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Alarming lead levels found in children.
A Reuters news release last week gives us a glimpse of how far-reaching the problem of lead in our drinking water really is with the discovery that children across California show blood levels of lead up to 3 times higher than the safety standards allow. (*1)
Communities across the country are becoming alarmed at the high rates of lead contamination in their drinking water. Although Flint, MI may have become infamous for the egregious decisions that politicians made that put citizens at risk, the truth is that lead-tainted water is more common than most of us realized.
This comes after a December 2016 special report released by Reuters that included a map of over 100 "hot spots" across the US that tested for higher lead levels than in Flint, MI. (*2)
To say that this set off an alarm is an understatement.
Where is the lead coming from?
There are many sources of lead contamination, and although great lengths have been taken in the past several decades to reduce lead exposure, serious contamination continues from lead in water pipes in municipals systems and homes built before the 1980's.
According to safeplumbing.org. there are a number of reasons why lead is still found in drinking water today including:
- "Nearly all homes built before the 1980s still have lead solder connecting copper pipes.
- Lead still can be found in some interior water pipes and in pipes connecting a home or business to the main water pipe in the street.
- While lead may still be found in metal water taps, these products must pass rigorous NSF/ANSI 61 testing and certification to assure the lead content is below safety thresholds.
- Water chemistry also affects lead levels. Water not treated properly for corrosion control may cause lead to leach from leaded plumbing materials into the water. Lead found in tap water typically comes from corrosion of fixtures or from solder connecting the pipes. Lead also can leach into a water supply when water sits in leaded pipes for many hours. Carefully controlled water chemistry prevents dangerous levels of lead from entering the drinking water system from the pipes
- Some major U.S. cities still have 100 percent lead piping bringing water from the utilities to homes and businesses. The dissolved oxygen in the water combines with the metal at the surface (copper, zinc or lead) to form a metal oxide. This oxidation layer naturally develops through the decades to coat lead piping and prevent lead from getting into the water supply. When water conditions require it, water utilities also add lime or orthophosphates as a further barrier to prevent lead from getting into drinking water." (*3)
Advocates for safe water call for an investment in infrastructure that includes the elimination of "lead service lines" and replacement with lines that won't leach harmful contaminants. The EPA estimates the cost of accomplishing this at between $16 and $80 billion. Don't expect this to happen anytime soon. So what to do until then?
What can you do about lead in your tap water?
Well, you can do what millions of Americans do every single day all across the country and buy cases of bottled water in millions of plastic bottles. Not only does this create enormous waste but do you realize that regulations of bottled water are next to nil??? Do you really know what's in that water you are chugging? The answer may shock you.
(Don't get me started on the corporations who are raking in mega millions in the bottled water racket while local communities are left aghast that their local politicians signed the rights to their water sources away at sometimes greatly discounted prices. So while communities all across the nation struggle with water shortage, companies like Nestle are pumping millions of gallons of water out of our aquifers into plastic bottles and shipping them all over the world. I don't know about you, but this makes me angry. But that's another issue, I guess.)
What filter should I buy?
Why not save yourself the trouble of lugging bottles and jugs from the store and filter the lead out??? There are a number of ways to do this. You can distill your water, get a reverse osmosis water system, or buy a variety of filters that can be installed on your counter top or under the counter.
There are advantages and disadvantages to certain methods. Low flow rates, high energy use and water waste are the downsides of of distillation and R/O. At Highwater Filters, we look for effective, efficient and affordable solutions for drinking water. Why pay hundreds and hundreds of dollars and hire professional installers when you can install a counter top system right on your faucet in a matter of just a few minutes? Or, if you have limited space on your counter and/or want to keep your filtering system out of sight (with peace of mind), you might choose an under counter model that may require some plumbing experience to install.
Get Extra Savings Now!
For a limited time, we are offering an additional 5% Off (See codes below) our already low prices on select systems for removing lead from drinking water.
Please visit our website to learn more and to purchase the New Wave 10-Stage Premium Water Filters (code 10STGDIS), Cuz'n inline water filter UC-200F (code CUCDIS), Cuz'n Bath Ball Tub Filter (code BBDIS) and the Cuz'n KR-101 (code KRDIS). You must use the codes at checkout to get your discount.
Please contact us if you have any questions or trouble choosing the right filter for you. We are happy to help! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 509-685-0933.
Thanks for stopping by!
*2. Reuters Special Report: Unsafe at Any Level
*3. Lead in Plumbing (safeplumbing.org)
photo credit above: Reuters/Chris Wattie
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by Lorraine Marie
You’re way ahead of the curve if you’ve decided to remove fluoride from your water. After all, there are still municipalities thinking “hey, let’s be smart and fluoridate the water!” When we peek back at history, the rush to fluoridate public water involved very little thought, just some circumstantial evidence regarding dental health, combined with the too-hasty social fervor to jump on the bandwagon of “science has a solution for everything.”
The science showing how questionable fluoridated water is came later, but too late. The brainwashing had begun. There is reluctance to loosen the grip on tightly held beliefs, apparently…even half a century later.
