Water Quality InformationWritten By Actual Experts


The Noah System: Lead-Free Drinking Water For America's Schools

Analies Dyjak @ Friday, November 27, 2020 at 2:18 pm -0500

Analies Dyjak, M.A. and Michael Ramos   

The unresolved lead crisis in the United States disproportionately impacts young children - especially those in underserved communities. Many schools in the United States were built before 1986, when the use of lead in pipes and plumbing was still allowed. School-aged children who drink water from drinking fountains are exposed to unsafe lead levels on a daily basis. Michael Ramos, the Founder of The Noah System, created a device that automatically flushes water in drinking fountains to reduce the high lead levels in schools.

Why Are We Concerned With Lead in Drinking Water?

Babies and children are the most vulnerable to the long lasting impacts of lead exposure. Lead is a neurotoxin, and can cause lifelong irreversible damages to the brain. Children do not have a fully developed blood-brain barrier, making it easier for “unknown substances,” including lead, to cross into the Central Nervous System. Lead can be mistaken for calcium, in which the body can absorb lead as it would calcium in the brain, blood, bones, and soft tissue. The long term health effects include: slowed growth and development, learning and behavior problems, lowered IQ, attention deficit, hearing and speech problems, and underperformance in schools. Lead was also associated with Autism in a recent study by the National Institutes of Health. According to the Environmental Protection AgencyCenters for Disease Control, and American Academy of Pediatrics, there is no safe level of lead for children. The current allowable level of lead in drinking water in the United States is 15 parts per billion

The Noah System and The Flint Lead Crisis

Michael Ramos is an engineer for Chicago Public Schools. In February of 2016, like most of the country, he watched as the failures of elected officials crippled the City of Flint, Michigan. Flint officials switched the source water from Lake Huron to the Flint River without considering a corrosion control inhibitor to reduce lead. As a result, 9,000 children under the age of 6 were exposed to unsafe levels of lead. Mr. Ramos thought of his own children, and the children he represented throughout Chicago Public Schools. He started to watch congressional hearings and grew even more concerned when the EPA officials stated that “lead in drinking water would be one of the most challenging tasks the country was going to face.” Chicago has its own ongoing issues with lead in drinking water, which he realized had not been mitigated when a school district detected 3,000 parts per billion (200 times over EPA’s Action Level). 

Chicago Has Lead Mitigation Tools In Place. Why Did They Fail?

Many cities across the country, including Chicago, use a chemical called Orthophosphate to help reduce lead levels in drinking water. In order for Orthophosphate to be effective, water must run through the pipes once every 6 hours to build an anti-corrosive crust. Mr. Ramos realized that the drinking water in most schools sits stagnant in pipes for hours - well beyond the 6 hour stagnation period. Orthophosphate is unable to coat the inside of pipes when water sits stagnant overnight, over the weekends, or during school vacations. 
Mr. Ramos noted that several school districts across the country flush their pipes in August, as students are getting ready to go back to school. As we now understand, it doesn’t take long for lead to collect in distribution pipes and reach unsafe levels for children. Mr. Ramos noted that a single-flushing event at the beginning of the school year “was not sufficient to make a meaningful impact on lead levels.” In short, lead levels in schools drinking water can be directly correlated to long periods of stagnation.

How Did The Noah System Come To Be?

Mr. Ramos wanted to first insure that the water coming into his own home was free of lead. “I built a machine that would automatically flush water from the cold water line coming into my house. I took the 6 hour stagnation period and cut it in half, so water would flow through the pipes every 3 hours.” This would allow sufficient time for the Orthophosphate to build a protective crust and significantly reduce lead levels at the tap. He then asked himself: “How do I take what I built in my house and retrofit it for schools?” Mr. Ramos determined that The Noah System could be installed directly in drinking water fountains, and began building systems from his home workshop. In October of 2016, Michael Ramos installed his first Noah System in a Chicago Public School. 

How Many Schools Currently Have The Noah System?

Several schools, Universities, and office buildings across the country that currently use The Noah System. 

How Can I Learn More About The Noah System?

You can learn more around The Noah System by visiting https://www.noahsystem.co/. You can also get in touch via email but submitting your information here: https://www.noahsystem.co/pages/contact. You can schedule a free consultation by calling 708-320-3197. 

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How DuPont and Chemours Changed Drinking Water Forever

Goodwin Media Collaborator @ Thursday, October 22, 2020 at 4:28 pm -0400

Analies Dyjak, M.A.  |  Head of Policy

North Carolina has been at the heart of a largely under-reported drinking water crisis. Thousands of North Carolinians have been exposed to unsafe levels of an unregulated contaminant called Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances, PFAS, or "forever chemicals." The source of the contamination traces back to a fluoro-chemical operation in Fayetteville - causing widespread contamination in municipal drinking water and in private wells. This article will discuss two companies’ legal tactics to try and avoid liability, and how the victims of this tragedy continue to be left in the dark. 

