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North Carolina's Water Crisis

Analies Dyjak @ Friday, July 24, 2020 at 9:32 am -0400

Analies Dyjak, M.A.  |  Policy Nerd

The state of North Carolina and non-governmental organizations have been battling with chemical manufacturing giant, Chemours, over pollution in the Cape Fear River. Dozens of communities draw drinking water from this river, and surrounding groundwater aquifers, which have been contaminated by a harmful category of chemicals called PFAS. Unfortunately, the Consent Order (legal settlement) does not go far enough to protect all residents that have been impacted by the chemical pollution. Little Miss Flint has partnered with Hydroviv to donate filters (free of cost) to residents in New Hanover County that do not qualify for filters under the Chemours Consent Order. The program distributes Hydroviv filters to low-income families who would otherwise be unable to purchase a water filtration system that is known to effectively remove PFAS. We’re excited and hopeful to expand this filter donation program to reach more low income individuals that have been impacted by Chemours’ activities. 

Legal Settlement with North Carolina Does Not Go Far Enough:

Under the Consent Order, Chemours is required to partake in a variety of different types of mitigation, including bottled water delivery, offsite water sampling, and installation and maintenance of residential water filtration systems. Although Chemours has completed some mitigation near the Fayetteville facility, PFAS levels in surrounding communities are still extremely high.

Chemours is required to install a water filtration system if a surrounding well test shows above 10 parts per trillion for a single PFAS, or 70 parts per trillion for combined PFAS. A critical problem in this Consent Order is that residents, schools, and local businesses must have a concentration of GenX of 140 parts per trillion (or any applicable public health goal, whichever is lower) or higher to qualify for a free water filter. It’s well understood in the scientific community that contaminants like GenX can cause negative health effects at concentrations far lower than 140 parts per trillion. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) determined in 2018 that GenX is considered toxic at 80 parts per trillion. ATSDR also determined that “the data are suggestive of cancer” at this same concentration. It’s not entirely clear how many PFAS variations are considered under “total PFAS.” FDA believes there are as many as 5000 different types of PFAS.

It’s also unclear how many communities the Consent Order actually applies to, and who is eligible for a free filter from Chemours. In January of this year, a representative from Chemours said that the contamination is always communicated to residents that live within a 2.5 miles radius of the facility. We now know that the contaminated zone stretches 90 miles south into Wilmington, North Carolina. At the beginning of 2019, only 1,673 homes within a 9 miles radius of the Fayetteville plant qualified for a free water filter. 

Why is North Carolina a “Hot Spot” for PFAS?

According to the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, plastic and chemical manufacturing is “growing at 1.5 times the rate of the national average.” PFAS have been used in the production of Scotchgaurd, Teflon, firefighting foam, metal plating, stain-resistant fabrics, and heat resistant products. Industrial facilities that manufacture these types of products are not required to follow strict disposal processes, causing harmful chemicals to end up in waterways. The Cape Fear River, which happens to be the primary source of drinking water for several surrounding counties, has been inundated with PFAS chemicals. It’s important to note that the Chemours facility in Fayetteville, North Carolina is not the only company responsible for the pollution. Despite mitigation efforts and decreased overall production, PFAS are still being detected at levels well above public health goals in the Cape Fear River. A recent study tested various areas of the Cape Fear River basin. Some PFAS samples were as high as 2295.85 parts per trillion for total PFAS. There is also inconsistent testing and lack of disclosure to residents in the contaminated zone. For example, the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality detected PFAS levels that exceed the states’ public health goal in wastewater in Holly Springs. There is no mention of PFAS on the Holly Springs website, nor are they required to test for it.

Health Effects of PFAS: 

The Centers for Disease Control and Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry have determined that exposure to PFAS can cause various negative health effects, including an increased risk of cancer, increased cholesterol, changes in liver enzymes, decreased infant birth weight, and increased risk of high blood pressure and preeclampsia in pregnant women. CDC also discovered a “possible intersection” between PFAS and COVID-19, claiming that “PFAS exposure may decrease the body’s ability to respond to vaccines.” A recent study out of Yale University determined that exposure to certain PFAS chemicals increases the risk of miscarraige in pregnant women by 80-120%. In regard to GenX specifically, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry stated that “the data are suggestive of cancer.”

