Problems We Found In El Paso's Drinking Water
Analies Dyjak | Policy Nerd
For Hydroviv’s assessment of the city of El Paso’s drinking water issues, we aggregated water quality test data provided by El Paso Water, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and supplemental health information. We cross referenced the city’s water quality test 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 El Paso’s drinking water.
Where Does El Paso Source Its Drinking Water?
El Paso sources its drinking water from the Rio Grande, and the Mesilla Bolson and Hueco Bolson aquifers. This water is treated by the El Paso Water Distribution System.
Chromium 6 In El Paso's Drinking Water
El Paso’s drinking water has some of the highest levels of Chromium 6 among major cities in the U.S. Chromium 6 is a highly toxic metal that is currently unregulated by the EPA. In recent years, El Paso tap water has averaged 2400 parts per trillion for Chromium 6. This is 120 times higher than the concentration determined to have a negligible impact on cancer risk, as reported by the California Environmental Protection Agency. Chromium 6 pollution is associated with metal processing, tannery facilities, chromate production, stainless steel welding, and pigment production. The state of California set their own health advisory level because Chromium 6 is not regulated by the federal government. 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. Acute respiratory disease, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, hematological, hepatic, renal, and neurological distress are health effects associated with high levels of chromium 6 exposure.
Disinfection Byproducts In El Paso's Drinking Water
El Paso municipal water also detected high levels of Disinfection Byproducts or DBPs. Concentrations were detected as high as 99 parts per billion, which exceeds EPA’s Maximum Contaminant Level of 80 parts per billion for Total Trihalomethanes. Concentrations of Haloacetic Acids-5 were detected at levels as high as 41.9 parts per billion, which is in compliance with the loose EPA standard of 60 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-based disinfectants are routinely added to the water supply to kill bacteria. DBPs are split into two categories: Total Trihalomethanes (TTHMs) and Haloacetic Acids-5 (HAA5). 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.
Arsenic In El Paso's Drinking Water
Arsenic levels reported in the 2017 El Paso water quality report were barely in compliance with the loose EPA Maximum Contaminant Level of 10 parts per billion. The highest level detected in El Paso’s tap water was 9 parts per billion and the overall average was 4.2 parts per billion. Arsenic is a toxic substance that is linked to a long list of health problems in humans. For example, arsenic can cause skin, bladder, lung, liver and prostate cancers, as well as create non-cancerous problems with cardiovascular (heart/blood vessels), pulmonary (lungs), immune, neurological (brain), and endocrine (e.g. diabetes) systems. Arsenic naturally occurs in bedrock, and is not the result of industrial pollution. If you are serviced by a private well, we highly recommend purchasing a filter optimized to remove arsenic. Hydroviv recommends that anyone with more than 1 part per billion take steps to remove arsenic from their drinking water, especially if children are in the home.
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 El Paso’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 email@example.com.Other Articles We Think You Might Enjoy:
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Problems We Found In Providence, Rhode Island's Drinking Water
Analies Dyjak | Policy NerdFor Hydroviv’s assessment of Providence, Rhode Island’s drinking water problems, we collected water quality test data from Providence Water and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. We cross referenced the city’s water quality data with toxicity studies in scientific and medical literature. The water filters that we sell at Hydroviv are optimized to filter out contaminants that are found in Providence drinking water.
Where Does Providence Source Its Drinking Water?
Providence sources its drinking water from the Scituate Reservoir, which is located 15 miles east of the city. The Scituate Reservoir has tributaries that flow in and out of several other reservoirs including the Regulating, Barden, Ponaganset, Westconnaug, and Moswansicut reservoirs. The Providence Water system has approximately 1,040 miles of transmission and distribution mains.
