Water Quality InformationWritten By Actual Experts

RSS

EPA Revises Lead and Copper Rule After Almost 3 Decades of Inaction

Analies Dyjak @ Thursday, January 7, 2021 at 11:48 am -0500

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

The Environmental Protection Agency has recently made revisions to the Lead and Copper Rule, which regulates the amount of lead allowed in municipal tap water. The Lead and Copper Rule has not been significantly updated since it was created in 1991 - meaning that the same regulatory standards have been in place for almost 3 decades. EPA’s recent update did not fundamentally change this outdated law, and the agency still has a long way to go in reducing lead contamination in the nations drinking water. 

Lead Pipes Are Still Problematic in 2021

There are an estimated 6.3 to 9.3 million homes in the United States that still have a Lead Service Line (LSL). Most of these homes were built before 1986, when the use of lead was banned in pipes, solder and plumbing. Flint, Michigan dominated headlines in 2015 when 99,000 people were exposed to unsafe levels of lead, including thousands of children. Flint was not and is not the only city with unsafe lead levels. There are still dozens of large cities that have lead levels above what health officials claim to be safe, including: Chicago, Boston, New York City, and Los Angeles

No Safe Level Of Lead For Children 

The current federal Action Level for lead in drinking water is 15 parts per billion. Lead is unique from other drinking water contaminants because it follows the 90th Percentile Rule, which has been criticized by various reputable environmental non-profits. The Centers for Disease Control has acknowledged that 15 parts per billion is not a health standard, but rather a feasible level of enforcement - meaning anything less than 15 parts per billion is too stringent for municipal compliance. The problem is that there is no safe level of lead for children. Any level of exposure has the potential to cause irreversible developmental damages, including; lowered IQ’s, behavioral difficulties, and other learning problems. EPA has even acknowledged that children should not be exposed to any level of lead. 

 

Latest Revisions To The Rule:

EPA made a handful of small modifications to the original 1991 Lead and Copper Rule. One of the major updates to the rule is increasing EPA’s “inventory” of Lead Service Lines throughout the country. Once LSL’s and pipes have been identified, EPA will require communities to “find and fix'' homes that exceed 15 parts per billion. The system must provide documentation to the state if they’re unable to fix or mitigate the lead levels. Under the rule revisions, systems serving greater than 50,000 people will be required to make the LSL inventory available online. Also, municipal systems will be required to provide annual notices to homeowners with LSL’s. Replacing LSL’s are particularly tricky to manage because they’re co-owned by the city and homeowner. Some cities have programs to coordinate replacing the public and private side of the line at the same time.  

EPA’s New “Trigger Level” For Lead

Part of EPA’s revisions to the Lead and Copper Rule include a new “trigger level.” According to the regulatory revisions, systems that have a 90th percentile higher than 10 parts per billion will be required to work with their state to determine annual lead line replacement goals. This “trigger level” is not a new Action Level, and does not initiate a violation if a water system has higher than 10 ppb lead. EPA also pointed out in the proposed regulation that the trigger level is also not a health standard. As previously stated, any concentration of lead can be harmful to children. 

Will The New Updates Better Protect Public Health?

In the short term, no. There is no real "quick fix" for lead contamination. Replacing lead pipes and Lead Services Lines takes time, and can actually cause an increase in lead levels during and after construction. While these changes are better than nothing, the recent revisions are not a significant overhaul of an extremely flawed regulation. The inventory however, has the potential to make people aware of LSL's in their homes. 

Other Articles We Think You Might Enjoy:
How To Tell If Your Home Has Lead Plumbing
What Are 'Forever Chemicals' or PFAS?
Everything You Need To Know About TDS/ppm Meters

The Noah System: Lead-Free Drinking Water For America's Schools

Analies Dyjak @ Friday, November 27, 2020 at 2:18 pm -0500

Analies Dyjak, M.A. and Michael Ramos   

The unresolved lead crisis in the United States disproportionately impacts young children - especially those in underserved communities. Many schools in the United States were built before 1986, when the use of lead in pipes and plumbing was still allowed. School-aged children who drink water from drinking fountains are exposed to unsafe lead levels on a daily basis. Michael Ramos, the Founder of The Noah System, created a device that automatically flushes water in drinking fountains to reduce the high lead levels in schools.

