Water Quality Information | Written By Actual Experts
Error Found In Media Coverage Of Hydroviv's Flint Donation Program
I needed to take a break from prepping for Black Friday/Cyber Monday because I found some media coverage that had some errors in it, and I wanted to take a moment to set the record straight on our website, because it’s important.
I came across an article tonight where there was an inaccurate figure about the number of filters that Hydroviv (which was just me at the time) donated to Flint. The article (which was published right before our episode aired) put this number incorrectly put this number at 1000. The real number is somewhere between 100 and 200 (our record keeping is poor from 2015). Unfortunately, other articles published after the Shark Tank episode repeated the incorrect number. I've reached out to the authors in an attempt to get them to correct it.
While I’m here, I also wanted to also clarify a couple minor things.
- When I was talking about a lab in the kitchen/bathroom, we’re talking about a prototyping lab where we refined the design of the under sink filtration systems, not a wet chemistry lab using hazardous chemicals. Operating a chemistry lab in the bathroom would be unsafe and illegal.
- I was working for a company that developed technology for DoD and First Responders, not active duty military.
- The person who tipped me off to Flint was retired EPA, not actively employed by the agency.
- Hydroviv was started in July 2015, not June 2015.
While we're thrilled that Hydroviv has grown to be a real company now and have the capacity to partner with an amazing activist and make an actual impact with water filter donations (whose reach is well-over 1000 filters), we have no desire to overstate the scope of grassroots donation program that got Hydroviv started.
- Eric Roy
- Tags: flint
How Are Public and Private Water Systems Susceptible To Temporary Water Outages?
Paula R. Buchanan | Graduate Intern Nerd
As a water nerd who also has education and experience in healthcare , I am especially concerned with how the human impact on the natural water cycle can negatively impact population and public health. This report focuses on how the “small” disasters such as temporary water outages in hospitals and other healthcare facilities can also negatively impact water availability and access in our individual households.
What Are the Federal Procedures that Municipalities Must Follow?
Community and private water systems are vulnerable to a number of different threats. Such susceptibilities include natural disasters, crumbling infrastructure and bioterrorism - the scale of which may be extrapolated depending on how many individuals are reliant on a single water distribution system. Federal, state, and local utility-level legislation govern what to do when temporary water outages occur. At the federal level, the Safe Drinking Water Act was amended in 2002 to include the Bioterrorism Act to address emergency water supplies for public water systems under 42 U.S.C. 300i-4 (b), including having a backup water supply plan in case primary water supplies are contaminated. But this legislation only includes information dissemination to water systems, not the individuals whose residences are negatively impacted by temporary water outages.
State and Local Procedures that Protect Drinking Water
Under 42 U.S.C. 300g–2, states are required to create their own emergency drinking water plans, especially for smaller municipalities. For larger municipalities, it is common for the federal government to take a more active role. Water systems in local municipalities that have more than 3,300 residents must follow 42 U.S.C. 300i-2, which requires them to have an emergency water supply plan, but does not include specific information on how to communicate with the public. Unfortunately, how each level of government actually communicates with the public about the water outage can differ, which can be confusing. This makes it even more important for individuals and their households to be prepared for temporary water outages, by arming themselves with the most accurate information on what to do when these emergencies occur.
How Healthcare Facilities Respond to Temporary Water Outages:
We are too familiar with the gut-wrenching images and videos of patients and their caregivers being trapped in downtown New Orleans hospitals during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Power and water outages made it close to impossible to take care of patients. What we are less familiar with are the temporary water outages that happen more often, but still negatively impact patient care and healthcare facilities’ ability to function.
Fortunately, The Joint Commission, a nonprofit organization that functions as the only accreditation entity for most healthcare facilities in our country and around the world, mandates that all healthcare facilities have and follow an Emergency Water Supply Plan (EWSP). In partnership with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, The Joint Commission mandates Standard EM.02.02.09 of all healthcare facilities’ Emergency Operations Plan (EOP), which requires hospitals to identify alternative water sources needed to conduct essential consumption and care activities for both patients and equipment to ensure that the facility continues to be a sanitary environment for medical treatment. EWSPs are also required as a component of healthcare facilities’ Joint Commission accreditation.
Even if you think your household is prepared for temporary water outages, you should also take into consideration how area hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare facilities impact the availability of and access to drinking water. This is especially relevant because – unlike when larger water outages occur – you might not know that the smaller water outages are occurring until it is too late. Information, and information-sharing, is power. Use that power to ensure that you, your household, and your community are prepared for the “smaller” types of disasters that can negatively impact our lives.
How Can Water Outages at Healthcare Facilities Affect Your Household Water Supply?
While The Joint Commission ensures that healthcare facilities must identify alternative water supplies to maintain the “sanitary integrity” of medical treatment facilities, there is no mandate from water supply entities to ensure that increased use of water resources won’t surpass their area’s water systems capacity. This could result in enough water for healthcare facilities, but not enough water for individual households and neighborhoods.
Temporary water outage events can take a healthcare facility by surprise, disrupting daily operations. These disruptions create a ripple effect that also negatively impact water supplies in individual households. If, for example, your house is located near a hospital and both the hospital and residential households are on the sample water supply infrastructure, your house could also be negatively impacted by temporary water outages. Unfortunately, this “small” water outages are less likely to be publicized, since they are less likely to garner media attention and interest.
What Can You Do To Be Better Prepared?
Fortunately, there are online resources produced by government entities that can help individual households be better prepared for inevitable temporary water outages. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Public Health Emergency (PHE) website provides “Planning for Water Supply Interruptions: A Guide for Hospitals and Healthcare Facilities” to help healthcare facilities to plan for water supply interruptions. This guide also includes helpful resources for individual homes and households, including a checklist of what questions to ask that can better prepare you for temporary water outages.