Lead In Providence’s Drinking Water
Lead enters tap water through old lead service pipes and lead-containing plumbing. We were disturbed to find that Providence, Rhode Island is in exceedance with the federal Action Level of 15 parts per billion. 10% of the samples analyzed had lead concentrations over 17 parts per billion. Environmental Protection Agency, Center for Disease Control, and American Academy of Pediatrics all recognize that there is no safe level of lead for children between the ages of 0-5. These health and regulatory agencies are trying to lower the current standard of 15 parts per billion to 1 part per billion, so a concentration of 17 parts per billion is very concerning. To make matters worse, in a city of almost 200,000 people, only 348 homes were tested for lead in drinking water. 38 of the 348 homes that were tested for lead exceeded the federal Action Level. Municipalities are not required to list the data set or disclose the locations from which the samples were obtained. This being considered, the provided data may not be representative of the actual scope of the lead problem in Providence. Hydroviv strongly encourages Providence residents to take advantage of the city’s free lead testing program. Under this program, residents can pick up a free kit to test for lead in their drinking water at the Providence Water customer service location. For more information call 401-521-6303.
Disinfection Byproducts In Providence's Water
Providence Water detected significant levels of Disinfection Byproducts or DBPs in their drinking water. DBPs are split into two categories: Total Trihalomethanes (TTHMs) and Haloacetic Acids-5 (HAA5). Concentrations were detected as high as 82 parts per billion for TTHMs, which exceeds the loose EPA standard of 80 parts per billion for drinking water. DBPs are a category of emerging contaminants which means they have been detected in drinking water but the risk to human health is unknown. DBPs are formed when when chlorine based disinfectants are routinely added to the water supply to kill bacteria. Regulatory agencies have very little knowledge about the adverse health effects of DBPs and their toxicity. EPA has stated that they have been linked to an increased risk of bladder cancer, as well as kidney, liver, and central nervous system problems. Some disinfection byproducts have almost no toxicity, but others have been associated with cancer, reproductive problems, and developmental issues in laboratory animals. 200 million people in the United States use chlorinated tap water as their primary drinking source, so we take understanding their full health effects very seriously, even if federal agencies fail to regulate all categories.
It’s important to note that only a handful of contaminants are required to be included in annual Consumer Confidence Reports, and that there are hundreds of potentially harmful unregulated contaminants that aren’t accounted for. If you’re interested in learning more about water filters that have been optimized for Providence’s tap water quality, feel free to visit www.hydroviv.com to talk to a Water Nerd on our live chat feature or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.Other Articles We Think You Might Enjoy:
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What Is Backflow And How Did It Contaminate Corpus Christi Drinking Water With Indulin AA-86?
Eric Roy, Ph.D. | Scientific Founder
Today the City of Corpus Christi, TX alerted residents not to drink or bathe using tap water because a "backflow incident" had potentially contaminated the city's drinking water with Indulin AA-86, an emulsifier commonly used in the asphalt industry. As a result, we are getting a lot of questions about back-flow and Indulin AA-86 contamination from people in Corpus Christi, as well as the rest of the US.
What Is Backflow?
Backflow is a pretty simple concept. It simply means that the liquid in a plumbing line went in the opposite direction that it supposed to. In a residential setting, this happens if the pressure within the residential plumbing goes higher than the city's water pressure. This can happen if a water pump malfunctions, or if the city's water pressure unexpectedly drops (for example when a water main breaks). In an industrial setting, this typically happens as a result of operator error or when backflow devices are not installed properly.
When Is Backflow A Problem For Drinking Water?
Backflow becomes a problem when pipes used to transport drinkable water are connected to pipes that are carrying a solid, liquid, or gas that is not drinkable (also called a "cross-connection"). When backflow occurs, the non-drinkable substance flows into backwards into the potable water pipe, where it mixes with and contaminates the drinking water.
Difference between normal flow and backflow over a cross connection
What Is Indulin AA-86?
Indulin AA-86 is a trade name for an emulsifier commonly used in the asphalt industry. Because Indulin AA-86 is proprietary, the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) is not required to disclose the chemical composition, so we can only look at clues. The MSDS does categorize the formulation as having fatty amine derivatives, and another MSDS for Indulin AA-86 discloses that several state regulatory agencies (including California Prop. 65) list ethyl acrylate as an ingredient. From this information, and other parts of the MSDS, we can assume that the substance as a whole is relatively insoluble in water, but because the specific formulation is disclosed, we do not know how soluble (if at all) the different components of Indulin AA-86 are.
How Did Indulin AA-86 Contamination Get Into Corpus Christi's Water?
