Water Quality Articles | Water Filter Information & Articles – Tagged "lead" – Hydroviv

Problems We Found In Providence, Rhode Island's Drinking Water

Analies Dyjak | Policy Nerd   

For Hydroviv’s assessment of Providence, Rhode Island’s drinking water problems, we collected water quality test data from Providence Water and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. We cross referenced the city’s water quality data with toxicity studies in scientific and medical literature. The water filters that we sell at Hydroviv are optimized to filter out contaminants that are found in Providence drinking water.

Where Does Providence Source Its Drinking Water?

Providence sources its drinking water from the Scituate Reservoir, which is located 15 miles east of the city. The Scituate Reservoir has tributaries that flow in and out of several other reservoirs including the Regulating, Barden, Ponaganset, Westconnaug, and Moswansicut reservoirs. The Providence Water system has approximately 1,040 miles of transmission and distribution mains. 

Lead In Providence’s Drinking Water

Lead enters tap water through old lead service pipes and lead-containing plumbing. We were disturbed to find that Providence, Rhode Island is in exceedance with the federal Action Level of 15 parts per billion. 10% of the samples analyzed had lead concentrations over 17 parts per billion. Environmental Protection Agency, Center for Disease Control, and American Academy of Pediatrics all recognize that there is no safe level of lead for children between the ages of 0-5. These health and regulatory agencies are trying to lower the current standard of 15 parts per billion to 1 part per billion, so a concentration of 17 parts per billion is very concerning. To make matters worse, in a city of almost 200,000 people, only 348 homes were tested for lead in drinking water. 38 of the 348 homes that were tested for lead exceeded the federal Action Level. Municipalities are not required to list the data set or disclose the locations from which the samples were obtained. This being considered, the provided data may not be representative of the actual scope of the lead problem in Providence. Hydroviv strongly encourages Providence residents to take advantage of the city’s free lead testing program. Under this program, residents can pick up a free kit to test for lead in their drinking water at the Providence Water customer service location. For more information call 401-521-6303.

Disinfection Byproducts In Providence's Water 

Providence Water detected significant levels of Disinfection Byproducts or DBPs in their drinking water. DBPs are split into two categories: Total Trihalomethanes (TTHMs) and Haloacetic Acids-5 (HAA5). Concentrations were detected as high as 82 parts per billion for TTHMs, which exceeds the loose EPA standard of 80 parts per billion for drinking water. DBPs are a category of emerging contaminants which means they have been detected in drinking water but the risk to human health is unknown. DBPs are formed when when chlorine based disinfectants are routinely added to the water supply to kill bacteria. 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.

It’s important to note that only a handful of contaminants are required to be included in annual Consumer Confidence Reports, and that there are hundreds of potentially harmful unregulated contaminants that aren’t accounted for. If you’re interested in learning more about water filters that have been optimized for Providence’s tap water quality, feel free to visit www.hydroviv.com to talk to a Water Nerd on our live chat feature or send us an email at hello@hydroviv.com.

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Recent Lead Problems In Schools: Nashville, Tennessee

Emma Schultz, M.S.  | Scientific Contributor

There has recently been a spate of schools testing positive for lead contamination in drinking water across the country, at dangerously high levels. Since the Flint, Michigan water crisis brought lead contamination and lead poisoning into the spotlight in 2015, there has been a push to increase water testing in schools - and rightly so. It’s not likely that high test results are new; it is unfortunately instead likely that this has been an ongoing undetected problem. EPA estimates that 90,000 public schools, as well as half a million child care facilities, are not regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act due to utilizing a municipal water utility. While these statistics are dated (2002), they are still referenced by EPA. Since the utility is the responsible party for testing water, the school itself is not required to test, unless there are more stringent local laws or they voluntarily choose to do so. Most do not, or if they do, their results may not be reflective of normal lead levels. Water frequently stagnates in school pipes, due to nights, weekends, and summers where water usage is drastically diminished. That stagnation leads to leaching of lead in the school's water, and therefore lead accumulation, when there are lead pipes or lead-containing valves and fittings.

It is important to note that there is no such thing as a safe level of lead in drinking water. It bears repeating: no level of lead is safe, especially when it comes to children, who are most sensitive to lead poisoning. The EPA limit of 15 parts per billion, set in 1991, is much higher than EPA and CDC have admitted is safe (they agree, there is no safe level of lead). In addition, 10% of samples are legally allowed to exceed the 15 ppb threshold without resulting in any utility violations. In contrast, The American Academy of Pediatrics proposes that lead in school drinking water should not exceed 1 ppb.

