Water Quality Articles | Water Filter Information & Articles – Tagged "lead" – Hydroviv
Newark Lead Crisis: Why Are the Water Filters Not Working?

Newark Lead Crisis: Why Are the Water Filters Not Working?

Eric Roy, Ph.D.  

As a chemist, I was disappointed (but not surprised) to learn that a water filter  made by Pur is having performance failures in Newark, despite being certified to remove lead. The goal of this article is to explain how water filter testing/certifications work, and to point out the most common reasons why a certified product can fail under real-world conditions

How Does Water Filter Certification Work?

Before going into the specific technical reasons why filters could have failed, it’s important to understand how and why water filter companies undergo 3rd party certifications from organizations like National Sanitation Foundation (NSF)

Any water filter company that wants to get their product "certified" must: 

  • Pay the certification agency to test that the product meets the specifications of the test protocol (more on this below).
  • Pay for project management, site visits, and listing fees to "maintain" the certification.   

In addition to strengthening their marking claims, there are business reasons why water filter companies elect to pay the high cost of obtaining certifications instead of demonstrating that their product works through independent laboratories.  For example, certain government entities require that products carry specific certifications to back marketing claims, and often times carrying these certifications opens up the door to large-scale government procurement (the City of Newark purchased over 35,000 of these filters for their citizens).  

NSF/ANSI Standard 53 Test Protocol For Lead Removal

A lot of the people we talk to are surprised to learn that the criteria used to performance test water filters is standardized and, and may not apply to their water.

In the case of “NSF certified” filters for lead removal, the filter must reduce lead from 150 parts per billion to a certain level in room temperature water that is free of other of harmful contaminants. These tests are run at 2 different pH values (6.5 & 8.5), for the manufacturer-specified lifetime of the filter (in gallons), at a manufacturer-specified flow rate (in gallons per minute).

Water filter companies don’t get extra points for: reducing lead to undetectable levels, being able to handle higher lead concentrations, performance in the presence of other metals, having consistent performance across the entire gallon capacity, operating at higher flow rates, or performing tests at different pH values. In the eyes of certification bodies, filters either meet the performance specification or they don't.

Understanding the framework of "certification" is important in understanding why products that are certified to remove lead can fail under real-world conditions. 

Newark's Water May Not Be Well Represented by Product Testing Procedure

As we discussed earlier, “certified” filters undergo a standardized testing protocol in a controlled laboratory environment.  Unfortunately, controlled laboratory studies don't always match the real-world conditions found in customer's homes.

For example, the filter's real-world performance can break down if:

  • The water’s initial lead levels are above 150 parts per billion
  • The filter was flowing at a faster flow rate than specified
  • The temperature of the water is different than the test protocol
  • If other contaminants are present in the water that consume the lead removal media

The End User May Have Used the Filter Outside of Manufacturer's Specifications

Sometimes the consumer misunderstands how to read the manufacturer's specs.  For example, water filters are rated for a gallon capacity, which the manufacturers translate to an approximate filter lifetime, based on normal usage.  For example, a filter that is rated to handle 100 gallons of water with 150 ppb lead might have a 3 month estimated lifetime based on "normal use." However, if the end user passes 100 gallons of water through the filter in a single day, the capacity will be saturated in a day. During the Flint lead crisis, we learned that families were using a single filter to fill up large water jugs for bathing, because they thought that the water filter's expiration was time based, not a gallon capacity. Unfortunately, this practice saturated the filter with lead much more quickly than the estimated lifetime.

Poor Manufacturing QA/QC or Changes to the Filter

It's well-understood that quality control can suffer when manufacturing is transitioned to low-cost factories. If the cartridge manufacturing facility quietyly changed anything about the filter's construction, or there was a QA/QC lapse in production, the certification agencies may not catch the performance change until the next testing cycle (which is typically every 5 years). 

