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Timeline of GenX Contamination In North Carolina

Ernesto Esquivel-Amores and Analies Dyjak | Water Nerds   

On June 14th, one year ago today, North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality began its investigation into a chemical called GenX. While this topic has gained a majority of national press this past year, many people don’t realize that fluorinated chemical contamination has been a public health threat for decades. These compounds are associated with the production of Teflon and Scotchgaurd, which have been used in households since the 1960’s. While this timeline highlights GenX contamination, there are several other harmful fluorinated compounds in drinking water sources throughout the country. This article discusses the past, present, and future of GenX, and progress being made reduce the threat to human health and the environment. 

1980

Dupont, the chemical manufacturing company began discharging Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), also known as C8, into the Cape Fear River in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Dupont purchased PFOA from 3M, which is another chemical manufacturing company out of Minnesota. PFOA is an ingredient that’s used during the manufacturing of heat and water resistant products. The Fayetteville plant was and is still located on the Cape Fear River, which is the primary drinking source for Brunswick, Bladen, New Hanover, and Pender counties.

March 2002

DuPont and EPA established a temporary threshold level of 14,000 parts per trillion for PFOA. This agreement, made under the Safe Drinking Water Act, had a condition that required DuPont to pay for alternative sources of drinking water for affected users if water samples tested higher than the agreed upon threshold.

October 2002

3M stopped manufacturing PFOA because the company recognized its harmful effects to human health and the environment. Later in 2002, DuPont began making the same chemical at its Fayetteville plant in North Carolina.

2005

EPA penalizes DuPont with a $10.25 million lawsuit for failing to report information about “substantial risk of injury to human health and the environment.” EPA also required DuPont to give $6.25 million to fund various environmental programs. At the same time DuPont and other PFOA manufacturers came to an agreement to “voluntarily” phase out production by 2015.

2009

DuPont began to voluntary use GenX as a substitute for PFOA at the Fayetteville plant. DuPont claimed this substitute was a safer alternative to PFOA.

January 2009

DuPont informed EPA that they would begin manufacturing GenX at the Fayetteville plant. A few weeks later, EPA entered a separate consent order with DuPont to address dealing with GenX discharge into the water and air. DuPont was able to find a loophole in the consent order that does not apply to substances produced as the byproducts of other processes. This means that GenX could be discharged without needing to follow the terms of the consent order.

March 2009

A new consent order between EPA and DuPont under the Safe Drinking Water Act required that the threshold of PFOA levels need to be reduced from the previous threshold of 14,000 to 400 parts per trillion. This new order also stated that the company must provide alternative water sources to areas with PFOA levels exceeding the new threshold.

2012

The North Carolina DEQ approved DuPont’s wastewater discharge permit. Additionally, the North Carolina Science Advisory Board recommended setting at max limit of 1000 parts per trillion for PFOA in groundwater. Later that year, North Carolina State University scientists find GenX in the Cape Fear River for this first time.

2015

DuPont created spin off company from their division of “Performance Chemicals” called Chemours. Chemours is now in charge of manufacturing and discharging fluorinated contaminants.

2016

The team at NC State released a report detecting GenX in Cape Fear water. Contamination was associated with discharge from the Chemours plant upstream of the drinking water source.The researchers found that on average there was a GenX concentration of 631 parts per trillion per liter. NC State researchers tested various filtering methods to remove GenX from the drinking water. As it turns out, GenX is a harder chemical to filter out from water then the previous chemical PFOA.

2017

North Carolina DEQ began investigating Chemours for their discharge of waste water into the Cape Fear River. Chemours then revealed that their predecessor company has been discharging various fluorinated compounds since the 1980’s and announced that it will capture, remove, and safely dispose of them rather than discharge contaminants into the river.

