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Problems We Found In Chattanooga's Drinking Water

Analies Dyjak @ Thursday, July 26, 2018 at 2:29 pm -0400

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

Orthophosphate and Lead Contamination in Drinking Water

Analies Dyjak @ Monday, October 1, 2018 at 1:10 pm -0400

Analies Dyjak  |  Policy Nerd

Lead contamination in drinking water is a huge problem for municipalities with an older infrastructure. Lead contamination occurs when water comes in contact with lead pipes. This article discusses a common additive used to combat lead pipe corrosion.

What is Orthophosphate?

Orthophosphate is a common corrosion inhibitor used by water suppliers to prevent lead pipes from leaching. When orthophosphate water treatment is added to a water source, it reacts with lead to create a mineral-like crust inside of the lead pipe. This crust acts as a coating which prevents further lead corrosion. The use of orthophosphate treatment in drinking water became popularized in 2001, during the lead crisis in Washington, D.C. Lead contamination in many cities including D.C. and Flint, occurs when a city’s water becomes more corrosive, which can allow for lead from pipes to leach into the drinking water supply. When the lead problem initially occurred, cities such as Flint, Michigan, Durham and Greenville, North Carolina, and Jackson, Mississippi didn’t learn from D.C’s mistakes and all had lead outbreaks. 

Does Orthophosphate Fix Lead Contamination?

It certainly can. Once the protective layer is formed, cities can find that lead concentrations in the water drop by 90%. However, Orthophosphate is somewhat of a bandaid to temporarily fix the presence of lead in drinking water. For example, if the protective layer is corroded away or otherwise disturbed (e.g. in the case of a partial service line replacement or the water’s corrosivity changes), lead can leach back into the water. Finally, not all municipalities are adding orthophosphate to drinking water because of its cost. If you have any questions regarding lead prevention in drinking water, send us an email at hello@hydroviv.com.

Other Articles We Think You Might Enjoy:
Lead In Drinking Water: What You Need To Know
Lead and Copper Rule
Things To Know Before Replacing Your Home's Lead Service Pipes

Problems We Found In Baltimore's Drinking Water

Analies Dyjak @ Monday, July 23, 2018 at 1:19 pm -0400

Analies Dyjak  |  Policy Nerd

For Hydroviv’s assessment of Baltimore, Maryland’s drinking water, we collected water quality test data from the city’s website 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 Baltimore’s drinking water.

Where Does Baltimore Source Its Drinking Water?

Baltimore sources its drinking water from various city-owned reservoirs including: Liberty, Loch Raven and Prettyboy. Recharge of the surface water accumulates from rainfall and snowmelt that travels through surrounding watersheds.

Lead In Baltimore's Drinking Water 

In recent years, Baltimore 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 5 parts per billion. Additionally, two samples exceeded the federal Action Level of 15 parts per billion. The City of Baltimore didn’t disclose the number of sites that were sampled for lead, so the small sampling group may not be representative of the actual scope of the lead problem in Baltimore. Environmental Protection Agency, Center for Disease Control, and American Academy of Pediatrics all recognize that there is no safe level of lead for children. 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.

Disinfection Byproducts In Baltimore's Drinking Water 

This years water quality report detected very high concentrations of Disinfection Byproducts (DBPs) in Baltimore’s drinking water. Concentrations were detected as high as 107 parts per billion, and averaged 69 parts per billion for Total Trihalomethanes (TTHMs). Haloacetic Acids-5 concentrations were as high as 60 parts per billion and averaged 49 parts per billion. 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. DBPs are formed when chlorine or chloramine-based disinfectants are routinely added to the water supply to kill bacteria. DBPs are split into two categories: TTHMs which has a Maximum Contaminant Level of 80 parts per billion and HAA5 which has a Maximum Contaminant Level of 60 parts per billion. 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 Baltimore's tap water problems, 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

Newark, NJ Lead Crisis: The New Flint

Analies Dyjak @ Wednesday, November 7, 2018 at 6:18 pm -0500

Analies Dyjak  |  Policy Nerd

Lead concentrations in Newark's drinking water have been in exceedance of the Federal Action Level since 2015. The largest city in New Jersey has struggled to keep lead concentrations under the 15 part per billion threshold ever since the standard was set in 1991. Recent sampling has detected staggering concentrations of lead in Newark's drinking water, ranging anywhere from 58 to 137 parts per billion. You may be wondering why Newark's water crisis has not been thrust into the national spotlight. While Flint, Michigan captured the nation’s attention, the lead crisis in Newark remains largely underreported.

Lead: Newark, New Jersey

It's no secret that older municipalities have problems with lead contamination in drinking water. This is in part due to an aging infrastructure, and Newark, New Jersey is no exception. The city of Newark supplies 80 million gallons of water per day to over 300,000 customers. The Pequannock Water Treatment Plant treats water from the Charlotteburg Reservoir and supplies water to Newark’s North, West, South, and Central Wards. The Wanaque Water Treatment Plant is operated by the North Jersey District Water Supply Commission, which supplies water to the East Ward and part of the North and Central Wards.