Lead Contamination In Nashville, Tennessee Schools

One city that recently made headlines for lead contamination in public schools is Nashville, Tennessee. Schools were tested for lead during the summer of 2017. Examples of frighteningly high lead levels are as follows (note, these are individual tap results):

  • Park Avenue Elementary: 170 ppb 
  • Spectrum Academy: 349 ppb 
  • Chadwell Elementary: 272 ppb 
  • Cole Elementary: 106 ppb 
  • Neelys Bend Elementary: 115 ppb

In addition, 11 fountains exceeded 5 ppb of lead at McMurray Middle’s annex, and 13 fountains at Hattie Cotton Elementary had greater than 5 ppb. Haywood Elementary had very high lead averages, with 26 drinking fountains testing greater than 5 ppb of lead, 9 of which were over 15 ppb.

Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) reported that any tap showing lead levels above 15 ppb was subsequently disconnected, but shutting off one tap does not solve the problem. Public schools are often old, and old schools tend to have an old infrastructure, which includes lead-based plumbing. While MNPS does not state the age of their school buildings, several of the schools also made headlines this winter for being unable to heat their classrooms during a prolonged cold spell, with classroom temperatures dipping down to a frigid 46°. This aging infrastructure is putting students at risk in multiple way. Regarding lead in drinking water, MNPS has remained in the news because of a leaked recording where Executive Director of Facilities Dennis Neal plotted with staff to bypass the filtration systems on several dozen lead-filtering “filtration stations” that were installed in some of the more affluent schools (courtesy of parent donations) following the lead scare. Neal was concerned about the high cost of continuously filtering water across schools with high lead levels, and stated “People keep wanting these bottle fillers, but they are adamant about them being filtered. I’m saying we cannot support it.”

After the recording was leaked, Neal was put on administrative leave while MNPS investigated; he has since resigned. Issues remain with lead levels in schools though, and parents have every right to be concerned. MNPS District Spokesperson Michelle Michaud, in an interview with CBS This Morning, stated that filters aren’t actually needed, because the school district has reduced lead levels to under 15 ppb, and then claimed that filters can reduce the amount of lead in water no further than that. "Those filters are doing a good thing," Michaud said. "They are making the water taste better, but they are not filtering out more lead." This is in contrast to the fact sheet from one of their filtration providers, which states that lead levels will be reduced to 10 ppb or less.  Hydroviv filters, in comparison, have treated water with 200 ppb of lead, reducing the lead in water to an output of 0 ppb.

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Does Your Home Have Lead Plumbing?  Here's How To Tell

Does Your Home Have Lead Plumbing? Here's How To Tell

We get a lot of questions about lead service lines and how to tell if you have lead pipes, and we thought that it would be worth putting together an article that talks about some of the lesser known places where lead can exist in residential plumbing. Most people are surprised to learn that up until 2014, EPA allowed lead exist in fixtures & valves used for drinking water lines!

The Evolution of “Lead Free” Plumbing

When the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) was amended in 1986, it mandated that residential plumbing could not use any pipe, pipe fitting, solder, flux, or fixture that was not “lead free.”  While the term “lead free” seems pretty straightforward, the law allowed for the definition of "lead free" to evolve.  The chart below shows allowable lead levels in solder, pipes, fittings, and fixtures through the 25+ years that lead was phased out of plumbing.  It's worth pointing out that, it wasn’t until very recently (2014) that all pipes/fittings/fixtures used for drinkable water were required to contain negligible amounts of lead.

Maximum Levels Of Lead Allowed In Residential Plumbing 

 Years  Solder/Flux Pipes, Fittings, Valves
Before 1986 50% 100%
1986-2014 0.2% 8%
After 2014 0.2% 0.25%

Note:  Things like toilets, urinals, bidets, tub fillers, shower valves are excluded from these regulations 

How to Determine If Plumbing In Your Home Is Lead Free

Solder:  Unfortunately, there is no easy way to visually tell how much lead is in soldered joints after the connection is made.  If you are getting plumbing work done, it's ok to ask your plumber to see the package for the solder that they are using.  It should prominently say “lead free” on it.

