Water Quality Articles | Water Filter Information & Articles – Tagged "groundwater" – Hydroviv
Breaking:  How Changes To The Waters Of The United States (WOTUS) Rule Affects Drinking Water

Breaking: How Changes To The Waters Of The United States (WOTUS) Rule Affects Drinking Water

Analies Dyjak & Eric Roy, Ph.D.          

Editor's Note: Today, the US EPA and US Army Corps Of Engineers announced that they repealed the Clean Water Rule, and redefined which waters are regulated by the federal government under the Waters Of The United States (WOTUS) Rule. The purpose of this article is to inform the public how this regulatory change can impact their drinking water. We will be updating this article continuously as we learn more and to answer frequently asked questions about changes in U.S water quality standards.

What Is WOTUS?  

Waters Of The United States (WOTUS) defines which bodies of water the Federal Government can regulate under the Clean Water Rule. In 2015 the Obama Administration worked to establish a definition for which waters can be regulated waters with the intent of protecting drinking water, ecosystems, wetlands, and endangered species. Most importantly for U.S. water quality standards, WOTUS definitions provided coverage to groundwater, as roughly 50% of the US population drinks groundwater, including the 15% of people who draw drinking water from private wells. The new WOTUS definition basically removes these protections, among other things.

How Will The New WOTUS Definition Impact Drinking Water?

In the press conference, EPA officials mentioned that the new change does not change the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). This is intentionally misleading because private wells are NOT protected by the SDWA, and by removing federal protection from groundwater in general, the Trump administration is removing the only protection for people who have private wells, so those people really should be regularly testing their water quality, which is a giant financial burden to the citizen.

What Is Considered A Water Of The United States Under The Proposed Rule?

  • Traditional navigable waters
  • Tributaries
  • Navigable ditches
  • Lakes
  • Impoundments
  • Wetlands 

What Is NOT Considered A Water Of The United States Under The Proposed Rule?

  • Groundwater
  • Water features
  • Farm ditches
  • Converted cropland

Who Drove The Legislation To Roll Back These Protections?

A coalition of lobbyists from various business organizations, led by the American Farm Bureau was responsible for driving this legislation. In fact, the American Farm Bureau had representatives from western agricultural states in the press conference audience.

What Can Citizens Do To Be Heard On The Topic?

As with any proposed rule, there is a public comment period. Our experts will be submitting public comments to the Federal Register.  Once the link is live, we'll be posting it here. 

Surface Water: What You Need To Know

Surface Water: What You Need To Know

 

Analies Dyjak | Policy Nerd   

Surface water is an extremely important natural resource. From the water we drink, give to our pets, and use for recreation, we are dependent on its various uses. Surface water is continuously being threatened by anthropogenic activities. It’s extremely difficult and costly for municipal treatment facilities to keep up with new contaminants that are polluting waterways every single day. Additionally, federal regulations don’t reflect the large scope of surface water pollution. This blog post discusses the various threats to surface water and why humans should care.

What Is Surface Water?

Lakes, oceans, streams, rivers, ponds, reservoirs, and wetlands are the various types of surface water. Freshwater sources are responsible for providing potable drinking water to 84% of the nations population. Surface water is different from groundwater because it has the ability to disperse and become diluted as it travels throughout a body of water.  Groundwater aquifers are essentially holding tanks for highly concentrated contamination. There’s less room for contaminants to move around, and less volume for the contamination to become less concentrated. 

How Does Surface Water Become Polluted?

Surface water is extremely susceptible to pollution because it occupies such a large portion of the earth’s surface. Surface water pollution is almost entirely the result of human activities. Agriculture, mining, factory effluent, landfills, human/animal waste and localized pollution are just some of the most common sources of surface water pollution. Topography and geological formations create natural surface water runoff, but human manipulation of the land increases flow rates and overall contamination.

  • Point source pollution comes from an easily identifiable source, like a factory or sewage treatment plant. Point source pollution is discharged through a pipeline, ditch, or any “discrete conveyance” that directly or indirectly enters a body of water. Point sources are typically regulated by National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits.

  • Non-point source pollution is much harder to regulate because the source is not easily identifiable. Agricultural and stormwater runoff are the two most common types of nonpoint source pollution. Heavy rain events cause contaminants to runoff from roads and fields, collecting debris and pollution as it travels into a body of water.

How Do You Mitigate Surface Water Pollution?

