Water Quality Information | Written By Actual Experts — hexavalent chromium
Roller Coaster Ride For Water Quality In The Great Lakes
Aakriti Pandey | Contributor
Editor's Note: This article is part of a new initiative to include stories on our blog that link scientific policy to everyday life. Recently, the new administration proposed changes to the EPA budget that would gut the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), which could impact the water quality of major cities (e.g. Chicago, Milwaukee)
An upward slope
A downward slide
And the new downward spiral?
Very recent events highlight the need for initiatives like GLRI to remain funded. For example, U.S. Steel Corporation also recently accidentally released hexavalent chromium into Lake Michigan, forcing the interception of drinking water intake in the local communities and a closing of many beaches.
Hydroviv's water nerds have a "Help no matter what" technical support policy, and we always answer your drinking-water related questions, regardless of your intent to purchase our products.
Other Articles We Think You'll Enjoy:How Chicago's Compromised Water Source & Old Infrastructure Put Residents At RiskThinking About Replacing A Lead Service Line? Read This First
Does Boiling My Water Purify It?
Our tech support team gets a lot of questions from people looking to purify their water by boiling or freezing it. Doing a quick web search, we learned that there is A LOT of bad information out there on the topic, which is strange because it's pretty straightforward and there isn't really any room for debate.
What Does Boiling My Water Protect Against?
In the United States, we are very fortunate that modern disinfection practices have nearly eliminated widespread waterborne illness. However, sometimes unplanned things do happen (e.g. water main breaks) which opens up an opportunity for biological contamination. When this happens, municipalities may issue a boil order or notice, because boiling water kills potentially dangerous microorganisms.
What Does Freezing My Water Protect Against?
Freezing things slows down the growth of bacteria, and is the reason why frozen foods can be stored for long periods of time.
Will Boiling Or Freezing My Water Remove Lead, Arsenic, Mercury & Chromium 6?
No. Unfortunately, freezing or boiling water to purify it does not remove chemicals like lead, arsenic, mercury, chromium 6, or barium. The only way to remove meaningful concentrations of these chemicals is by using a quality water filtration system. We have our favorite, but there are other effective systems out there as well!
Other Articles We Think You'll EnjoyThings To Consider Before Buying A Reverse Osmosis System
5 Things To Know About Chromium 6 In Drinking Water
Why TDS Meters Don't Tell You Anything About Lead
Why Reverse Osmosis Water Filters Probably Don't Make Sense For You
Editor's Note: With lead, chromium 6, PFAS, and GenX contamination gaining a lot of press, a lot of people have been rushing to buy reverse osmosis (RO) systems to filter their water. While some RO systems are a good option for some people, we hear from a lot of people who weren't prepared for the downsides, and end up replacing it with a Hydroviv under sink water filter.
This article lists the most common things that we hear from people who regret buying a reverse osmosis water filters.
Not All Reverse Osmosis Water Are EffectiveIn recent years, reverse osmosis water filters have gained a great deal of popularity among homeowners because there's a feeling that they "filter everything." Unfortunately, this is simply not true, but this belief has created a "race to the bottom" for water filter companies to create the cheapest system that uses reverse osmosis, so they can cash in on Amazon. The term "reverse osmosis" describes the technology used, and does not tell you anything about performance. The truth is... some are rated to remove toxic things like lead/chromium 6 (like this one), some aren't rated to remove much of anything (this one is only rated to remove chlorine taste TDS).
If You Don't Change The Prefilters Religiously, You Will Ruin The Reverse Osmosis Membrane
The prefilters on an RO system actually protect the membrane in the reverse osmosis stage. If a reverse osmosis user doesn't change these prefilters in time, chlorine "breaks through" and flows into the RO membrane. Unfortunately, most RO membranes are irreversibly damaged by even low levels of free chlorine, and the entire reverse osmosis module will need to be replaced. Also, much to the surprise of users, there isn't really an easy way to know if this degradation has taken place. We've heard from hundreds of reverse osmosis users in DC, Pittsburgh, and NYC who were shocked to find high levels of lead coming out of their RO when they did a lead test. It turned out that they changed out their prefilters too late, which ruined their reverse osmosis membrane without any kind of notification.
