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Recap of the 2018 PFAS National Leadership Summit and Engagement

Analies Dyjak @ Wednesday, May 23, 2018 at 2:24 pm -0400

***Updated 5/30/2018 to include video

Analies Dyjak  |  Policy Nerd

Scott 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 hello@hydroviv.com or use the chat function on our website. 

 

Other articles we think you might enjoy:
Minnesota PFAS Contaminatation
What you need to know about Perfluroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)
GenX Contamination in Drinking Water

Why Does Washington, DC's Water Taste Bad?

Analies Dyjak @ Friday, March 24, 2017 at 4:34 pm -0400
*Updated March 12, 2021
We're gearing up for questions regarding a significant change in tap water taste here in Washington, DC, and other parts of the country. While we've heard lots of interesting hypotheses, what's really happening is that the Washington Aqueduct (where DC Water purchases water from) has recently switched over from chloramine to chlorine for an annual "Spring Cleaning" of the distribution lines. Several cities such as Tampa Bay, San Francisco, Tulsa, and several others are following suit.

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 by products 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).

  1. Filter your water 
  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 17, 2021 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 @ Saturday, July 29, 2017 at 6:16 pm -0400

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 (hello@hydroviv.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 (hello@hydroviv.com) or through our live chat. You can also find us on Twitter or Facebook!

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2019 Washington DC Tap Water Report: What You Need To Know

Eric Roy @ Saturday, July 1, 2017 at 3:42 pm -0400

Eric Roy, Ph.D.  |  Scientific Founder

***Updated to include 2019 water quality data***

For Hydroviv’s assessment of Washington, D.C. drinking water, we aggregated water quality test data from D.C. Water (the public utility provider) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as well as from samples that we collect and analyze. We cross reference these data with toxicity studies in the scientific and medical literature, and look at upcoming regulatory changes. The custom water filters that build and sell for Washington, D.C. are optimized with these factors in mind.

Lead In DC Tap Water

Washington, D.C. is an old city with a lot of lead service lines, so it's not a huge surprise that D.C. has had such a big problem with lead in drinking water. Lead leaches from lead-containing pipes, solder, and fittings, unlike most contaminants which are found at the source. D.C. Water uses two sampling periods when testing for lead: January-June and July-December. In the 118 samples pulled during January-June period, the 90th percentile concentration for lead was 3 parts per billion, and 3 samples were about the 15 part per billion Action Level (AL). In the 104 samples pulled from the July-December sampling period, the 90th percentile concentration was 2 parts per billion, and none of the collected samples exceeded the action level. Although these results indicate that D.C. is in citywide compliance with federal water quality standards, it's important to point out that EPA, CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics all agree that there is no safe level of lead for children. The bottom line is that the federal standards allow up to 10% of sampled taps to have lead concentrations over 15 parts per billion.

We highly recommend that Washington D.C. 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 D.C. 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. Hydroviv Undersink filters are NSF/ANSI 53 certified to remove lead from drinking water.

Detectable Levels of Unregulated Contaminants In DC Tap Water

One thing that has caused quite a bit of alarm from several people in this year's report is that several herbicides, VOC's and synthetic compounds were all found at detectable levels in D.C. drinking water. Herbicides such as Dalapon, shouldn't be a huge surprise seeing that D.C. draws 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

The Washington Aqueduct (operated by the Army Corps of Engineers) draws water from the Potomac River for treatment. District of Columbia Sewer and Water Authority (aka D.C. Water) purchases treated water from the Washington Aqueduct, and is responsible for distributing it throughout D.C. We also have a stand-alone article that entirely focuses on the Potomac River.

Left Out Of The Report: Chromium 6

We were a bit surprised to see Chromium 6 left out of the 2019 water quality report for Washington, D.C. Even though it's a known human carcinogen, chromium 6 is categorized as an "Emerging Contaminant" by EPA but is not regulated on its own. D.C. Water (and 6000 other municipalities) participate in the Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR3), which is a nationwide testing program to study "emerging" contaminants. UCMR acknowledges that contaminants on the list most likely cause adverse health effects, including cancer. The concentration in D.C. water average 86 parts per trillion. For perspective, these levels are roughly 4-5x higher than what The State Of California set as a public health goal. We believe that people should not wait for EPA to begin regulating chromium 6 on its own, and filter their water, even it they aren't using our product. It's important to remember that most pitchers and fridge filters do NOT remove chromium 6 from water.

Per and Polyfluoralkyl Substances (PFAS) In Washington, D.C. Drinking Water

PFAS are a category of chemicals found in various non-stick/stain resistant products, as well as fire fighting foam. PFAS are considered to be "emerging contaminants" because they are not currently regulated by EPA, but are known to be toxic and persistent in the environment. PFAS have been detected at surrounding military installments that are in close proximity to the Potomac River (DC's source water). Most municipalities are not required to test for, or remove, PFAS from drinking water. Not all filters are designed to remove PFAS from drinking water. If you'd like find water filters that remove PFAS from tap water, check out this Duke/NC State study.

Disinfectant

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. D.C. (and a growing number of municipalities) use chloramine instead of chlorine for a few reasons: for one, chloramine is more persistent than chlorine, so it maintains its ability to disinfect the water further away from the source. On the other side, 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.

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 (hello@hydroviv.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. 

Other Articles We Think You'll Enjoy:

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How To Filter Chromium 6 From Drinking Water

Analies Dyjak @ Thursday, March 9, 2017 at 10:35 pm -0500

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:

1. 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).

2. Reverse Osmosis

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 pre-filtration 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.   

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