How Do I Know if PFAS Are In My Tap Water?

At this point, you’re probably wondering how to find out if PFAS have been detected in your drinking water. It can be extremely difficult to find out this information, in part due to the fact that they are not regulated by EPA, and therefore municipalities are not required to test for, report, or monitor for them in tap water. Some states, such as California, Michigan, and New Jersey require municipalities to test for at least one or more PFAS chemicals. Some non-government organizations complete their own PFAS testing. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) created an interactive map that shows areas of the country that have been tested for PFAS. If your municipality is not on this map, it does not mean that your tap water is free from PFAS. Feel free to email hello@hydroviv.com if your municipality is not on this map. Our Water Nerds will do a deep dive into your specific drinking water quality and explain the findings so you are armed with credible information.

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Hydroviv’s Water Filter Donation Program with Little Miss Flint

Analies Dyjak @ Tuesday, July 14, 2020 at 10:50 am -0400

Hydroviv's Water Nerds

Little Miss Flint (Mari Copeny) has partnered with Hydroviv to help donate water filters to low-income families across the country. As of July 14, 2020, the Little Miss Flint Clean Water Fund has raised over $320,000. Mari even inspired us to provide these filters at our break-even cost, which translates to almost one million dollars worth of product. Many families impacted by poor water quality will now have access to an effective solution. 

About Our Charitable Partner: Little Miss Flint

You may remember Little Miss Flint or Mari Copeny, as the face of the Flint Lead Crisis back in 2014. Mari was just 8 years old when she became one of the most prominent activists for the city of Flint, Michigan. After thousands of children in her community were exposed to unsafe levels of lead, Mari knew she needed to do something to help. Mari donated over one million bottles of water to families in Flint impacted by the high lead levels. At the beginning of the crisis, bottled water was the only resource for drinking water that the community of Flint could trust. After Hydroviv’s Scientific Founder, Dr. Eric Roy, heard about the situation in Flint, he began developing and donating high-capacity lead water filters to child-centric organizations and families in Flint, Michigan. This is where we met Mari, and decided to form a partnership to address water quality issues together.

Cost of Impact:

Sustainability: Our filter donation program has a significant environmental impact by eliminating the need for bottled water. While plastic water bottles may be a short-term solution, they end up in landfills and the ocean, causing a host of other environmental problems.

Time: Most bottled water donation programs require physically going to a location and standing in line for hours just to receive a week's worth of water. Installing a Hydroviv water filter allows for tap water on demand, and eliminates the need to take time off work just to receive a basic human right. 

Why Are Hydroviv Filters Different?

Not all water filters are designed to effectively remove high concentrations of contaminants found in tap water, and not all tap water is the same. Our scientific founder had this in mind when creating water filters for Flint, Michigan, and it still holds true today. Hydroviv Water Filters, including those being donated, are optimized to remove contaminants specific to any particular zip code. 

Some communities have “free filtration programs” that are often created a significant amount of time after the problem has been identified. Most city officials choose the cheapest option on the market, and the water filters inevitably end up failing to remove contaminants. Newark, New Jersey had a lead crisis similar to Flint, Michigan throughout 2018 and 2019. In response, the city provided free Pur water filters to eligible Newark residents. Unfortunately, the filters distributed by the city did not perform to the levels that Newark residents were led to believe. 

Hydroviv Specifications

Hydroviv Undersink Water Filters are NSF/ANSI 53 certified to remove lead. Hydroviv was included in a Duke University/NC State study that examined the effectiveness of residential water filters and their ability to remove PFAS. According to the study, water with PFAS present in the unfiltered samples had undetectable (below the Method Detection Limit (<MDL)) levels of PFAS after the water was filtered through a Hydroviv filter. The results from the Duke/NC State study were consistent with a previous study that looked at PFAS removal rates, including GenX. Additional studies show that Hydroviv filters remove Arsenic, Uranium, Chromium 6, and many other contaminants. Hydroviv is not in any way affiliated with or endorsed by Duke University, NC State University, or any of the researchers involved in the study.