You'll Need To Drill Your Countertop And Drain Pipe During Installation
Most people who buy a reverse osmosis system assume that they’ll be able to handle the installation. Many quickly change their mind after learning that they’ll need to drill a hole in their home’s drain pipe (for the filtration system’s waste line) and another hole in their countertop or sink (for a dedicated faucet). Unless you are confident in your abilities, be sure to budget a couple hundred dollars for professional installation. You certainly don’t want to ruin a granite counter top or crack a drain pipe. If you have a stone countertop and you're having a plumber install a system for you, make sure their insurance will cover the event that they crack the stone. Contrast this with a Hydroviv system, which connects to to your existing faucet in 15 minutes, no drilling or plumbing experience needed.
Your Under Sink Storage Will Disappear
If you have a garbage disposal, you’ll want to take measurements to make sure that the filtration system will fit under the sink. In addition to the manifold that holds the prefilters and reverse osmosis components, you’ll need to allow space for the storage tank, which is larger than a basketball. There's a reason why most pictures of installed reverse osmosis systems do not show a garbage disposal. For some people, this isn’t a big deal, but for others (particularly in cities where space is limited), it’s a major problem.
Flow Rates Are Slower Than Expected
One of the most common problems that we hear from people who purchase reverse osmosis systems is that the water pressure is very bad and they end up not using the filtered water, which defeats the entire purpose of having a filtration system.
Your Water Usage Will Go Up
Reverse osmosis systems work by using pressure to force water through a membrane, which leaves behind impurities in a solution that many referred to as brine or backwash. This solution leaves flows through a waste line that connects to your home’s drain pipe, so the removed contaminants go right down the drain. People who draw their water from private wells are particularly troubled by this. Most consumer-grade systems generate 3-15 gallons of waste water per gallon of produced purified water.
The bottom line is that if you're looking at reverse osmosis water filters, you want to make sure that you get one that works, and works for your family. We're obviously biased (as our products don't use reverse osmosis technology), but if you are determined on getting a reverse osmosis system, the only competitor that we recommend is APEC. We've tested this system (it works), and they also engineer and assemble their systems in the US (like us).
If you have any questions about the advantages and disadvantages of a reverse osmosis system and whether or not a reverse osmosis system is the best way to filter your water, we encourage you to take advantage of Hydroviv’s “Help No Matter What” approach to technical support. We promise to help you select an effective water filter system, even if it’s not one that we sell. Reach out through live chat or by emailing us (email@example.com)
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Personalized Water Filters
Why Optimization Matters
Have you every traveled to a different city and noticed that the water tastes different? That’s because the water chemistry is different, and more importantly, the problems present in the water are different too.
Around the country, millions of U.S. households have contaminants in their water that exceed public health goals, but the individual contaminates vary significantly state by state and even zip code by zip code. The issues in your water can be impacted by a variety of factors including the age of your home and city’s infrastructure, the natural geology of the region, and your home’s proximity to industrial sites, farms and military bases. Cities with older infrastructure like Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, and Jackson, Mississippi, for example, face issues with lead contamination, while new developments in the American Southwest may be lead-free, but record unsafe concentrations of arsenic.
To address the unique issues in your water, our Water Nerds analyze water quality reports from local, county, state, federal and academic sources, and then build a customized filter designed to match and screen out the specific contaminates and bad-tasting chemicals coming out of your tap. The result is a hyper-targeted and long-lasting filter designed to keep your water safe and tasting great.
Here are a few examples of how water differs around the country:
- Lead: Lead contaminates tap water differently than most pollutants, because lead comes from the plumbing, not the water supply. Many neighborhoods in older cities have lead-containing service pipes that connect water mains to residential plumbing. Homes with pipes installed before 1986 often also have lead-containing solder. Lead can enter the water supply when municipal corrosion controls fail (what happened in Flint, Michigan) or when water sits stagnant in pipes for long periods of time. Lead contamination is a problem in all major U.S. cities, but there have been significant issues reported recently in Newark, Pittsburgh, Nashville and New York City. Many common pitcher filters do not remove lead. Learn more>
- Arsenic: Arsenic is a naturally occurring toxic heavy metal that leaches into groundwater from surrounding rocks. Areas of the country where arsenic levels are high include Maine, Texas and much of the Southwest. Most common pitchers and fridge filters do not remove arsenic. Learn more>
- Chromium-6: Chromium-6, the cancer-causing chemical at the center of the Erin Brockovich story, is still used in a number of industrial processes including steel production, leather tanning, and textile manufacturing. It can enter local rivers and groundwater through waste, and despite notable media attention is still not well regulated. Homes located near current or former industrial facilities are most at risk. Learn more>
Learn more about our personalized filters and get the best solution for your water.
