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Key Things To Know About Getting Your Water Tested

Analies Dyjak @ Thursday, June 8, 2017 at 6:42 pm -0400

Rebecca Labranche | Laboratory Director, A&L Laboratory

How Is Drinking Water Regulated?

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets regulatory limits for over 90 contaminants in water provided by public water systems. The EPA sets these limits in accordance with the Safe Drinking Water Act to protect public health in the communities that are using this water. The EPA limits are divided into two main categories. National Primary Drinking Water Regulations are legally enforceable standards that apply to public water systems. Primary standards protect public health by limiting the levels of contaminants in drinking water that negatively affect human health. National Secondary Drinking Water Regulations are non-enforceable guidelines regulating contaminants that may cause cosmetic effects (such as skin or tooth discoloration) or aesthetic effects (such as taste, odor, or color) in drinking water. EPA recommends secondary standards to water systems but does not require systems to comply. In addition to the federal EPA standards, The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) gives individual states the opportunity to establish their own drinking water standards if they are not more lenient than those set by the EPA's national standards.

So how do these federal and state regulations effect private well-owners? These same limits and guidelines used for public water are also adopted by most institutions and lenders for home water testing as a way to determine if the property provides potable, safe water. When a home goes up for sale, if the buyer is financing, they will likely be required to test the water. While lenders may be concerned about a potable water source in order to protect their investment, there are no official rules or regulations for determining potability of private wells. Many states and towns do not even require sampling of private wells after installation. It is the responsibility of the homeowner to maintain their well and water supply. 

How Often Should Home Water Testing Be Conducted?

Private well water should be tested a minimum of once per year. Drinking water supplies obtained from shallow dug wells and surface water sources should be tested more frequently as they are more susceptible to contamination. Annual testing of both dug and drilled wells should check for the most common contaminants which are bacteria, nitrates and nitrites. Even if your water has consistently been safe to drink in the past these parameters could change without you knowing and affect the safety of your water. New drilled wells should be tested with a more comprehensive water test which includes bacteria, nitrates, nitrites, metals, minerals and radon. This test identifies many common primary and secondary contaminants typically found in the bedrock surrounding the well. This comprehensive test should be repeated every 3 – 5 years to ensure the well is still providing safe water.

What Are The Most Common Types Of Drinking Water Contaminants?

Drinking water contaminants can be divided into several categories: Inorganic Chemicals, Organic Chemicals, Radionuclides and Microorganisms. Testing for every possible analyte would be prohibitively expensive but we have put together a comprehensive test package which covers common problems found in our area.

Total Coliform

E.coli

pH

Nitrate-N

Nitrite-N

Copper

Iron

Manganese

Lead

Arsenic

Hardness

Magnesium

Calcium

Chloride

Fluoride

Uranium

Sodium

Radon

 

 

 

Laboratories throughout the United States will offer similar packages based on the geology in their area.

What Is The Process For Analyzing Drinking Water?

The process of analyzing drinking water varies by laboratory and their methods used. However, the basic premise is the same for all of them. The first step is to obtain a water test kit from the certified drinking water laboratory that you intend to use for the analysis. Home water testing kits are specific to each laboratory and their methods so it is important not to use another laboratory’s bottles. These test kits come with all the information that is needed to collect the sample and get it back to the laboratory in the required time frame. The sampling instructions are usually step by step and easy to follow. Once the water is received by the laboratory it will be analyzed for the requested parameters and report will be generated and sent back to the client. The typical turn-a-round time for a comprehensive water test is 2-3 business days.

Using a certified laboratory is very important. They are monitored by their state and undergo periodic inspections to ensure that they are producing the highest quality data. During these inspections their instruments, standard operating procedures, lab technicians, quality control documentation and reporting procedures are reviewed and evaluated. If anything is found to be out of compliance certification for the laboratory can be revoked. In addition to inspections, they also have to complete proficiency tests for each method they conduct to prove that they can perform the method properly and obtain results within the specified limits.

What Are The Risks Associated With Consuming And/Or Using Contaminated Water?

The risks vary greatly depending which contaminants you have in your water. Common health effects include gastrointestinal illness, reproductive problems, neurological disorders and cancer. These health problems pose a greater threat to young children, pregnant women, the elderly, and people with compromised immune systems. The health effects of drinking contaminated water can range from no physical impact to severe illness or even death.

Some of the effects of drinking contaminated water are known almost immediately. Immediate health related issues generally stem from contamination by pathogens such as total coliform and E.coli. Symptoms include gastrointestinal and stomach illnesses such as nausea, vomiting, cramps, and diarrhea.