Misinformation 

Newark residents have repeatedly been ensured that their water is “safe to drink.” On page one of the most recent Consumer Confidence Report (CCR), the city’s mayor claimed that “the quality of our water meets all federal and state standards.” False. He continued to say that only “one or two” homes were in exceedance of the federal Action Level. Also false. The truth is that between January and June of 2017, 16 sites were in exceedance of the action level and from July to December 2017, 11 sites were in exceedance of the action level. Mayor Baraka defended his claims by saying that the source water is safe to drink. It's well understood that lead contamination occurs when water comes in contact with residential lead service lines, rather than when it leaves a treatment facility. The problem is most people stop reading once their city officials tell them their water doesn’t contain lead. In a perfect world, when a city official says something is "safe" you should trust and believe them. 

What Is A Safe Level Of Lead?

The American Academy of Pediatrics acknowledges that there is no safe level of lead for children. Again, a safe threshold does not exist. Childhood lead exposure can cause serious developmental problems that can manifest later in life. Adults may experience neurological and gastrointestinal effects, as well as an increased risk of miscarriages and stillbirths when exposed to high concentrations of lead. EPA set an Action Level of 15 parts per billion, but toxicologists agree that this federal threshold is far too high.

Current Treatment Techniques in Newark, NJ

The chemistry of the water entering the Pequannock treatment facility is very different than the water entering the Wanaque treatment facility. Because of this, both facilities have their own unique treatment plans. The two distribution systems use different corrosion control technologies for reducing lead: 

  • Pequannock: sodium silicate dose of 12-15 mg/L (goal of 6 mg/L)

  • Wanque: 1.2 mg/L of orthophosphate

**Orthophosphate is a common corrosion inhibitor. It forms a mineral-like crust on the inside of lead service pipes. In some cases, sodium silicate can decrease lead concentrations by increasing the pH of the water. When sodium silicate was initially added to Newark water, it was believed to effectively prevent corrosion. Research has since found that sodium silicate isn’t always effective.**

Newark’s History of Lead Contamination

Elevated Lead Concentrations From Pequannock Water Treatment Plant Data (1992-2018)

Parameter

1992

1998

2003

2006

2012

2015

2017 (1)

2017(2)

2018(1)

90th Percentile

26.8

12.3

12.2

9.5

9.7

15.8

29.8

36.0

22.9

Number of Samples (n)

137

103

28

25

24

25

75

117

90

Number of Samples >15 ppb

37

7

0

0

0

3

24

34

16

Percent >15&<25ppb

15.3%

6.8%

0%

0%

0%

12%

16%

6%

7.8%

Maximum ppb

60.4

23

14.2

11.5

14

25

137

77.7

58.9

CONCENTRATIONS OVER 15 PARTS PER BILLION IN RED 

Elevated Lead Concentrations From Wanaque Water Treatment Plant Sampling Data (1992-2018)

Parameter

1992

2002

2003

2012

2015

2017 (1)

2017(2)

2018(1)

90th Percentile

25.7

11.2

8.4

6.2

2

7.4

8.7

8.7

Number of Samples (n)

93

114

29<

27

27

46

67

49

Percent >15&<25ppb

12.9%

0%

0%

3.7%

0%

0%

0%

2%

Maximum ppb

49.4

14.9

12.3

19

37

84

46.1

182

CONCENTRATIONS OVER 15 PARTS PER BILLION IN RED

Questionable Sample Techniques:

As recent as September 10, 2018, Newark did not follow EPA sampling guidelines in accordance with the Lead and Copper Rule. Sampling occurred after a 6 to 12 hour stagnation period, which is compliant. Faucets were then flushed for 10 minutes before a 500 mL sample was collected. Under 40 CFR 141.86 (b), the proper sampling technique is to take a 1 liter “first-draw” sample. Even so, first-draw samples aren’t always an accurate indication of lead in drinking water.

Failure of Orthophosphate As A Corrosion Inhibitor

This is not the first time Orthophosphate has failed as a corrosion inhibitor. Madison, Wisconsin gave Orthophosphate a shot in hopes of reducing city-wide lead levels. Madison city officials stated that Orthophosphate didn’t work, causing the city to adopt an expensive full lead service line replacement program. Phosphates are known to pollute waterways by causing algae blooms, which is why the Pequannock Plant is unable to add it upstream of Cedar Grove.

Environmental Justice

46% of the population in Newark speak a non-English language (a CCR in multiple languages is not available on the city’s website). The fundamental purpose of a disclosure is to communicate information. If people are unable to understand the information, then it isn't disclosure. This is further extrapolated when citizens are led to believe a false narrative.

