should crack down on sources of phosphorus runoff blamed for a rash of harmful algae blooms on Lake Erie, an advisory agency said Thursday. The algae produce harmful toxins and contribute to oxygen-deprived “dead zones” where fish cannot survive. Associated Press. 31 August 2013.
Septic system oversight studied for Whitefish. A newly drafted wastewater management plan for Whitefish could chart the course for how strictly the city will deal with failing septic systems within its jurisdiction. Kalispell Daily Inter Lake, Montana. 31 August 2013.
China faces big water crisis. China’s rapid industrialization and urbanization along with over exploitation and abuse of natural resources has led to serious water pollution and water scarcity that is approaching crisis proportions. Epoch Times. 30 August 2013.
Fracturing with natural gas instead of water. The oil and gas industry’s water problem has led to a rush of ideas to use alternatives. One of them, presented at an energy conference in Houston Thursday, involves using natural gas to produce natural gas (or oil). Houston Chronicle. 30 August 2013.
US and Canada need to stop phosphorous runoff causing algae blooms in Lake Erie, report says. The International Joint Commission said in a draft report that urgent steps are needed to curb runaway algae – which produce harmful toxins and contribute to oxygen-deprived “dead zones” where fish cannot survive. Canadian Press. 30 August 2013.
Scottish water worse than English and Welsh. In its annual report, the Drinking Water Quality Regulator said 99.86 per cent of samples taken from consumers’ taps in 2012 complied with standards – Scottish Water’s best performance – but the proportion of contaminants did not consistently achieve the same level as south of the Border. Edinburgh Scotsman, United Kingdom. 30 August 2013.
China oil giants fail environmental tests. China’s two major oil providers – China National Petroleum Corp and China Petroleum and Chemical Corp – have been punished by the Environmental Protection Ministry for failing their 2012 environmental tests. China Daily. 30 August 2013.
Youngstown man admits dumping toxic fracking waste into Mahoning River. An employee of a Youngstown company that stored, treated and disposed of oil and gas drilling liquids admitted this morning to dumping tens of thousands of gallons of fracking waste on at least 24 occasions into a tributary of the Mahoning River. Cleveland Plain Dealer, Ohio. 30 August 2013.
Provincial and city officials failed the public over PCB storage in Quebec. Residents of Pointe-Claire have been ill served by various levels of government in the matter of the illegal toxic-materials dump in their community that came to light this week. Montreal Gazette, Quebec. Editorial, 30 August 2013.
Florida pledges $90 million for bridge to help Everglades. Gov. Rick Scott on Wednesday pledged $90 million for a new bridge along historic Tamiami Trail, a project that promises to restore natural water flow to part of the Everglades and ease — at least eventually — unnatural Lake Okeechobee releases now fouling two coastal rivers. Miami Herald, Florida. 29 August 2013.
Overland Park wastewater treatment plant honored for using french fry grease to reduce its carbon footprint. Old French fry grease – long a fuel option for drivers of certain retrofitted cars – is now reducing the carbon footprint of a large wastewater treatment plant in Overland Park. Kansas City Star, Missouri. 29 August 2013.
Environment Agency investigates Silchester brooks pollution incident. Environment Agency officials were today continuing investigations into the latest pollution affecting a 8km stretch of a Silchester waterway – the second such incident affecting the brooks in three years. Newbury News, United Kingdom. 29 August 2013.
Delhi eateries flout pollution norms. The Delhi Pollution Control Committee has found that the 2,000-odd top-of-the-line eateries with 80 to 90 seats each and banquet halls in the Capital are a huge source of pollution and water wastage. As much as 95% of the 2,000 units, including 550 with bars, do not have the DPCC’s permission to operate; nor do they have waste water treatment plants. New Delhi Hindustan Times, India. 29 August 2013.
Sewage threat to water sources. Sewage contamination of water bodies in urban and rural areas, of rivers and bore well water has been increasing. And this has emerged as a serious difficulty in reaching potable water to people everywhere. Deccan Herald, India. 29 August 2013.
Christie: New Jersey has no beach closures from water pollution yet this year. Gov. Chris Christie boasted that not one of the state’s 127 miles of beaches has had to be closed thus far this summer due to water pollution while at a public appearance on Tuesday. Jersey Journal, New Jersey. 29 August 2013.
PCBs found on equipment of waste hauler; license revoked until hearing. A cease-and-desist order has been issued to a Greer waste hauling company that was found to have equipment contaminated with PCBs, a hazardous chemical. Spartanburg Herald-Journal, South Carolina. 29 August 2013.
Oxford treatment plant working to resolve pollution violations. Oxford’s wastewater treatment plant could face thousands of dollars in penalties if it does not comply with state regulations after committing two years’ worth of pollution violations, according to a state environmental official today. Anniston Star, Alabama. 29 August 2013.
Lake Erie algae persist. Persistent toxic algae blooms on Lake Erie have been wreaking havoc on Ohio’s multi-billion dollar lake tourism industry, and state agencies are fighting back with new tools to better help them monitor the blooms and reduce the nutrients feeding them from Ohio, Michigan and Indiana farms and cities. Great Lakes Echo, Michigan. 29 August 2013.
Removing Fluoride from Drinking Water
by Gene Franks
The best ways to remove fluoride from drinking water are with any good reverse osmosis unit or steam distiller. Both products remove a high percentage of fluoride by their nature and do not need specialty filters.
At Pure Water Products we say that the second best way to remove fluoride from drinking water is with our “Enhanced Performance Fluoride Filter.” (Sorry, the name isn’t sexy, but it’s the best we could do.)
The Enhanced Performance Fluoride Filter uses the best fluoride resin we can find (Resin Tech’s SR-900) and puts it to work under the very best of conditions. For fluoride filters to be effective, it is necessary that water pass through the fluoride medium very slowly. Slowly, as in no more than 1/4 gallon per minute. That’s about a third the normal delivery speed for a standard countertop or undersink water filter.
The Enhanced Fluoride Filter slows the water down in the fluoride cartridge, then allows it to run full speed through the carbon filters that accompany it. The result is optimal fluoride performance and normal delivery speed at the faucet.
The Enhanced Performance Fluoride Filter uses a standard reverse osmosis tank to store fluoride-free water for fast delivery to the faucet.
Third best fluoride removal strategy, and certainly not a bad choice, is with standard undersink or countertop filtration units with the same high quality cartridge as the fluoride filter. Fluoride treatment, to be done well, requires at least a double canister filter—one for fluoride and the second for chemical/taste/odor reduction. We have a single cartridge that contains half fluoride resin and half coconut shell carbon for our Model 77 countertop, but a double filter with full carbon and full fluoride cartridges is much preferred. With conventional fluoride filters,both countertop and undersink, the user can, of course, run water slowly and achieve “enhanced performance” as with the special filter described above.
A double countertop filter can be an effective fluoride remover when one housing contains a fluoride removal cartridge and the second contains a carbon block cartridge.
We use only two fluoride removal methods—reverse osmosis, the best, and standard fluoride resin (activated alumina). We do not use bone char carbon that is sold on some internet sites. We like to think we have too much class.
Thank you for reading. Please come back next week.
Places to Visit on Our Websites in the meantime
Model 77: “The World’s Greatest $77 Water Filter”
”Sprite Shower Filters: You’ll Sing Better!”
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