Other contaminants pose health effects that may not be observed for many years. Some of the most common ones are:

Arsenic in water occurs naturally as well as from industrial activities. Studies have shown that chronic or repeated ingestion of water with arsenic over a person’s lifetime is associated with increased risk of cancer (of the skin, bladder, lung, kidney, nasal passages, liver or prostate) and non-cancerous effects (diabetes, cardiovascular, immunological and neurological disorders).

Lead can occur due to corrosion of lead containing household plumbing and by industrial pollution. Major toxic effects include anemia, neurological dysfunction/damage and renal impairment.

Uranium is a tasteless, colorless, odorless contaminant. Drinking water with uranium amounts exceeding 30ug/L can lead to increased cancer risk, liver damage, or both.

Copper has both long term and short term effects. Some people with short term exposure, experience gastrointestinal distress, and with long-term exposure may experience liver or kidney damage. It is typically introduced into the water from household plumbing systems.

Fluoride has been shown to reduce tooth decay in children's teeth if they receive an adequate level. The optimal concentration, as recommended by CDC is approximately 1.1 mg/L. In the range of 2.0-4.0 mg/L of fluoride, staining of tooth enamel is possible. Above 4.0 mg/L, studies have shown the possibility of skeletal fluorosis, as well as the staining of teeth.

Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer. High levels of radon gas occur naturally in Maine soil and water, and can move up into a house from the ground. The house then traps the radon in the air inside. Radon gas can also dissolve into well water, which is then released into the air when you use the water.

What Should I Do If The Laboratory Finds Something In My Water?

If tests on your water indicate problems, the next step is to determine what type of system you need to treat the water. This can be a difficult decision because there is a wide variety of water treatment devices on the market today. Water purifiers range from relatively low-cost, simple filter devices for a kitchen faucet to more expensive, sophisticated systems that treat water from its point of entry into a home. Keep in mind, no one water treatment device can solve every problem.

Rebecca Labranche, the Laboratory Director for A & L Laboratory. A & L Laboratory which specializes in drinking water analysis for both public systems and private wells, throughout the State of Maine.

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5 Things To Know About Chromium-6 In Drinking Water

Analies Dyjak @ Saturday, September 24, 2016 at 11:44 am -0400

Eric Roy, Ph.D.  |  Scientific Founder

Since The Environmental Working Group recently released a report about the prevalence of chromium-6 in drinking water supplies, our email and support line have been filled with questions about the toxic heavy metal. The purpose of this article is to address a lot of these FAQs, including the answer to "what is chromium-6?," and to discuss how to remove chromium 6 from drinking water.

Is Chromium-6 the Same Thing as “Regular” Chromium?

What Is Chromium-6, and Why Is Harmful?

No. So what is chromium-6? Chromium comes in a variety of chemical “flavors.” Most forms of chromium (e.g. chromium metal, trivalent chromium) are not toxic. These are the types of chromium used to make stainless steel and are found in dietary supplements. There is no reason to be throwing away stainless steel cookware!

Chromium-6 (or hexavalent chromium), on the other hand, is an extremely toxic form of chromium, and is known to cause cancer, even at very low concentrations. In popular culture, chromium-6 is the chemical that was at the center of the Erin Brockovich story, which was made into a movie starring Julia Roberts.

Where Does Chromium-6 Come From?

Unfortunately, chemicals containing chromium-6 are useful in a number of industrial processes, which means that chromium-6 can enter drinking water supplies through waste streams that enter rivers and ground water. Industries that generate chromium-6-containing waste include: steel production, leather tanning, textile manufacturing, wood preservation, and electroplating.

How Is Chromium-6 Regulated?

It's not. In 1991 EPA set a Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) for total chromium (all kinds) in drinking water of 200 parts per billion. The structure of this regulation is flawed because it treats non-toxic forms of chromium in the same manner as highly toxic chromium-6. To put it in perspective, California (which has tighter regulatory conditions that the EPA) has set a proposed limit of 20 parts per trillion for chromium-6, a level that is 10,000 times lower than what the current EPA regulation is for total chromium. Part of the challenge in formulating a proper regulation is that advanced detection procedures and equipment are required to measure things at part per trillion concentrations.

Are the Recent News Articles the Result of a Recent Spike in Chromium-6 Concentrations?

No. There is no sudden rise in chromium-6, the media coverage is just shining light on an existing situation.

What Can I Do To Reduce Exposure To Chromium-6?

Unlike lead, which leaches into water from pipes, chromium-6 comes from the source water itself, so flushing pipes does not reduce concentrations of chromium-6 in drinking water. Boiling water also does not reduce/remove chromium-6.