Major Takeaways

  1. City officials failed to adjust corrosion control techniques after current methods were found to be ineffective

  2. Because of the effects on waterways, Pequannock is unable to add orthophosphate to incoming source water

  3. The Lead and Copper Rule doesn’t hold municipalities accountable for lead infractions, nor does it allow for direct and immediate action

  4. Sodium Silicate has been adjusting the pH without preventing corrosion for decades

  5. Newark residents were continuously told that they didn't have a lead problem

Our Thoughts:

Addressing lead contamination at a system-wide level is not easy. We’ve seen this in Flint, Pittsburgh, Washington D.C., and Portland, Oregon (who won’t even admit that they have a lead problem). Simply put, 100 samples for a city of 300,000 is not enough, and 24 is unacceptable. Newark needs to work towards a greater level of transparency and accountability, but until then, consumers must protect themselves.

Other Articles We Think You Might Enjoy:
The Lead and Copper Rule
Does Your Home Have Lead Plumbing? Here's How To Tell
Lead In Schools: Flint, Michigan

Whole House Water Filters: Frequently Asked Questions

Water Nerds @ Sunday, July 17, 2016 at 8:20 pm -0400

We get a lot of questions from people about Whole House Filters. Because Hydroviv has a “Help No Matter What” mindset when it comes to technical support, we sometimes find ourselves helping our website's visitors evaluate products that we don’t sell!

Update: August 8, 2017: After over a year of R&D, we are thrilled to announce that we have launched a purpose-built whole house water filter to remove rotten egg smell from all of the water that enters your home!

What Is a Whole House Water Filter?

As the name suggests, whole house filters are installed on a home’s main water supply, so they process all water that comes into the house, including water used to flush toilets, do laundry, and water the lawn.

How Much Should I Expect To Pay For A Whole House Water Filter?

Systems marketed as whole home water filter systems can range in price from less than $100 to $10,000. Because the system is installed on the main water supply line, these systems typically require a licensed plumber for installation, which can add considerably to the overall system cost. Replacement cartridges can also be a significant cost for whole house filter systems. Because ALL incoming water is filtered by whole house systems, cartridges need to be replaced more frequently than if the same cartridge is used in a point of use application.

How Effective Are Whole House Water Filters?

Chemical Removal

With whole home water filters, you typically get what you pay for. Most whole house systems are designed to process large volumes of water for water softening and chlorine removal, and are not designed to remove things like chloramine, arsenic, disinfection byproducts, or lead. If you spend several thousand dollars on a high-end whole house system, pay to have it installed by a plumber, and replace the filtration media as prescribed, the system will probably perform as advertised. Just make sure that the system is designed to filter the chemicals you want removed... we have talked to people that have spent thousands on a whole house filter only to learn after the fact that it does not filter lead! On the other end of the price spectrum, most of the low cost whole house filters are only good for removing sediment from the water, and don't do a good job removing dissolved chemicals.  The other thing to keep in mind is that if you remove chlorine from your home's water at the point where it enters the home, you introduce the risk of bacteria growing in all pipes downstream of the filter, because the filter removes the disinfectant.

Flow Rate & Impact On Water Pressure

Another performance aspect to consider is the impact on your home's water pressure, because a whole house filter can act as a "choke point" for water delivery. You don't want to run into a situation where there isn't enough water pressure to take a shower because the dishwasher is running and someone is brushing their teeth. Be sure to take into account that the cartridges used in single stage whole house filters become clogged over time, and the water pressure can drop dramatically throughout the filter's lifetime. A good plumber is a very good resource for helping you calculate your home's water demand and thus plan for the right water filter for your main water supply.

How Good Are "General Purpose" Whole House Water Filters?

Simply put, it's not possible to build a whole home water filter that "filters everything bad" from your water on a whole house scale. For that level of filtration, you need to filter at the point of use (e.g. individual faucets- more on this below). However, there are some applications where whole house filtration makes sense. For example, we just launched a whole house water purifier that is purpose-built to remove sulfur (rotten egg smell) from water.

Hydroviv’s point of use filtration systems are designed to filter the water in your home used for drinking, washing food, cooking, and showering. By remaining focused on these applications (and ignoring the water used in toilets & washing machines), we are able offer consumers high-performance water filtration systems that cost less than the competition, and don’t require a plumber to install.

It's also important to point out that whole home water filters and point of use filters serve different purposes, but they can work well together. If you have a whole house filter that removes sulfur, it will take some pressure off your point of use system and extend its lifetime.

Where Can You Go For Advice On Whole House Water Filters?

If you’re considering a whole house system, feel free to take advantage of Hydroviv’s “Help No Matter What” mindset to technical support, and we can will do our best to help you find a system that suits your needs. We're happy to help!

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