Now we have a different scenario: when we decide to de-fluoridate, it seems we still don’t have enough answers to make a 100 percent sure choice about the filter we should use to accomplish the task. There are too many variables, such as the level of pollutants in the pre-treated water, pH level, how quickly the water passes through a particular filter system, etc, to allow us to find nice neat little test results that provide an obvious answer.
For example, some will point to activated alumina for fluoridation removal. It is said to be 98 to 100% effective, as long as you get the flow rate just right. There is an additional bonus of also removing arsenic and lead. The fluoride is mostly gone, but now there can be activated alumina to get out of the water.
Reverse osmosis sounds like alumina déjà vu: 90 to 95% of the fluoride can be removed, but it takes two to four gallons of water to capture one fluoride-free gallon. That gallon is basically devoid of life force, requiring the addition of other ingredients to boost it back up to life-supporting status.
Then there is bone char. It is said to be the oldest method of freeing water of fluoride content, with up to a 90% removal rate. How bone char and activated carbon differ may be pertinent to your search for the best water filtering method. Bone char is made with animal bones that are heated to 1,292 degrees F., in low oxygen conditions, which enhances the product’s adsorption abilities. For vegans, it may not be an option. In contrast, activated carbon is similarly processed, and can be derived from animal or vegetable sources.
Dr. Richard Sauerheber, professor of chemistry with University of California, has looked extensively at the fluoride issue, and believes bone char filters are the most effective.
Getting rid of fluoride in your drinking water can also boost your health, since other unhealthy contaminants can be removed via filtering. Activated carbon filter methods can, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (consulted since they are not sellers or promoters of any particular filter brand), rid water of chlorine, disinfecting products, heavy metals [think arsenic, cadmium, copper, iron, lead, mercury, zinc], parasites, pesticides, radon and volatile organic chemicals, such as dichlorobenzene, methyl tert butyl ether and tricholoroethylene. The Environmental Protection Agency says radio-nuclides can be removed with granular activated carbon. I could not determine for sure if thallium is removed with activated charcoal filtering, but it is used in hospitals for internal poisoning from thallium.
So yes, take action to avoid poisoning yourself. The bone char filters may be the best route. I think about the village in Alaska, Hooper Bay, where the town’s fluoridated water system malfunctioned and 296 residents were poisoned. It was 1992. Most of the victims had severe GI pain as well as symptoms associated with heart malfunction. One person died. Fluoride can be nasty stuff, obviously, and there is evidence it may bio-accumulate in the body.
It’s clear that treated carbon products have an impressive history of service to health and well-being.
Just one more example: if you are dealing with an algae issue, Ohio State University reports using activated carbon, combined with a membrane filter, for “significantly” reducing algae toxins. To truly make the best water filtration choice, it’s wise to invest in a thorough water test and determine what is in your water to start with.
Bone Char and GAC products Extra Savings!
New! Wide Spectrum Inline Under-counter filter for fluoride removal! Made in USA by Cuz'n Water Filtration.
Now get an extra 5% off at checkout on all our GAC/Bone Char products with discount code GACDIS.
We now carry Bone Char filters, GAC for Chlorine removal and GAC for Chloramine removal. We also sell bulk Bone Char and GAC by the lb. Bundle up and get added protection from fluoride
and heavy metals.
See all our GAC products here. We've got a variety of counter top and under counter combinations to choose from. Feel free to contact us for more information:
We love to talk about your water treatment needs.
Thanks for stopping by!
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Here we demonstrate how to avoid the problem of bucket water warming up too fast by cooling the Vortex coil directly in the river. Worked like a charm.
For more information and to purchase the Vortex, please visit our website.
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By Lady Wa Wa
To many of us, the idea of toxic chemicals released by fracking into our water supplies seems remote. We assume only folks living next door to hydraulic fracturing operations in Texas, Ohio or Pennsylvania could possibly be affected.
Hydraulic fracturing has now been applied more than a million times to onshore U.S. oil and gas wells. Worldwide, more than 2.5 million hydraulic fracturings have occurred, with more being planned every day.
Fracking is the process of injecting water, chemicals and sand into shale rock to release natural gas. There are numerous negative consequences of fracking near communities, as the process produces a toxic wastewater that cannot be treated by standard water sanitation facilities. In fact, people who live in areas where fracking occurs may be consuming toxic water straight from their faucets, as many watchdog groups warn.
FracFocus.org has compiled an extensive list of chemicals used in fracking, along with maps and regulations for individual states. The chemical chart is sorted alphabetically by the Product Function to make it easier for readers to compare chemicals to fracturing records .
According to Food and Water Watch.org, more than 7,500 accidents, leaks and spills related to fracking occurred in 2013, negatively impacting water quality in rivers, streams and shallow aquifers. There have also been more than 1,000 documented cases of water contamination near fracking sites around the country, although the process is still used to extract natural gas in spite of claims made against its impact.
Water for fracking operations is mixed with sand and toxic chemicals, including over 100 suspected endocrine disruptors and carcinogens (including lead, mercury and uranium), Food and Water Watch states. Also, giant holding ponds or tanks are needed to store the chemically contaminated waste water that comes back up the hole after wells have been fractured.
Besides the fracking chemicals, the fracturing process may release benzene into nearby water sources. Benzene is clear and has a sweet smell. It can be tasted once it reaches .5—4.5 parts per million. One ppm is equivalent to a single drop in 40 gallons of water. However, Benzene is toxic in water at .005 ppm, which can’t be detected by taste or smell.
