Water Quality Information | Written By Actual Experts — Washington DC
Does Your Home Have Lead Plumbing? Here's How To Tell
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|
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.
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:
- Use a high quality filter at each faucet used for drinking. Any filter should meet or exceed NSF Standard 53 for lead filtration performance.
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 email@example.com, or use our live chat function.
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Recap of the 2018 PFAS National Leadership Summit and Engagement
***Updated 5/30/2018 to include video
Analies Dyjak | Policy NerdScott Pruitt has finally decided to address a class of contaminants that Hydroviv has been tracking for years. The 2018 PFAS National Leadership Summit and Engagement began yesterday, May 22nd, at EPA headquarters here in Washington, D.C. The goal of the summit is to bring together states, tribes, and territories who have been adversely affected by Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS), a class of dangerous emerging contaminants. If you live in Wilmington, North Carolina or near Maplewood, Minnesota, you are probably very familiar with PFAS contamination. This class of chemicals was historically used in food packaging, Teflon, Scotchgard, fire fighting foam, and has now invaded many drinking water sources in the United States.
EPA PFAS Summit Recap
Pruitt sounded hopeful in his opening remarks on Tuesday. He stated that PFAS contamination is a “national priority” and that EPA is “developing groundwater cleanup recommendations.” He also announced that EPA is working to create a 4-step action plan. A major component of this plan is to set Maximum Contaminant Levels (or MCLs) that municipalities would be required to meet. MCLs are enforceable limits that are set as close to a “no risk” level as possible. Many states such as New Jersey, voiced their concerns on the lengthy time scale that it typically takes EPA to set drinking water standards. States have jurisdiction to create their own more stringent drinking water standards, but again, this is a lengthy and expensive process.
How Will PFAS Be Regulated?
The Safe Drinking Water Act only regulates public drinking water systems that supply at least 25 people at 15 service connections. Private well users will not be regulated by the proposed PFAS Maximum Contaminant Levels. It’s also important to mention that through the Safe Drinking Water Act, municipalities bare the burden of meeting these drinking water quality standards. Because PFAS contaminants are so complex, complete removal at the municipal level is impossible without spending a small fortune for advanced technology that may not even be effective. A representative from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), agreed that the toxicological profiles for various types of PFAS would be released as soon as possible. The same representative also stated that the minimal risk level for PFAS should be dropped to 12 parts-per-trillion instead of the current EPA health advisory level of 70 parts-per-trillion. Some scientists believe that even this threshold is still too high. The health director of the Natural Resources Defense Council recommends that PFAS standards should be set in the 4-10 parts- per-trillion range. These conflicting opinions demonstrate just how ambiguous water quality standards are in this country.
History of Drinking Water Regulations
Although one might be quick to point fingers at the current administration, Scott Pruitt isn’t completely to blame for weak water quality standards. In fact, none of the recent EPA administrators have seriously taken on water quality regulations. After the major environmental policy reform in the early 1970’s, there hasn’t been a real push to amend important statutes that protect waters of the US. Certain drinking water standards that were set in the 1970’s are still acting as the federal floor today. Drinking water regulations have been in a state of limbo ever since the 1996 Amendments of the Safe Drinking Water Act. These amendments, developed under the Clinton Administration, addressed important gaps in the original 1974 statute. Unfortunately, since the 1996 amendments, entirely new classes of harmful contaminants have become prominent in our nations’ waters. Emergent chemicals such as PFAS weren’t mentioned in the 1996 amendments because regulators were unaware of just how dangerous they would become to human health. Again, we cannot completely blame this current administration. The scientific community has known about PFAS-like compounds for decades and still minimal action has been taken to mitigate exposure.
Future PFAS Standards & Regulations
As a result of this summit, PFAS will most likely not become a federally regulated contaminant. As we’ve stated before, the regulatory process for drinking water standards can take decades. The United States has a long way to go to improve the process of creating and setting federal drinking water standards. Making data available and learning more about these sophisticated emerging contaminants are important steps in mitigating exposure.
The good news is that our filters have been laboratory approved to remove PFAS! If you have any questions regarding PFAS or Hydroviv filters, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or use the chat function on our website.
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Why Does Washington, DC's Water Taste Bad?
How Are Chloramine and Chlorine Different?
We answer this question in much more detail in a different post, but here's the skinny on chlorine in drinking water: Like a growing number of US cities, Washington, DC uses chloramine as the primary disinfectant for a couple of reasons:
1. It persists longer in the distribution system, so it does a better job killing bacteria in areas of the water distribution system that are near the end of the pipes, or don't have as high of flow as other areas.
2. It doesn't form disinfection byproducts in the presence of organic matter.
3. Chloramine-treated water doesn't have as strong of a taste as chlorine-treated water
While these are all great reasons to use chloramine, most cities that use chloramine undergo a more aggressive disinfection cycle for a few weeks each year (aka Spring Cleaning).