Polluter v. Polluter 

You may already be familiar with the two companies at the root of this crisis in North Carolina. In short, DuPont had been manufacturing and distributing a category of chemicals called Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances or PFAS, since the 1980's. DuPont created Chemours - a spinoff company in charge of overseeing all fluoro-chemical operations, including the entire category of PFAS chemicals. In doing so, Chemours assumed direct liability for DuPont’s decades of chemical contamination - including all environmental and public health damages. According to the 2019 lawsuit, Chemours claimed that DuPont was not entirely forthcoming about the amount of damages the spinoff company was to incur. Chemours claimed that they were set up by DuPont to be “financially overwhelmed,” and ultimately bankrupt. When Chemours took over DuPont in 2015, they agreed to historical liabilities of no greater than $1.42 billion. Chemours claimed that DuPont wildly underestimated the totality of the liabilities. For example, the cost of one particular class action lawsuit, including 3,500 cancer and bodily harm claims associated with exposure to PFOA, was grossly underestimated. DuPont claimed that settlement would cost no greater than $128 Million, while Chemours ended up owing $671 Million for that case alone. 

Chemours v. DuPont was ultimately dismissed by a Delaware judge in 2019. This was bad news for Chemours, and even worse news for the thousands of individuals impacted by PFAS contamination. Both companies are trying to delay and reorganize, in order to pay the absolute least amount of money to the state of North Carolina as possible. If you want to learn more about other Chemours’ litigation in North Carolina, click here. We also have an article about an unrelated case against DuPont, which you can find here.

North Carolina Attorney General Sues DuPont and Chemours

Soon after Chemours sued DuPont, the state of North Carolina turned around and sued both companies. On October 13, 2020, North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein, sued DuPont and Chemours for PFAS contamination in the Cape Fear River. The single Chemours plant in Fayetteville has caused widespread PFAS contamination throughout several major North Carolina counties, including New Hanover, Bladen, Pender, and Brunswick. The recent lawsuit is calling for both Chemours and DuPont to pay for all “past and future costs, necessary to investigate, assess, remediate, restore, and remedy” all damages. We'll have updated information on our blog and social media (@hydroviv_h2o) as this story unfolds. 

How Has PFAS Impacted The State of North Carolina?

There's no way to fully estimate how this negligence has impacted North Carolinians. What we do know is that exposure to PFAS chemicals has been associated with a variety of negative health effects, including: an increased risk of cancer, decreased immune function, increased cholesterol, and more. In a study completed just this year, a team of Yale researchers found that exposure to PFAS increases the risk of miscarriage by 80-120%. A PFAS variety that's especially problematic in the Cape Fear River, called GenX, was deemed a "probable carcinogen" by EPA in 2018. Still, none of these contaminants are regulated by EPA or the state of North Carolina, meaning it's not required to be removed by municipal utilities. PFAS have been detected at levels well above public health recommendations in Wilmington, Leland, Winnabow, and other cities that draw water from the Cape Fear River and its tributaries.

What Can I Do?

Media coverage has been propelled by community organizers throughout impacted areas in North Carolina. Organizations like North Carolina Stop GenX in our Water, Cape Fear River Watch, and many other have “blown the whistle” on what’s going on in North Carolina. We recommend following these organizations, as well as our social media channels (@hydroviv_h2o) to stay up to date. It's important to point out that North Carolina is not the only state that has PFAS in its drinking water. Michigan, Minnesota, New York, New Hampshire, and California are just some of the states where PFAS have become a serious threat. The Environmental Working Group created a map which shows areas of the country with detectable levels of PFAS in drinking water. You can check out the map here.

If you are planning on purchasing a water filter, make sure that it’s rated to remove PFAS chemicals. Most pitcher, faucet, and countertop systems are unable to remove PFAS. Check out this PFAS filtration removal study completed by Duke and NC State. 

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NEW STUDY: Several Carbonated and Non-Carbonated Bottled Water Brands Contain PFAS or 'Forever Chemicals'

Analies Dyjak @ Monday, September 28, 2020 at 12:23 pm -0400

Analies Dyjak, M.A. |  Head of Policy

Consumer Reports recently tested 47 different bottled water brands for the presence of PFAS compounds. The study tested 35 still or non-carbonated brands, and 12 carbonated brands. Consumer Reports also tested the different brands for various heavy metals including arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury. 

Which Brands Had The Highest Levels of PFAS? 