June 14, 2018

Today, the GenX dilemma in North Carolina remains unsolved. Community members have rallied to make the nation aware of this public health dubacle. Additionally, the North Carolina house and senate are trying to pass a wonky bill that only addresses one of the several dangerous chemicals in the Cape Fear watershed. Sponsors of the North Carolina Water Safety Act have essentially created a bill that caters to polluters. While the bill aims to regulate GenX contamination, it fails to mention all of the other fluorinated compounds. This means that Chemours will only be held accountable to address GenX contamination, while continuing to produce and allow other fluorinated chemicals to run rampant in the Cape Fear River. Our Water Nerds believe that GenX should not necessarily be the star of the show. The entire class of fluorinated compounds need to be addressed when discussing North Carolina’s water quality and the absence of a comprehensive regulation. There's a laundry list of fluorinated compounds that the NC state laboratory detected in their initial water testing. Perfluorobutanoic acid (C4), Perfluoropentanoic acid (C5), Perfluorbutane sulfonic acid (PFBS), and Perfluoro-3-methoxypropanoic acid (PFMOPrA) are just some of the fluorinated compounds that NC State detected in Cape Fear's water. GenX is easy to say and sounds intimidating, but that doesn’t necessarily make it the most dangerous fluorinated compound in Cape Fear’s water.

Our Water Nerds will be staying current on this issue and providing updates as they unfold. To follow along, check out our Youtube channel here. 

Other Articles We Think You Might Enjoy:
North Carolina Water Safety Act
3M Minnesota Groundwater Contamination 
Recap of 2018 PFAS Summit
  • Analies Dyjak
Does Your Home Have Lead Plumbing?  Here's How To Tell

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
Before 1986 50% 100%
1986-2014 0.2% 8%
After 2014 0.2% 0.25%

Note:  Things like toilets, urinals, bidets, tub fillers, shower valves are excluded from these regulations 

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.

Pipes/fittings:  Because there are certain applications (toilets, showers, tub fillers) where plumbing components are allowed to contain lead, you can still buy lead-containing plumbing components at the hardware store.  We have seen many applications in customers' homes where lead-containing components were mistakenly used in an application that required lead free components.  Anything that complies with the 2014 lead free standard is clearly marked with some sort of "LF" or checkmark label to indicate that it meets the most recent lead free standard:
How To Identify Lead Free Plumbing 1Lead Free Brass Ball Valve
How To Identify Lead Free Brass Connections
How To Identify Lead Free Brass Plumbing
Lead Free Plumbing ValveLead Free Marking On Brass Ball Valve

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:

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 support@hydroviv.com, or use our live chat function.  

Related Articles:

Does New York City Tap Water Expose More People To Lead Than Flint?
Pittsburgh's Lead Level Exceeds EPA Limits In 2016
Why You Are Being Mislead By Your TDS Meter

Municipal Drinking Water Compliance: What You Need To Know

 Analies Dyjak and Ernesto Esquivel | Water Nerds 


Often times, when a public water system becomes impaired a municipality responds by claiming that they’re “in compliance.” Municipalities may in fact be in compliance with federally regulated contaminants, but fail to mention the various harmful unregulated contaminants that are in their water systems.  So what does being in compliance with water quality standards mean for your water?


The Clean Water Act and Safe Drinking Water Act have resulted in the regulation of various contaminants found in water sources all across the nation. Many of these regulations limit the concentration of harmful contaminants found in our water. Although legally these levels are labeled as safe, the sheer presence of some of these contaminants is harmful to human health. This puts many people at risk for health issues. In addition, there are plenty more contaminants that are not regulated in water sources. This makes it harder to hold entities accountable for disposing these unregulated contaminants into water sources.

When a public water system comes under scrutiny for water quality issues, the municipality often responds by claiming that they’re “in full compliance with federal standards.” Unfortunately, they don’t typically give much context to how regulations and compliance work. The best example of this was when a municipal water provider tried to put residents minds at ease by claiming to be “in compliance” with GenX. The peculiar thing is that GenX is not a federally regulated contaminant, so how could they be in compliance? Let’s also not forget the time a superintendent of an elementary school said on record  “we do not test because it (lead) has never been brought up as a concern, nor is it a requirement to do so.” As you can see, it is easy for harmful contaminants to be found in public water systems that are “in full compliance.”

