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.
Analies Ross-Dyjak | Policy Analyst
Thanks for watching us on Shark Tank! This post is part of a series unpacking each Shark's water quality. Mark Cuban may hail from Pittsburgh, but he's since made Dallas his home (Go Mavericks!). Here are some problems with Dallas water -- all things we take into account when optimizing our filters for Dallas residents.
Where Does Dallas Water Utilities Get Its Drinking Water?
The city of Dallas draws water from seven different surface water sources: the Elm Fork of the Trinity River and lakes Ray Roberts, Lewisville, Grapevine, Ray Hubbard, Tawakoni and Fork. As is the case with any surface water source, these lakes and rivers can become contaminated by polluters within the watershed. For Dallas, this could mean runoff from all sorts of nasty stuff, like gas stations, industrial sites, agriculture, and even natural gas fracturing!
Chromium 6 Contamination In Dallas Drinking Water
Let's start with an entirely unregulated chemical -- Chromium 6, also known as hexavalent chromium or the “Erin Brockovich chemical.” This is an extremely toxic heavy metal that can cause all sorts of health problems. Chromium 6 in Dallas tap water averages 149 parts per trillion (this is 8 times higher than what the California Water Boards considers to be safe!) Chromium 6 is a liquid effluent associated with metal processing, tannery facilities, chromate production, stainless steel welding and pigment production. The only way to get rid of chromium 6 in drinking water is by using a product (like ours) that's optimized to remove it.
What Are DBPs And Are They Present In Dallas Tap Water?
DBPs, or disinfection byproducts , are a category of emerging contaminants, and form when chlorine-based disinfectants react with naturally-occurring organic matter. Dallas disinfects its drinking water with chlorine to protect against waterborne illness, so it’s no surprise that disinfection byproducts are present. Regulations for these chemicals aren't strict and the effects on health aren't well understood, but EPA has acknowledged that some DBPs can cause an increased risk of bladder cancer, as well as kidney, liver, and central nervous system problems.
Why Does Dallas Tap Water Smell Like A Pool?
Dallas uses chlorine as a primary drinking water disinfectant to protect against waterborne diseases. Chlorine is most popular for giving drinking water a “pool lockerroom” taste and smell. While not typically considered to be harmful on its own, Hydroviv filters remove the unpleasant odor.