Analies Ross-Dyjak | Policy Analyst
Hi there, Shark Tank viewers! You saw in our pitch that our Water Nerds examine water quality data before building a customer's system. We wanted to do a deeper dive on each Shark's water. Rohan Oza, our episode's guest Shark, lives in Los Angeles, so here's a breakdown of how we optimize our filters for LA water.
Where Does Los Angeles Source Its Water?
The majority of Los Angeles drinking water comes from the Los Angeles Aqueduct. Other sources include the Colorado River Aqueduct, the Sierra Nevada Mountains, recycled water, local groundwater, and supplemental water purchased from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD).
High Levels Of Chromium 6 In Los Angeles Drinking Water
The movie "Erin Brockovich" came out of Hollywood in the year 2000, yet the chemical at the center of that story is still not regulated. Chromium 6, also known as hexavalent chromium is a highly toxic metal that is known to cause cancer and other adverse health problems in humans. Concentrations average 1,090 parts per trillion in LA water, which is 54 times higher than what's considered to have negligible impact on cancer risk. Chromium 6 is a widespread problem throughout the entire state of California, and many municipalities have levels similar to LA. Unlike lead, which leaches from plumbing, chromium 6 is present in the source water itself, so the only way to get rid of it is by using a system that filters it.
What About Arsenic?
Arsenic is a toxic metal that is known to cause cancer and other health issues. Unlike lead, which distributes into water from plumbing, arsenic comes leaches into the source water itself from weathered bedrock. Federal arsenic standards are extremely lax, and balance toxicity against the costs of removing it from drinking water. The most recent Los Angeles drinking water report detected an average arsenic concentration of 4 parts per billion, but concentrations were detected as high as 5 parts per billion. We highly recommend that anyone with more than 1 part per billion Arsenic in their water take steps to filter it, especially if they have children.
Does LA Have a Lead Problem?
Surprisingly enough, LA has lead concentrations above what health organizations consider to be safe. Lead enters LA tap water through lead service pipes and lead-containing plumbing. 10% of LA water quality samples analyzed for lead in 2017 were over 6.3 parts per billion. Corrosion control mechanisms put in place by municipalities can fail (like what recently happened in Flint, Michigan), causing lead to leach into drinking water. While currently in compliance with very loose federal regulations, EPA and CDC and the American Academy Of Pediatrics acknowledge that there is no safe level of lead for children. Additionally, the city of Los Angeles only tested 103 taps. In a city of over 4 million people, 103 samples is not an accurate representation of the total population.
What Do I Do About Lead Contamination In Los Angeles Drinking Water?
When building filters for Los Angeles residents, we take into account the aging infrastructure in multi-unit buildings. If you don't want to purchase a filter rated for lead removal, federal officials recommend allowing your faucet to run for 2 minutes before drinking or cooking.
Disinfection Byproducts (DBPs) In Los Angeles Drinking Water
DBPs are a category of emerging contaminants that form when chlorine-based disinfectants react with naturally-occurring organic matter. Although LA is within poorly regulated federal guidelines, EPA states that exposure to high levels of disinfection byproducts can cause an increased risk of bladder cancer, as well as kidney, liver, and central nervous system problems.
Analies Ross-Dyjak | Policy Analyst
Hello New York City! On Shark Tank, we pitched to Barbara Corcoran, a titan of NYC real estate. New York City is often touted as the gold standard for tap water -- while it's true that the source water is pristine, the water runs into problems as it passes through older infrastructure... We wanted to give Shark Tank viewers some examples of how our Water Nerds examine water quality data before building a customer's order. This article gives a peek into our process for building filters for New York City residents.
The Elephant In The Room: Lead Contamination
New York City is an old city, with very old plumbing infrastructure, so it's no surprise that many homes have lead in their water. Even though current regulations allow for up to 10% of a city's lead samples to be 15 ppb or higher, EPA and CDC both recognize that there is no safe level of lead for children. Leading advocacy groups like the American Academy of Pediatrics are pushing for the 15 ppb citywide action level to be lowered to 1 ppb.
Here's what the most recent NYC lead data show:
- 10% of the tap water samples had lead concentrations over 11 parts per billion. For reference, this is almost 3x higher than the most recent measurements for Flint's water (4 ppb measured in February 2019).
- 26 of the 487 samples tested for lead were above the 15 parts per billion action level threshold.