It’s expensive and nearly impossible to mitigate a contaminant once it has entered surface water. For some contaminants, the solution is typically self-mitigating. A contaminant will become diluted to extremely small concentrations after it has traveled and dispersed throughout a body of water. Additionally, some contaminants are still extremely toxic at very small concentrations. There are also several persistent contaminants that never fully decompose in nature (PCBs, DDT and Dioxin), or take hundreds of years to degrade. As we’ve seen in Wilmington, North Carolina, and Maplewood, Minnesota, municipal water treatment facilities are only equipped to remove certain types and quantities of surface water contamination.

What Is Currently The Biggest Threat To Surface Water?

Man-made compounds are one of the largests threats to drinking water sources. Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) are a category of man-made “emerging contaminants,” which means they have been detected in the environment but the risk to human health is not well-understood. Chemicals such as GenX, PFOA, and PFOS are all common contaminants that fall under the category of PFAS. DuPont, Chemours, and 3M have been using variations of these chemicals in industrial and consumer products since the early 1950’s. Scotchgard, Teflon, firefighting foam, metal plating, heat/water repellent chemicals, and stain resistant fabrics are common uses of PFAS. They are extremely persistent in the environment, which means they do not readily degrade. PFAS effluent is either directly dumped from a factory into surface water or a dug ditch, which will then percolate into groundwater. This is allowed because PFAS are unregulated by the federal government.

North Carolina’s Cape Fear River has been unknowingly  experiencing surface water contamination for years. A Chemours plant located in Fayetteville, North Carolina, had been discharging various types of PFAS into the Cape Fear River since the 1980's.  The Cape Fear is the primary drinking water source for residents of Brunswick and New Hanover County. Their water resource is now tainted with a dangerous contaminant that's unregulated by the federal government. 

Algal Blooms and Surface Water

Algal blooms are another major threat to surface water. An influx of nutrients or heat can increase the quantity of algae. Often, this overload of nutrients is the result of agricultural fertilizer runoff. Harmful Algal Blooms or HABs occur after an influx of nutrients or a sudden increase in water temperature. HABs can then produce cyanotoxins, which are harmful to humans and the environment.

How Can I Protect Surface Water?

Protecting surface water from contamination will not only improve drinking water quality, but also valuable habitats. Here are some tips for local level surface water management:
  • Watershed Management: Municipalities should look at watersheds as an entire system, rather than exclusively a water resource. Watershed management surveys the land surrounding a body of water to determine the natural flows and influxes.
  • Eliminating Pesticides, Herbicides, and Fertilizers: What’s bad for plants and animals, is also bad for humans. This category of surface water pollution runs-off directly into surrounding bodies of water and effects fragile surface water ecosystems. Reducing or eliminating the use of pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers will reduce the amount of necessary additives by municipal water treatment facilities to eliminate contaminants.
  • Reduce Impervious Surfaces: Impervious surface is any type of ground cover that prevents water from infiltrating into the ground. Pavement or asphalt is the best example. Impervious surface increases runoff flow rates into surface water, and prevents groundwater from naturally filtering contaminants. Next time you’re thinking about paving your driveway, consider a pervious alternative such as porous asphalt or pervious concrete.
  • Hold Municipalities Accountable: Stay current with commercial and industrial development within your community. Public comment periods are required prior to development and prior to obtaining a NPDES permit. Companies are required to address each question and concern individually, so if development plans raise personal concern, don’t be afraid to utilize the public comment period.
Other Articles We Think You Might Enjoy:
Groundwater: What You Need To Know
Timeline Of GenX Contamination In The Cape Fear River
Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule
    1,2,3 Trichloropropane Contamination In California Drinking Water

    1,2,3 Trichloropropane Contamination In California Drinking Water

    Michelle Scire | Scientific Contributor

    What Is 1,2,3 Trichloropropane And Where Does It Come From?

    1,2,3 Trichloropropane (TCP) is a synthetic chemical that is commonly used as an industrial solvent, cleaning and degreasing agent, and paint and varnish remover.  In California’s Central Valley, widespread TCP contamination was caused by a now-banned fumigant DBCP, which was used to kill nematodes (small worms that live in the soil).  When applied to the soil, TCP leaches from the deeper soil to groundwater. When DBCP was banned in 1977 by the EPA, it was commonly used on over 40 crops in California.  Unfortunately, TCP is persistent in the environment, and as of November 2017, 395 of the 5863 wells used by public water supplies had levels of TCP that exceeded the California regulatory limit. When looking at a map of contaminated wells (above), you will see a strip right up the center of California from south of Bakersfield to Sacramento with some prominent outliers in Los Angeles, San Diego, Salinas, San Jose, San Francisco, and Chico counties. 