The Type of Filter Distributed by Newark Allows Users to Easily Operate the Filter out of Spec

One of the negative things “end of faucet” filters is that the user can easily run hot water through the filter. Manufacturers of these products issue guidance against it in their spec sheets, but people regularly ignore the warnings so they can have filtered hot water (or so they think). What isn’t necessarily obvious to the consumer is that hot water can impact the performance of a water filter because hot water typically has much higher lead and other heavy metal levels than cold water. This is due to a number of factors (e.g. residence time in hot water tanks, temperature dependence of metal leaching). If an unexpectedly high “slug” of heavy metals flowed through the cartridge, the lead removal media will become saturated faster than the gallon rating on the package.  Once the filter is saturated, it's useless. On top of this, hot water often has higher concentrations of bacterial and other particles that can “foul” a filter and negatively impact the performance. 

Takeaway Message 

Unfortunately, the filters in Newark are not performing to the levels that the customer (City and Citizens of Newark) was led to believe by the filter manufacturer. Hopefully, this event will prompt cities to independently test water filters before using public funds to purchase them.

Full Disclosure: Despite being critical of the “pay-to-play” nature of certification, Hydroviv's products are in the process of undergoing product certification by NSF. The decision to do so is purely a business decision (some governments require that products be NSF certified). The reality is that Hydroviv filters have always exceeded the performance requirements set by NSF/ANSI Standard 53. 

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

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

Eric Roy, Ph.D.  Scientific Founder

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.  

Related Articles:

Does New York City Tap Water Expose More People To Lead Than Flint?
Pittsburgh's Lead Level Exceeds EPA Limits In 2016
Why You Are Being Mislead By Your TDS Meter

Problems We Found With Chattanooga's Drinking Water

Analies Dyjak | Policy Nerd   

For Hydroviv’s assessment of Chattanooga, Tennessee’s drinking water quality, we collected water quality test data from the city’s Consumer Confidence Report and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. We cross referenced Chattanooga’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 Chattanooga’s drinking water.

Where Does Chattanooga Source Its Drinking Water?

Chattanooga sources its drinking water primarily from the Tennessee River. Water is treated at the Tennessee American Water Citico Water Treatment Plant before being distributed to the 177,000 residents of Chattanooga.

Disinfection Byproducts In Chattanooga’s Drinking Water

In recent years, Chattanooga has had a major problem with disinfection byproducts or DBPs. DBPs form when the chlorine-based disinfectants that are routinely added the water supply, react with organic matter. DBPs are split into two categories; Haloacetic Acids-5 (HAA5) and Total Trihalomethanes (TTHMs). Concentrations of TTHMs averaged 70 parts per billion, but were detected as high as 89.1 parts per billion in Chattanooga water. HAA5 concentrations averaged 41.8 parts per billion and reached levels as high as 51.4 parts per billion. For a bit of perspective, the EPA set a Maximum Contaminant Level of 60 parts per billion for HAA5 and 80 parts per billion for TTHMs. While Chattanooga's water quality is technically still in compliance, these levels are definitely high. Disinfection Byproducts are a category of emerging contaminants which means they have been detected in drinking water but the risk to human health is unknown. Regulatory agencies have very little knowledge about the adverse health effects of DBPs, and their toxicity.

Lead In Chattanooga’s Drinking Water

Lead enters tap water through old lead service pipes and lead-containing plumbing. 10% of sites that were tested for lead had concentrations over 2 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. However, this years lead levels in Chattanooga are relatively low compared to other major municipalities in the US.

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 Chattanooga’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.

Other Articles We Think You Might Enjoy:
Lead Contamination In Drinking Water 
Disinfection Byproducts In Drinking Water: What You Need To Know

Problems We Found In Milwaukee's Drinking Water

Analies Dyjak | Policy Nerd   

For Hydroviv’s assessment of Milwaukee, Wisconsin’s drinking water, we collected water quality test data from the city and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. We cross referenced their 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 Milwaukee’s drinking water.

Where Does Milwaukee Source Its Drinking Water?

Milwaukee sources its drinking water from Lake Michigan. This surface water source has had a long history of pollution, including recent lawsuits involving Chromium 6 releases from an abutting steel facility.  