At the time that this article was published, the details are pretty scarce. Corpus Christi estimates that between 3 and 24 gallons of Indulin AA-86 were flowed into the drinking water system, and that's about it. We'll keep you posted as more is learned.
***Update On 12/16: The disclosure that hydrochloric acid was backflowed gives us a huge clue into what happened. The presence of hydrochloric acid strongly suggests that already mixed emulsion solution, not the pure Indulin AA-86 chemical was backflowed. Indulin AA-86 is prepared in a 0.3% solution to form an emulsion. Therefore, for 24 gallons of Indulin AA-86 would be diluted with water into to 8,000 gallons, a volume that is a standard storage/mixing tank size in the industry. If I had to speculate, someone backflowed a full 8,000 gallon tank of prepared emulsion into the freshwater line that is used to fill the tank.
If this is what happened, it's a bad thing, becasue a prepared emulsion will more readily mix with drinking water than the relatively insoluble Indulin AA-86 pure product.
What Now For Corpus Christi Residents?
As of the time of the publication, Corpus Christi is urging residents to drink, cook, and bathe with bottled water, while they learn more about the extent that the water supply has been contaminated.
NPDES Permits: What You Need To Know
Analies Dyjak | Hydroviv Policy Analyst
While there’s a lot of debate on what should and shouldn’t be regulated in terms of chemical discharge by companies, we thought that it would be interesting to show how regulations are used in the real-world. In this article, we talk about the permits that allow entities to discharge chemicals into sewers and waterways.
What Is An NPDES Permit?
The National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES)
Permits disclose which chemicals companies are allowed to discharge into waterways, and at what concentrations. The overall goal of a NPDES permit is to provide transparency between the polluter, the federal government and the public.
Who Needs To Get An NPDES Permit?
Any company, organization of private entity that has plans to discharge pollution from a point source into a United States waterway.
How Are NPDES Permits Granted & Distributed?
Technology-based and water quality based limitations are two criteria that are considered when issuing a permit. Technology-based limitations take into consideration the technology and economic ability of the polluters to control the discharge of pollutants from their facilities. Water quality-based limitations are meant to protect the body of water that the effluent is being discharged into.
Once a permitting authority or company completes a Notice of Intent (NOI) for a NPDES permit, it becomes available to the public via the Federal Register. Often local newspapers will publish a notice of the application and provide information regarding public comments.
Where Can I Find an Existing NPDES Permit?
Existing NPDES permits can be found in the General Permit Web Inventory section of the EPA’s website. Required information to search for a NPDES permit includes either the name of a state, permit number, or permitting authority.
What Should A NPDES Permit Include?
Information on each known contaminant must be included in a NPDES permit, whether it is regulated by the EPA or not.
Clear, concise, and consistent units. When a regulatory agency signs off on a NPDES permit without units, they’re essentially allowing a company to discharge a contaminant at any concentration.
Pertinent information that might affect concentration levels.
For example seasonal variance or increased turbidity.
A NPDES permit should also have information on monitoring such as location and frequency of sampling.
Why You Should Care About NPDES Permitting
Public participation has the ability to prolong the issuing process and can cause a company to alter their plans for dealing with chemical discharge. If you have questions regarding a NPDES permit in your area, don’t hesitate to address your concerns during the required public comment period. Be vigilant in assessing every component of the water discharge permit!
Want To Learn More About NPDES Permits And Water Policy?
Feel free to reach out to our Water Nerds through live chat or email (email@example.com). We're happy to help you out!
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Chicago's Drinking Water: Problems From Source to Tap
Eric Roy, Ph.D. | Scientific Founder
With water quality in the national spotlight, we get a lot of questions about water quality in major US cities. When Hydroviv optimizes a filter for a city's water, we look at a number of factors. This Chicago drinking water quality report gives a quick look at some of the things that went into our assessment, as well as some advice for people who choose not to use a filter in their home. **** We updated this article in March 2017 to add some information about chromium 6***
Chicago’s Water Source: Lake Michigan
Chicago draws its drinking water from Lake Michigan, a body of water that has been historically plagued with problems caused by industrial polluters. According to the most recent available Source Water Assessment prepared by the Illinois EPA, all 63 miles of shoreline were flagged as “Threatened”, because phenols (associated with industrial wastes from coal distillation and chemical manufacturing) were present at concentrations in excess of the allowable limit. Furthermore, a 2016 report prepared by the Illinois EPA categorizes 10 beach segments and several rivers that flow into Lake Michigan as “impaired” (according to Section 303(d) of the Clean Water Act), due to high concentrations of mercury, polychlorinated biphenyls, pesticides, herbicides, and other industrial chemicals like chromium 6. In addition to direct human inputs that impact water quality of Lake Michigan, biomass decomposition in the sediments often generates chemicals that make the water taste and smell bad.