    Why Do We Care About TCP?

    TCP is some nasty stuff. In the short-term, high levels of inhalation exposure to TCP can cause irritation of eyes, respiratory tract and skin, and has the ability to depress the central nervous system. Moreover, studies in rodents have confirmed it may affect memory, focus and muscle coordination. Long term exposure studies have found exposure in rodents can lead to liver and kidney damage as well as reduced body weight and tumor growth.  To get an idea of how toxic TCP is, the 5 part per trillion MCL (legal limit) is equivalent to a single drop of water being diluted into about 5.5 olympic sized swimming pools!.

    Timeline of Public Knowledge Related To TCP Toxicity

    Year

    Action

    1930’s

    Age of chemical agriculture and the beginning of Expts. With DBCP as a fumigant.

    1974

    Dow memo refering to select DBCP components as, “garbage.”

    1977

    Ban of DBCP which contains 1,2,3 TCP except Hawaii.

    1992

    1,2,3-TCP was added to the list of chemicals known to the state to cause cancer, pursuant to California's Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act

    1995

    International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) tested TCP for carcinogenicity by oral administration in one experiment in mice and in one experiment in rats. It produced tumours of the oral mucosa and of the uterus in female mice and increased the incidences of tumours of the forestomach, liver and Harderian gland in mice of each sex. ln rats, increased incidences of tumours were observed in the preputial gland, kidney and pancreas of males, in the clitoral gland and mammary gland of females and in the oral cavity and for stomach of both males and females.

    1995

    Maximum contaminant levels (MCLs) have been established or are proposed at the state level in Hawaii, California, and New Jersey (ATSDR 1995).

    1999

    California State Water Resources Control Board established a 0.005-micrograms per liter (μg/L) drinking water notification level for 1,2,3-trichloropropane (1,2,3-TCP). This value is based on cancer risks derived from laboratory animals studies (US EPA , 1997).

    2001

    California State Water Resources Control Board began monitoring TCP vie the UCMR analytical method but no regulations of corrective actions put in place

    2004

    California State Water Resources Control Board requested a public health goal (PHG) from the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA). A PHG is not a enforceable parameter for TCP but merely a goal.

    2007

    OEHHA released a draft PHG (0.0007 µg/L) and technical support document

    2009

    OEHHA established a 0.0007-ug/L PHG for TCP.

    2009

    EPA Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) lists chronic oral reference dose (RfD) of 4 x 10-3 milligrams per kilogram per day (mg/kg/day) and a chronic inhalation reference concentration (RfC) of 3 x 10-4 milligrams per cubic meter (mg/m3) (EPA IRIS 2009). The cancer risk assessment for TCP is based on an oral slope factor of 30 mg/kg/day (EPA IRIS 2009).

    2013

    No federal Maximum Contaminant level (MCL) set for TCP in drinking water.

    2017

    State Water Resources Control Board voted to approve a standard for the chemical in drinking water. They set the limit at 5 parts per trillion, a level supported by clean water and pesticide reform advocates. The state will now start water systems to test all of their wells every month starting in January 2018.

    Data from:  HERE

    What Took Regulation Of TCP So Long?

    While it’d be great if regulatory bodies were able to act quickly, the reality is that regulations take time, often decades to execute.  In the case of TCP specifically, Cindy Forbes, the deputy director for Californiawater board’s drinking water program, insists that TCP regulation was a “top priority,” but explained that they had limited resources preventing them from reaching“the finish line.” In California, the process to establish a maximum contaminant level (ie regulatory limit) includes: conducting their own peer-reviewed research, evaluating cost of detection and cleanup, as well as allowing public comment (which undoubtedly includes comments from companies responsible for contamination). Forbes claims, “It’s my priority, it’s the board’s priority,” but one has to wonder what the word priority means when there is scientific research going back 25 years explicitly showing the repercussions of this contaminant. There is only one carcinogen with a lower state public health goal for drinking water, and that is dioxin.

    What Can Be Done To Treat Water That Has Been Contaminated With TCP?