What Are The Impacts of Switching to Chlorine?
During this time, some people find that the water tastes and smells tastes bad, and the bathroom smells a bit like a swimming pool's locker room after showering. If you want to fix this problem... you have a couple of options that don't involve bottled water (horrible for the environment).
2. If you let chlorinated tap water sit in a pitcher overnight, a good amount of the chlorine taste will go away.
When Will Washington, DC's Water Switch Back Over to Chloramine?
May 7 is the day that DC Water plans to switch back over to chloramine. Until then... non-Hydroviv users will just have to hold their noses!
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Digging Into The Environmental Working Group Tap Water Database
Eric Roy, Ph.D. | Scientific Founder
This past week, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) released a website where people punch in their zip code, and view contaminants found in their water. As a company that uses water quality data to optimize each customer’s water filter, we applaud EWG for putting in the enormous amount of time & effort to build the database so the public can learn about their water. Unfortunately, we are seeing that these data are being used to generate inflammatory headlines, which can leave consumers confused and unnecessarily panicked.
We will be updating this water quality database blog post as more questions come in. If you have your own question, please reach out to us (email@example.com). One of our water nerds will do their best to get back to you very quickly, even if it’s outside of our business hours.
Frequently Asked Questions
Updated July 31, 2017
Are All Potential Contaminants Listed In The EWG Tap Water Database?
No. The EWG Tap Water Database pulls data from municipal measurements, but municipalities are only required to test for certain things. Simply put, you can’t detect what you don’t look for. One example of this can be seen by punching in Zip Code 28402 (Wilmington, North Carolina) into the EWG Tap Water Database. GenX, a chemical that has been discharged into the Cape Fear River by Chemours since PFOA since 2010, is not listed, even though it’s been in the center of a huge topic of conversation for the past 2 months in the local media.
Why Is The “Health Guideline” Different Than The “Legal Limit?”
The two different thresholds use different criteria. For example, the “Health Guideline” cited by EWG for carcinogens is defined by the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) as a one-in-a-million lifetime risk of cancer, while the “Legal Limit” refers to the MCL which is the limit that triggers a violation by EPA. The OEHHA's criteria are established by toxicological techniques, while the EPA limits are negotiated through political channels. We wrote an article that addresses this topic in much more detail for those who are interested.
Why Am I Just Learning About This Now?
The EPA's Safe Drinking Water Act requires municipalities to make water quality test data public in Consumer Confidence Reports. These reports are required to talk about the water's source, information about any regulated contaminants found in the water, health effects of any regulated contaminant found above the regulated limit, and a few other things. As discussed before, the data in the EWG report use different criteria than the EPA, and it's hard for people to make sense of what's what.
Are The Data Correct If My Water Comes From A Private Well?
No. The EWG Tap Water Database only has data for municipal tap water. Private wells are completely unregulated, and there's no requirement to conduct testing. If you'd like us to dig into our additional water quality databases to help you understand likely contaminants in your private well, we're happy to do so. We don't offer testing services, but we're happy to help you find an accredited lab in your area, give advice on which tests to run, and help you interpret the results! We offer this service for free.
What About My City's Water Quality?
Hydroviv makes it our business to help you better understand your water. 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 by dropping us an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or through our live chat. You can also find us on Twitter or Facebook!
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2017 Washington DC Tap Water Report: What You Need To Know
Eric Roy, Ph.D. | Scientific Founder
We took a day over the long weekend to break down this year's Consumer Confidence Report (CCR) for Washington, DC tap water. Note: We are not affiliated in way with DC Water, but they have been sending people to this article as a reputable source of information.
Lead In DC Tap Water
Washington, DC is an old city with a lot of lead service lines, so it's not a huge surprise that lead leaches from lead-containing pipes, solder, and fittings in some homes. For the most recent Water Quality Data for Washington, DC, DC Water sampled for lead in two sampling periods: January-June and July-December. In the 125 samples pulled during January-June period, the 90th percentile concentration for lead was 2 parts per billion, and no samples were above the 15 part per billion Action Level (AL). In the 115 samples pulled from the July-December sampling period, the 90th percentile concentration was 3 parts per billion, and 2 samples came in at over the 15 parts per billion.
Even though these results indicate that DC is in citywide compliance with federal water quality standards, it's important to point out that there is no level of lead safe for children, and that the federal standards allow up to 10% of sampled taps to have lead concentrations over 15 parts per billion.
Lead contamination is nothing to play around with, especially for families with young children. We highly recommend that Washington DC residents take a look at this map to see if their home has a lead service line, because those homes (and homes with plumbing that predates 1986) are most susceptible. We also highly recommend taking advantage of DC Water's free lead testing program, and any families with small children take steps to remove any lead from their water, even if they don't use a Hydroviv filter. It's important to remember that most pitchers and fridge filters do NOT remove lead from water.