- The highest home tested (of the 487) had lead levels of 190 parts per billion.
Long story short, lead contamination is the biggest problem with New York City's drinking water. If you're interested in more details, our Water Nerds have written articles about this in homes and schools.
Chromium 6 In New York City's Drinking Water
Chromium 6 pollution is associated with metal processing, tannery facilities, chromate production, stainless steel welding, and pigment production. The 2017 water quality report for New York City found levels of Chromium 6 as high as 47 parts per trillion. While this concentration is low in comparison to cities like Chicago and Pittsburgh, the levels are roughly twice as high as what California Water Boards claims to "have negligible impact on cancer." Unlike lead (which leaches from lead pipes and plumbing), chromium 6 contaminates the source water itself, so the only way to get rid of it is by using a product that filters chromium 6.
Disinfection Byproducts In New York City's Drinking Water
Disinfection byproducts (DBPs) are formed when chlorine-based disinfectants react with naturally-occurring organic matter in the water. From a regulatory standpoint, DBPs are categorized into two classes: Total Trihalomethanes (TTHMs) and Haloacetic Acids-5 (HAA5), but you can easily identify individual chemicals within these classes by looking for "chloro" or "halo" in the chemical's name. Because DBPs are categorized as an "emerging contaminant," regulatory agencies don't have great toxicity data at low concentrations, but high levels of DBPs are linked to an increased risk of bladder cancer, as well as kidney, liver, and central nervous system problems.
What Actions Can New York City Residents Take?
Although Hydroviv's Water Nerds takes all contaminants into account when designing and building filters for New York City residents, minimizing exposure to lead should be the #1 priority for people in The Big Apple.
For people who do not filter their water, we recommend allowing the faucet to run for 2-5 minutes before drinking or cooking. This allows the water that has been sitting stagnant and accumulating lead for a long period of time to flush out. We also encourage New York City residents to take advantage of the free lead testing program offered by the city. Because lead levels at an individual faucet can vary based on the overall building's water usage for the day, we recommend retesting the water on several occasions to get a more complete picture. For more information about New York City's Free Test program, call 311 or visit www.nyc.gov/apps/311.
Analies Ross-Dyjak | Policy Analyst
As you may have seen in our pitch on Shark Tank, every city's water is different, and our undersink filters are optimized for their unique problems. Water quality is especially important to a Shark, so we wanted to do a quick breakdown on each Shark's water. In this post, we'll explore Chicago, home to none other than Lori Greiner!
Examining Chicago’s Water Source: Lake Michigan
Chicago draws its drinking water from Lake Michigan - a body of water that has been historically plagued with problems caused by industrial polluters. Illinois has jurisdiction over 64 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline, all of which has been categorically assessed as “threatened” due to the high levels of E. coli, polychlorinated biphenyls, and mercury. In addition to these regulated contaminants, drinking water drawn from Lake Michigan also has tested positive for unregulated contaminants including chromium 6 and PFAS.
Does Chicago’s Aging Infrastructure Contaminate Tap Water With Lead?
Lead accumulates in tap water that flows through lead-containing pipes, soldered joints, and plumbing fixtures. Chicago is an older city and about 80% of water service lines city-wide are made of lead. For this reason, it should not be a huge surprise that Chicago's lead levels are high. In the most recent water quality report, multiple homes had lead levels that exceed EPA's Action Level, and 10% of samples had lead concentrations over 9.1 parts per billion (pbb). While these are "compliant" with loose federal regulations, EPA, Center for Disease Control, American Academy of Pediatrics, and World Health Organization all agree that there is no such thing as a safe amount of lead for children. Additionally, most people are surprised to learn that only 50 samples are collected every 3 years in Chicago (population 2.7 million people).
How Can I Protect Myself Against Lead Contamination In Chicago Drinking Water?
In summary, there's huge potential for lead contamination in Chicago drinking water. For that reason, when our Water Nerds build filters for Chicago residents, we design them to handle the worst case scenario for lead. If your only concern is lead contamination and you don't want to purchase a filter rated to remove lead, city officials recommend letting your tap run for 2 minutes before drinking or cooking. Hydroviv encourages Chicago residents to take advantage of Chicago’s free lead-testing program! Call 311 or visit http://www.chicagowaterquality.org/home for more information.
How High Are Chromium 6 Levels In Chicago?
