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Military Bases Have High Concentrations of Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)

Military Bases Have High Concentrations of Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)

***Updated 8/29/18 to include video***

Analies Dyjak | Policy Nerd   

Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) have been receiving a ton of media attention throughout this past year. PFAS are a category of toxic contaminants that have invaded public and private drinking water systems across the entire country. Military bases are extremely susceptible to this type of contamination because of necessary on-base activities. If you would like to learn more about what PFAS are, their health effects, and if they're regulated, please click here. 

Why Do Military Bases Have High Concentrations of Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)?

Military bases have historically had issues with pollution, due to the nature of on-base activities. Municipal fire departments also travel to nearby military bases because they provide an open, secure area to train. So not only are military personnel being directly exposed to PFAS chemicals in water, but so are local fire departments. The Department of Defence isn’t necessarily to blame for the high rates of contamination of PFAS on military bases. The Manufacturers of PFAS-containing fire fighting foam who actively sell to the DOD are greatly at fault. Because there is no effective alternative on the market, the military has no choice but to continue purchasing and using these products. Unlike many other countries, the United States doesn’t use the precautionary principle in chemical manufacturing. This means that chemicals are introduced to the market before toxicological due diligence is completed. Most of the time it takes someone getting extremely sick for manufacturers to even begin to pay attention.

More often than not, military bases have their own underground private wells that provide drinking water to families living on base, rather than being apart of a public drinking water system. Fire fighting foam can either directly percolate into soil, or run off into surrounding surface water sources. Water from contaminated soil naturally recharges on-base drinking water wells, which families consume on a daily basis.

What Is The Department of Defense Doing About Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) on Military Bases?

The most recent data provided by the DOD stated that 99% people receiving non-DOD-treated water were served by systems with no violations, whereas only 89% of people receiving DOD-treated water were served by systems with no violations. It’s important to note that these data are from bases that voluntarily tested for PFAS chemicals in water, but they do however reiterate that military bases have higher concentrations of this contaminant than other areas in the country. In October of 2017, the US Government Accountability Office reported that the Department of Defense has taken action on PFAS. DOD has directly shut down wells or provided filtration to 11 military installations. This is definitely a step in the right direction, but there are over 400 military bases in the United States that are still contaminated. Approximately 3 million people in the US drink water provided by the DOD. Not only are active military personnel at risk, husbands, wives and children are being adversely impacted by PFAS chemicals in water. Again, manufacturers of these dangerous chemicals are mostly to blame for such high concentrations of PFAS contamination on military bases.

What Are Public Officials Doing About Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)?

EPA set a Lifetime Health Advisory Level of 70 parts per trillion for both PFOA and PFOS. The rule of thumb for PFAS is that the sum of the category of contaminants should be no higher than 70 parts per trillion. ATSDR believes this level should be reduced to 20 parts per trillion for drinking water. Again, Lifetime Health Advisory Levels and Minimum Risk Levels are non-enforceable limits that municipalities are not required to follow. DOD has not developed their own standard for PFAS in drinking water and therefore follow the non-enforceable national level of 70 parts per trillion. DOD is not at all incentivized to create a standard or even test for PFAS, because of the outrageous mitigation expenses.

Other Articles We Think You Might Enjoy:
PFAS: What You Need To Know
Recap of EPA's 2018 PFAS National Leadership Summit
PFAS: Toxicological Profile
Arsenic Found in Whole Foods Bottled Water

Arsenic Found in Whole Foods Bottled Water

Analies Dyjak | Policy Nerd

Starkey bottled water, a Whole Foods company, is facing push back after 2000 cases were recalled for containing unsafe levels of arsenic in their bottled water. Several other popular bottled water brands also had arsenic concentrations hovering at or just below the regulatory limit. Production of certain Keurig Dr Pepper bottled water has been suspended due to arsenic for the same reason. The company found that one of it’s bottled water brands (Penafiel’s) had an average arsenic concentration of 17 ppb. We were not at all surprised to hear that water being pumped from a 2-mile deep aquifer contains arsenic.