Pipes/fittings:  Because there are certain applications (toilets, showers, tub fillers) where plumbing components are allowed to contain lead, you can still buy lead-containing plumbing components at the hardware store.  We have seen many applications in customers' homes where lead-containing components were mistakenly used in an application that required lead free components.  Anything that complies with the 2014 lead free standard is clearly marked with some sort of "LF" or checkmark label to indicate that it meets the most recent lead free standard:
How To Identify Lead Free Plumbing 1Lead Free Brass Ball Valve
How To Identify Lead Free Brass Connections
How To Identify Lead Free Brass Plumbing
Lead Free Plumbing ValveLead Free Marking On Brass Ball Valve

What To Do If Your Home Has Lead Plumbing

As the US has become increasingly aware of lead contamination in drinking water because of the ongoing crisis in Flint, recent violations in large cities like Pittsburgh, and longstanding lead problems in old cities like Chicago and New York City, more and more people are asking what they can do to minimize their family's exposure to lead.  

The best way, bar none is to:

If you are unable to use a rated filter, or if the filter you use does not protect against lead (like most pitchers and fridge filters), you can take the following steps to minimize exposure:

  • Allow your faucet to run for at least 2 minutes before collecting water for consumption (drinking/cooking/washing food).   Doing so allows the water sitting in the pipes to flush out and be replaced by fresh water flowing through the large mains.  
  • Only use the faucet at a slow flow rate when collecting water for consumption.  Doing so minimizes the amount of lead particulates that can be swept into the stream and carried to the faucet.

As always, we encourage everyone to take advantage of Hydroviv's "Help No Matter What" technical support policy, where we answer questions related to drinking water and water filtration, even if you have no desire to purchase our products.  Drop us a line about lead pipes in homes at support@hydroviv.com, or use our live chat function.  

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Chicago's Drinking Water: Problems From Source to Tap

Eric Roy, Ph.D.  |  Scientific Founder

With water quality in the national spotlight, we get a lot of questions about water quality in major US cities.  When Hydroviv optimizes a filter for a city's water, we look at a number of factors.  This Chicago drinking water quality report gives a quick look at some of the things that went into our assessment, as well as some advice for people who choose not to use a filter in their home.  **** We updated this article in March 2017 to add some information about chromium 6***

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.  According to the most recent available Source Water Assessment prepared by the Illinois EPA, all 63 miles of shoreline were flagged as “Threatened”, because phenols (associated with industrial wastes from coal distillation and chemical manufacturing) were present at concentrations in excess of the allowable limit.  Furthermore, a 2016 report prepared by the Illinois EPA categorizes 10 beach segments and several rivers that flow into Lake Michigan as “impaired” (according to Section 303(d) of the Clean Water Act), due to high concentrations of mercury, polychlorinated biphenyls, pesticides, herbicides, and other industrial chemicals like chromium 6.  In addition to direct human inputs that impact water quality of Lake Michigan, biomass decomposition in the sediments often generates chemicals that make the water taste and smell bad.

How High Are Chromium 6 Levels In Chicago?

Between 2013-2015, Chicago reported that chromium 6 concentrations were, on average, 190 parts per trillion.  Although chromium 6 is not regulated by EPA, the levels reported in Chicago's tap water are roughly 20 times higher than what is considered to be negligible risk.  

Does Chicago’s Aging Infrastructure Contaminate Tap Water With Lead?

As most people are now aware, lead can accumulate in tap water that flows through lead-containing pipes, soldered joints, and plumbing fixtures.  In Chicago, about 80% of water service lines city-wide are made of lead, so a large portion of the population should consider taking steps to ensure their family's safety.

Several investigative reports by large media outlets have been highly critical of Chicago’s lead testing program.  The Chicago Tribune reported that many of the sites selected for lead testing were strategically selected because they are in areas with low risk for lead contamination, often at the homes of current and former water department.  The City argued that recruiting water department employees to collect samples would would ensure that samples were properly collected.  However, in a different story, published by The Guardian,  Chicago city employees were criticized for using sampling “cheats” that make lead concentration seem lower than they really are.   

In Chicago, only about 50 samples every 3 years are collected from homes and tested for lead citywide (most recently in 2015).  In the 2015 Consumer Confidence Report (CCR) published by the city, 3 out of 50 sampling sites had lead levels that were over the 15 part per billion (ppb) EPA Action Level, and 10 percent of samples had lead concentrations over 9 ppb.  While these data indicate that the city as a whole is in compliance with federal regulations, the EPA, CDC, and World Health Organization all agree that there is no such thing as a safe amount of lead exposure for children, so households with children should either get their water tested, or take steps to prevent exposure.

How Chicago Residents Can Minimize Chromium 6 & Lead Exposure 

Chromium 6

Unlike lead, which comes from lead-containing pipes, solder, valves, and fixtures, chromium 6 contamination comes from the water source itself.  Therefore the only way to remove it from water is by using a high quality filter.   We are partial to the technology that we use in our system, but reverse osmosis will also work.  