Because Benzene is found both naturally and as a result of industrial sources, people are exposed to small amounts of the chemical daily. However, when we are exposed to high quantities of Benzene, serious health problems can develop. Drinking water contaminated by Benzene can cause stomach irritation, dizziness, sleepiness, convulsion, rapid heart rate, vomiting, or in extreme cases, coma or death.
Fracking technology has been in use for decades, but only recently has the industry developed the capacity to drill horizontally within the rock formations, which requires massive amounts of water and potentially toxic chemicals. But industry secrecy about the chemicals injected into the shale has made it difficult for scientists and government agencies to get the facts on health and environmental impacts of fracking.
Individual states regulate fracturing that occurs within their borders, and they have different rules over the use of the process. The EPA says it is working with states and other key stakeholders to help ensure that natural gas extraction does not come at the expense of public health and the environment. According to the agency’s website:
“The Agency's focus and obligations under the law are to provide oversight, guidance and, where appropriate, rulemaking that achieve the best possible protections for the air, water and land where Americans live, work and play. The Agency is investing in improving our scientific understanding of hydraulic fracturing, providing regulatory clarity with respect to existing laws, and using existing authorities where appropriate to enhance health and environmental safeguards.”
New York, Vermont have already banned fracking and now California is contemplating a ban, thanks in great part to forward-thinking environmental protestors and community action groups.
FracTracker.org, a non-profit that launched in 2010, provides oil and gas maps for over 30 U.S. states with drilling activity. Simply click on your state to learn about fracking operations. These maps may include drilled wells, violations, proximity to vulnerable populations, pipelines and proposals, waste disposal sites, sand mining operations, and more.
Hydraulic Fracturing 101
Activists such as these, who are rapidly becoming more organized, larger and stronger, are busy gathering data and proof that fracking is not good for the environment – despite industry claims to the contrary. Consider this innocent-sounding summary of fracking by Halliburton, a leader in the hydraulic fracturing industry:
- “So how does this process actually work? Well, it starts with a good bit of water and a lot of sand. Mix those two together, apply a couple thousand pounds of pressure, and introduce them to a reservoir several thousand feet below, often with the help of a small percentage of additives that aid in delivering that solution down the hatch.”
- “Then physics takes over. The force of the water creates a network of tiny fissures in the impermeable rock. The flow of water acts as a delivery mechanism for the sand, which finds its way into those newly created cracks and holds them open. This creates passageways through which the previously trapped natural gas can travel to get to the wellbore. The fracturing process is now finished; on average, it takes 3 to 10 days to complete.”
- “Now it's time for the operator to remove the water, clearing the way for the newly stimulated well to produce energy for the next 20, 30, 40, even 50 years. The trucks, the pumps, the equipment, and the traffic that were needed to do the job – they're long gone. The operator typically leaves a production valve and collection equipment behind. The rest of the site is remediated, often within 120 days.”
Fracking discovered in 1866
Halliburton is not alone in its praise of this new technology credited with bringing wealth and vitality to communities. In “A Brief History of Fracking,” Brian Hicks, investment director for the income and dividend newsletter The Wealth Advisory, explains how the concept of fracking is not new. It was devised in 1866 by Civil War veteran Col. Edward Roberts who patented the "Exploding Torpedo."
As the story goes, Roberts witnessed Confederate exploding artillery rounds plunging into the narrow millrace (canal) that obstructed a battlefield in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Roberts' observation gave him an idea that would evolve into what he described as "superincumbent fluid tamping."
“Nobody knew it at the time, but Roberts' "Exploding Torpedo" was the birth of the modern-day shale fracturing industry...”
Skip ahead to 2015 and “the U.S. now has 200 years' worth of natural gas… and is predicted to be the largest oil producer in the world by the end of the decade, thanks to fracking,” says Hicks.
“Oh, and by the way... because the United States is using more natural gas as a result of the fracking revolution, the country's CO2 emissions are at a six-year low...”
Fracking is good for the environment, Hicks concludes.
U.S. touted as fracking leader
Fracking is not, of course, limited to the United States. Citing U.S. shale-extraction success and energy revitalization, Japan and Algeria are among the most recent countries to begin fracking operations – also with heavy public opposition.
Hacina Zegzeg, a coordinator for a protest movement who lives and works in In Salah, Algeria, said in a January 2015 online Observer article that her group organized protests in 2014, but the debate cooled a bit because the government agreed to hold off beginning the extraction of shale gas until 2022.
“However, at the end of December last year, the prime minister came to inaugurate the country’s first drilling site, located about 28 kilometers from In Salah… And we had not even been warned about his visit. All this reignited the movement.”
Zegzeg said a shale gas mining operation poses a serious threat to her town because the groundwater table is fossilized, meaning that the water doesn’t replenish itself.
“We are at risk of having polluted water and running out of water entirely,” Zegzeg said.
So long as humans rely on fossil fuels and can find a way to get to it, this debate will continue. Meanwhile, freshwater sources dwindle worldwide. If you live in an area where fracking is ongoing or being considered, learn all you can. Have your water tested. Contact your legislators to hold energy companies accountable for any contamination caused by fracking and to disclose the chemicals they use.
