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Income, Race, and The Availability of Safe Drinking Water in Two Michigan Cities

Analies Dyjak @ Wednesday, September 15, 2021 at 3:29 pm -0400
Governor Gretchen Whitmer recently called on the Federal Government to assist a community in Michigan struggling with unsafe lead levels in drinking water. Benton Harbor is located on Lake Michigan and has violated the Safe Drinking Water Act on numerous occasions in the past 6 years. Benton Harbor and neighboring St. Joseph combine to form what locals call the “twin cities.” Both of these communities are almost identical in total area and population size, but differ tremendously when it comes to race, economics, and access to safe drinking water. 

BREAKING: Ex-Governor of Michigan Charged for His Involvement in the Flint Water Crisis

Analies Dyjak @ Monday, January 18, 2021 at 4:58 pm -0500

Analies Dyjak, M.A. | Head of Policy and Perspectives   

Ex-Michigan Governor Rick Snyder was charged for his involvement in the Flint Water Crisis. Governor Snyder is being accused of "willful neglect." We still don’t know the specifics of these charges because this is is very much still breaking news, but the state of Michigan has charged the ex-Governor, his health director at the time, and other ex officials for their involvement. 

Terror in Flint: 

If you aren't familiar with what happened in Flint, here's a quick overview: Flint officials switched their source water to the Flint River in 2014 as a cost cutting measure. The Flint River was more corrosive than their previous source, Lake Huron. City officials did not appropriately address the issue of corrosive water and its effect on lead pipes. The corrosive water allowed lead to leach into the water system, which poisoned tens of thousands of young children. The source water switch was also responsible for an outbreak of legionnaires disease. Children were so wildly impacted by this crisis that 80% of the money from a $600 million dollar settlement is being awarded to minors. This is because of leads impact on brain development in young children.

Ex-City Officials and Former Governor Are Allegedly Responsible 

The State of Michigan is charging Rick Snyder with "willful neglect." Rick Snyder appointed the city’s emergency manager, who was responsible for switching Flint’s Water supply. Allegedly, two people on Rick Snyder's team expressed concerns about Flint’s water as early as October, 2014 - which was just 6 months after the city switched its source water. Snyder has since denied knowing about the possible water issue this early on. Flint transitioned back to its original source water in October of 2015, but lead levels still remained above the federal action level. It was until January 16 of 2016 when Rick Snyder requested that the federal government declare a state of emergency in Flint, Michigan. So the question becomes, when did Rick Snyder and other city officials know that lead and legionnaires was a problem in this majority black community? 

*This story is still breaking and the details of the charges are unknown. We will keep you updated on our Instagram (@hydroviv_h2o)*

Other Articles Related To The Flint Water Crisis:
Michigan To Pay $600 Million To Flint Residents Impacted By Lead In Drinking Water
Hydroviv's Water Filter Donation Program With Little Miss Flint
The Other Contaminant From The Flint Water Crisis That No One Is Talking About: PFAS

Michigan to Pay $600 Million to Flint Residents Impacted by Lead in Drinking Water

Analies Dyjak @ Friday, August 21, 2020 at 2:29 pm -0400

Analies Dyjak, M.A.  |  Policy Nerd

After almost 18 months of negotiations, Flint residents and the State of Michigan have reached an agreement for damages from the 2014 Flint Water Crisis. The State of Michigan is required to appropriate $600 million dollars into a qualified settlement fund, which will be made available to children, residents, property owners, and businesses that were impacted by water distributed by the city. Almost 80% of the $600 million is being awarded to those who were children during the time of exposure.

Background Flint Water Crisis: 

On April 25, 2014, the city of Flint switched its water supply from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (sourced from the Detroit River and Lake Huron), to the Flint River. Officials initially switched the water supply in an effort to cut costs. Flint city officials failed to add a proper corrosion control inhibitor to the new water source during treatment. This caused lead to leach from distribution pipes, and enter the municipal system at extremely elevated levels. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 99,000 people in Flint, Michigan were exposed to elevated levels of leadLead is a neurotoxin, and according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, there is NO safe level for children. Despite the current 15 part per billion Federal Action Level for lead, our team at Hydroviv follows the logic that children should not ingest any level of lead.