Lead

The City of Chicago officially recommends that residents take measures to reduce their exposure to lead in water used for drinking, cooking, and preparing infant formula:

  • Allow water to run for at least 5 minutes before using it for drinking or cooking
  • Only operate the faucet at moderate flow when collecting water for drinking, cooking, and preparing infant formula.  This practice reduces the likelihood that lead-containing particles are swept into the water as it flows through the pipes.
  • Never use water from the hot water tap for drinking, cooking or preparing infant formula
  • Regularly remove and clean out their faucet aerator, because lead-containing particles can become trapped in the mesh and leach lead into the water as it flow through.

Hydroviv advises Chicago residents who choose not to filter their water for lead to take advantage of the city-sponsored lead testing program, where people can request a free test kit by calling 311.

As always, we encourage everyone to take advantage of Hydroviv's "Help No Matter What" technical support policy, where we answer questions related to Chicago's water pollution, drinking water, and water filtration, even if you have no desire to purchase our products.  Drop us a line at support@hydroviv.com

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Does Boiling My Water Purify It?

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!

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Lead Contamination In Pittsburgh's Tap Water

Editor's Note:  This article was updated on 1/23/2018 to include the most recent lead test data.

Eric Roy, Ph.D.  |  Scientific Founder

With lead contamination in the national spotlight, we get asked a lot of questions about water quality in major US cities.  Because Hydroviv optimizes filters for each city's water, we spend a lot of time looking at water quality data and regulatory disclosures, not media commentary.  This article gives a quick look at the lead problem in Pittsburgh’s water, and also provides some practical advice for Pittsburgh residents so they can minimize their exposure to lead from tap water.  

How Lead Enters Pittsburgh’s Drinking Water

The lead crisis in Flint has brought nationwide attention to the fact that corrosive water can leach lead from lead-containing pipes, soldered joints, and plumbing fixtures.  This means that if lead pipes are present in a city’s old infrastructure, the home’s plumbing predates 1986, or the fixtures predate 1998, there is an opportunity for lead contamination. Pittsburgh is an historic city with old infrastructure, so residents rely on municipal corrosion control measures to prevent contamination.  Unfortunately for the residents of Pittsburgh, municipal corrosion control measures have not been able to keep lead from leaching from an aging infrastructure.   .   

Lead Concentrations In Pittsburgh’s Water Have Been Rising Since 2001 And Now Exceed The EPA Action Level

The concentration of lead from samples collected for regulatory purposes in Pittsburgh’s have been steadily climbing from 2001 to 2013.  Despite nearly exceeding the EPA Action Level in 2013, and the clear decade-long upward trend, Pittsburgh did not report lead data again until 2016.  Unexpectedly, lead concentrations jumped another 30% during this 3 year period of non-testing, and lead concentrations in Pittsburgh now exceed the EPA Action Level, with more than 17% of the samples collected as part of the regulatory testing coming in over the 15 part per billion (ppb) regulatory threshold.  It's also important to point out that there is a difference between the regulatory limit and human toxicity, because US EPA acknowledges that the lead concentration where "there is no known or expected risk to health” is 0 ppb, not 15 ppb.

Update 1/23/2018:  The most recent round of test data shows that lead levels continue to rise in Pittsburgh, and the 90th percentile concentration is now 21 ppb.  Furthermore, more samples are coming in at much higher concentrations.

How Pittsburgh Residents Can Minimize Lead Exposure From Tap Water

If residents choose not to filter their water for lead, we highly recommend that they request a free lead test kit and take the following measures to reduce their risk.   

  • Allow water to run for at least 2 minutes before using it for drinking, cooking, and preparing infant formula:
  • Never use water from the hot water tap for drinking, cooking, and preparing infant formula:
  • Only operate the faucet at moderate flow when collecting water for drinking, cooking, and preparing infant formula.  This practice reduces the likelihood that lead-containing particles are swept into the water as it flows through the pipes.
  • Regularly remove and clean out their faucet aerator, which removes lead-containing particles that may have become trapped in the mesh screen.

As always, we encourage everyone to take advantage of Hydroviv's "Help No Matter What" technical support policy, where we answer questions related to drinking water and water filtration, even if you have no desire to purchase our products.  Drop us a line at support@hydroviv.com.

Sources Used In This Article

Source Water Assessment For Allegheny River
2016 PWSA Lead Results Disclosure
2015 Consumer Confidence Report
US EPA Table Of Regulated Drinking Water Contaminants And Definitions

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