How High Are Chromium 6 Levels In Chicago?
Between 2013-2015, Chicago reported that chromium 6 concentrations were, on average, 190 parts per trillion. Although chromium 6 is not regulated by EPA, the levels reported in Chicago's tap water are roughly 20 times higher than what is considered to be negligible risk.
Does Chicago’s Aging Infrastructure Contaminate Tap Water With Lead?
As most people are now aware, lead can accumulate in tap water that flows through lead-containing pipes, soldered joints, and plumbing fixtures. In Chicago, about 80% of water service lines city-wide are made of lead, so a large portion of the population should consider taking steps to ensure their family's safety.
Several investigative reports by large media outlets have been highly critical of Chicago’s lead testing program. The Chicago Tribune reported that many of the sites selected for lead testing were strategically selected because they are in areas with low risk for lead contamination, often at the homes of current and former water department. The City argued that recruiting water department employees to collect samples would would ensure that samples were properly collected. However, in a different story, published by The Guardian, Chicago city employees were criticized for using sampling “cheats” that make lead concentration seem lower than they really are.
In Chicago, only about 50 samples every 3 years are collected from homes and tested for lead citywide (most recently in 2015). In the 2015 Consumer Confidence Report (CCR) published by the city, 3 out of 50 sampling sites had lead levels that were over the 15 part per billion (ppb) EPA Action Level, and 10 percent of samples had lead concentrations over 9 ppb. While these data indicate that the city as a whole is in compliance with federal regulations, the EPA, CDC, and World Health Organization all agree that there is no such thing as a safe amount of lead exposure for children, so households with children should either get their water tested, or take steps to prevent exposure.
How Chicago Residents Can Minimize Chromium 6 & Lead Exposure
Chromium 6Unlike lead, which comes from lead-containing pipes, solder, valves, and fixtures, chromium 6 contamination comes from the water source itself. Therefore the only way to remove it from water is by using a high quality filter. We are partial to the technology that we use in our system, but reverse osmosis will also work.
The City of Chicago officially recommends that residents take measures to reduce their exposure to lead in water used for drinking, cooking, and preparing infant formula:
- Allow water to run for at least 5 minutes before using it for drinking or cooking
- Only operate the faucet at moderate flow when collecting water for drinking, cooking, and preparing infant formula. This practice reduces the likelihood that lead-containing particles are swept into the water as it flows through the pipes.
- Never use water from the hot water tap for drinking, cooking or preparing infant formula
- Regularly remove and clean out their faucet aerator, because lead-containing particles can become trapped in the mesh and leach lead into the water as it flow through.
Hydroviv advises Chicago residents who choose not to filter their water for lead to take advantage of the city-sponsored lead testing program, where people can request a free test kit by calling 311.
As always, we encourage everyone to take advantage of Hydroviv's "Help No Matter What" technical support policy, where we answer questions related to Chicago's water pollution, drinking water, and water filtration, even if you have no desire to purchase our products. Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
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The Ins And Outs Of Drinking Water Regulation
Analies Dyjak | Policy Nerd
As emerging contaminants like GenX, PFOA, and PFOS have been popping up in news headlines all over the country, there has been some confusion as to how these unregulated contaminants are addressed at the federal level. While it may seem like the Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule is in place to protect people from any and all emerging contaminants, it is not a hard and fast rule designed to expedite regulation -- rather, it is a lengthy process that unfortunately has not resulted in many real-world changes. This article discusses aspects of the Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule that may surprise you, and explains how drinking water contaminants become regulated in the United States.