The two still-water or non-carbonated brands that had detectable levels of PFAS were Deer Park and Tourmaline Spring, according to Consumer Reports. 7 out of the 12 carbonated brands that were part of this study had PFAS levels above 1 part per trillion. These brands included: Perrier, LaCroix, Canada Dry, Poland Spring, Bubly, Polar, and Topo Chico. Topo Chico had the highest levels of PFAS, totaling 9.76 parts per trillion. 

The “Acceptable Level” of PFAS Is Still Being Determined

There’s a lot of debate over how much PFAS should be legally allowed in drinking water in the United States. PFAS are not federally regulated despite an abundance of research regarding their negative health effects. For example, we know that exposure to PFAS increases the risk of miscarriage by 80-120%. We also know that exposure to PFAS increases the risk of cancer (kidney and testicular), increases cholesterol, causes developmental issues in infants and young children, and more. A lot of these health impacts can occur at levels lower than EPA’s current public health advisory level of 70 parts per trillion. 10 states have adopted or are in the process of adopting their own enforceable PFAS standards. Even so, there is no scientific consensus on the acceptable level of PFAS for human consumption. In a Duke/NC State filter study, Hydroviv Undersink Water filters reduced PFAS levels to “undetectable.” 

Is Bottled Water Safer Than Tap Water?

Not necessarily. People are surprised to learn that bottled water is actually less regulated than tap water. The Food and Drug Administration regulates bottled water and The Environmental Protection Agency regulates tap water. Both agencies must meet identical federal standards for the same amount of contaminants, with the exception of lead. Also, bottled water companies are not required to disclose where they source their water on the bottle itself. Municipal water providers are required to be transparent about where exactly their tap water is coming from. There’s no way to know if a bottled water company draws and treats water from a river, lake, groundwater aquifer, or the same source as neighboring tap water. Empty plastic water bottles typically end up in landfills, causing long-term environmental problems. We wrote an in-depth article about why bottled water is worse than tap water. Check it out here

Which Brands Had Detectable Levels of Arsenic?

Consumer Reports found that Starkey Spring (a Whole Foods bottled water brand) had Arsenic levels above the regulatory limit of 10 parts per billion in June of 2019. Consumer Reports re-tested Starkey Spring water, and found Arsenic levels just under 10 parts per billion at 9.53 parts per billion. It’s important to note that 10 parts per billion is much higher than what health organizations claim to be safe. Hydroviv Undersink Water Filters brought arsenic levels down from 23.9 parts per billion to undetectable, in a recent water quality study.

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Chicago's Problematic Lead Service Line Replacement Program

Goodwin Media Collaborator @ Thursday, September 24, 2020 at 12:08 pm -0400

Analies Dyjak, M.A.  |  Head of Policy

Over 6.1 million homes in the United States still use a Lead Service Line (LSL) to deliver drinking water into their homes. The City of Chicago has more lead pipes and Lead Service Lines than anywhere else in the country, according to  Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot. The city recently announced that it would prioritize replacing Lead Service Lines beginning in 2021. Unfortunately, the program isn’t as all-encompassing as would be expected by a city the size of Chicago. This article will break down Chicago’s lead line replacement program, and discuss other cities in the U.S. with similar issues. 

Details of Chicago's Lead Service Line Replacement Program:

Lead-Safe Chicago was initiated in 2020 to bring further attention to Chicago’s unresolved lead crisis. The city will assist low-income residents by providing a free lead line replacements to households with a combined income of below $67,300. Households who make more than $67,300 and do not qualify, are encouraged to participate in the “homeowner-initiated program” -  which means that homeowners must identify their Lead Service Line, pay for it to be replaced, and pay for bottled water/filtration while the line is being replaced. The projected average cost to a homeowner in Chicago will by $6,000. The city has offered to waive all permitting fees, which they claim to be as high as $3,000. The homeowner-initiated program is entirely voluntary, and not mandated by the city of Chicago. It's important to mention that because Chicago has an estimated 400,000 Lead Service Lines, this program will take years to complete.

Lead Levels Often Increase for Months After Replacing a Lead Service Line

It may seem counter-intuitive, but lead levels often increase for at least a few months, if not over a year, after a lead service line is replaced. This is because the protective coating inside the pipe (created by years of corrosion control) gets disrupted, and the debris/freshly uncovered pipes surface can contaminate water with lead. One of our scientists wrote an article that goes into further detail about this. You can check it out here

If You Rent in Chicago, You're on Your Own

There are over 1 million renters in the City of Chicago. This initiative does not require homeowners or landlords to take any sort of action, or replace an existing lead service lines. If you rent or lease in Chicago, you’re entirely on your own for ensuring your tap water is free of lead. 

