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What Is "Safe" Drinking Water?

Analies Dyjak @ Wednesday, October 3, 2018 at 2:04 pm -0400

Analies Dyjak  |  Policy Nerd

One of the most frequently asked questions that our Water Nerds get asked is, “is my water safe?” Unfortunately, the answer to this isn’t all that cut and dry. We wanted to make a quick video explaining what “safe” really means.

What Does "Safe" Drinking Water Actually Mean?

“Safe” is a regulatory definition that means your drinking water is in compliance with standards set by the decades-old Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). There are only 90 contaminants regulated under this act, and thousands of others that are not. Unless mandated by the state, municipalities don't account for any unregulated contaminants. According to EPA, if the levels for each regulated pollutant meet EPA’s standard, then the drinking water is in compliance and therefore "safe". This doesn't include contaminants such as chromium 6, PFAS, 

Can States Regulate Drinking Water?

States can create their own standards for regulated and unregulated contaminants, California being the best example. Most states typically don’t prioritize setting drinking water standards, or can’t afford to do so. Also, setting more stringent safe drinking water standards means that municipalities are responsible for complying with new allowable limits. This often means purchasing detection equipment as well as expensive filtration technology. More often than not, fitting these huge expenses into a local budget is impossible, and states take that into consideration when setting new standards. 

Defining Legal Jargon

It’s important to understand the difference between enforceable and non-enforceable regulatory terms. Non-enforceable terms include; Lifetime Health Advisory Levels, Public Health Goals, Minimum Risk Levels, and Maximum Contaminant Level Goals. All of these are non-enforceable terms, and therefore municipal water treatment facilities do not need to comply with them. The only enforceable safe drinking water standards are Maximum Contaminant Levels and Action Levels. 

Why are Enforceable and Non-Enforceable Standards Different?

Often, EPA is aware that their enforcement standards are set higher than what toxicologists consider to be safe. To address this, EPA creates Maximum Contaminant Level Goals (MCLGs) which refer to “the maximum level of a contaminant in drinking water at which no known or anticipated adverse effect on the health would occur..” Again, these are non-enforceable levels. In 2001, EPA set an enforceable Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) of 10 parts per billion for Arsenic in drinking water. That same year EPA adopted an MCLG of 0 parts per billion. This was EPA’s way of acknowledging that there really is no safe level of Arsenic in drinking water. EPA is unable to adopt a lower threshold because municipal water systems across the country would be out of compliance. EPA has to balance the cost imposed onto municipality, with the benefits associated with human health. This same principle goes for unregulated contaminants with health advisories. EPA set a lifetime health advisory of 70 parts per trillion for PFOA. Soon after, the Center for Disease Control recommended reducing the advisory level to 20 parts per trillion for the same contaminant. Finally, there are several health and regulatory agencies that understand that federal limits are set way over a safe threshold. At Hydroviv, we look at toxicological data instead of regulatory data when determining if your water is safe. We prefer to make recommendations about what doctors and pediatricians say is safe.

Overview:

That was a lot of information so here’s a recap! When municipalities label water as “safe,” they’re only referring to the handful of regulated contaminants. There’s a lot of regulatory jargon that might make it hard to understand the difference between the recommended monitoring level and the enforceable monitoring level. And finally, what regulations say and what toxicologists say is very different in terms of “safe” levels. At Hydroviv, we look at toxicological data instead of regulatory data. We prefer to make recommendations about what doctors and pediatricians say is safe.

Other Article We Think You Might Enjoy: 
Is Ionized Alkaline Water a Scam?
5 Things To Know About Arsenic In Drinking Water
Why Does EPA Allow "Acceptable" Amounts of Toxic Substances In Drinking Water?

Superfund: San Antonio, Texas

Analies Dyjak @ Wednesday, June 13, 2018 at 1:48 pm -0400

Analies Dyjak  |  Policy Nerd   

This week, Hydroviv is highlighting the six new National Priorities List (NPL) sites under the EPA Superfund program. Superfund sites are home to high levels of hazardous soil and groundwater contamination from years of improper disposal techniques. If you’d like to learn more about the ins and out of Superfund, check out our recap HERE. The Superfund site that we’re addressing in this article is located in San Antonio, Texas.  