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By Lady Wa Wa
When a commodity as vital to life as clean water is at stake, we would be wise to be overly cautious rather than rely on government agencies to protect us.
From Love Canal, N.Y., (the nation’s first Superfund site) to the U.S. Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, N.C., news stories abound of disastrous situations where authorities failed to warn residents of unsafe water in a timely manner, or even attempted to cover up or downplay the hazards. Meanwhile, unsuspecting residents became ill drinking and bathing in polluted water.
Yet, according to a recent Pew Research Center poll, 59 percent of survey respondents view the Environmental Protection Agency favorably. In other words, they believe the EPA informs and protects them. Pew conducted the survey Jan. 7-11 among 1,504 adults nationwide.
I suspect the 6,000 residents of Glendive, Mont., are less trusting of the EPA and their local government since a ruptured Bridger Pipeline Company pipeline poisoned their town’s drinking water supply in January with benzene, a human carcinogen found in oil and gas.
Benzene in nature
Often, industry professionals and government agencies point out that so-called hazards such as radiation, ozone, mercury, lead and benzene, to name a few, occur organically in the environment. A poster produced by Environmental Programs at Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center states that benzene is produced naturally by volcanoes and forest fires and does not build up in living organisms.
“It is also present in many plants and animals and in fossil fuels such as coal and oil. Benzene evaporates very quickly into the air. It can pass into the air from water and soil. It reacts with other chemicals in the air and usually breaks down within a few days.”
This makes benzene sound benign, doesn’t it? The information poster concludes by stating that benzene can cause cancer and disrupt the immune system in humans.
Yellowstone River and benzene
The Bridger pipeline split on Jan. 17, 2015, spilling approximately 30,000 gallons (some sources say 50,000 gallons) of crude oil into the Yellowstone River four miles upstream from Glendive. Glendive’s treatment plant officials did not issue an advisory against drinking the carcinogenic tap water until 48 hours after the catastrophe, according to news reports.
According to the EPA, the 12-inch diameter, ½-inch-thick pipeline broke between two block valves approximately 6,800 feet apart where the line crosses under the river.
“To date, response crews have collected 548 barrels of oil (about 23,000 gallons) out of more than 1,200 barrels that could have been released. Most of the oil recovery was from within the pipeline after it was shut down. Additional oil has been recovered from on-ice recovery efforts.”
The EPA says workers conducted water sampling at the Glendive Water Treatment Plant and environmental specialists took water samples along the river at the site of the release and at select points downstream. “Additional environmental sampling will also be conducted to determine the extent of the spill's environmental impact and to guide future response and recovery plans once the ice breaks up.”
"Brief" water contamination
The EPA said Glendive’s public drinking water supply was “briefly contaminated soon after the spill when volatile organic compounds, specifically benzene, showed up in early sampling results.” Solutions were put in place to mitigate these VOCs and the water treatment plant has since been decontaminated and the main distribution lines flushed through the city's fire hydrants.
“Residents were instructed to flush the pipes in their homes and businesses and advised that they could continue using their water as normal. DEQ has confirmed that the municipal water delivery system now meets standards set out by the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.”
The EPA ordered additional monitoring equipment to install at the intake to detect VOCs and other oil constituents entering the system, sounding an alarm that will trigger a shutdown of the treatment plant if benzene levels reach 2 ppb (less than half of the benzene maximum contaminant level).
The EPA also sampled 10 shallow groundwater wells near the break. No VOCs were detected.
Ten days later, city water was again deemed safe.
Not safe for all creatures
A month later, however, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks advised fishermen to use caution when deciding whether to eat fish they caught in the area affected by the spill. In February, detectable levels of petroleum were found in tests of fish pulled from the Yellowstone River downstream from the broken pipeline.
Apparently, the fish didn’t read the EPA’s press release certifying the water as safe to use.
The state agency said sampling for contaminated fish – as well as cleanup of the spilled oil – has been difficult because ice covers most of the river downstream from the spill site.
FWP fisheries biologists were able to catch several species of fish at sites downstream from the break. The fish were sent to laboratories in Billings and Wisconsin, which tested the edible muscle tissue and internal organs for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons – or PAHs.
“Published research indicates that petroleum compounds can accumulate in fish for 40 or more days after a spill. FWP will resume catching fish after the ice leaves the river and test tissues for PAH accumulation.”
The agency said petroleum compounds can also be passed on to fish through the food chain when micro-organisms, insects, worms, crustaceans and other aquatic animals absorb petroleum compounds then eaten by fish.
The advisory was issued as a precaution, instructing anglers to tend toward conservative decisions and prudent practice when it comes to the health effects of the oil spill.
Lois Gibbs, the Love Canal housewife who rallied neighbors in a 3-year fight to force legislators to listen and the EPA to evacuate 833 households from their highly toxic, dioxin-laden neighborhoods, said in 2008, "The federal government's failure to prevent harm for American citizens is unacceptable: When will government learn to err on the side of caution instead of risk equations?"
Gibbs, the founder/executive director of the Center for Health, Environment and Justice, was speaking about the Food and Drug Administration’s decision that bisphenol-A (BPA), a common plasticizer used in a variety of consumer food and beverage containers, is safe for babies.