How Is Drinking Water Regulated?

In the United States, drinking water is regulated by the Safe Drinking Water Act. States have primacy over water quality regulations, which means that they are responsible for meeting federal standards. This also means states can take it upon themselves to create more stringent drinking water standards. For example, the state of California did a complex study that analyzed several federally regulated and unregulated contaminants to create standards of their own. States that do not have their own water quality standards are subject to federal standards under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). Approximately 90 contaminants are regulated under the SDWA, and states are legally required to meet these enforceable Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCL). States cannot be out of compliance for contaminants that don’t have mandated MCL’s.
EPA’s compliance and enforcement process is as follows:

  • An environmental problem is identified
  • Congress passes laws to address environmental problems
  • EPA issues regulations to implement the laws
  • Compliance assistance helps the regulated community understand and comply with regulations
  • Compliance monitoring assesses compliance through inspections and other activities
  • Enforcement actions are taken when the regulated community does not comply or cleanup is required
The two major statutes with enforceable drinking water compliance components are the Safe Drinking Water Act and the National Pollution Elimination System Permit Program. Under the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Consumer Confidence Report Rule was created in 1998 to hold Community Water Systems (CWS) accountable for providing clean water to municipalities. National Pollution Elimination System Permit (NPDES) regulates pretreatment discharge of pollutants into navigable waters of the United States. Both are extremely important in ensuring that municipal water quality meets federal regulations.

Lead and Copper Rule

Some harmful contaminants found in drinking water are lead and copper. These metals are known for their harmful effects on human health. As a result, the lead and copper rule was created in 1991 by the EPA in an effort to reduce the levels of lead and copper found in drinking water across the country. This rule states that if the 10% of customers tap water contains lead levels of 15 parts per billion or 1.3 parts per million for copper, then the system must take action to inform its customers of the contaminants. However, if a state so wishes, they can create more stringent regulations on these contaminates. Despite all these regulations the CDC and the EPA recognize that there is no known safe lead level.

Pretreatment Compliance

National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) uses technology-based effluent guidelines, which are developed by the Environmental Protection Agency on an industry-to-industry basis. Under NPDES permitting, facilities are required to use Best Available Demonstrated Control Technology (BADCT) in order to comply with standards. Additionally, discharging into a Publicly Owned Treatment Works (POTW) does not require a NPDES permit. However, the discharge into the POTW must comply with pretreatment requirements. Often, water contamination originates from industrial discharge, and NPDES permitting helps to reduce the impact.

Consumer Confidence Report Rule

By July 1st of each year, all Community Water Systems are required to prepare and distribute an annual Consumer Confidence Report (CCR). This brief document must include a summary of the water source or sources, detected contaminants, proof of compliance, and supplemental educational information. The caveat to this is that only federally regulated contaminants are required to be listed in the annual Consumer Confidence Report. Contaminants such as Chromium 6, PFAS, and Bromide do not need to be reported by municipalities, in order to be in compliance. With permission by the governor of a state, CCR’s can be made available upon request if a CWS services fewer than 500 people. A CCR must be posted on the internet if a CSW services 100,000 or more people. States typically post Consumer Confidence Reports here.

Public Notification Rule

The Public Notification Rule was revised in 2000 under the Safe Drinking Water Act. It ensures that consumers will be notified when a Public Water System (PWS) is impaired. A PWS must notify consumers if they violate an EPA or state drinking regulation, or if they provide drinking water that poses a health risk to consumers. Additionally customers must be notified when; the water system fails to test its water, the system has been granted variance, and if the system has been granted an exemption for a new regulation. Again, the caveat to this rule is that only regulated contaminants are required to be disclosed when detected. For example if a Public Water System detects extremely high levels of PFAS, they are not legally required to disclose that to the public. 

There are three types of Public Water Systems:

Community Water Systems (CWS): serves at least 15 service connections used by year round residents. Regulated under the Consumer Confidence Report Rule. Household drinking water is the primary example of a CWS.

Non-Transient Non-Community Water System (NTNCWS): serves 25 of the same people for at least 6 months of the year. Schools, factories, and office buildings are some examples.