San Antonio, Texas is home to another newly designated EPA Superfund site. EPA detected high levels of cyanide, lead, cadmium, copper, selenium, zinc, chromium, and chromium 6. The source of contamination is from the River City Metal Finishing facility, which was in operation from 1994 to 2002. Throughout operation and post closure, runoff and pollution from this facility entered into the Edwards Aquifer which provides domestic, industrial and agricultural water for a majority of San Antonio. Concentrations of chromium 6 exceeded federal maximum contaminant levels in shallow groundwater wells in the Edwards Aquifer. There are several adverse health effects associated with chromium 6 exposure. Aside from being a known human carcinogen, ingestion of chromium 6 can cause respiratory irritation, pulmonary congestion and edema, and damages to the kidney, liver, and skin. There are currently 20 public water supplies with a 4 mile radius of the San Antonio Superfund site.

If you live near an EPA Superfund site and are concerned about your water, drop us an email at hello@hydroviv.com or visit hydroviv.com and use our live chat feature. Hydroviv is staffed with scientists and policy experts that can help you make sense of your water and find an effective filter, even if it isn’t one we sell. Be sure to follow along this week as we discuss all of the newly designated Superfund sites!

Other Articles We Think You Might Enjoy:
Newly Designated Superfund Sites 
What is Superfund? 
Superfund: Hockessin, Delaware

Superfund: Cheraw, South Carolina

Analies Dyjak @ Friday, June 15, 2018 at 2:07 pm -0400

Ernesto Esquivel-Amores  |  Water Nerd

This week, Hydroviv is highlighting the six new National Priorities List (NPL) sites under the EPA Superfund program. Superfund sites are home to high levels of hazardous soil and groundwater contamination from years of improper disposal techniques. If you’d like to learn more about the ins and out of Superfund, check out our recap HERE. The next Superfund site that we’ll be discussing is located in Cheraw, South Carolina.

Cheraw, South Carolina is home to another newly designated national Superfund site. This small town is home to roughly 6,000 people. EPA detected high levels of Polychlorinated Biphenyls, or PCBs in the sediment in residential neighborhoods and in nearby water streams. The source of this contamination is linked to a nearby textile mill. The water in Cheraw became contaminated because the facility created a drainage ditch was used to dispose of wastewater. Contaminated water from the drainage ditch infiltrated into groundwater, and was also transported onto residential lawns through stormwater runoff. Runoff also transported chemicals into surrounding wetlands and into the Grand Pee Dee River, the Wilson Branch Stream, and the Huckleberry Branch Stream. As a result, the state has issued a fish consumption advisory for all fish caught in the Grand Pee Dee River due to the high levels of Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs). PCB is a carcinogen and can adversely affect pregnant women, children, and other sensitive populations. For more information about PCBs please check out our site at hydroviv.com. If you live near a national Superfund site and are concerned about your water, drop us an email at hello@hydroviv.com or visit hydroviv.com and use our live chat feature. Hydroviv is staffed with scientists and policy experts that can help you make sense of your water and find an effective filter, even if it isn’t one we sell.

If you live near a Superfund site and are concerned about your water, drop us an email at hello@hydroviv.com or visit hydroviv.com and use our live chat feature. Hydroviv is staffed with scientists and policy experts that can help you make sense of your water and find an effective filter, even if it isn’t one we sell. Be sure to follow along this week as we discuss all of the newly designated Superfund sites!

Other Articles We Think You Might Enjoy:
Newly Designated Superfund Sites 
What is Superfund?
Superfund: San Antonio

A Deeper Dive Into The CNN Report on America's Drinking Water

Analies Dyjak @ Wednesday, November 28, 2018 at 6:19 pm -0500

*Map courtesy of the Natural Resources Defense Council*

Analies Dyjak  |  Policy Nerd

Our inbox has been inundated with questions regarding the NRDC drinking water report that CNN retreated yesterday. We wanted to add some context and remind readers that these developments are not new. The scope of the drinking water problem in this country is much broader than the 90 federally regulated contaminants highlighted in the report. 

With myriad water quality crises popping up all over the country this past year, the topic of drinking water quality has once again commanded national media attention. CNN recently published an article underlining a 2017 report by the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Major Takeaways from the CNN Water Report:

  1. It’s not easy to violate a drinking water standard. In fact, drinking water regulations are set so high in the United States that it’s surprisingly difficult for a municipality to surpass a federal threshold. The consensus in the scientific and toxicological community is that federal standards should be reduced across the board.

  2. Why is the conversation being limited to regulated contaminants? For a bit of perspective, EPA regulates 90 drinking water contaminants that municipalities must comply with. These regulated contaminants include lead, arsenic, disinfection byproducts, and others. There are thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of potentially dangerous unregulated contaminants. Despite this growing problem, the CNN report focused entirely on the 90 federally regulated contaminants, which doesn't even scratch the surface of America's drinking water crisis. 