It is also beneficial for households to have individual emergency water supplies. You should also know where your area fire department, community center, and other public facilities are located, since they are often used to disperse emergency water supplies.
The Takeaway: Water Systems Can, and Do, Fail. Be Prepared for Them.
Even if you think your household is prepared for temporary water outages, you should also take into consideration how area hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare facilities impact the availability of and access to drinking water. This is especially relevant because – unlike when larger water outages occur – you might not know that the smaller water outages are occurring until it is too late.
Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Emergency Water Supply Planning Guide for Hospitals
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA’s) Planning for an Emergency Drinking Water Supply
- Analies Dyjak
Newark Lead Crisis: Why Are the Water Filters Not Working?
Eric Roy, Ph.D.
As a chemist, I was disappointed (but not surprised) to learn that a water filter made by Pur is having performance failures in Newark, despite being certified to remove lead. The goal of this article is to explain how water filter testing/certifications work, and to point out the most common reasons why a certified product can fail under real-world conditions
How Does Water Filter Certification Work?
Before going into the specific technical reasons why filters could have failed, it’s important to understand how and why water filter companies undergo 3rd party certifications from organizations like National Sanitation Foundation (NSF).
Any water filter company that wants to get their product "certified" must:
- Pay the certification agency to test that the product meets the specifications of the test protocol (more on this below).
- Pay for project management, site visits, and listing fees to "maintain" the certification.
In addition to strengthening their marking claims, there are business reasons why water filter companies elect to pay the high cost of obtaining certifications instead of demonstrating that their product works through independent laboratories. For example, certain government entities require that products carry specific certifications to back marketing claims, and often times carrying these certifications opens up the door to large-scale government procurement (the City of Newark purchased over 35,000 of these filters for their citizens).
NSF/ANSI Standard 53 Test Protocol For Lead Removal
A lot of the people we talk to are surprised to learn that the criteria used to performance test water filters is standardized and, and may not apply to their water.
In the case of “NSF certified” filters for lead removal, the filter must reduce lead from 150 parts per billion to a certain level in room temperature water that is free of other of harmful contaminants. These tests are run at 2 different pH values (6.5 & 8.5), for the manufacturer-specified lifetime of the filter (in gallons), at a manufacturer-specified flow rate (in gallons per minute).
Water filter companies don’t get extra points for: reducing lead to undetectable levels, being able to handle higher lead concentrations, performance in the presence of other metals, having consistent performance across the entire gallon capacity, operating at higher flow rates, or performing tests at different pH values. In the eyes of certification bodies, filters either meet the performance specification or they don't.
Understanding the framework of "certification" is important in understanding why products that are certified to remove lead can fail under real-world conditions.
Newark's Water May Not Be Well Represented by Product Testing Procedure
As we discussed earlier, “certified” filters undergo a standardized testing protocol in a controlled laboratory environment. Unfortunately, controlled laboratory studies don't always match the real-world conditions found in customer's homes.
For example, the filter's real-world performance can break down if:
- The water’s initial lead levels are above 150 parts per billion
- The filter was flowing at a faster flow rate than specified
- The temperature of the water is different than the test protocol
- If other contaminants are present in the water that consume the lead removal media
The End User May Have Used the Filter Outside of Manufacturer's Specifications
Sometimes the consumer misunderstands how to read the manufacturer's specs. For example, water filters are rated for a gallon capacity, which the manufacturers translate to an approximate filter lifetime, based on normal usage. For example, a filter that is rated to handle 100 gallons of water with 150 ppb lead might have a 3 month estimated lifetime based on "normal use." However, if the end user passes 100 gallons of water through the filter in a single day, the capacity will be saturated in a day. During the Flint lead crisis, we learned that families were using a single filter to fill up large water jugs for bathing, because they thought that the water filter's expiration was time based, not a gallon capacity. Unfortunately, this practice saturated the filter with lead much more quickly than the estimated lifetime.
Poor Manufacturing QA/QC or Changes to the Filter
It's well-understood that quality control can suffer when manufacturing is transitioned to low-cost factories. If the cartridge manufacturing facility quietyly changed anything about the filter's construction, or there was a QA/QC lapse in production, the certification agencies may not catch the performance change until the next testing cycle (which is typically every 5 years).
The Type of Filter Distributed by Newark Allows Users to Easily Operate the Filter out of Spec
One of the negative things “end of faucet” filters is that the user can easily run hot water through the filter. Manufacturers of these products issue guidance against it in their spec sheets, but people regularly ignore the warnings so they can have filtered hot water (or so they think). What isn’t necessarily obvious to the consumer is that hot water can impact the performance of a water filter because hot water typically has much higher lead and other heavy metal levels than cold water. This is due to a number of factors (e.g. residence time in hot water tanks, temperature dependence of metal leaching). If an unexpectedly high “slug” of heavy metals flowed through the cartridge, the lead removal media will become saturated faster than the gallon rating on the package. Once the filter is saturated, it's useless. On top of this, hot water often has higher concentrations of bacterial and other particles that can “foul” a filter and negatively impact the performance.
Unfortunately, the filters in Newark are not performing to the levels that the customer (City and Citizens of Newark) was led to believe by the filter manufacturer. Hopefully, this event will prompt cities to independently test water filters before using public funds to purchase them.
Full Disclosure: Despite being critical of the “pay-to-play” nature of certification, Hydroviv Undersink and Refrigerator Line systems have undergone NSF certification for lead removal. You can find our NSF 53 listing here.
Does Your Home Have Lead Plumbing? Here's How To Tell
Eric Roy, Ph.D. Scientific Founder
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|
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.
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:
- Use a high quality filter at each faucet used for drinking. Any filter should meet or exceed NSF Standard 53 for lead filtration performance.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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
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
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