Why Are We Concerned With Lead in Drinking Water?

Babies and children are the most vulnerable to the long lasting impacts of lead exposure. Lead is a neurotoxin, and can cause lifelong irreversible damages to the brain. Children do not have a fully developed blood-brain barrier, making it easier for “unknown substances,” including lead, to cross into the Central Nervous System. Lead can be mistaken for calcium, in which the body can absorb lead as it would calcium in the brain, blood, bones, and soft tissue. The long term health effects include: slowed growth and development, learning and behavior problems, lowered IQ, attention deficit, hearing and speech problems, and underperformance in schools. Lead was also associated with Autism in a recent study by the National Institutes of Health. According to the Environmental Protection AgencyCenters for Disease Control, and American Academy of Pediatrics, there is no safe level of lead for children. The current allowable level of lead in drinking water in the United States is 15 parts per billion

The Noah System and The Flint Lead Crisis

Michael Ramos is an engineer for Chicago Public Schools. In February of 2016, like most of the country, he watched as the failures of elected officials crippled the City of Flint, Michigan. Flint officials switched the source water from Lake Huron to the Flint River without considering a corrosion control inhibitor to reduce lead. As a result, 9,000 children under the age of 6 were exposed to unsafe levels of lead. Mr. Ramos thought of his own children, and the children he represented throughout Chicago Public Schools. He started to watch congressional hearings and grew even more concerned when the EPA officials stated that “lead in drinking water would be one of the most challenging tasks the country was going to face.” Chicago has its own ongoing issues with lead in drinking water, which he realized had not been mitigated when a school district detected 3,000 parts per billion (200 times over EPA’s Action Level). 

Chicago Has Lead Mitigation Tools In Place. Why Did They Fail?

Many cities across the country, including Chicago, use a chemical called Orthophosphate to help reduce lead levels in drinking water. In order for Orthophosphate to be effective, water must run through the pipes once every 6 hours to build an anti-corrosive crust. Mr. Ramos realized that the drinking water in most schools sits stagnant in pipes for hours - well beyond the 6 hour stagnation period. Orthophosphate is unable to coat the inside of pipes when water sits stagnant overnight, over the weekends, or during school vacations. 
Mr. Ramos noted that several school districts across the country flush their pipes in August, as students are getting ready to go back to school. As we now understand, it doesn’t take long for lead to collect in distribution pipes and reach unsafe levels for children. Mr. Ramos noted that a single-flushing event at the beginning of the school year “was not sufficient to make a meaningful impact on lead levels.” In short, lead levels in schools drinking water can be directly correlated to long periods of stagnation.

How Did The Noah System Come To Be?

Mr. Ramos wanted to first insure that the water coming into his own home was free of lead. “I built a machine that would automatically flush water from the cold water line coming into my house. I took the 6 hour stagnation period and cut it in half, so water would flow through the pipes every 3 hours.” This would allow sufficient time for the Orthophosphate to build a protective crust and significantly reduce lead levels at the tap. He then asked himself: “How do I take what I built in my house and retrofit it for schools?” Mr. Ramos determined that The Noah System could be installed directly in drinking water fountains, and began building systems from his home workshop. In October of 2016, Michael Ramos installed his first Noah System in a Chicago Public School. 

How Many Schools Currently Have The Noah System?

Several schools, Universities, and office buildings across the country that currently use The Noah System. 

How Can I Learn More About The Noah System?

You can learn more around The Noah System by visiting https://www.noahsystem.co/. You can also get in touch via email but submitting your information here: https://www.noahsystem.co/pages/contact. You can schedule a free consultation by calling 708-320-3197. 

Other Articles We Think You might Enjoy:
What Are "Forever Chemicals" And Why Are In My Tap Water?
Do TDS Meters Provide Meaningful Information About Drinking Water?
How Did Hydroviv Filters Perform in a Duke/NC State Water Filter Study?