How Can I Donate?

Click here to donate or learn more about the Little Miss Flint Clean Water Fund. We will be posting updates to our blogs in the upcoming weeks!

EPA’s New PFAS Rule Does Not Address Drinking Water

Analies Dyjak @ Tuesday, June 30, 2020 at 9:13 am -0400

Analies Dyjak, M.A.  |  Policy Nerd

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has introduced a new rule regarding a category of common drinking water contaminants called Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances. The proposed final rule does not ban the production and distribution of PFAS chemicals, but provides an brief check for chemical manufacturers. 

Why Is Chemical Pollution Problematic in the United States? 

The United States has historically pushed products and chemicals to market without any sort of environmental or public health due diligence. Further, chemical manufacturers are not required to study how their products may impact human health before becoming available to the public. This includes a plethora of chemicals used in things like household cleaning products, solvents, fire suppressants, pesticides, and more. Typically a chemical manufacturing company gets served a lawsuit years after people become seriously ill after using or being exposed to their chemicals. In short, there are few barriers to entry when introducing a new product or chemical to market. The United States does not follow the “precautionary principle,” which is a commonly used method in European countries. The precautionary principle is a preventative check used to ensure the safety of a product before entering the market.

How Does This Affect Drinking Water?

Industrial and chemical pollution threaten drinking water more than almost any other type of pollution in the United States. You cannot see, taste, or smell most industrial pollutants - and most are so small that traditional municipal water treatment facilities are not able to remove them. Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) are believed to be one of the largest threats to drinking water in the United States. PFAS are a category of man-made contaminants that are believed to be ubiquitous in tap water. They are associated with the production of Scotch-Guard, Teflon, stain-repellent products, non-stick products, and more. This rule only puts a small barrier between PFAS pollution and contaminated drinking water, rather than an outright ban. 

Health Effects Associated with PFAS Exposure:

All major U.S. health agencies agree that exposure to PFAS chemicals causes various negative health effects. This includes; The Environmental Protection Agency, The Centers for Disease Control, and The Food and Drug Administration. Health impacts identified by these agencies include:
  1. Increased risk of miscarriages 
  2. Increased risk of cancer
  3. Lowered immune function
  4. Thyroid hormone disruptions
  5. Low infant birth weight

Did EPA Go Far Enough?

Under the proposed rule, EPA will be required to review and approve the use of products that contain PFAS chemicals. This rule is being proposed under the Toxic Substance and Control Act (TSCA), which regulates the use of new and existing chemicals. It’s important that we are crystal clear in the breakdown of this rule: PFAS are still being manufactured and distributed in the United States, and will continue to be manufactured and distributed as a result of this proposed rule. 

Why This Rule is Flawed:

The proposed rule still allows the manufacturing and distribution of new PFAS in the United States. This is a particularly important regulatory flaw because federal or state governments have not been able to implement a plan that addresses existing PFAS in the environment. Even worse, the proposed rule does not acknowledge drinking water as a potential exposure route. Although other rules and proposed rules acknowledge the problem, none provided by EPA present a clear protocol as to how to remove them from tap water. 

Other Articles We Think You Might Enjoy:
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How Well Do Hydroviv Water Filters Remove Arsenic and Uranium?

Analies Dyjak @ Monday, June 22, 2020 at 8:41 am -0400

Analies Dyjak, M.A.  |  Policy Nerd

Maine Well Water Case Study: 

A prospective customer reached out to us about a year ago with concerns about his well water. After sending the well water test results from an EPA accredited lab to our science team, we were able to determine that his well water water was well above EPA regulatory standards for both arsenic and uranium. This meant that the levels in his well water were above what EPA considers to be safe for human consumption. Private well owners are on their own for determining the safety of their well water.