Seven years later, a newly published study reported an association between BPA with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in children. The study, by researchers at Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine (RowanSOM) and Rutgers New Jersey Medical School (NJMS), shows that BPA is not metabolized well in children with ASD.
Perhaps we cannot rely on government agencies to keep us safe from all hazards lurking in our environment. But, we can be proactive. First, have your water tested.
Home water filters are available today that can eliminate dangerous pollutants, whether they occur naturally or from horrific oil spills, leach from chemical dump sites or seep into the groundwater from landfills.
As Lois Gibbs says, wouldn’t we also be wise to err on the side of caution?
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By Lady Wa Wa
Manure doesn’t immediately come to mind when envisioning deadly overflows. Two liquid manure mishaps, however, were among the top-10 manmade poisonous spills of all time, according to “Wave Goodbye: 10 of the World’s Worst Toxic Floods.” The rivers of cow pies and hog poo were as lethal as coal ash slurry and mining waste tainted with arsenic and cadmium.
Besides harmful chemicals, the Natural Resources Defense Council reports that animal waste contains disease-causing pathogens, such as Salmonella, E. coli, Cryptosporidium, and fecal coliform, which can be 10 to 100 times more concentrated than in human waste. More than 40 diseases can be transferred to humans through manure.
Perhaps we don’t think of animal manure that way because it was once a natural byproduct of raising livestock, back when most farms had no more than a couple dozen cows, sheep or hogs. I can still recall the sensation of cow patties squishing between my naked kid-sized toes as we herded the neighbor’s modest 35 or so Holsteins from the pasture in the 1960s.
I didn’t much like sliminess when tramping through a fresh patty, although it was natural, green and usually involved no more than one or two pies per episode. Incidentally, we also cupped drinking water with our bare hands from the creek in that pasture and weren’t later curled over with gastroenteritis.
That family farm, like thousands of others, no longer exists. A subdivision occupies the land, while industrial-sized factory farms produce milk elsewhere. Not only has farm size exploded in recent decades, with many recording animal populations in the tens of thousands, not mere hundreds. But, the number and amount of hazardous chemicals found in the manure produced there has also increased. Running barefoot through it is not advised.
Horse manure, for example, responsible for damaging crops and home gardens after normal application, has been found to contain herbicides that were traced back to the horses’ feed. Manure also contains high concentrations of phosphorous and nitrates. So, when a flood of the stuff accidentally runs across the landscape, plants and creatures above ground are not the only things harmed. Manure spills kill wildlife in natural waterways and contaminate drinking water supplies in wells, aquifers and reservoirs.
When thousands of gallons of manure flow from a lagoon into a nearby creek, the farmer is commonly blamed and fined. In many cases, however, the containment systems failed – a faulty or nonexistent check valve, broken pipes, cracked concrete walls, soil berms saturated by rain or lagoons overflowing by excessive rainfall. Government agencies established to protect the environment have also been accused of not doing enough to prevent catastrophes. In December 2014, for example, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources advised residents of a manure spill that could contaminate water wells, but did not mention the number of gallons or how the spill happened.
Some recent mishaps include 25 million gallons of hog waste spilling from a North Carolina farm in 1995, 3 million gallons of cow manure at a New York dairy farm, 640,000 gallons of manure spilled from a Wisconsin dairy in 2014, 300,000 gallons of manure at Arlington Agricultural Research Station in Wisconsin in 2013 and 200,000 gallons of hog manure spilled in Illinois in 2009 . These are but a few of the disasters filling the news and damaging ecosystems.
Meanwhile, whatever the cause, water everywhere becomes tainted. Sadly, we can’t wish ourselves back to a pristine world of unspoiled, crystal clear water and harmless cow patties. We can, however, protect ourselves with a simple household water filter system.
And be sure to wear your shoes in the barn.
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By Lady Wa Wa
From sea to shining sea, all year long, the news overflowed with stories of catastrophic water pollution events that made people sick, destroyed ecosystems and cost uncalculated billions to clean up. The poisons are many – everything from naturally occurring gases released by mining to dumped dry-cleaning solvents and coal ash used as landfill.
2014 started with four states (Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and West Virginia) finally confirming that fracking was responsible for contaminating water wells. Four days later, a disastrous Jan. 9 coal-washing chemical tank leak in West Virginia sickened hundreds of people. Incidentally, the same site was responsible for a similar chemical spill six months later.
By the time it was revealed on Dec. 29 coal ash was the source of water contamination in Wisconsin, so many environmental calamities occurred during the year that it is impossible to list them all here. Unless you’re one of the unfortunate residents affected, these stories are usually quickly forgotten among the stream of assaults against Mother Earth.
Here, briefly, are a few of the hugest water-pollution stories topping the news in 2014:
- 4 States Confirm Water Pollution From Drilling USA Today reported Jan. 5 that an Associated Press investigation revealed water wells in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and West Virginia have been contaminated by oil or gas drilling, despite industry claims that such problems are rare.
- Toxic Chemical Leaks into Elk River Upriver from the West Virginia American Water intake source, about 10,000 gallons coal-washing chemical, crude 4-methylcyclohexanemethanol, leaked from a Freedom Industries’ holding tank into the Elk River, leaving 300,000 people without potable water for weeks. It was later uncovered that a second chemical also leaked into the river. Industry executives were charged in December.
