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Problems We Found With Milwaukee's Drinking Water



Analies Dyjak | Policy Nerd   

For Hydroviv’s assessment of the city 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. Lake Michigan has had a long history of pollution, including a recent lawsuit 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, the city of Milwaukee's water 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 found levels of Chromium 6 as high as 0.25 parts per billion. These levels are 12.5 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, the city of Milwaukee has also had a problem with lead in drinking water. Lead enters Milwaukee's 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, so a concentration of 130 parts per billion is of serious concern. 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 substances. 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 Milwaukee’s Drinking Water

While most municipalities use chlorine as the primary drinking water disinfectant, Milwaukee’s drinking and tap 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 the city of 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.

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Problems We Found In Louisville, Kentucky Drinking Water

Ernesto Esquivel | Water Nerd   
Updated August 2, 2019 to include current data

For Hydroviv’s assessment of Louisville, Kentucky’s tap and drinking water problems, we collected water quality test data from Louisville and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. We cross referenced Louisville 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 Louisville’s drinking water.


Where Does Louisville Source Its Drinking Water?

Louisville sources its drinking water from the Ohio River. The utility provider, Louisville Water, treats and distributes drinking water to the metropolitan area as well as surrounding counties, including; Bullitt, Hardin, Nelson, Oldham, Shelby, and Spencer.

Lead In Louisville’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 4.7 parts per billion, and the highest level collected was 10.2 parts per billion. The City of Louisville only received data from 50 residential taps, so the small data set may not be representative of the actual scope of the lead problem. 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, once water hits lead plumbing and lead fixtures, these measurements will increase significantly. Houses built before 1986 were most likely built with these types of fixtures. Lead exposure can cause developmental issues, lowered IQ, and damages to the kidneys and brain.

Disinfection Byproducts In Louisville’s Drinking Water

DBPs are formed when chlorine or chloramine-based disinfectants are routinely added to the water supply to kill bacteria. EPA regulates two categories or DBPs: Total Trihalomethanes (TTHMs) and Haloacetic Acids-5 (HAA5). Concentrations of HAA5 averaged 27.3 parts per billion and reached levels as high as 46.1 parts per billion. The EPA Maximum Contaminant Level for this compound is 60 parts per billion. Concentrations of TTHMs averaged 27.8 parts per billion, but reached levels as high as 39.8 parts per billion. EPA’s Maximum Contaminant Level is 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. Health and regulatory agencies have very little knowledge about the adverse health effects of DBPs, and their toxicity potential. EPA has stated that they have been linked to an increased risk of various types of cancers and problems with the central nervous system.

Chloramine In Louisville’s Drinking Water

Louisville disinfects its drinking water with chloramine, which is a disinfectant similar to chlorine. Chloramine is primarily responsible for what many Louisville customers report as the “bad taste” or “pool smell” of tap water. 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 Louisville 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 Louisville’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:
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Lead: What You Need To Know About This Toxic Heavy Metal With A Long History

**Updated 10/17/18 to include video**

Wendy Spicer, M.S.  |  Scientific Contributor   

Where Do I Find Lead?

Lead is a common ingredient in paints, gasoline, ceramic products, caulking, and pipe solder.  Most commonly, lead is used in the production of lead-acid batteries, ammunition, metal products (solder and pipes), and x-ray shielding. An estimated 1.52 million metric tons of lead were used for various industrial applications in the United States in 2004. The majority of that tonnage (83%) was used for lead-acid battery production.

While useful, lead is highly toxic. Federal, state, and local governments have worked to reduce the use of lead in many products over the past 40 years. Lead screening programs have helped to both prevent and treat exposed individuals.  Despite making great progress to create awareness of the dangers of lead exposure, roughly 25% of households in the United States with children under the age of six contain significant amounts of lead-contaminated paint, dust, or soil.

How Are People Exposed To Lead?

Exposure to lead occurs mainly via inhalation of lead-contaminated dust particles or aerosols and ingestion of lead-contaminated food, water, and paints. Adults absorb 35-50% of lead intake through contamination in drinking water and the absorption rate for children is potentially even greater.

Factors like age and physiological status increase the likelihood of absorption. In the human body, the greatest amount of lead is in our bones. Lead is also absorbed by soft tissue organs like the kidneys, liver, heart, and brain. The nervous system is very susceptible to lead poisoning. Prolonged lead exposure can cause headaches, poor attention span, irritability, memory loss, and apathy. Lead exposure is especially harmful to infants, fetuses, and children due to the developing nature of their brains.

