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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.

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  • 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

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

Wildfires and Water Quality

Analies Dyjak | Policy Nerd   

Wildfires are of growing concern in the Southwestern United States. We’ve seen a significant increase in both the frequency and magnitude of these destructive natural disasters since 1990. These areas are naturally susceptible to drought-like conditions, but the magnitude of wildfires becomes further heightened due to global warming trends and poor timber harvesting techniques. The overall threat of wildfires is also increasing due to urban sprawl and higher densities of people moving to drought-prone locations. In conclusion, wildfires can negatively impact water quality and here’s why:

How do Wildfires Affect Water Quality?

After a wildfire event, watersheds become vulnerable to erosion, sedimentation, runoff, and other freshwater impairments. 80% of freshwater resources originate or pass through some type of forested land. Forested watersheds naturally purify rainwater, slow the rate of storm water runoff, and contribute immensely to the health of surrounding tributaries. Once forested vegetation is destroyed, the rate and volume of runoff increases tremendously, which is influenced by topography of an area. Additionally, purifying capabilities become eliminated once forested vegetation is destroyed.


What Type of Water Quality Pollution?

Destruction from massive forest fires results in displaced debris, ash, and contamination. Loose detritus of any sorts gets picked up and swept into waterbodies after a subsequent rain event. Water treatment facilities try their best to provide clean drinking water to municipalities, but an influx of suspended solids can make this a very difficult task. Extreme weather events can increase the rate of incoming water containing high levels of suspended solids. Large deposits of sediment into a water treatment facility increases the levels of suspended material, specifically dissolved organic carbon (DOC), into your drinking water. It can also increase the turbidity or cloudiness of drinking water. Dissolved organic carbon molecules react with chlorine and chloramine, which are used to purify drinking water. This reaction creates disinfection byproducts which we are very familiar with here at Hydroviv.

Introduction of Chemicals Into Waterbodies

Fire retardant chemicals are necessary in containing wildfire destruction, but there are several negative consequences associated with their impact on freshwater resources. The typical "slurry" used to combat wildfires is a mixture of water, ammonium phosphate fertilizers, colorants, corrosion inhibitors, thickeners, stabilizers, and bactericides. Little is known about health effects to humans, but many of these contaminants are toxic to aquatic species.

If you live in a area prone to wildfires, we suggest purchasing a filter equipped to filter out these harmful contaminants and suspended solids. If you have questions about water quality in your area, don’t hesitate to email us at hello@hydroviv.com.
  • Analies Dyjak

Problems We Found In Milwaukee's Drinking Water

Analies Dyjak | Policy Nerd   

For Hydroviv’s assessment of Milwaukee, Wisconsin’s drinking water, we collected water quality test data from the city and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. We cross referenced their 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 Milwaukee’s drinking water.

Where Does Milwaukee Source Its Drinking Water?

Milwaukee sources its drinking water from Lake Michigan. This surface water source has had a long history of pollution, including recent lawsuits involving Chromium 6 releases from an abutting steel facility.  

Chromium 6 In Milwaukee’s Drinking Water

Chromium 6 is a highly toxic metal that is currently unregulated by the EPA. In recent years, Milwaukee has had a major problem with this dangerous contaminant. Chromium 6 pollution is associated with metal processing, tannery facilities, chromate production, stainless steel welding, and pigment production. This years water quality report for Milwaukee detected levels of Chromium 6 as high as 0.2 parts per billion. This concentration is 10 times higher than the concentration determined to have a negligible impact on cancer risk. EPA has acknowledged that Chromium 6 is a known human carcinogen through inhalation, but is still determining its cancer potential through ingestion of drinking water. Lung, nasal and sinus cancers are associated with Chromium 6 exposure. Ingestion of extremely high doses of chromium 6 compounds can cause acute respiratory disease, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, hematological, hepatic, renal, and neurological distress which may result in death.

Lead In Milwaukee's Drinking Water 

In recent years, Milwaukee has had a problem with lead in 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 7.2 parts per billion. The highest concentration detected in 2017 was 130 parts per billion, which is a whopping 8.6 times higher that the Federal Action Level of 15 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. These health and regulatory organizations are trying to reduce the allowable limit to 1 part per billion, so a concentration of 130 parts per billion is of serious concern. Additionally, these measurements may not be a true indication of your tap water if your home has lead plumbing or lead fixtures. Treated water leaving the plant may be in compliance with loose EPA standards, but could become contaminated once it enters older infrastructure. Houses built before 1986 were most likely built with lead plumbing and lead fixtures. Lead exposure can cause developmental issues, lowered IQ, and damages to the kidneys and brain.

Perfluorinated Compounds In Milwaukee's Drinking Water 

This years water quality report for Milwaukee included test data from six Perfluorinated Compounds (PFCs). Perfluorinated Compounds are associated with firefighting foam, non-stick cookware, Scotchguard and other solvents from manufacturing. The two PFCs that are the most well known and the most researched are Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) which was detected at 2.1 parts per trillion and Perfluorooctane-sulfonic acid (PFOS) which was detected at 2 parts per trillion. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry recently recommended setting a Minimum Risk Level of 20 parts per trillion for both of these chemicals. These data are preliminary and the effects to human health are still unknown. This category of chemicals are “emerging contaminants” which means they are thought to pose a potential threat to human health and the environment, but haven't yet been regulated. Perfluorinated Compounds contribute to environmental contamination largely due to the fact that they are highly resistant to degradation processes, and thus persist for many years in water, air and can enter the food chain via bioaccumulation in certain animal species.

Chloramine In Norman’s Drinking Water

While most municipalities use chlorine as the primary drinking water disinfectant, Milwaukee’s drinking water is disinfected with chloramine. Chloramine is primarily responsible for what many customers report as the “bad taste” or “pool smell” of tap water. Unlike chlorine, chloramine does not dissipate if a container of water is left in the refrigerator overnight. Most one-size-fits-all water filters use filtration media that doesn’t do a great job removing chloramine, but the filters that we design and build at Hydroviv for Milwaukee use a special filtration media that is purposefully designed to remove chloramine.

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 Milwaukee’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 
5 Things To Know About Chromium 6 In Drinking Water
Perfluorinated Compounds In Drinking Water