Tap and bottled water are regulated by two different agencies: Environmental Protection Agency regulates tap water, while the Food and Drug Administration regulates bottled water. Both agencies follow the same standard for arsenic of 10 parts per billion.

This regulatory standard has more to do with weighing financial costs and less to do with human health. Like any contaminant, EPA has to weigh the costs of the regulation with the benefits of remediating it at the municipal level. When the arsenic standard was up for review in 2001, scientists pushed for a 3 parts per billion threshold, but ultimately EPA agreed on 10 parts per billion. Several toxicological studies have confirmed that a limit of 10 parts per billion is too high to offer meaningful protection against the adverse health effects associated with arsenic in drinking water. In this context, the arsenic concentrations found in bottled water are alarming.

Arsenic is unlike other drinking water contaminants. It doesn’t leach from older distribution pipes like lead, and it’s not a byproduct of chemical manufacturing like PFAS. Arsenic is a naturally occurring heavy metal found in bedrock, which leaches into groundwater overtime. For this reason, it’s typically only found in source water that draws from underground aquifers.

There’s a public misconception that groundwater is more “pure” than surface water sources. Surface water assists in recharging groundwater aquifers, and vice versa. The reality is that there’s very little regulatory oversight for groundwater sources, and the definition of “natural spring” remains ambiguous. In some ways, bottled water is actually less regulated than tap water. Tap water brands aren’t required to disclose where they actually source their water. These brands often use marketing imagery to project pristine source water, without any actual insight into how it’s sourced.
  • Analies Dyjak

Problems We Found With Chattanooga's Drinking Water

Analies Dyjak | Policy Nerd   

For Hydroviv’s assessment of Chattanooga, Tennessee’s drinking water quality, we collected water quality test data from the city’s Consumer Confidence Report and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. We cross referenced Chattanooga’s water quality data with toxicity studies in scientific and medical literature. The water filters that we sell at Hydroviv are optimized to filter out contaminants that are found in Chattanooga’s drinking water.

Where Does Chattanooga Source Its Drinking Water?

Chattanooga sources its drinking water primarily from the Tennessee River. Water is treated at the Tennessee American Water Citico Water Treatment Plant before being distributed to the 177,000 residents of Chattanooga.

Disinfection Byproducts In Chattanooga’s Drinking Water

In recent years, Chattanooga has had a major problem with disinfection byproducts or DBPs. DBPs form when the chlorine-based disinfectants that are routinely added the water supply, react with organic matter. DBPs are split into two categories; Haloacetic Acids-5 (HAA5) and Total Trihalomethanes (TTHMs). Concentrations of TTHMs averaged 70 parts per billion, but were detected as high as 89.1 parts per billion in Chattanooga water. HAA5 concentrations averaged 41.8 parts per billion and reached levels as high as 51.4 parts per billion. For a bit of perspective, the EPA set a Maximum Contaminant Level of 60 parts per billion for HAA5 and 80 parts per billion for TTHMs. While Chattanooga's water quality is technically still in compliance, these levels are definitely high. Disinfection Byproducts are a category of emerging contaminants which means they have been detected in drinking water but the risk to human health is unknown. Regulatory agencies have very little knowledge about the adverse health effects of DBPs, and their toxicity.

Lead In Chattanooga’s Drinking Water

Lead enters tap water through old lead service pipes and lead-containing plumbing. 10% of sites that were tested for lead had concentrations over 2 parts per billion. Environmental Protection Agency, Center for Disease Control, and American Academy of Pediatrics all recognize that there is no safe level of lead for children. However, this years lead levels in Chattanooga are relatively low compared to other major municipalities in the US.

It’s important to note that only a handful of contaminants are required to be included in annual Consumer Confidence Reports, and that there are hundreds of potentially harmful unregulated contaminants that aren’t accounted for. If you’re interested in learning more about water filters that have been optimized for Chattanooga’s tap water quality, feel free to visit www.hydroviv.com to talk to a Water Nerd on our live chat feature or send us an email at hello@hydroviv.com.