What Are Adverse Health Effects Of Lead Poisoning?

Unfortunately, lead poisoning remains a common pediatric health problem in the United States. Pregnant mothers exposed to lead can transfer this heavy metal to their developing fetus.

The effects of lead exposure in children include, but are not limited to:

  • Lower IQ
  • Delayed or impaired neurological development
  • Decreased hearing, speech and language disabilities
  • Poor attention span, learning disabilities, and anti-social behaviors

Adults exposed to lead may experience gastrointestinal diseases and/or damage to the cardiovascular system, reproductive system, brain, kidneys, and liver.

One of the mechanisms by which lead induces toxicity in the body is that it essentially mimics other metals like calcium, leading to interference with many major biochemical processes. This interference can also inhibit enzyme activity, and cause cellular damage. It can often cause problems with bones, replacing calcium. Studies have shown that lead might also induce renal tumors in rodents, and is likely carcinogenic to humans as well.

How Can I Avoid/Minimize Lead Exposure?

From Lead Paint & Contaminated Soil

  • Keep your home well-maintained. If your home has lead-based paint, check regularly for peeling paint and fix problems promptly. Avoiding sanding lead paint, which makes lead airborne. If in doubt, hire a company with experience removing lead-based paints from homes
  • Wash hands and toys which may have come into contact surfaces or soil containing lead
  • Prevent children from playing on bare soil. Provide them with a sandbox that's covered when not in use. Plant grass or cover bare soil with mulch
  • Remove shoes before entering the house. This will help keep lead-based soil outside

From Contaminated Drinking Water

Hydroviv makes it our business to make your water safe. As always, feel free to take advantage of our “help no matter what” approach to technical support!  Our water nerds will work to answer your questions, even if you have no intention of purchasing one of our water filters.  Reach out about information regarding lead in water or any other topic by dropping us an email (hello@hydroviv.com) or through our live chat. You can also engage with us on Twitter or Facebook!

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Does New York City's Tap Water Have a Lead Problem?

Updated August 14, 2019 to include current data

New York City’s Tap Water provides municipal tap water for more than half the population of New York, through an impressive network of 19 reservoirs and 3 lakes. Even though New York City’s tap water is widely recognized in the water industry as the “Gold Standard” for urban water providers (it’s truly an engineering feat on an unimaginable scale), the older infrastructure (pipes, plumbing, service lines) found in New York City itself present a risk of lead contamination once the water reaches the city’s distribution system. This lead level risk is higher for older buildings (where pre-1986 plumbing is found) and in multi-level complexes in NYC, because water accumulates lead while it sits in pipes. 

 Compiled Lead Test Results New York City Tap Water

(EPA Action Level = 15 ppb)

Lead In New York City Tap Water

This table shows compiled data (aggregated from city reports) for NYC drinking water samples collected from customers’ faucets during the years 2007 through 2015. In all years, a meaningful percentage of the samples tested for lead were above the 15 ppb threshold set by US EPA, with some samples being recorded at upwards of 400 times that. It’s important to point out that despite the high lead levels, 2010 was the only year where NYC was in violation of EPA’s Lead and Copper Rule, because it was the only year where more than 10% of samples exceeded the 15 ppb threshold. According to the most recent report published in June of 2019, the 90th percentile was 11ppb. While the lead levels in NYC water seen in the other years are in compliance with federal regulations, the EPA, CDC, and the American Academy of Pediatrics all agree that there is no safe amount of lead for children.

How To Minimize Lead Exposure If You Live In New York City:

If residents in New York don't use a drinking water filter that removes lead, there are ways to minimize exposure:

  • Allow water to run for at least 2 minutes before collecting water for consumption (drinking/cooking). Doing so allows the water that is sitting in the pipes to flush out and be replaced by fresh water flowing through the large mains.  
  • Only run the faucet at a moderate rate when collecting water for consumption. Doing so minimizes the amount of lead particulates that can be swept into the water stream.
  • Regularly remove the aerator grid on the faucet to keep lead-containing particles from building up and releasing lead into flowing water.
  • Never drink or cook using NYC drinking water from the hot water faucet.  

Hydroviv strongly advises NYC residents to take advantage of the free lead testing program if they choose not to filter their water. Under this program, people can request a free kit to test for lead in their drinking water by calling New York City’s 24-hour helpline at 311 or visiting www.nyc.gov/apps/311.

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

Other Great Articles That We Think You'll Enjoy:

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Is Bottled Water Safer Than Tap Water?