Transient Non-Community Water Systems (TNCWS): serves individuals in areas where people do not remain for long periods of time. This includes gas stations, campgrounds, and shopping malls.


What Does Compliance Actually Mean?

A municipality is in compliance if treated drinking water meets federal or state drinking water standards. A Public Water System may be in full SDWA compliance, but this doesn’t account for the thousands of unregulated contaminants in our water systems. If a municipality detects a dangerous contaminant that does not have an MCL, the water system is still legally in compliance with the SDWA. “Health goals” and “health advisory levels” are non-enforceable limits that agencies typically use when addressing contamination. It’s important to look out for this type of language when assessing water quality standards. As we’ve said numerous times in previous articles and videos, it can take decades before federal agencies and toxicologists are able to set Maximum Contaminant Levels. There is also the lingering question of whether any level of contamination is acceptable.

Other Articles We Think You Might Enjoy:
NPDES Permitting: What You Need to Know 
Lead Contamination in Schools
Municipal Meeting and PFAS "Compliance"

 

 

  • Analies Dyjak

The North Carolina Water Safety Act: What You Need to Know

Analies Dyjak | Policy Nerd

On May 21st, 2018, The Water Safety Act was proposed into both the North Carolina House and Senate. The goal of this joint bill is to provide a solution to the PFAS contamination in the Cape Fear River. Effluent discharge of GenX, a type of Per and Polyfluroalkyl Substances (PFAS) from the Chemours plant in Fayetteville, North Carolina has contaminated drinking water throughout a majority of the state. Opponents of the bill are worried that imposing the burden of water testing onto private entities will eliminate the states enforcement power. Proponents believe that the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality hasn’t taken sufficient action in mitigating this water quality crisis, and that it’s now the job of outside organizations to fix the problem.

Overview of the Drinking Water Safety Act

The proposed bill will allocate funding to numerous public and private agencies in the amount of:
  • $450,000 to the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority (CFPUA) for water quality sampling and testing of treatment techniques, to address per and polyfluroalkyl substances (PFAS), including GenX, and other contaminants
  • $530,839 to the Department of Health and Human Services to create a Water Health and Safety Unit
  • $8,000,000 to the North Carolina Policy Collaboratory (NCPC) at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill
  • $1,300,000 to the Department of Environmental Quality
  • $25,000 to the Rural Economic Development Division
A major component of this drinking water safety act is to establish a permanent alternative water supply for private well users that have detected GenX contamination. This is the number one priority and largest concern coming from individuals in the Cape Fear watershed area. If a direct linkage from the Chemours plant to a household drinking water source is detected, the company must pay for a filtration system rather than just providing bottled water.
Sponsors of the bill focused on solutions that would provide drinking water to effected citizens in the Cape Fear area. The proposed bill is extremely heavy on data collection and analysis. The majority of funding, ($8,000,000) is proposed to be allocated to Universities and private entities to analyze household water quality data. Funding will either come from the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality or the overall state budget to contract out scientific research.
The proposed bill also increases accountability within the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program. The bill is calling for all NPDES permit holders to re-submit their inadequately completed permits back into the NCDEQ to be reviewed by scientists and the public. The resubmittal must disclose all potential pollutants and a Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) number if available. If a CAS number is unavailable, chemical composition of contaminants must be properly and thoroughly disclosed.

What are Opponents Saying?

Governor Cooper called for an increase in the NCDEQ funding to bring back science-related jobs, engineers, medical researchers, and permit reviewers. However, Senate leaders claim that the NCDEQ has failed to resolve the water contamination crisis so far and that the responsibility should be imposed elsewhere. Opponents of the bill are worried that outside agencies won’t prioritize water quality data from the Cape Fear area and that receiving results will take longer than anticipated.