Other Articles We Think You Might Enjoy:
Lead Contamination In Drinking Water 
Disinfection Byproducts In Drinking Water: What You Need To Know

Why Does Washington, DC Water Taste Bad Right Now?

Analies Ross-Dyjak | Water Nerd   

Our Water Nerds have received a ton of questions about a noticeable change in the taste and smell of Washington DC's tap water. While we've heard lots of interesting hypotheses, what's really happening is that the Washington Aqueduct (where DC Water purchases water from) has recently switched over its disinfectants from chloramine to chlorine, for an annual "Spring Cleaning" of the distribution lines. DC residents can expect funky-tasting water from March 25-May 6, 2019.

How Are Chloramine and Chlorine Different?

We answer this question in much more detail in a different post, but here's the skinny on chlorine in drinking water: Like a growing number of US cities, Washington, DC uses chloramine as the primary disinfectant for a couple of reasons:
  1. Chloramine persists longer in the distribution system, so it does a better job killing bacteria in areas of the water distribution system that are near the end of the pipes, or don't have as high of flow as other areas.

  2.  It forms fewer disinfection byproducts in the presence of organic matter.

  3.  Chloramine-treated water doesn't have as strong of a taste as chlorine-treated water.

While these are all great reasons to use chloramine, most cities that use chloramine undergo a more aggressive disinfection cycle for a few weeks each year (aka Spring Cleaning).  

What Are The Impacts of Switching to Chlorine?

People often find that the water tastes and smells like pool water during the disinfectant switch, in addition to your bathroom smelling like swimming pool's locker room after showering. If you want to fix this problem... you have a couple of options that don't involve bottled water (horrible for the environment and less regulated than tap water!).
  1.  Get a water filter that's designed to handle it (and lead, chromium 6, VOCs...)!

  2.  If you let chlorinated tap water sit in a pitcher overnight, a good amount of the chlorine taste and smell will go away.  However, many people find that the water tastes "stale" when this happens (from the less volatile disinfection byproducts).

When Will Washington, DC's Water Switch Back Over to Chloramine?

The "Spring Cleaning" period is scheduled to take place from March 25 until May 6, 2019. After May 6, the water utility provider will switch the disinfectant back over to chloramine. Until then... non-Hydroviv users will just have to hold their noses!

Other Great Articles We Think You'll Love:
Tap Water Chlorination:  The Good, The Bad, The Unknown
What Are Disinfection Byproducts and Why Should I Care?
Fluoride in Municipal Tap Water:  What You Need To Know

Water Conservation And Water Quality In The Sports Industry

Anya Alvarez  |  Contributor

Sports is big business in the United States. Most recently it was valued as a $60.5 billion industry in 2014 and is expected to reach $73.5 billion by 2019.

Due to its growth, water usage and water quality solutions are becoming a growing interest to sports leagues.

As one can imagine, the use of water at sports facilities is particularly high. But a new report shows the different ways sport venues can promote water conservation in the industry.

Currently, over 240 million spectators attend games annually, with the total square footage of the facilities expanding over hundreds of millions. By implementing water saving initiatives, sport venues can save an exponential sum of money. For instance, the University of Minnesota saved $412,000 through the implementation of water and energy conservation measures. From 2006-2011, the Seattle Mariners saved approximately $1.5 million in utility costs, this included reducing water usage by 25 percent and MetLife Stadium installed water-efficient plumbing, also reducing their annual water usage by 25%.

Golf courses are also becoming more proactive in reducing water usage. In California alone, golf courses account for the highest water usage in non-agricultural businesses, at over 100 billion gallons a year. However, more courses in California are using recycled water and leaving zones of unused fairway unwatered. Before California’s governor Jerry Brown implemented mandatory water restrictions, due to the state’s drought, golf courses had put themselves on a “water diet,” aiming to use less than 20% of water than usual.

But while the sport industry is trying to lessen their environmental impact, there is another issue to address: water quality solutions for water-sports.

Recently, Florida’s agency in charge of protecting the state’s water, implemented new measures that imposed limits on 39 additional toxins and updated their limits allowed on 43 other chemicals dumped into Florida’s rivers, streams and coastal waters. They are also allowing at least 10 new chemicals to be discharged into water.