- Freedom Industries Leaks Chemicals, Again A faulty sump pump was blamed for causing potentially contaminated storm water to overflow into the Elk River from a containment trench at Freedom Industries’ site in Kanawha County, W. Virginia, in June — the same site that leaked chemicals into the river in January, poisoning the drinking water supply downstream.
- Toledo Water Contaminated by Algae In early August, in the warm, still waters of Lake Erie, chemicals (likely from fertilizer components) caused a massive algal bloom that polluted the drinking water for hundreds of thousands of residents.
- Study Links Water Contamination To Fracking In September, University of Texas researchers found that levels of arsenic, selenium and strontium were higher than the EPA’s limits in some private wells near natural gas wells. A drinking water study by the National Academy of Sciences determined fracking was indeed responsible for water contamination in several states. In New Mexico alone, the report states, chemicals from oil and gas waste pits contaminated water sources at least 421 times. In August, Pennsylvania made 243 cases of contamination of private drinking wells from oil and gas drilling operations public.
- Coal Ash Contaminates Wisconsin Water A decades’ long practice of legally dumping tons of coal ash in lots, waterways, landfills, and even hospital parking lots, has been linked to well contamination, according to a study released in November by Clean Wisconsin, an environmental advocacy group. Government programs, such as “beneficial reuse,” allowed power plants to use coal ash as fill in construction projects. Chemicals leaching from the ash may be responsible for numerous serious health problems. The EPA confirmed 157 cases of proven or potential damage from coal ash, including 14 in Wisconsin.
- West Wichita Wells Contaminated by Dumped Solvents In December, nearly 200 homes in west Wichita were connected to city water as the result of groundwater contamination caused decades ago by dry-cleaning solvents. Kansas Department of Health and Environment spent more than $2.5 million to pay for water mains, meters and connections to the homes that were within the area of the contamination plume.
To get an idea of the potential contaminants in your drinking water, see this report by the Environmental Working Group that compiled records from 48,000 public water suppliers, creating the largest drinking water quality database in existence. More than 300 pollutants were detected. To use the database online, simply enter your zip code to see the results of public water sources near you.
EWG also compiled a water filter resource guide to help consumers choose a system.
To find information about the many water filtration products that we carry, please visit the Highwater Filters website.
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Yet another reason to filter your drinking water
By Lady Wa Wa
From the mid-1800s to the early 1900s, numerous reports documented the health dangers of lead pipes. Although not until the 1920s, many U.S. cities eventually banned or restricted the use of lead pipes for water distribution. Meanwhile, efforts by the Lead Industries Association, which formed in 1928, encouraged cities and homeowners to continue installing lead pipes, extolling lead’s virtues over iron pipe (malleability and increased system longevity).
A century later, consumers question the safety of current popular pipe materials including cross-linked polyethylene (PEX) flexible piping used by a growing number of green homebuilders. Touted for economy and easy installation, whispers of concern have dogged the green home industry. Do chemicals leach into drinking water when stagnant in the pipe or when it's used for hot water applications?
Consider piping as a vessel. We wouldn’t drink from a lead cup, would we?
When the U.S. Pure Food and Drugs Act passed in 1906, it was 100 years behind public outcries for government oversight of manufacturing. Oddly, the law had no pre-market approval system for food ingredients or drugs. The government could act only after products were on the market.
Before the law, the general attitude was for consumers to be responsible for awareness of potential contaminants. A 1906 USDA Bureau of Chemistry bulletin instructed housewives how to discern if the milk, cereal or canned beans they purchased contained harmful adulterants.
The bulletin strongly defended manufacturers, stating it would not be in their interest to shorten the lives of their customers nor impair their appetites by knowingly adding poisons. Several more decades passed before ingredient-listing was required, delayed because manufacturers feared scaring off customers or giving away secret recipes, according to the FDA.
Americans are again calling for more information about the products they put on or in their bodies. Again, regulation lags for consumer information about materials used to store or otherwise hold food and beverages. It can take decades from the time concerns about harmful ingredients arise until any government actions are taken to remove carcinogenic or toxic-containing products from the market. In some cases, there is simply no regulation of contaminants, such as is the case for bottled water sold in the United States.
How many years did we drink soda from plastic bottles containing Bisphenol-A (BPA) before we realized that once in our system, the synthetic chemical compound emulates estrogen? To learn more about bottled water, BPA and water filters, see this 2013 Highwater Marks blog.
First developed in 1891, BPA began appearing in plastic products worldwide in the 1950s. For 60 years, BPA has been used without regulation establishing its safety. The Toxic Substances Control Act passed in 1976, but labeled BPA a "grandfather" chemical, meaning it was never evaluated and was presumed safe by the Environmental Protection Agency, according to research by consumer law firm Baum, Hedlund, Aristei and Goldman, PC. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and American Medical Journal cite numerous health problems associated with BPA use.
The latest “best” piping material
So, is it any surprise that pipe commonly used to transport drinking water into our homes may also leach toxins into that water – and we don’t have to be made aware of it? Under scrutiny recently is PEX potable water pipe.