Our Analysis:

While we do believe that allowing universities to perform outside water testing will expedite data analysis, universities should not replace the duties of a regulatory body.  University labs are not subject to the same standards as accredited water testing labs, which could weaken enforcement efforts if those lab results are submitted as evidence in a court case. Reallocating funds from a state agency is extremely risky in terms of future policy making. Additionally, stripping funding from the NCDEQ reduces necessary enforcement and monitoring power to ensure compliance with the bill. The Bill would also give primary authority to the Governor to make decisions about the Chemours plant. Depending on the motive of the North Carolina Governor, this could either be extremely favorable for future contamination, or disastrous. Outside agencies that are performing water quality testing won’t have a regulatory body watching their every move. Laboratories could potentially prioritize other data over Cape Fear and results could take longer than anticipated. Whether the NCDEQ has failed to take action due to scientific uncertainty or lack of funding, the proposed joint bill offers a short-term solution to GenX contamination.
The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ) has taken little to no action to mitigate exposure of PFAS chemicals from the Chemours plant in Fayetteville. The NCDEQ provides constituents with information on health effects of GenX, exposure routes, sampling information, and drinking water alerts, but has failed to provide a solution to the problem. Admittedly, the bill doesn’t enact a long-term plan for dealing with PFAS contamination. It will act as a band-aid to provide quick solutions to a problem that will take years of mitigation.  
Our filters have been laboratory tested to remove PFAS. If you have any questions regarding PFAS contamination in North Carolina, or about purchasing a water filtration system, send us an email at hello@hydroviv.com.

Other Articles We Think You Might Enjoy:
What You Need To Know About PFAS
Recap of 2018 National PFAS Summit
Chemours NPDES Permit
  • Analies Dyjak

Recent Lead Problems In Schools: Flint, Michigan

Emma Schultz, M.S.   

Many schools across the country have recently made the news for lead in drinking water, often at dangerously high levels. Since the Flint, Michigan water crisis brought lead contamination and lead poisoning into the spotlight in 2015, there has been a push for increased water testing in schools around the country. It’s often unlikely that these high test results are new; it is much more likely that this has been an ongoing undetected problem. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that 90,000 public schools, as well as half a million child care facilities, are not regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act. While these statistics are dated (2002), they are still referenced by EPA. Since the utility is the responsible party for testing water, schools are not required to test, unless voluntarily or if local laws are more stringent. Most opt out because voluntary lead testing is extremely expensive. Water frequently stagnates in school pipes, due to nights, weekends, and summers when water usage is drastically diminished. This stagnation leads to leaching of lead, and therefore lead accumulation, when there are lead pipes or lead-containing valves and fittings. Many public schools across the country have an aging infrastructure, and with age comes the increased likelihood of lead-containing plumbing.

It is important to note that there is no such thing as a safe level of lead in drinking water. No level of lead is safe, especially when it comes to sensitive populations such as children. The EPA federal floor of 15 parts per billion, set in 1991, is much higher than EPA and CDC have admitted is safe (they agree, there is no safe level of lead). In addition, 10% of samples are legally allowed to exceed the 15 ppb threshold without resulting in any utility violations. In contrast, The American Academy of Pediatrics proposes that lead in school drinking water should not exceed 1 ppb.

Flint, Michigan

Flint has become synonymous with lead contamination. When the city switched their municipal water source from treated water from the City of Detroit (DWSD) to the Flint River in 2014 to save money, they failed to properly treat the river’s water, which led to widespread leaching of lead across the city’s network of aging pipes. Although Flint re-connected to DWSD water in October of 2015, the damage had already been done. Due to widespread lead poisoning following the switch, the city was declared to be in a state of emergency in January of 2016. Since then, the state has provided bottled water to the residents of Flint at a cost of over $16 million.

Flint has once again made national headlines, for several issues related to lead in their drinking water. Michigan’s Governor Rick Snyder announced on Friday, April 6th, that the “City of Flint’s water quality [is now] restored” and “the scientific data now proves the water system is stable and the need for bottled water has ended.” Governor Snyder’s announcement summarized the extensive testing that has taken place in Flint’s public and private schools since 2015 and concluded that “tests that were above acceptable levels were at individual points of use within schools and do not reflect overall water quality within any school building.”