Detectable Levels of Three Herbicides In DC Tap Water
One thing that has caused quite a bit of alarm from several people in this year's report is that Atrazine, Dalapon, and Simazine were all found in detectable levels, albeit well below the allowable limit. It shouldn't be a huge surprise seeing that we draw our water from near at the end of a river, so there is opportunity for agricultural runoff to enter the river. For anyone who is interested, The Maryland DEP has made the Source Water Assessment for the Potomac River (404 pages) publicly available.
DC's Water Source: Potomac River
Even though we've written stand-alone article about DC's tap water, it's worth touching upon it quickly because there seems to be a bit of confusion about where our water comes from. The Washington Aqueduct (operated by the Army Corps of Engineers) draws water from the Potomac River, and treats it. District of Columbia Sewer and Water Authority (aka DC Water) purchases treated water from the Washington Aqueduct, and is responsible for distributing it through DC. This is how's it's been for a long time, nothing has changed.
Left Out Of The Report: Chromium 6
With chromium 6 (also known as hexavalent chromium) still in the public's mind from major nationwide stories, I was a bit surprised to see it left out of the 2017 report altogether. Even though it's a known carcinogen, chromium 6 is categorized as an "Emerging Contaminant" by EPA and is not regulated on its own. DC Water (and 6000 other municipalities) participate in the Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR3) (which is basically a nationwide testing program to study "emerging" contaminants before they become regulated) and found chromium 6 concentrations between 74 and 91 parts per trillion. These levels are pretty similar to concentrations that we have seen when we have done sampling/analysis ourselves (84-120 parts per trillion). For perspective, these levels are roughly 4-5x higher than what The State Of California set as a public health goal. It is my strong personal opinion that people should not wait for EPA to begin regulating chromium 6 on its own, and filter their water for it, even if they're not using a Hydroviv filter. It's important to remember that most pitchers and fridge filters do NOT remove chromium 6 from water.
The primary disinfectant used to treat Washington DC's tap water is chloramine, except for a few weeks in the spring when DC switches over to chlorine. DC (and a growing number of municipalities) use chloramine instead of chlorine for a few reasons, one of them being that chloramine is more persistent than chlorine, so it maintains its ability to disinfect the water further away from the source. The flip-side of this is that chloramine does not quickly dissipate from water if left in a jug overnight. If you want to get it out of the water, you'll need a filter designed to remove chloramine, because a regular charcoal filter doesn't do a great job removing it.
When I looked through the data on this, there wasn't a ton that surprised me. Washington, DC is an old city with a lot of lead pipes and plumbing, so it's no surprise that some homes have lead in their water. We get our water near the end of the Potomac River, so it's not a huge surprise that we can find herbicides and chromium 6 in it. While Washington, DC's tap water is in compliance with federal standards, a growing number of people are proactively taking steps to treat their water to a stricter standard than what EPA requires, particularly in the current regulatory climate.
If you want to learn more about Hydroviv's water filters, check out www.hydroviv.com, or drop us a line through live chat or email (email@example.com). Even though we sell our products nationwide, Hydroviv is a DC company and we take care of our own backyard!
As always, feel free to take advantage of our "Help No Matter What" approach to technical support. We will answer your questions about water quality even if you have no desire to purchase one of our products.
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How To Filter Chromium 6 From Drinking Water
How To Filter Chromium 6 From Drinking Water
Eric Roy, Ph.D. | Scientific Founder
Since a nationwide story broke about widespread chromium 6 (also known as hexavalent chromium) contamination impacting about 200 million people in the US, we have been getting a lot of questions about the toxicity, regulation, and removal of the carcinogen from drinking water. This article discusses the only effective ways to remove chromium 6 from drinking water.
There Are Two Effective Ways To Filter Chromium 6 From Water
Cartridges With Chromium 6 Filter Media
Certain types of filtration media are extremely effective at removing chromium 6 from water. They can be blended with other types of filtration media, and built into cartridges that remove chromium 6 as water flows through them. The advantages to this approach over reverse osmosis include: better flow rate, easier to install, and less expensive to maintain. Obviously, we are partial to our under sink water filtration system, but there are other high-end competitors that build quality chromium-6 water filter systems using the same approach successfully (albeit at double the price than Hydroviv)
The other way to effectively filter chromium 6 from drinking water is using a properly maintained reverse osmosis (RO) system. In addition to the common complaints of RO users, it’s critical to diligently replace the prefiltration cartridges, because if not, the RO membrane can become compromised, rendering the system ineffective.
Myths About Chromium 6 Removal
Contrary to the words & advice of certain internet naturopathic gurus, boiling, freezing, adding Himalayan sea salt or coconut oil to your water does NOT remove chromium 6 from water, or lessen/reverse the toxic effects of it.
As always, we encourage you to reach out to our “Help No Matter What” technical support through live chat or email (firstname.lastname@example.org). Our team pledges to provide science-backed advice on water quality, even if you have no intention of buying a Hydroviv water filter.
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