PEX has several advantages over metal pipe (copper, iron, lead) or rigid plastic pipe (PVC, CPVC, ABS) systems. It is flexible, resistant to scale and chlorine, doesn't corrode or develop pinholes, is faster to install than metal or rigid plastic, and has fewer connections and fittings, according to PEXinfo.com.
Europeans began using PEX around 1970; it was introduced in the United States in 1980. PEX use has been increasing ever since, replacing copper pipe in many applications, especially for hot water.
Several California groups blocked adoption of PEX for a decade for concerns about toxins getting into the water, either from chemicals outside or inside the pipes such as methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) and tertiary butyl alcohol. California eventually permitted PEX use in all occupancies. An environmental impact report and subsequent studies determined there were no causes for concerns about public health from PEX piping use.
PEX pipe studies
A 2002 Regional Food Control Authority report, “Volatile organic components migrating from plastic pipes (HDPE, PEX and PVC) into drinking water,” by a research team in Norway indicates VOC migrated in significant amounts into the test water from PEX pipes. The full report is available for purchase online.
A 2014 study by University of South Alabama graduate student Matt Connell presented new drinking water impact results regarding plastic pipes in green buildings. At an American Water Works Association conference, Connell discussed the degree chemicals leach from popular plastic plumbing pipes. Also attending, environmental engineering professor Andrew Whelton described drinking water odor and chemical leaching results for six brands of PEX pipe. Their downloadable presentation is available here.
Following a 28-day study on water quality, including taste and odor and chemical leaching, the researchers concluded that PEX pipes’ test results are highly variable among manufacturers.
“There were wide variations between the magnitude of chemicals released by PEX pipes. One PEX pipe significantly altered drinking water quality while the other did not,” their report states.
Connell and Whelton said little information is available for plastic pipe sold in the United States. “To aid homeowners, builders, and water professionals in their desire to select plumbing pipe that ensures safe and aesthetically pleasing drinking water, more data are needed,” they reported.
“There is a bigger concern in the weeks after installation,” concluded Hilary Ohm, owner of Highwater Filters, after studying the researchers’ reports. “Over time, the dangers are minimal. However, flushing water that has been standing for a period of time and using a filter are the best ways to protect consumers from any harm.”
PEX pipe? There is a filter for that
History indicates consumers would be wise to research piping materials instead of relying on industry professionals or the government for safety and health information. As an added measure, install a water filter and test your water.
The Premium 10 Stage by New Wave Enviro is a popular choice for removing a wide variety of contaminants, including those suspected to leach from PEX.
SPECIAL OFFER to visitors of this blog post! Take 5% off the already low prices for the Premium 10 Stage (under counter and countertop units). Use code PREMDISC for your discount on the Premium 10 Stage.
Environmental Protection Agency strongly encourages people to learn more about their drinking water, and to support local efforts to protect the supply of safe drinking water and upgrade the community water system. EPA requires all community water systems to prepare and deliver an annual consumer confidence report, sometimes called a water quality report, to their customers by July 1 of each year. Homeowners with private wells are advised to test their water at least annually or more often if problems are suspected due to odor or nearby activities (fracking, mining, agricultural, etc.)
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"There was a time, not so long ago, when pollution was accepted by many as the price one paid for living in an industrialized society. By the 1960s, our rivers had become so polluted by municipal and industrial wastes that fish could not survive in them and humans could not swim in them; millions of yards of garbage and millions of gallons of oil were routinely being dumped at sea; visibility in our major cities was obscured by smoke from factories and exhaust from automobiles; and industrial wastes, buried in drums and dumped in landfills, was contaminating soil and groundwater." Source: U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Prosecution of Environmental Pollution Crimes.This legal dumping went practically unchecked until the 1970s, and continues illegally and accidentally today, as evidenced by news stories of toxic waste spills, too numerous even to list here. Basically, pick a state and you can find a recent, horrific poisonous spill story to accompany it. Yet many trust their water supplies to be safe. Today, fear of contracting Ebola, or Fearbola, has many panicking and rushing to purchase home water filter systems. Filtered water is, sadly, a wise choice for most of us today, but not because of Ebola. If we can believe the Center for Disease Control reports, the likelihood of contracting Ebola through water sources is nil. According to the CDC, Ebola is not spread through the air, by water, or in general, by food. Even before the first Ebola cases were reported in North America, however, some water filter dealers began marketing their products as Ebola filters, preying on illogical fears. Still, numerous other pollutants are prevalent in our water. These include nitrates, nitrites, pesticides and other agricultural chemicals, parasites, bacteria, lead, mercury and radon, to name a few of the potentially hazardous contaminants lurking silently in private and public water supplies. Simple, at-home water-test kits are available at local department stores. The Environmental Protection Agency compiled this handy chart to list common contaminants.
In short, filter your water to protect your health, but be aware of the actual contaminants.
Check out our website at Highwater Filters for all your water treatment needs. We offer low, low prices, super fast shipping and the best customer service.
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Have a happy and safe holiday season!
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Do you lug bottles or jugs from the store with purified or "natural" water because you don't trust the water coming from your tap? What makes you trust the water in those bottles? Did you know that bottled water is not regulated and has no real guarantees for quality? Could what is in those bottles be making you sick?