EPA Superfund Sites: An Overview On Environmental Hazards And Superfund Process
Emma Schultz, M.S. | Scientific Contributor
Do you know where your nearest EPA Superfund Site is? Chances are there is one close by, given that one out of every six Americans lives within three miles of an EPA-designated major hazardous waste site. There are two sites located within four miles of my childhood home, in an idyllic and quiet suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota. I now live within the same distance of five sites -- and I had no clue.
Superfund Sites - Environmental Hazards
What Is The Superfund Process?
The concept of EPA Superfund Sites is widely known and understood, but the intricacies of the program and the approach to hazardous waste mitigation are elaborate and prolonged, as can be expected of any federally-funded long-term project.
In December of 1980, President Jimmy Carter signed into law the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), now known better as Superfund, which authorized the EPA to remediate hazardous waste spills and sites, and obliged those responsible for the waste - the Potential Responsible Party - to either clean it up on their own dollar or offset the cost of EPA-led cleanup efforts. Superfund had abundant funding early in its existence due to taxes levied on chemicals and oil; those taxes, however, lapsed in 1995, and financing now comes from taxpayers.
There are multiple stages in the Superfund process once a site is identified, with the first step being a Preliminary Assessment or Site Inspection. If the site is an emergency such as a chemical spill, Removal Action is taken. Otherwise, Remedial Action is planned for, which often leads to years-long planning, cleanup, and remediation. Community involvement is frequently key during the early stages of Superfund designation, and the Technical Assistance Services for Communities (TASC) program is an outreach effort designed to connect with citizens and businesses for the duration of a Superfund's existence.
After initial study, EPA Superfund Sites are given a score on the Hazard Ranking System. If a site poses enough of a threat to environmental and human health, the EPA announces its addition to the National Priorities List (NPL), pending public comment and input. NPL sites are eligible for extensive, and often long-term, federal funding through the Superfund program. These NPL-listed sites are now officially Superfund sites.
Following NPL designation, a Remedial Investigation and Feasibility Study is conducted. The Remedial Investigation collects information on-site such as water and soil samples, and the follow-up Feasibility Study analyzes various cleanup methods. The EPA then selects the most suitable cleanup alternative and provides it to the community as a Proposed Plan.
A Record of Decision notes the cleanup alternative chosen for the site. In the Remedial Design phase, the cleanup plans are drawn up, and are finally acted upon in the Remedial Action stage. A goal of Remedial Action is to return sites to productive use as quickly as possible. Whether 'productive' means industrial, housing, commercial, or greenspace depends on conversations and input from the surrounding community.
A review of EPA Superfund Site cleanup efforts occurs every five years. If cleanup goals have all been met, a portion or whole of a Superfund site may then be listed for removal from the NPL. In theory, meeting all cleanup goals sounds achievable - especially given the lengthy planning and implementation phases - but there are many sites that remain listed decades later, because groundwater and soil are still polluted.
Where Can You Learn More About Superfund Sites?
Resources for homeowners:
2017 Washington DC Tap Water Report: What You Need To Know
Eric Roy, Ph.D. | Scientific Founder
We took a day over the long weekend to break down this year's Consumer Confidence Report (CCR) for Washington, DC tap water. Note: We are not affiliated in way with DC Water, but they have been sending people to this article as a reputable source of information.
Lead In DC Tap Water
Washington, DC is an old city with a lot of lead service lines, so it's not a huge surprise that lead leaches from lead-containing pipes, solder, and fittings in some homes. For the most recent Water Quality Data for Washington, DC, DC Water sampled for lead in two sampling periods: January-June and July-December. In the 125 samples pulled during January-June period, the 90th percentile concentration for lead was 2 parts per billion, and no samples were above the 15 part per billion Action Level (AL). In the 115 samples pulled from the July-December sampling period, the 90th percentile concentration was 3 parts per billion, and 2 samples came in at over the 15 parts per billion.