How Well Did Hydroviv Remove Arsenic and Uranium?

Hydroviv’s Undersink Water Filter brought his arsenic levels down from 23.9 parts per billion to undetectable. For a bit of perspective, his pre-filtered levels were over twice as high as the EPA federal standard for arsenic. Hydroviv filters also brought his uranium levels down from 235 parts per billion to undetectable. His pre-filtered levels were over 7 times higher than the EPA federal standard for uranium. The graph below shows the uranium and arsenic levels, before and after installing a Hydroviv Undersink Water Filter. 

Uranium and arsenic levels before and after Hydroviv

Arsenic in Drinking Water:

Arsenic is a naturally occurring heavy metal found in bedrock throughout the United States. Arsenic leaches from bedrock into well water overtime through a process known as natural weathering. The presence of arsenic is entirely dependent on your area’s geology. This means that arsenic may be present in seemingly pristine well water located far away from factories and other sources of pollution. Arsenic can cause various types of cancers, including bladder, lung, liver, and prostate. Some states with the highest rates of bladder cancer also have the highest levels of arsenic in groundwater.

Uranium in Drinking Water:

Uranium is a naturally occurring radionuclide typically found in groundwater. Similar to arsenic, the presence of uranium in well water is dependent on your area’s geology. Long term exposure to uranium in drinking water increases the risk of kidney cancer in humans. The current EPA federal standard for uranium in drinking water is 30 parts per billion. Most standard pitcher and refrigerator pitchers do not include the necessary filtration media to remove uranium from drinking water.

How Do I Know if Arsenic and Uranium are in My Well Water?

Our team of Water Nerds analyzes every order based on the zip code provided at check out. If you live on a private well, we use publicly available USGS data, State Source Water Assessment Program (SWAP) data, municipal Consumer Confidence Reports (CCR), and other internal well water test results. Using these data, we are able to determine the contaminants that are likely present in your well water. 

Other Articles Recommended For You: 
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New Statement from CDC on "Possible Intersection" Between PFAS Exposure and COVID-19

Analies Dyjak @ Thursday, June 18, 2020 at 8:45 am -0400

Analies Dyjak, M.A.  |  Policy Nerd

Editor’s Note: We wanted to inform the public of the recent statement made by CDC about a “possible intersection” between PFAS and COVID-19. The full statement from CDC can be read here.

CDC’s Statement on COVID-19 and PFAS Exposure:

“CDC/ATSDR understands that many of the communities we are engaged with are concerned about how PFAS exposure may affect their risk of COVID-19 infection. We agree that this is an important question.
CDC/ATSDR recognizes that exposure to high levels of PFAS may impact the immune system. There is evidence from human and animal studies that PFAS exposure may reduce antibody responses to vaccines (Grandjean et al., 2017, Looker et al., 2014), and may reduce infectious disease resistance (NTP, 2016). Because COVID-19 is a new public health concern, there is still much we don’t know. More research is needed to understand how PFAS exposure may affect illness from COVID-19.”

Where Are PFAS Found in the United States?

Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) threaten drinking water across the entire country. They've been detected in drinking water in 49 states, including large cities like San Jose, California, Richmond, Virginia, and Durham, North Carolina. Because PFAS are not federally regulated, public water suppliers are not required to test for PFAS or notify residents if it's been detected in drinking water. Check out this map created by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) to see if PFAS have been detected in your tap water. EWG did not test every municipality in the country. For that reason, PFAS may still be present in your drinking water even if your municipality is not highlighted on the map.

What To Do:

  1. Find out if your municipality is testing for PFAS in drinking water. 
  2. If you plan on purchasing a water filter, make sure that it’s been third-party tested to remove PFAS. Most standard pitcher and refrigerator filters DO NOT remove PFAS. This Duke University study tested various filters and their ability to remove it. Check it out before purchasing! Click here
  3. Reach out to your elected officials to ensure that they understand PFAS is a serious threat to public health.
Other Articles Recommended For You:
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EPA Threatens States' Ability to Protect Drinking Water