Hexavalent chromium, also known as chromium 6 or the Erin Brockovich chemical, is unregulated and present in an overwhelming majority of public water supplies. In April of 2017, U.S Steel Co dumped over 300 pounds of hexavalent chromium into a tributary of Lake Michigan. The $900,000 settlement doesn’t even begin to touch mitigation costs associated with chromium 6 contamination. Chromium 6 concentrations in Chicago drinking water ranged from 180 to 220 parts per trillion. Despite being an unregulated contaminant, these levels are roughly 10 times higher than what the California Water Boards considers to have a negligible risk on cancer. Chromium 6 is typically discharged as a liquid effluent from metal processing, tannery facilities, chromate production, stainless steel welding, and pigment production - all of which occur at some capacity in surrounding Lake Michigan communities. Unlike lead, which comes from lead-containing pipes, solder, valves, and fixtures, chromium 6 contamination comes from the water sources itself. The only way to remove it from drinking water is by using a high quality filter (like ours)!
Analies Ross-Dyjak | Policy Analyst
If you caught us on Shark Tank, you'll know that we dig through your water quality data before optimizing your filter. We didn't want to leave the Sharks out of the fun, so we thought we'd do a "deeper dive" on the water the Sharks swim in! This post is all about Mark Cuban's home town of Pittsburgh. Unfortunately, Pittsburgh water has quite a few problems, but don't worry -- we've got you covered, Mark!
Where Does Pittsburgh Water And Sewer Get Its Drinking Water?
Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority sources its drinking water from the Allegheny River. The city treats and delivers 70 million gallons of drinking water to 300,000 customers every day.
Lead In Pittsburgh’s Drinking Water
Pittsburgh has a huge problem with lead contamination in drinking water. Lead enters Pittsburgh's tap water through old lead service pipes and lead-containing plumbing. In June of 2017, 10% of the samples exceeded the Action Level of 15 parts per billion. In December 2017, 10% of the sites exceeded 21 parts per billion, which is significantly higher than EPA’s already low Action Level. Additionally, Pittsburgh inaccurately listed the Maximum Contaminant Level Goal (MCLG) for lead in drinking water. The report listed 15 parts per billion as the MCLG, but Environmental Protection Agency has determined that the MCLG for lead should always be 0 parts per billion. 128 sites were sampled for lead contamination, which doesn’t even begin to accurately represent the 300,000 residents living in Pittsburgh. Environmental Protection Agency, Center for Disease Control, and American Academy of Pediatrics all recognize that there is no safe level of lead for children. Lead exposure can cause developmental issues, lowered IQ, and damages to the kidneys and brain.
How Can I Protect Myself Against Lead Contamination In Pittsburgh's Drinking Water?
When our Water Nerds build filters for Pittsburgh residents, we optimize for "worst case scenario" lead concentrations. If you don't want to purchase a filter with high-capacity lead removal, federal official recommend letting your faucet run for two minutes before drinking or cooking. We also highly recommend taking advantage of Pittsburgh’s free lead testing program! If you are a customer of Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority, you can request a free kit by signing up online or by calling 412-255-2423.
Disinfection Byproducts In Pittsburgh’s Drinking Water
In addition to lead contamination being of major concern, Pittsburgh municipal water also has extremely high levels of Disinfection Byproducts or DBPs. DBPs form when disinfecants such as chlorine and chloramine,react with organic matter. DBPs are split into two categories: Total Trihalomethanes (TTHMs) and Haloacetic Acids-5 (HAA5). Concentrations of TTHMs averaged 56.3 parts per billion but were detected as high as 105 parts per billion. Concentrations of HAA5 averaged 18.8 parts per billion but reached levels as high as 36 parts per billion. For a bit of perspective, EPA set a very weak Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) of 80 parts per billion for TTHMS and 60 parts per billion for HAA5. Disinfection Byproducts are a category of emerging contaminants which means they have been detected in drinking water but the risk to human health is unknown. Regulatory agencies have very little knowledge about the adverse health effects of DBPs, and their toxicity. EPA has stated that they have been linked to an increased risk of bladder cancer, as well as kidney, liver, and central nervous system problems. Some disinfection byproducts have almost no toxicity, but others have been associated with cancer, reproductive problems, and developmental issues in laboratory animals. 200 million people in the United States use chlorinated tap water as their primary drinking source, so we take understanding their full health effects very seriously, even if federal agencies fail to regulate all categories.