An old friend of mine recently asked me for a suggestion for an alternative to bottled water because she is concerned about BPA in the bottles she buys from the store. I told her she has good reason to be worried. Bisphenol A, or BPA, is an industrial chemical used in some plastics, including many water bottles. Studies have shown that it can seep from plastic into food and beverages. Although the FDA currently considers it safe in small amounts, evidence is building that it could have negative effects on children and fetuses, even in small doses. BPA is an endocrine disruptor. It mimics estrogen. In 2006, the US gathered 38 experts to review studies and they concluded that: "BPA at concentrations found in the human body is associated with organizational changes in the prostate, breast, testis, mammary glands, body size, brain structure and chemistry, and behavior of laboratory animals." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bisphenol_A)
The FDA is continuing to study the effects of BPA but has yet to recommend a total ban. Does this make you feel more secure? Not me. Besides possible negative health effects from bottled water, the problem of plastic trash littering our roadways, water bodies and landfills just makes filtered tap water all the more practical. Add to that significant costs and inconvenience of buying water from the store and a filter at your tap becomes that much more attractive. Now is an excellent time to invest in a water filter system for your home. I used to lug 5 gallon jugs home with reverse osmosis water, which was good but cumbersome to handle. Now I just turn on my tap and have great tasting, clean water.
Do yourself a favor and make your life easier and healthier. Start drinking clean, great tasting water straight from your tap. We've got a number of systems to choose from. Check them out here. And if you are looking for something portable to treat water, we've got a great inventory of affordable and effective products for camping, backpacking, travel and emergency use at Highwater Filters.
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Introducing the Vortex Non-electric Water Distiller Kit by Highwater Filters.
We are so excited to add our very own product to the water treatment market.
We think we have designed the best water distiller of its kind. We strove to make this distiller kit affordable, unlike most of our competition. We went to great lengths to source parts from USA manufacturers. The Vortex is 100% USA made.
As our test video demonstrates, the Vortex really works.
The Vortex is designed to be used with a pressure cooker that has an external stem valve on the lid. Not all pressure cookers have this type these days. Most older models do.
Any heat source that can boil water can be used with the Vortex including camp fires, gas stoves, electric stoves, rocket stoves, wood stove etc. We tested the Vortex on a Grover Rocket Stove (made in Utah) and were so impressed we have them available for sale.
We tried to find a stainless steel pressure cooker made in America, but found that none exist. So we found a great quality cooker made in Spain by Magefesa. We've modified the lids with our exclusive Vortex adaptor to increase the flow rate and to make connection a snap. We have several different sizes to choose from. If you want to use your own cooker, just make sure it has the external valve that used to be standard on most pressure cookers but now are much harder to find. The Magefesa Star R has the right kind of valve. Vintage Presto stainless steel pressure cookers, made in the USA, have a compatible valve. We will try to compile a list of other brands that can be used in tandem with the Vortex system.
The exclusive Vortex coil and adaptor fitting are manufactured in house from US-made 316L Stainless Steel.
The Vortex is designed to be installed in a 5 gallon bucket, or other suitable container. Assembly is easy but does require drilling two holes in the bucket. For a limited time, we have pre-installed bucket kits available, for your convenience.
We think you'll agree with us that the Vortex is the best non-electric water distiller available anywhere.
Thanks for supporting small and local businesses!
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Few debates are as divided as the arguments over whether fluoride should be added to our water supplies to prevent tooth decay. Studies show that in the 3/4 of the country that fluoridate their water, tooth decay is lower. But rural areas where fluoridation doesn't occur also have higher poverty rates, which tend to have higher rates of dental neglect. It's easy to spin the data to justify fluoridating the water. But is it really a good idea?
Without proper regulation, adding fluoride to drinking water supplies can cause physical damage to developing teeth. Fluorosis is a disfigurement of the tooth enamel caused by high concentrations of fluoride given to children ages 3 months to 8 years. For some it is a minor cosmetic blemish. For others it is more pronounced. Fluoride in small doses may be effective in preventing tooth decay, but what are the down sides? Aren't there always down sides?
Part of this debate centers around whether citizens have a right to determine whether their water should be treated. In Portland, OR it seems the city council and the mayor think they know what is best for the people. They don't want to put the decision whether to fluoridate the water to a referendum. They think they know best. They claim they are protecting the poor, who they feel are the ones who suffer from the lack of fluoridation. But couldn't the $5 million dollars they plan to spend, plus almost $600,000 annually for maintenance, be spent of educating everyone on good dental care? How about helping the poor to get dental coverage so they can see a dentist regularly? It just doesn't seem right to impose a mandate to add a known toxin to the water supply.
The only consolation we have is that for those of us who don't want to drink toxins in our water, we can filter most of the bad stuff out. If I had fluoride in my water, I would get a double countertop or undercounter filtering system with a bone char filter and a GAC filter.
Dentists and health advocates may have good intentions, but it's important to put the issue in perspective. Without better research, we really don't know all the possible risks to health that fluoridating our water could pose. Some studies have raised questions about lower IQ's in places where water is fluoridated. This is disconcerting.
I encourage research to make an informed decision about your drinking water.
Read more here: Oregonlive.com
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