  3. The article is vague about what constitutes a "violation." Municipalities can receive a violation from the state, or primacy agency for different reasons. Municipalities can be in violation if they are "out of compliance" or "in exceedance" of a drinking water standard. However, municipalities that fail to report data or test for a contaminant may also receive a violation. There's very little enforcement or repercussions imposed on municipalities that have violations, and often community members are left in the dark. 

How Can We Determine The Actual Scope of Drinking Water Contamination In The United States?

Figuring out the scope of this problem is extremely difficult, due to the slow-moving regulatory process and missing data. EPA estimates it would cost $743 billion to mitigate only the regulated contaminants in the U.S., meaning it would do nothing to address unregulated contaminants like Chromium 6, PFAS, and 1,4-Dioxane. Communities like Madison, Wisconsin could theoretically receive a gold star when looking at their compliance for regulated contaminants. Madison has low levels or lead, disinfection byproducts, and arsenic - all well within EPA standards. People are often surprised to find out that Madison has screamingly high levels of Chromium 6, which is also known as the "Erin Brockovich" chemical (the movie came out almost 20 years ago, and the contaminant is still unregulated). According to the most recent report, the average concentration of Chromium 6 in Madison is 1400 parts per trillion. This is 70 times higher than the concentration determined to have a negligible impact on cancer risk. 

America’s drinking water is more widespread than you think, and the scope of the problem goes well beyond the 90 contaminants addressed in the article. We must look beyond annual Consumer Confidence Reports to unveil the truth about our drinking water contamination.

Other Article We Think You Might Enjoy:
Why Are So Many Schools Testing Positive For Lead In Drinking Water?
GenX Is Linked To Cancer
How Does Fracking Pollute Drinking Water?

BREAKING: EPA Admits GenX Linked To Cancer

Analies Dyjak @ Wednesday, November 14, 2018 at 3:36 pm -0500

Analies Dyjak  |  Policy Nerd 

Our blog has been following PFAS contaminants such as the GenX chemical for months now, often reporting on new developments before mainstream news.
Today marks an important milestone: EPA has released a draft toxicity profile for GenX. This long-awaited toxicity report contains critical information for many states who have been seeking answers on this harmful contaminant.

EPA’s Draft Toxicity Assessments for GenX and PFBS:

EPA determined a candidate Chronic Reference Dose of 0.00008 mg/kg-day. A reference dose is the daily oral intake not anticipated to cause negative health effects over a lifetime. A reference dose is not a carcinogenic risk factor, however, EPA states that the toxicity data for GenX are “suggestive of cancer.” According to the draft report, oral exposure in animals had negative health effects on the kidney, blood, immune system, developing fetus, and liver. The draft toxicity report also provided information on PFBS, which is a replacement chemical for PFOS. The candidate Chronic Reference Dose for PFBS is 0.01 mg/kg-day, and there was insufficient data to determine its carcinogenic potential.

What Is GenX?

GenX is part of a category of contaminants called PFAS, or per and polyfluoroalkyl substances. The GenX chemical linked to cancer has gained national attention since being discovered in the Cape Fear River in June of 2017.
PFAS have historically been used in consumer products like Scotchgard, Gore-Tex, Teflon, and even the inside of popcorn bags. PFAS are also used in firefighting foam, which is the major source of its pollution in waterways across the country.

Background:

The Chemours plant in Fayetteville, North Carolina produces refrigerants, ion exchange membranes, and other fluoroproducts. They have been discharging liquid effluent into the Cape Fear River for years, which has contaminated drinking water for the entire area. GenX is the replacement chemical for PFOA. After PFOA was discovered to be toxic, manufacturers addressed the issue by making an equally-as toxic replacement. Manufacturers of PFAS have been doing this for years, which is why there are so many different variations present in the environment.

Is GenX Federally Regulated By EPA?

No. This means that municipalities are not required to test for PFBS or GenX in water. Additionally, this draft toxicity level is not a lifetime health advisory level, which states would be more inclined to follow.

When Will A Drinking Water Standard Be Determined?

Don’t hold your breath on anytime soon! The regulatory process can take decades, especially for such a persistent contaminant in the environment. This is more than enough time for adverse health effects to set in, and we recommend consumers do everything they can to learn about their water and protect themselves, rather than wait for the government to step in.

What Does This Mean For Me?

EPA is in the very early stages of determining a regulation or even health advisory for GenX. This draft toxicity level needs to go through public comment so that states, tribes, and municipalities can offer input and recommendations. If you want to see third-party data on filters that remove GenX in water and other PFAS, click HERE. 

Other Articles About GenX:
Timeline: GenX In North Carolina
ASTDR Toxicological Profile for PFAS
GenX Contamination In Drinking Water: What You Need To Know