Financial Breakdown of $600 Million Flint Settlement:

  • 79.5% - Minor Children Settlements Categories: 64.5% for ages 6, 10% for ages 7-11, and 5% for ages 12-17

  • 18% - Adults and Property Damage Settlement Categories: 15% for adults and 3% for property damage

  • 0.5% - Business Economic Loss Settlement Category

  • 2% - Programmatic Relief Settlement Category

Important Details:

If the State fails to meet these conditions within 60 days, the Plaintiff’s are able to completely rescind the entire settlement. Also, in accordance with the settlement, individuals who were minors at the time of exposure are not required to show proof of injury in order to be eligible for compensation. This should help the State of Michigan get funds out to impacted parties in a timely manner. Additionally, individuals that were minors at the time of exposure may be eligible for larger amounts of compensation if they are able to show elevated blood lead levels. A similar eligibility requirement is true for those who were adults at the time of exposure.

A Few Red Flags:

The amount of compensation made available to each individual Flint resident is entirely dependent on how many people file claims. Therefore, there’s no way to estimate the amount of money each Flint resident will receive, or if it will be sufficient enough to address all expected damages. The settlement also claims that funding will be made available to provide special education services to children exposed to high lead levels Flint. No further details were provided about these special education services or how much funding will be allocated. It's unclear if portions, or all, of the individual financial compensation funds are expected to be used for at-home special education services.>

Our Take:

The recent settlement leaves us with more questions than answers regarding the tragic Flint Water Crisis. What happened between April 24, 2014 and December 31, 2016 demonstrates what can happen to under-served and underrepresented communities in the United States. In short, it shows the worst kind of government failure. We may never truly understand the full extent of these damages, and $600 Million dollars does not even begin to address the trauma and anxiety that Flint residents face every single day. We're proud to still be working with Little Miss Flint and the Little Miss Flint Clean Water Fund to continue our charitable efforts across the entire country. 

Other Articles We Think You Might Enjoy:
How Does Lead Enter Drinking Water?
What You Need to Know About Disinfection Byproducts in Tap Water
How Did Hydroviv Perform in a Duke University PFAS Removal Study?

Please Stop Using TDS (or ppm) Testers To Evaluate Water Quality

Analies Dyjak @ Tuesday, August 23, 2016 at 2:42 am -0400
Eric Roy, Ph.D.|  Scientific Founder

***Updated on February 5, 2020***

We get quite a few questions about TDS/ppm meters (like this one) and TDS measurements. While we love when people take steps to learn more about their water, some people (including journalists from reputable publications- Example #1 & Example #2) have used TDS/ppm meters to draw false conclusions about water quality, which incited fear in people already in the midst of a terrible water quality crisis. In this article, we answer the questions that we get asked the most about TDS measurements and TDS meters. If you're curious about water filters that address meaningful contaminants in tap water, check out this recent water filter study by Duke/NC State. 

What is TDS? What Does A TDS/ppm Meter Measure?

TDS stands for Total Dissolved Solids which is related to the total charged mineral content of water. TDS can be easily determined by measuring the conductivity of a water sample, which is exactly what inexpensive TDS probes do. TDS meters typically display the total amount of dissolved solids in parts per million or ppm. If you start with deionized water (which has a TDS of zero), and expose it to minerals that contain sodium, calcium, and magnesium... the water's TDS or ppm rises. This is why there's no such thing as deionized water in nature. Depending on a region’s geology, natural TDS/ppm levels can vary across the US, and this variability has nothing to do with the water quality (except in extreme cases when the water is too salty to drink).

What Does a TDS/ppm Meter Not Measure?

Because TDS/ppm is an aggregate measure of charged compounds in water, uncharged things like motor oil, gasoline, many pharmaceuticals, and pesticides do not contribute to a TDS/ppm measurement. Most relevant to current nationwide water quality problems, TDS/ppm meters do not detect PFAS in drinking water. For example, the glass on the left in this article's header image contains deionized water with Malathion (an organophosphate pesticide) dissolved into it at 100 times higher concentration than allowed by the EPA for drinking water, and the TDS/ppm probe reads 000.