Chicago Water is 9 Times Above The Public Health Goal for Lead

Despite having the most lead pipes in the country, Mayor Lightfoot continues to claim that Chicago water “meets all safety standards.” It’s important to note that there is no such thing as a “safety standard.” Federal regulatory standards, also referred to as “Maximum Contaminant Levels” (or “Action Level” for lead), are the enforceable standards used by EPA. These federal regulatory standards are not entirely based on health outcomes, and must weigh the cost of removing a contaminant with the benefits to public health. Health organizations like the Centers for Disease Control and American Academy of Pediatrics have created public health standards, which on the contrary, are actually based on health impacts. According to both of these agencies, there's is no "safe" level of lead for children. The Environmental Protection Agency has even created a Maximum Contaminant Level Goal of 0 parts per billion for lead. Lead levels in Chicago are currently 9 times higher than this public health goal. 

Chicago is Not Alone: 

This ongoing and unresolved lead crisis in not unique to Chicago. New York City, Pittsburgh, Newark, Denver, Portland, Oregon and so many more all have underreported issues with lead in drinking water. Municipalities are not always forthcoming about the safety of the water flowing through their taps. In June of 2018, the mayor of Newark, New Jersey claimed that Newark’s drinking water was safe for consumption and that residents could continue drinking Newark tap water. Unfortunately, Newark was actually in exceedance of the federal Lead Action Level of 15 parts per billion. If you have any questions about your city's water quality report, one of our Water Nerds would be happy to help! You can send us an email at hello@hydroviv.com or send us a chat on our homepage: hydroviv.com.

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5 Things You Need To Know About The Current State of Drinking Water

Goodwin Media Collaborator @ Friday, September 4, 2020 at 9:04 am -0400

Analies Dyjak, MA  |  Policy Nerd

Most news cycles have been dominated by the election, leaving little room for information regarding drinking water. A lot has happened in recent months that may directly impact the quality of the drinking water flowing through your taps. This article will go over 5 things that things that our team of water nerds are keeping a very close eye on. 

1. Cuts and Rollbacks to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

NEPA requires federal agencies to be transparent about potential environmental impacts from government projects. The particular rollbacks indirectly affect drinking water by speeding up projects without proper environmental review. On Friday August 28, 2020, 21 states sued the Trump Administration for failing to provide proper justification for these NEPA rollbacks. It’s important to point out that NEPA is primarily controlled by the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), rather than the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). NEPA has most famously sidelined the Dakota Access Pipelines, which would have threatened drinking water for various Native American Tribes in The Dakotas, Iowa, and Illinois. 

2. Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) Are Still Not Federally Regulated.

PFAS are a category of harmful contaminants that are known to cause various health effects, including: an increased risk of cancer, increased cholesterol, lowered fertility rates, and an increased risk of miscarriage in pregnant women. The first recommended public health standards for PFAS were set over eleven years ago in 2009. Public health standards are non-enforceable, and therefore municipal water systems are not required to follow them. States like New York, Michigan, and New Jersey have set their own state standards that are beginning to be implemented. A national standard would provide proper risk communication and foster trust between state regulatory agencies. This is especially true for neighboring states that share the same drinking water aquifer. 

3. First Significant Updates to the Lead and Copper Rule Since 1991.

The Lead and Copper Rule is the rule that controls the amount of allowable lead in tap water. The rule established an “Action Level” of 15 parts per billion, which is 15 times higher than what most health organizations say is safe. 90% of water samples in each public system must have a lead concentration at or below 15 parts per billion. 10% of samples can be well above 15 parts per billion, and the system can still be "in compliance" with the Lead and Copper Rule. The 15 part per billion Action Level was established in 1991, and no longer reflects current public health information regarding exposure to lead in drinking water. The American Academy of Pediatrics has determined that there is no safe level of lead for children in drinking water. 

4. Legionnaires Detected in Schools Across the Country.

Schools in Ohio and Pennsylvania detected Legionella in faucets and drinking water fountains last week. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued a warning in May, stating that the occurrence of Legionella may increase due to prolonged building closures. The CDC even offered an 8 steps protocol that schools should take before allowing children back into the classroom. The reality is that many schools do not have the type of funding required to properly flush pipes or test for Legionella in water. If you’re a parent or are concerned about Legionnaires Disease in school tap water, contact your school department to see if they are following CDC’s recommended guidelines. 

5. Michigan To Pay $600 Million To Flint Residents.

99,000 people were exposed to unsafe levels of lead after city officials switched Flints’ source water and failed to add a proper corrosion control inhibitor. The $600 Million settlement took approximately 18 months, and will largely prioritize individuals who were children at the time of exposure. One of the largest red flags is that the amount of compensation available to each Flint resident is entirely dependent on how many people file claims, and where all of the money ends up. 

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