    Large Scale TCP Remediation Techniques

    Because of the contamination primarily leaching into the ground water in California's Central Valley, ground water remediation methods have been established. TCP can be removed with traditional methods such as, “pump and treat granular activated carbon filters (GAC), in-situ oxidation, permeable reactive barriers (zero-valent zinc), dechlorination by hydrogen-releasing compounds, and emerging biodegradation techniques.” A new method was developed recently using, “in-line, pressurized advanced oxidation process (HiPOx) that has the ability to remove TCP from groundwater to below 0.005 μg/L.” The treatment techniquewill depend on the level of contamination in groundwater or soil being treated.  While these methods are indeed effective, they are expensive and require long planning/execution periods.

    Small Scale (Residential) TCP Removal of TCP

    If your home’s water is contaminated with TCP, and large-scale treatment isn’t happening in an acceptable time frame, some residential water filters do remove TCP.  Our advice is to find a water filter that is advertised to remove volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and ask the manufacturer for a data sheet that shows effective removal of TCP specifically.   

    If you have any more questions about 1,2,3 Trichloropropane contamination, we encourage you to reach out to our “Help No Matter What” technical support through live chat or email (hello@hydroviv.com). Our Water Nerds are happy to answer any questions you may have!

    Other Articles We Think You'll Enjoy

    What Should I Know About Removing VOCs From My Water?
    Why Are Toxic Chemicals In Drinking Water?
    What Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals Are Commonly Found In Drinking Water?
    What You Need To Know About Groundwater

    What You Need To Know About Groundwater

    Analies Dyjak |  Hydroviv Policy Analyst    

    What Is Groundwater?

    Groundwater is submerged water located among soils, cracks and pores, beneath the surface of the earth. Groundwater travels down gradient through geological formations and is stored in aquifers. Aquifers act as holding tanks for readily available drinking water. Rain patterns, hydrology, and ice/snow melt are the primary factors that affect how quickly a groundwater supply is replenished, also known as recharge. The recharge rate is how quickly aquifers are able to replenish the groundwater level after an influx of water.

    Why Is Groundwater So Important?

    It’s simple: It supplies drinking water to millions of Americans whose municipalities draw from groundwater sources (e.g. NYC, Tucson, Lincoln), as well as the 15% of people living in the U.S that use private wells as their drinking water source. Groundwater is also a major supplier of surface water in oceans, lakes, streams, ponds and wetlands. Crucial habitats and ecosystems are dependent on an influx of healthy groundwater, as well as surface water for public drinking water usage.

    How Can Groundwater Become Polluted?

    There are really two ways that groundwater can accumulate toxic chemicals:

    1.  Natural-occurring chemicals:  In some regions of the country, things like arsenic, radium, and uranium are naturally found in the rocks that come in contact with groundwater.  

    2.  Man-made Pollution:  Groundwater can also become contaminated by human activities including:  agriculture, industry, landfills, localized pollution, and anything that involves discharging effluent into a surrounding waterway. Polluted water seeps through soil until it reaches the water table, where it can travel freely depending on the hydrology and permeability of an aquifer. Polluted groundwater then slowly travels through aquifers until reaching nearby surface water or being pumped through a well and consumed as drinking water.

    Are There Federal Regulations That Protect Groundwater?

    The Ground Water Rule was created in 2006 by the U.S Environmental Protection Agency to improve and inspect drinking water sources that may be potentially polluted by fecal contamination. This rule does not address human-made toxic and carcinogenic groundwater contamination. Additionally, the Ground Water Rule is specific to public water systems and excludes private wells.

    The Federal Government does not oversee or have anything to do with regulating private wells. In fact, private wells aren’t even regulated by the Safe Drinking Water Act. This means that it’s at the discretion of the homeowner to determine if their private well water is safe for consumption. Testing private well water is extremely expensive and at times ineffective if the contamination type and concentration is continuously changing. Additionally, The Federal Government doesn’t regulate many of the contaminants in questions today.

    How Can I Learn More About My Water?

    If you have any questions about groundwater and regional water table information, we encourage you to take advantage of Hydroviv’s “Help No Matter What” approach to technical support, where we will help you, even if you have no desire to purchase one of our water filters.  Truth be told, we have access to a much larger pool of water quality data than easily accessible to the general public.  You can reach our water nerds by emailing hello@hydroviv.com or opening a Live Chat window in the bottom-left corner of this screen (we don’t use chat bots).

    Other Articles We Think You'll Enjoy
    Should I Worry About Arsenic Contamination If I Have A Groundwater Source?
    What Do I Need To Know About Recent News Reports On Radium?
    How Do I Know If My Well Is Contaminated?