Is Bottled Water Safer Than Tap Water?

Analies Dyjak | Policy Nerd   

People often purchase bottled water under the assumption that it’s much safer than what’s coming out of their tap. Marketing schemes lead consumers to believe that large corporations bottle and distribute only the purest water from crystal clear springs. The reality is that bottled water isn’t as safe as people are led to believe. This article discusses the regulatory, environmental, and ethical dilemmas associated with bottled water.

How Is Bottled Water Regulated In The United States?

The Food and Drug Administration regulates bottled water, and the Environmental Protection Agency regulates tap water. People are often surprised to find out that the drinking water standards for both of these agencies are nearly the same. Under the Safe Drinking Water Act, certain chemicals must meet allowable limits that can enter drinking water. This list of allowable contaminants and their concentrations are identical for bottled and tap water, with the exception of lead. FDA regulates lead more stringently because companies shouldn’t ever have a reason to use lead infrastructure in the bottling process. But still, there is an allowable level of lead in bottled water of 5 parts per billion. EPA, CDC, American Academy of Pediatrics and other health organizations have all acknowledged that there is no safe level of lead for children. FDA must follow their own monitoring guidelines, which are often much more lax than EPA’s for municipal tap water.

Where Does Bottled Water Come From?

A lot of bottled water companies are deceptive as to where they actually source their water. Companies are legally allowed to draw water from artesian wells, mineral water, natural springs, drilled wells, and municipal tap water. That’s correct. Bottled water companies are allowed to use the same treated water as municipal water systems. Additionally, companies are not legally required to disclose where they source their water on the bottle itself. Municipal water systems are actually much more transparent because they’re required to disclose information about source water in annual consumer confidence reports. Depending on the brand, there’s of course a substantial cost associated with purchasing packaged water.

Environmental Effects of Plastic Water Bottles

“Trash Island” in the Northern Pacific Ocean is probably the best physical example of the environmental effects of plastic and plastic water bottles. 91% of plastic isn’t recycled, meaning a majority of virgin, single-use plastic ends up in landfills or the environment. According to a 2016 study by the Ellen Macarthur Foundation, the ocean will contain more plastic by weight than fish in the year 2050. The main ingredient in plastic bottles is polyethylene terephthalate (Pet) which takes 400 years to decompose in the environment. Once degraded, dangerous chemicals such as Bisphenol A (BPA), polyvinyl chloride and other phthalates can leach into the environment. Not to mention the important natural resources required to make plastic water bottles. Plastic is a product of petroleum, which is a non-renewable fossil fuel.

The Ethics of Bottled Water 

There’s also an ethical environmental dilemma associated with extracting water from a drought prone area, then selling it across the country or even world. Nestle owns aquifers in California which has been experiencing a serious drought in recent years. Because Nestle is able to purchase expensive deep drills that municipalities can’t even afford, they’re able to continue extracting water business as usual. Additionally, native american tribes are significantly affected by bottled water companies. Tribes enter lease agreements with companies that are often times violated. Even if they don’t have a legal agreement the same issues arise with the definition of “reasonable use” under the riparian law.

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Problems We Found With Biddeford/Saco Drinking Water

Analies Dyjak | Policy Nerd   

For Hydroviv’s assessment of Biddeford and Saco's water quality problems, we collected water quality test data and information from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. We also cross referenced city of Biddeford and Saco'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 Biddeford and Saco's drinking water.

Lead In Saco/Biddeford Drinking Water

Both Saco and Biddeford are older municipalities, so it's no surprise that both have problems with lead. 10% of sites tested for lead had concentrations over 4.8 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. Additionally, Maine Water only sampled 30 household taps for the entire Saco/Biddeford area and 3 of these sites exceeded 15 parts per billion. Lead exposure can cause developmental issues, lowered IQ, and damages to the kidneys and brain.

Disinfection Byproducts In Saco/Biddeford Drinking Water

Next is Disinfection Byproducts or DBPs. DBPs are formed when chlorine-based disinfectants that are routinely added to the water supply to kill bacteria, react with organic matter. Biddeford and Saco both had elevated levels of disinfection byproducts. According to the most recent report, concentrations of haloacetic acids ranged from 16 to 37 parts per billion. Concentrations of trihalomethanes ranged from 21 to 61 parts per billion. For a bit of perspective, EPA’s maximum contaminant level for haloacetic acids is 60 parts per billion and 80 parts per billion for trihalomethanes. Health and 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.

Other Articles We Think You Might Enjoy:
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