If you want to remove chromium-6 from your water, you need to filter it using a high end water filter. Filtration pitchers and common fridge filters DO NOT filter chromium-6 from water. A new generation of water filters that use chromium 6 removal media are extremely effective at filtering chromium-6 (and other contaminants) from water. Reverse osmosis is also a viable way to remove chromium 6 from water for people who are willing to accept the drawbacks, including low flow rate. We recently wrote a more in depth article on how to filter chromium 6 from water.

If you have any questions about filtering chromium-6 from your water, we encourage you to take advantage of Hydroviv’s “Help No Matter What” approach to technical support, where we will help you select an effective water filter system, even if it’s not one that we sell. This free service can be reached by emailing support@hydroviv.com

Update April 23, 2017: We have published an article specifically on how to filter chromium 6 from drinking water. See it HERE

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How To Filter Chromium 6 From Drinking Water

Analies Dyjak @ Thursday, March 9, 2017 at 10:35 pm -0500

Eric Roy, Ph.D.   |  Scientific Founder 

Since a nationwide story broke about widespread chromium 6 (also known as hexavalent chromium) contamination impacting about 200 million people in the US, we have been getting a lot of questions about the toxicity, regulation, and removal of the carcinogen from drinking water. This article discusses the only effective ways to remove chromium 6 from drinking water.

There Are Two Effective Ways To Filter Chromium 6 From Water:

1. Cartridges With Chromium 6 Filter Media

Certain types of filtration media are extremely effective at removing chromium 6 from water. They can be blended with other types of filtration media, and built into cartridges that remove chromium 6 as water flows through them. The advantages to this approach over reverse osmosis include: better flow rate, easier to install, and less expensive to maintain. Obviously, we are partial to our under sink water filtration system, but there are other high-end competitors that build quality chromium-6 water filter systems using the same approach successfully (albeit at double the price than Hydroviv).

2. Reverse Osmosis

The other way to effectively filter chromium 6 from drinking water is using a properly maintained reverse osmosis (RO) system. In addition to the common complaints of RO users, it’s critical to diligently replace the pre-filtration cartridges, because if not, the RO membrane can become compromised, rendering the system ineffective. 

Myths About Chromium 6 Removal

Contrary to the words & advice of certain internet naturopathic gurus, boiling, freezing, adding Himalayan sea salt or coconut oil to your water does NOT remove chromium 6 from water, or lessen/reverse the toxic effects of it.   

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What Is The Best Water Filter For An Apartment, Condo, Or Second Home?

Analies Dyjak @ Saturday, February 25, 2017 at 10:12 pm -0500

Hydroviv's Science Team   

If you're looking for a water filter for your apartment, condo, or vacation home your options might be limited. However, you shouldn't be forced to settle for ineffective pitcher or fridge filters that don’t remove things like lead, PFAS, or chromium 6. These are the big things to consider when shopping for a water filter for your apartment or rental home.

Universal Connections

You probably don't want to change out the kitchen faucet in a place that you are renting, so you’ll want to make sure that your water filter connects to the existing faucet and cold water valve with universal faucet connections. Nearly all faucets in the US use a 3/8” compression fitting to connect to the cold-water shutoff valve, so make sure that the inlet and outlets use that size connection.

Size

Many apartments and condos in cities like New York City or Washington, D.C. have smaller under sink spaces than what are found in larger homes. When you are shopping for water filters, you’ll need to take size into account, especially if your unit has a garbage disposal that takes up a bunch of space under your sink. Most reverse osmosis systems are bulky and have large storage tanks, and will not fit under the sink of many apartments. 

Deposit Considerations

Many water filtration systems for apartments require that you drill a hole in your drain line, or that you drill a hole in your counter top. Obviously, if you do either of those things, you won’t get your deposit back, so most people don’t opt for reverse osmosis systems that require a drilled connection to your drain. It can also be difficult to get a plumber to a more remote location if you're looking to install a Reverse Osmosis filter in a second home. 

Portability

When you rent your home, you want to make sure that your water filter can be taken with you when it’s time to move. Make sure that your apartment water filter un-installs very easily, so you don’t leave it behind in the frantic move out!

Hydroviv’s custom water filters are engineered with renters in mind. Its housing fits in small spaces and connects to existing faucets with screw on, screw off connections in 15 minutes, no plumbing experience needed, and we provide an easy water filter installation guide to help you along the way. When it’s time to move or close up camp for the season, Hydroviv water filters can be pulled in about 5 minutes, and the unit’s plumbing can be put back to how it was when you got there. 

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