What Is The Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule?
The Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR) was created as a part of the 1996 Amendments of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). SDWA regulates all public drinking water systems throughout the United States. It establishes National Primary Drinking Water Regulations for 90 contaminants, which are known as Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs). UCMR is the process that EPA uses to regulate contaminants. However, it has ultimately failed to create meaningful changes in water quality regulation.
How Are Drinking Water Contaminants Regulated In The United States?
Under the Safe Drinking Water Act, EPA typically follows a specific process when determining whether to regulate certain contaminants. Every 5 years, EPA publishes a list of 30 contaminants under the UCMR called the Contaminant Candidate List (CCL). Contaminants on this list are not regulated by National Primary Drinking Water Regulations, but are most likely present in public drinking water systems. These contaminants are placed on the list because they pose the greatest public health risk through ingestion of drinking water. EPA’s job is to whittle down the list of 30 to a handful of priority contaminants. Of that group of priority contaminants, EPA must make a regulatory determination for at least 5. EPA can choose to regulate all, some, or none of these contaminants.
What Is The Criteria For UCMR Regulatory Determination?
EPA must determine that the contaminant does/does not cause adverse health effects in humans.
EPA must determine if the contaminant will be present in public drinking water systems at an unsafe concentration.
EPA Administrator must determine if regulating the contaminant will reduce adverse health effects in humans.
Does A Contaminant Have To Be On The CCL To Become Regulated?
No. EPA is not limited to regulating contaminants that are on the current CCL. EPA can consider other contaminants if they present a serious public health concern in drinking water.
Does the Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule Set Drinking Water Standards?
No. UCMR/CCL contaminants are not subject to regulation. As a part of the UCMR program, EPA establishes Minimum Reporting Levels (MRLs) for each contaminant. National Water Quality Laboratory defines MRLs as ”the smallest measured concentration of a substance that can be reliably measured by using a given analytical method.” MRLs are not to be confused with Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs), which are enforceable regulatory thresholds for drinking water contamination.
How Are Contaminants Added To The Contaminant Candidate List?
In order for a contaminant to be considered for the EPA UCMR, it must be registered in the United States and have an analytical reference standard. The National Drinking Water Advisory Council and National Academy of Sciences are instrumental in determining which contaminants should be added to the list. After UCMR 2, EPA allowed for public participation in the CCL decision making process. Additionally, a contaminant can be added to multiple CCLs. For example, Perchlorate was on CCL 1, CCL 2, and CCL 3 before it was regulated.
Common Contaminants Considered Under The Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule
The Third Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR 3) was published in May of 2012, and it included two chemicals that you might be familiar with. Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) and Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) were both on Contaminant Candidate List 3. Both of these contaminants fall under a broad category of contaminants called PFAS, which are found in heat resistant and non-stick products such as Scotchguard, Teflon, and fire fighting foam. Unfortunately, neither PFOS or PFOA made it to the Regulatory Determination Assessment Phase, and both were removed from regulatory consideration.
What Is The Contaminant Candidate List?
The Fourth Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR 4) is the current batch of contaminants that’s under consideration for a regulatory determination. It was published in December of 2016, and includes nine cyanotoxins, two metals, nine pesticides, three disinfection byproducts, three alcohols, and three semivolatile organic chemicals.
While the 1996 Safe Drinking Water Act Amendments provided regulatory due diligence, they also created an unbearably extensive review process. Industrial manufacturing companies are unrestricted when it comes to developing new products, and chemicals pushed to the market are essentially “safe” until proven otherwise. This sort of regulatory approach comes at a serious cost to human health. Chromium 6 is the best example of the flawed regulatory framework for drinking water. The 2000 blockbuster movie “Erin Brockovich” discussed the dangerous toxicity of Chromium 6 and it still isn’t regulated, nor does it appear on the most recent Contaminant Candidate List (CCL 4). The most important takeaway from the EPA UCMR is that once a new CCL is published, the contaminants on the old list don’t just go away. Millions of Americans are forced to deal with adverse health effects because “scientific uncertainty” didn’t allow for regulation. This regulatory framework can't keep up with the thousands of new contaminants that are currently present in the environment.Other Articles We Think You Might Enjoy:
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