Archive for May, 2012

Clean it Up

Filed Under Category Water Contaminant by Annie Barbour

In restaurants, water is quickly on the rise as the preferred drink – perhaps because of the price, for health reasons, or for the palate’s sake – as water has a way of simply pairing with a meal. Clean water hydrates, keeps us active, clears up our skin and does so many more things for our bodies – it’s amazing! But what about when the water isn’t clean? What happens when people drink contaminated water, and what can be done about it?

Contamination in water comes from a whole slew of man-made and naturally occurring things: industrial waste, hazardous sediments, household chemicals, bacteria, viruses and parasites to name a few. We’ve previously discussed some ground and surface water contaminants, but what do parasites have to do with water?

The most notable parasitic water outbreak in the United States occurred in Milwaukee in 1993. Cryptosporidium, a parasite, had unknowingly contaminated Milwaukee Water Works’ (MWW) source water: Lake Michigan. The source water flowed to MWW as it always did, and after being treated, was provided to the homes of Milwaukee residents.

Although the turbidity readings had been unusually high, which can signal microbial contamination, the MWW employees did not catch the problem until after the fact, as all of the water quality standards were met. The municipality became alerted of the problem when people throughout the city began calling about diarrhea, and increased absences from school and work were reported. A boil alert was put into effect, the water plant was shut down, and in a week’s time, the incidence of sickness tapered off. When all was said and done, this specific parasite, in a single occurrence, caused 400,000 people in Milwaukee to become sick, and resulted in 100 deaths of people with weak immune systems.

So how did this happen? For starters, cryptosporidium contaminated the water source through infected stools of animals or people. Secondly, Cryptosporidium cysts have tough walls that can withstand many environmental stresses and are resistant to chlorine which many municipalities use to disinfect water.

Of course since the 1993 outbreak, more measures to keep water safe are being taken. The EPA’s Interim Enhanced Surface Water Treatment Rule regulates that 99% of Cryptosporidium be removed if a municipality serves 10,000 people or more.  Since then, no more large-scale outbreaks have occurred. However, if you are served by a smaller scale source for your water or looking for an added factor of safety, consider a home filtration system like the Zuvo Water Filtration System. The Zuvo system is tested to NSF/ANSI standards for the reduction of protozoan cysts including Cryptosporidium.

We’d like to hear from you, what potential drinking water contaminants are of most concern to you?

Ground to Glass

Filed Under Category Health, Water, Water Contaminant, Water Supply by Annie Barbour

Each morning in many houses besides your own, a daily routine begins. You brush your teeth, shower, flush the toilet, make a family-sized batch of oatmeal and remind your children to brush their teeth too. Though morning routines are not identical, life’s basic necessities and cleanliness norms suggest that “getting ready” always requires one thing: water. When you turn the faucet’s handle, you expect water to readily flow from it. But how does it get there, from start to finish?

As we explained in a previous blog post about the water cycle, initially the water is supplied through precipitation, and is collected as surface water or groundwater in a river, local lake or a well. Water is then pumped from one of these sources to a water treatment plant, for the town’s use. Once it reaches the plant, the water goes through a series of treatment processes, to make it safe to drink and use in your home. A typical water treatment plant includes the following processes: coagulation, sedimentation, filtration, disinfection and storage.

After sediment is removed from the water through coagulation, sedimentation and filtration, the water needs to be disinfected to remove illness-causing pathogens. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets contamination limits for drinking water according to the Safe Drinking Water Act, which are all based on a minimal, healthy level.  Arsenic, lead, viruses and mercury are just a few of the contaminants regulated by the EPA, and reduced by water treatment plants.

Public water systems disinfect water through one or more processes, including chlorine treatment, ultraviolet radiation (UV), and less common alternatives including ozonation, boiling and pasteurization. Gaseous forms of chlorine treat public water, reducing disease-causing bacteria and organisms, and removes minerals like iron and hydrogen sulfide. After primary disinfection occurs and the water leaves the municipality, some disinfectant remains to continuously keep water safe. Some utilities have switched from free chlorine to chloramines for maintaining a disinfectant residual in the distribution system. The secondary or residual disinfectant can, and often times does, affect the taste and odor of your tap water, though is not harmful. Alternatively, ultraviolet treatment kills contaminants through radiation, and safely improves water quality. This type of process does not affect the taste or odor after the fact, albeit nor does it have a disinfectant residual.

The filtered and disinfected water is stored and then used when it is needed. Tanks, aquifers and water towers, are all types of reservoirs used for water storage.  Water towers typically hold enough of a water supply for one day of the population’s use. Water towers are usually elevated by structure and location, providing sufficient pressure to deliver water to the homes and businesses within the town. After the water volume in the tower is reduced from a day’s use, more water is pumped in at night when usage is minimal from the municipal source.  By the time you awake in the morning, the tower is filled with clean water – ready for you, your family and your town’s use.

What is the initial source of your drinking water? Do you know how it’s treated?

“Well” Water

Filed Under Category Water, Water Supply by Annie Barbour

One hundred years from now, history books and museums may tell the tale of water-pumping wells. Today, an estimated 15 million US households, or 60 million people, rely on private wells for their main source of water.  With 15 percent of the US population using wells, it’s important to know not only how they work, but also, what the quality of the water is that wells supply.

Private wells pump groundwater to the surface for a plethora of purposes. People pump well water into their home for hydration, cooking, cleaning, showering, and to run appliances.  The majority of this water is used for agriculture; specifically irrigating crops, and a smaller percentage for feeding livestock. Wells are most typically found in rural areas on private plots of land, and are not regulated by the EPA.

The contaminants affecting the water supply depend largely on geographic location and the prevalent industries surrounding the well.  Mining and construction can release heavy metals into the ground, resulting in arsenic in the groundwater, which can cause cancer after long-term exposure.  Nitrates and bacteria are released into the water through septic tanks and factory farms, which both contain large amounts of human and animal waste.  People with weak immune systems, including infants, the elderly and AIDS-afflicted individuals are especially vulnerable to nitrate and bacteria contaminants. Pesticides, fertilizers, household waste like cleaning products and used motor oil, and industrial discharges are also a potential threat to the water that comes from private wells.

It is important to test your well water periodically because unlike water that goes through a municipal source, no one is ensuring the quality and safety of your water. Each state has different requirements, so check with local agencies for the proper testing procedures. If and when you notice a difference in taste, odor and/or color, be sure to test your water and determine the best course of action to maintain quality, drinkable water. If your water has been deemed safe to drink and you’re still not happy with the taste and odor, consider a Zuvo Water Filtration System, as it offers a pure, clean glass of water, every time.