Environmentalists felt these new regulations were unsatisfactory and actually believe water quality in Florida will be further harmed, stating, “higher levels of carcinogens and chemicals that can disrupt natural hormones to [will] discharged into Florida waters.” As stated before in Hydroviv’s previous blog post, even if toxic levels are regulated in water, it should still be considered toxic.

Trash in ocean waters is another issue that plagues water sports enthusiasts. Andrea Neal, Ph.D., founder and CEO of Blue Ocean Sciences, is working to make oceans a safer place for swimmers, divers, and fishers.  Plastics, paper and other debris, ranging from microscopic toxins to everyday garbage, pose life-threatening hazards to human and marine life.

Other grassroots movements are not waiting for local governments to clean up the oceans, taking it upon themselves to remove trash. In Oregon alone, semi-annual walking beach clean ups over the last thirty years, have collected 2.8 million pounds of trash, mostly comprised of cigarette butts, fishing ropes, and plastic bottles.

For river sports, like kayaking and canoeing, water quality is also an issue. Project AWARE in Iowa travels around the state rivers cleaning up the the trash themselves, ensuring that people who enjoy the water for recreational sports will not be exposed to anything harmful.

And with the growth of water sports, like paddle boarding, whose market is projected to grow at a CAGR of 15.05% during the period 2016-2020, safer and clean water will be even more crucial.

“It takes love and commitment, patience and persistence to keep cleaning up habitats,” says Wallace J. Nichols, Ph.D., co-founder of four grassroots water advocacy groups. “Clean water is important though, to sustain fit life on the planet.”

With that in mind, since the sports industry will continue to grow across all spectrums, it will be necessary for it to continue to reduce its water usage and also maintain water quality control. Effective and lasting change in these two areas will come when governing bodies of local municipalities and the sports industries begin working together to make this happen.

Other Articles We Think You Will Enjoy

5 Things You Need To Know About Chromium 6 In Drinking Water
Snapshot of Washington, DC's Tap Water
Does Boiling Or Freezing My Water Purify It?


  • Analies Dyjak

Orthophosphate in Drinking Water

Analies Dyjak | Policy Nerd   

Orthophosphate became popularized by the public in the 2001, during the lead crisis in D.C. Lead contamination in many cities including D.C. and Flint, occurs when a public water utility provider switches disinfectants from Chlorine to Chloramine. This switch results in lead pipe corrosion, which then allows for lead to leach into the drinking water supply. When the lead problem initially occurred, cities such as Flint, Michigan, Durham and Greenville, North Carolina, and Jackson, Mississippi didn’t learn from D.C’s mistakes and all had lead outbreaks. This article discusses the common additive used to combat lead contamination in drinking water.

What is Orthophosphate?

One of the methods used by municipalities to prevent lead service pipes from leaching is by adding phosphate to the drinking water supply. Orthophosphate is the corrosion inhibitor most commonly used by water suppliers. When added to a water source, it reacts with lead to create a mineral-like crust inside of the lead pipe itself. This crust acts as a coating which prevents further lead corrosion. 

Does Orthophosphate Fix Lead Contamination?

In terms of eliminating lead contamination at the exposure point, Orthophosphate does remove it from tap water. Some areas have found a reduction in lead concentrations of up to 90%. However, Orthophosphate is somewhat of a bandaid to temporarily fix the presence of lead in drinking water. Lead service pipes still exist and drinking water still technically passes through them. Additionally, if the orthophosphate layer is removed or breaks, lead will begin to leach back into waterways. Maintenance of lead service pipes can disrupt the crust and create cracks in the Orthophosphate layer. Finally, not all municipalities are adding orthophosphate to drinking water because of its cost. If you have any questions regarding drinking water contamination in your area, send us an email at hello@hydroviv.com.

If you’re interested in learning more about water filters that have been optimized for your tap water, feel free to visit www.hydroviv.com, reach out by email (hello@hydroviv.com) or through our live chat.  We also frequently post water-related news on Twitter or Facebook.
  • Analies Dyjak