Chicago's Problematic Lead Service Line Replacement Program

Goodwin Media Collaborator @ Thursday, September 24, 2020 at 12:08 pm -0400

Analies Dyjak, M.A.  |  Head of Policy

Over 6.1 million homes in the United States still use a Lead Service Line (LSL) to deliver drinking water into their homes. The City of Chicago has more lead pipes and Lead Service Lines than anywhere else in the country, according to  Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot. The city recently announced that it would prioritize replacing Lead Service Lines beginning in 2021. Unfortunately, the program isn’t as all-encompassing as would be expected by a city the size of Chicago. This article will break down Chicago’s lead line replacement program, and discuss other cities in the U.S. with similar issues. 

Details of Chicago's Lead Service Line Replacement Program:

Lead-Safe Chicago was initiated in 2020 to bring further attention to Chicago’s unresolved lead crisis. The city will assist low-income residents by providing a free lead line replacements to households with a combined income of below $67,300. Households who make more than $67,300 and do not qualify, are encouraged to participate in the “homeowner-initiated program” -  which means that homeowners must identify their Lead Service Line, pay for it to be replaced, and pay for bottled water/filtration while the line is being replaced. The projected average cost to a homeowner in Chicago will by $6,000. The city has offered to waive all permitting fees, which they claim to be as high as $3,000. The homeowner-initiated program is entirely voluntary, and not mandated by the city of Chicago. It's important to mention that because Chicago has an estimated 400,000 Lead Service Lines, this program will take years to complete.

Lead Levels Often Increase for Months After Replacing a Lead Service Line

It may seem counter-intuitive, but lead levels often increase for at least a few months, if not over a year, after a lead service line is replaced. This is because the protective coating inside the pipe (created by years of corrosion control) gets disrupted, and the debris/freshly uncovered pipes surface can contaminate water with lead. One of our scientists wrote an article that goes into further detail about this. You can check it out here

If You Rent in Chicago, You're on Your Own

There are over 1 million renters in the City of Chicago. This initiative does not require homeowners or landlords to take any sort of action, or replace an existing lead service lines. If you rent or lease in Chicago, you’re entirely on your own for ensuring your tap water is free of lead. 

Chicago Water is 9 Times Above The Public Health Goal for Lead

Despite having the most lead pipes in the country, Mayor Lightfoot continues to claim that Chicago water “meets all safety standards.” It’s important to note that there is no such thing as a “safety standard.” Federal regulatory standards, also referred to as “Maximum Contaminant Levels” (or “Action Level” for lead), are the enforceable standards used by EPA. These federal regulatory standards are not entirely based on health outcomes, and must weigh the cost of removing a contaminant with the benefits to public health. Health organizations like the Centers for Disease Control and American Academy of Pediatrics have created public health standards, which on the contrary, are actually based on health impacts. According to both of these agencies, there's is no "safe" level of lead for children. The Environmental Protection Agency has even created a Maximum Contaminant Level Goal of 0 parts per billion for lead. Lead levels in Chicago are currently 9 times higher than this public health goal. 

Chicago is Not Alone: 

This ongoing and unresolved lead crisis in not unique to Chicago. New York City, Pittsburgh, Newark, Denver, Portland, Oregon and so many more all have underreported issues with lead in drinking water. Municipalities are not always forthcoming about the safety of the water flowing through their taps. In June of 2018, the mayor of Newark, New Jersey claimed that Newark’s drinking water was safe for consumption and that residents could continue drinking Newark tap water. Unfortunately, Newark was actually in exceedance of the federal Lead Action Level of 15 parts per billion. If you have any questions about your city's water quality report, one of our Water Nerds would be happy to help! You can send us an email at hello@hydroviv.com or send us a chat on our homepage: hydroviv.com.

Other Articles We Think You Might Enjoy:
Things To Know Before Replacing Your Home's Lead Service Line
TDS Meters Do Not Tell Us Meaningful Information About Water Quality
Does Boiling or Freezing My Water Remove Lead?

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