Flint’s mayor Karen Weaver lashed back at Governor Snyder on Monday April 9th, stating that Flint “did not cause the man-made water disaster, therefore adequate resources should continue being provided until the problem is fixed and all the lead and galvanized pipes have been replaced.” State Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich of Flint agreed with Mayor Weaver, and added that "we won't feel safe drinking our water until every bad pipe is replaced, and the administration that caused this disaster needs to make sure bottled water stays available until that happens." Meanwhile, the supply of bottled water, which has come at a cost of $22,000 per day to the state of Michigan, is expected to run out by the end of this week.

The recent benediction from the governor regarding Flint’s water quality comes shortly after Flint Community Schools (FCS) has undergone three rounds of water testing in 2018 which has also made national news headlines. This testing is the first since 2016 in Flint’s public schools; students across all FCS schools have been relying on bottled water since September of 2015. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has reported that a majority of school taps and faucets are now well below the federal Action Level for lead [remember that the nationwide Action Level for lead in municipal drinking water, as established by EPA in the 1991 Lead and Copper Rule, is 15 parts per billion].

It is important to note that there is no such thing as a safe level of lead in drinking water. No level of lead is safe, especially when it comes to sensitive populations such as children. The EPA federal floor of 15 parts per billion, set in 1991, is much higher than EPA and CDC have admitted is safe (they agree, there is no safe level of lead). In addition, 10% of samples are legally allowed to exceed the 15 ppb threshold without resulting in any utility violations. In contrast, The American Academy of Pediatrics proposes that lead in school drinking water should not exceed 1 ppb.

While the majority of taps and faucets tested in 2018 are indeed below the Action Level, and are a far cry from some of the horrifying 2016 test results, problems continue to plague some schools. Doyle-Ryder Elementary, built in 1981, is one of those schools. Of the 21 rooms tested at Doyle-Ryder during the third round of testing in March, 5 exceeded the 15 ppb Action Level, with individual tap results as high as 105, 126, and 155 ppb. This is nearly 25% of the rooms testing above the Action Level. Comparing individual taps tested in 2016 and 2018, it can be observed that some of the previous offenders (such as Sink Faucets 02CF039 and 02CF041) are still supplying high levels of lead. This suggests that faucet and connection replacement plumbing have yet to occur. While the 2016 guidelines suggest that “flushing [a] tap for three minutes following periods of stagnation is likely to reduce lead concentrations and lead exposure,” 2018’s first round of testing found lead levels in Sink Faucet 02CF041 twice as high (85 ppb) post-flushing compared to pre-flushing. Additionally, tap flushing in public schools isn’t a realistic way to reduce lead exposure.

Of the schools tested, only Pierce Elementary did not have any test results above the 15 ppb threshold (though one tap tested at 15 ppb pre-flushing). Eisenhower Elementary, Freeman Elementary, and Holmes Stem Academy did not exceed the Action Level in the first round of testing, but did in subsequent tests. Testing protocol was changed somewhat after the first round of testing to test all taps prior to flushing the system, and take two samples post-flushing. News outlets reported in February that more samples were found to contain lead in the second round of testing. This appears to be true, though some of the high results come from taps prior to flushing.

Some of the higher individual tap lead levels at FCS schools, as tested in 2018, are as follows.

School

1st Round Sampling (01/2018), in ppb

2nd Round Sampling (02/2018), in ppb

3rd Round Sampling (03/2018), in ppb

Durant-Tuuri-Mott Elementary

16 (pre-flush)

23 (pre-flush); 8, 6

94 and 75 (pre-flush); 16, 15, 13

Eisenhower School

4

279 (same tap tested at 69 pre-flush), 24

104 (pre-flush); 16, 11, 10

Freeman School

12

86 (pre-flush); 5

18 (pre); 2

Neithercut Elementary

20, 18, and 29 (pre-flush); 12

42 (pre-flush); 34, 22 (2x)