Chromium 6 In Milwaukee’s Drinking Water

Chromium 6 is a highly toxic metal that is currently unregulated by the EPA. In recent years, Milwaukee has had a major problem with this dangerous contaminant. Chromium 6 pollution is associated with metal processing, tannery facilities, chromate production, stainless steel welding, and pigment production. This years water quality report for Milwaukee detected levels of Chromium 6 as high as 0.2 parts per billion. This concentration is 10 times higher than the concentration determined to have a negligible impact on cancer risk. EPA has acknowledged that Chromium 6 is a known human carcinogen through inhalation, but is still determining its cancer potential through ingestion of drinking water. Lung, nasal and sinus cancers are associated with Chromium 6 exposure. Ingestion of extremely high doses of chromium 6 compounds can cause acute respiratory disease, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, hematological, hepatic, renal, and neurological distress which may result in death.

Lead In Milwaukee's Drinking Water 

In recent years, Milwaukee has had a problem with lead in drinking water. Lead enters tap water through old lead service pipes and lead-containing plumbing. 10% of sites that were tested for lead had concentrations over 7.2 parts per billion. The highest concentration detected in 2017 was 130 parts per billion, which is a whopping 8.6 times higher that the Federal Action Level of 15 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. These health and regulatory organizations are trying to reduce the allowable limit to 1 part per billion, so a concentration of 130 parts per billion is of serious concern. Additionally, these measurements may not be a true indication of your tap water if your home has lead plumbing or lead fixtures. Treated water leaving the plant may be in compliance with loose EPA standards, but could become contaminated once it enters older infrastructure. Houses built before 1986 were most likely built with lead plumbing and lead fixtures. Lead exposure can cause developmental issues, lowered IQ, and damages to the kidneys and brain.

Perfluorinated Compounds In Milwaukee's Drinking Water 

This years water quality report for Milwaukee included test data from six Perfluorinated Compounds (PFCs). Perfluorinated Compounds are associated with firefighting foam, non-stick cookware, Scotchguard and other solvents from manufacturing. The two PFCs that are the most well known and the most researched are Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) which was detected at 2.1 parts per trillion and Perfluorooctane-sulfonic acid (PFOS) which was detected at 2 parts per trillion. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry recently recommended setting a Minimum Risk Level of 20 parts per trillion for both of these chemicals. These data are preliminary and the effects to human health are still unknown. This category of chemicals are “emerging contaminants” which means they are thought to pose a potential threat to human health and the environment, but haven't yet been regulated. Perfluorinated Compounds contribute to environmental contamination largely due to the fact that they are highly resistant to degradation processes, and thus persist for many years in water, air and can enter the food chain via bioaccumulation in certain animal species.

Chloramine In Norman’s Drinking Water

While most municipalities use chlorine as the primary drinking water disinfectant, Milwaukee’s drinking water is disinfected with chloramine. Chloramine is primarily responsible for what many customers report as the “bad taste” or “pool smell” of tap water. Unlike chlorine, chloramine does not dissipate if a container of water is left in the refrigerator overnight. Most one-size-fits-all water filters use filtration media that doesn’t do a great job removing chloramine, but the filters that we design and build at Hydroviv for Milwaukee use a special filtration media that is purposefully designed to remove chloramine.

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 Milwaukee’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.

Other Articles We Think You Might Enjoy:
Lead Contamination In Drinking Water 
5 Things To Know About Chromium 6 In Drinking Water
Perfluorinated Compounds In Drinking Water

 

Problems We Found With Orono/Veazie's Drinking Water

Analies Dyjak | Policy Nerd   

For Hydroviv’s assessment of drinking water quality in Orono, Maine, we collected water quality test data from the most recent Consumer Confidence Report and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. We cross referenced 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 both Orono and Veazie drinking water.

Where Does Orono Source Its Drinking Water?

Orono and Veazie source its drinking water from four groundwater wells located just off of Bennoch Road. Orono-Veazie Water District treats its drinking water with chlorine, fluoride, and sodium hydroxide.