Even though these toxic metals are charged when dissolved in water, a TDS/ppm meter does not give meaningful information about their presence or concentration in water. There are two main reasons for this:

  • A TDS/ppm meter is a nonselective measurement and cannot differentiate among different ions. A more sophisticated piece of equipment is needed to perform those types of measurements. The value of 184 that was measured using a TDS meter in a prominent Huffington Post Article was not the lead concentration… it was the water's natural TDS level (which is dominated by minerals like calcium, magnesium, and sodium).
  • A TDS tester is not sensitive enough to measure toxic levels of lead, chromium-6, or arsenic, even if they are present in a sample. This is because the reading displayed on an inexpensive TDS meter is in parts per million, while things like lead, chromium-6, and arsenic are toxic at part per billion concentrations (1000 times lower). Using a TDS meter to measure ppb lead concentrations in tap water is like trying to use a car’s odometer to measure a child's height…. It's the wrong tool. For example, the water sample shown on the right hand side of this article's header image has lead levels that are 100x the EPA limit, and the TDS reading teetered between 000 and 001.

To reiterate: Meaningful lead and arsenic measurements cannot be made using a TDS/ppm meter (or any other handheld device). They must be measured by trained staff in analytical laboratories that use much more sophisticated scientific equipment. Hydroviv Undersink filters are NSF/ANSI 53 certified to remove lead from drinking water.

Do Hydroviv Filters Lower TDS/ppm?

No. Hydroviv’s filters selectively filter harmful things from your water (like lead, chromium-6, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, petroleum products, disinfection byproducts), and things that make water taste and smell bad (chlorine, chloramine, sulfur). Hydroviv’s home water filtration systems don’t remove minerals like calcium and magnesium because there’s no reason to. In fact, we use some types of filtration media that actually add minerals to the water, so TDS/ppm levels in water filtered through a Hydroviv system are sometimes slightly higher than unfiltered water.

Should I Buy a TDS/ppm Meter To Test My Drinking Water For High TDS Levels?

No. There is absolutely no reason to drink low TDS/ppm or deionized water. If you are concerned about water quality, put the money toward the purchase of an effective drinking water filter that removes harmful contaminants from your water.

What If I Already Have a TDS/ppm Meter?

If you have a TDS/ppm meter (like this one), we recommend giving it to a curious child who has an interest in science! Use this opportunity to teach them about dissolved minerals by encouraging them to test different types of water (e.g. distilled, rain, river, lake) and try to explain their findings! Feel free to reach out to us at (info@hydroviv.com for educational ideas involving TDS meters).

Other Great Articles That We Think You'll Enjoy:

How EPA Regulations For Lead Are Protecting Municipalities, Not Citizens
What Science Says About Fluoride In Tap Water

Error Found In Media Coverage Of Hydroviv's Flint Donation Program

Eric Roy @ Thursday, November 21, 2019 at 10:23 pm -0500

Hey Everyone,

I came across an article tonight where there was an inaccurate figure about the number of filters that Hydroviv (which was just me at the time) donated to Flint. The article put this number incorrectly put this number at 1000. The real number is somewhere between 150 and 250 (our record keeping is poor from 2015). Unfortunately, other articles cited this incorrect number without ever having interviewed myself or anyone at Hydroviv. I've reached out to the authors in an attempt to get them to correct it.

While I’m here, I also wanted to also clarify a couple minor things.

  • When I was talking about a lab in the kitchen/bathroom, we’re talking about a prototyping lab where we refined the design of the under sink filtration systems, not a wet chemistry lab using hazardous chemicals. Operating a chemistry lab in the bathroom would be unsafe and illegal.
  • The person who tipped me off to Flint was retired EPA, not actively employed by the agency.
  • Hydroviv was started in July 2015, not June 2015.

While we're thrilled that Hydroviv has grown to be a real company now and have the capacity to partner with an amazing activist and make an actual impact with water filter donations (whose reach is well-over 1000 filters), we have no desire to allow others to overstate the scope of grassroots donation program in the early days in the interest of a "feel good story."

-Eric

Founder