85 and 16 (2x) (pre-flush); 20

Brownell Stem Academy

16

30 and 22 (pre-flush); 11, 10

26 (pre-flush); 87, 30

Doyle-Ryder Elementary

145, 85, 47, 41, 40, 29, 23, 21

80, 56, 43, 26

22, 105 and 32 (pre-flush); 155, 22, 126

Holmes Stem Academy

7

16, 12

36 ppb

Pierce Elementary

8

5 ppb

15 (pre-flush); 9

Potter Elementary

19

26 and 20 (pre-flush); 8

33 (pre-flush); 17, 16

Northwestern High School*

57 and 53 (pre-flush); 44, 23, 22

87, 31 and 25 (pre-flush); 15, 10, 8

28, 38, 58 and 20 (pre-flush); 28, 13

Southwestern Classical Academy

62

61, 21

55 (pre-flush); 13, 6


*A note about Northwestern High School: one of the rooms in which a high test result was found was the school’s auditorium, which at the time of first round testing was measured at 122℉. This indicates that there are additional infrastructure concerns that may confound test results.

 As reported by Michigan Live, FCS students drink bottled water that has been provided “through donations from Walmart, Coca-Cola, Nestle and PepsiCo. [FCS] has said it's secured a continued supply of water through at least June.” While the Department of Environmental Quality is pleased with the testing results, work clearly remains for these schools, with Doyle-Ryder and Neithercut Elementaries, and Northwestern High School displaying the greatest need for further improvements. Given the ongoing litigation pertaining to Flint students’ exposure to lead poisoning through drinking water - wherein a more than $4 million agreement was reached on Monday - it would benefit not just the students but also the Michigan Department of Education and Flint area school districts to continue replacing the faucets and connection plumbing that was targeted in 2016 as problematic. The rhetoric being bandied about that flushing the systems leads to reduced lead concentrations and lead exposure has been shown in several instances to be inaccurate.

 

Other articles we think you might enjoy: 

How do I know if my home has lead plumbing?
How can I minimize/avoid exposure to lead in drinking water?
How is lead federally regulated in drinking water?

  

  • Amy Waterman

Radium In Drinking Water: What You Need To Know

Eric Roy, Ph.D.  |  Scientific Founder

Since The Environmental Working Group recently released a report about the prevalance of radium in US water supplies, our email and support line have been filled with questions about the toxic, radioactive heavy metal.  The purpose of this article is to address a lot of these FAQs, and to discuss how to remove radium from drinking water.  We'll be updating the article as more questions come into our Water Nerds!

What Is Radium & Where Does It Come From?

Radium is the product of the radioactive decay of uranium and thorium decay in rocks and soils.  It's naturally occurring, and Radium levels tend to be higher in groundwater (wells, aquifers) than surface water (rivers).

Are The Recent News Articles The Result Of A Recent Spike In Radium Concentrations?

No.  The reports examined radium concentrations that were logged in publicly-available databases the same databases that Hydroviv has been been using for years when we optimize water filters for our customers.  

Should I Be Treating My Drinking Water Like Radioactive Waste?

Absolutely not.  The concentrations of radium in drinking water are nowehere near the levels found in radioactive waste. There is absolutely no need to avoid being near your tap water. 

What Can I Do To Remove Radium From My Drinking Water?

Unlike lead, which leaches into water from pipes, radium comes from the source water itself, so flushing your pipes does not reduce radium concentrations in water.  Boiling water also does not reduce or removing radium from drinking water.  

There are two ways that people can remove radium from their drinking water:

1.  Ion exchange media.  Cationic ion exchange media do a nice job selectively removing radium and uranium from drinking water, without removing minerals like calcium or magnesium.  This is the approach we take in our water filters.

2.  Reverse osmosis.   Reverse osmosis is also a viable way to remove chromium 6 from water for people who are willing to accept the drawbacks, including low flow rate and complexity of installation.  

If you have any questions about filtering or removing radium from your drinking water, we encourage you to take advantage of Hydroviv’s “Help No Matter What” approach to technical support, where we will help you select an effective water filter system, even if it’s not one that we sell.  This free service can be reached by emailing support@hydroviv.com

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