Lead In Orono/Veazie Drinking Water

In recent years, both municipalities have had a major problem with Orono-Veazie water quality, including lead in drinking water. Lead enters tap water through old lead service pipes and lead-containing plumbing. 10% of sites that were tested for lead had concentrations over 3.7 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. Treated water leaving the plant may be in compliance with the loose EPA threshold of 15 parts per billion, but could become contaminated once exposed to older infrastructure. Additionally, municipalities are only required to test a handful of homes every few years, so the levels reported in the most recent annual water quality report might not reflect the lead levels in your tap water. Houses built before 1986 were most likely built with lead plumbing and lead fixtures. This is a huge problem for water quality in Orono, Maine because lead exposure can cause developmental issues, lowered IQ, and damages to the kidneys and brain. Orono has historically had high levels of lead in drinking water. For example, in 2012, 10% of samples tested for lead had concentrations over 13 parts per billion.

Disinfection Byproducts In Orono/Veazie Drinking Water

Orono/Veazie municipal water is contaminated with disinfection byproducts or DBPs. DBPs are formed when the chlorine-based disinfectants that are routinely added to the water supply, react with organic material. They are split into two categories: Total Trihalomethanes (TTHMs) and Haloacetic Acids-5 (HAA5). Water samples were collected and tested for DBPs from 1215 State Street and the University of Maine Student Union. Concentrations of HAA5 averaged 9 parts per billion at the State Street location and 33 parts per billion at the UMaine Student Union. Concentrations of TTHMs averaged 64 parts per billion at the State Street location and 36 parts per billion at the UMaine. For a bit of perspective, EPA’s Maximum Contaminant Level is 60 parts per billion for HAA5 and 80 parts per billion for TTHMs. Disinfection Byproducts are a category of emerging contaminants which means they have been detected in drinking water but the risk to human health is unknown. 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.

It’s important to note that only a handful of contaminants are required to be included in annual Water Quality 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 Orono-Veazie 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.

Other Articles We Think You Might Enjoy:
Lead Contamination In Drinking Water 
Disinfection Byproducts In Drinking Water: What You Need To Know

Problems We Found In Chattanooga's Drinking Water

Analies Dyjak | Policy Nerd

For Hydroviv’s assessment of Chattanooga, Tennessee’s drinking water, we collected water quality test data from the city’s Consumer Confidence Report and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. We cross referenced Chattanooga’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 Chattanooga’s drinking water.

Where Does Chattanooga Source Its Drinking Water?

Chattanooga sources its drinking water primarily from the Tennessee River. Chattanooga's tap water is treated at the Tennessee American Water Citico Water Treatment Plant before being distributed to over 177,000 people in Chattanooga.

Disinfection Byproducts In Chattanooga’s Drinking Water

In recent years, Chattanooga's water quality has had a major problem with disinfection byproducts or DBPs. DBPs form when chlorine-based disinfectants that are routinely added to treat incoming water, react with organic matter. DBPs are split into two categories; Haloacetic Acids-5 (HAA5) and Total Trihalomethanes (TTHMs). Concentrations of TTHMs averaged 70 parts per billion, but were detected as high as 89.1 parts per billion in Chattanooga water. HAA5 concentrations averaged 41.8 parts per billion and reached levels as high as 51.4 parts per billion. For a bit of perspective, EPA's Maximum Contaminant Level for HAA5 is 60 parts per billion and 80 parts per billion for TTHMs. While technically still in compliance, these levels are definitely high. Disinfection Byproducts are a category of emerging contaminants which means they have been detected in drinking water but the risk to human health is unknown. Regulatory agencies have very little knowledge about the adverse health effects of DBPs, and their toxicity.

Lead In Chattanooga’s Drinking Water

Next is lead. Lead enters Chattanooga's tap water through old lead service pipes and lead-containing plumbing. 10% of sites that were tested for lead had concentrations over 2 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. While this years lead concentrations in Chattanooga are relatively low compared to other municipalities in the US, lead is a neurotoxin that can potentially be harmful at any concentration. 

 

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 Chattanooga’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.

Other Articles We Think You Might Enjoy:
Lead Contamination In Drinking Water 
Disinfection Byproducts In Drinking Water: What You Need To Know