Even though these results indicate that DC is in citywide compliance with federal water quality standards, it's important to point out that there is no level of lead safe for children, and that the federal standards allow up to 10% of sampled taps to have lead concentrations over 15 parts per billion.
Lead contamination is nothing to play around with, especially for families with young children. We highly recommend that Washington DC residents take a look at this map to see if their home has a lead service line, because those homes (and homes with plumbing that predates 1986) are most susceptible. We also highly recommend taking advantage of DC Water's free lead testing program, and any families with small children take steps to remove any lead from their water, even if they don't use a Hydroviv filter. It's important to remember that most pitchers and fridge filters do NOT remove lead from water.
Detectable Levels of Three Herbicides In DC Tap Water
One thing that has caused quite a bit of alarm from several people in this year's report is that Atrazine, Dalapon, and Simazine were all found in detectable levels, albeit well below the allowable limit. It shouldn't be a huge surprise seeing that we draw our water from near at the end of a river, so there is opportunity for agricultural runoff to enter the river. For anyone who is interested, The Maryland DEP has made the Source Water Assessment for the Potomac River (404 pages) publicly available.
DC's Water Source: Potomac River
Even though we've written stand-alone article about DC's tap water, it's worth touching upon it quickly because there seems to be a bit of confusion about where our water comes from. The Washington Aqueduct (operated by the Army Corps of Engineers) draws water from the Potomac River, and treats it. District of Columbia Sewer and Water Authority (aka DC Water) purchases treated water from the Washington Aqueduct, and is responsible for distributing it through DC. This is how's it's been for a long time, nothing has changed.
Left Out Of The Report: Chromium 6
With chromium 6 (also known as hexavalent chromium) still in the public's mind from major nationwide stories, I was a bit surprised to see it left out of the 2017 report altogether. Even though it's a known carcinogen, chromium 6 is categorized as an "Emerging Contaminant" by EPA and is not regulated on its own. DC Water (and 6000 other municipalities) participate in the Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR3) (which is basically a nationwide testing program to study "emerging" contaminants before they become regulated) and found chromium 6 concentrations between 74 and 91 parts per trillion. These levels are pretty similar to concentrations that we have seen when we have done sampling/analysis ourselves (84-120 parts per trillion). For perspective, these levels are roughly 4-5x higher than what The State Of California set as a public health goal. It is my strong personal opinion that people should not wait for EPA to begin regulating chromium 6 on its own, and filter their water for it, even if they're not using a Hydroviv filter. It's important to remember that most pitchers and fridge filters do NOT remove chromium 6 from water.
The primary disinfectant used to treat Washington DC's tap water is chloramine, except for a few weeks in the spring when DC switches over to chlorine. DC (and a growing number of municipalities) use chloramine instead of chlorine for a few reasons, one of them being that chloramine is more persistent than chlorine, so it maintains its ability to disinfect the water further away from the source. The flip-side of this is that chloramine does not quickly dissipate from water if left in a jug overnight. If you want to get it out of the water, you'll need a filter designed to remove chloramine, because a regular charcoal filter doesn't do a great job removing it.
When I looked through the data on this, there wasn't a ton that surprised me. Washington, DC is an old city with a lot of lead pipes and plumbing, so it's no surprise that some homes have lead in their water. We get our water near the end of the Potomac River, so it's not a huge surprise that we can find herbicides and chromium 6 in it. While Washington, DC's tap water is in compliance with federal standards, a growing number of people are proactively taking steps to treat their water to a stricter standard than what EPA requires, particularly in the current regulatory climate.
If you want to learn more about Hydroviv's water filters, check out www.hydroviv.com, or drop us a line through live chat or email (firstname.lastname@example.org). Even though we sell our products nationwide, Hydroviv is a DC company and we take care of our own backyard!
As always, feel free to take advantage of our "Help No Matter What" approach to technical support. We will answer your questions about water quality even if you have no desire to purchase one of our products.
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