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Water Treatment: Public Problems and Homeowner Options

water treatmentClean water is an essential part of life. Thanks to modern advancements in the plumbing and water treatment world, providing community-wide clean water has never been easier. However, things can go wrong with even the best water treatment plants. What can homeowners do when the community water system goes down? We’ll give you steps to take that can take to protect against the fallout of the city’s water treatment snafu. Before we get into that, though, let’s review the process that your water undergoes before it is lead to your home.

Public Water Treatment Process

surface waterYour drinking water follows a well-defined course from its source to the faucet. You can read more about basic water treatment in our previous post. Here’s the big picture.

Collection

First, specially designed equipment collects untreated or “raw” water from underground aquifers or from a surface water source such as a lake or river. Next, pipes transfer raw water to the designated water treatment facility. After that, the water undergoes a “pre-treatment” process. This process removes larger debris such as silt and leaves.

water treatment

Treatment

Once that pre-treatment is done, then the water will pass through a sequence of other treatment processes. These processes include filtration and disinfection with either chemicals or physical means. Disinfection helps remove and eliminate disease-causing microorganisms. When the water treatment process produces water ready for public consumption. Finally, the treated water flows out into the community through a network of pipes and pumps, aka the distribution system.

How Does Water Become Contaminated?

water treatmentJust because the United States is one of the most developed countries in the world, doesn’t mean it isn’t susceptible to water contamination. The catastrophe in Flint, MI represents one an unfortunate example of just how real water treatment issues become left untreated or unchecked.

Water contamination can happen anywhere, from larger cities to the smallest rural areas. Each problem is unique, which makes getting ahead of contamination that much more difficult.

water treatmentRural

When dealing with farming communities, agricultural runoff poses the greatest risk of contamination.  Water drains from farming fields as a result of irrigation, melted snow or rain. This runoff will likely contain pesticides, animal waste, fertilizers or even soil particles. All these contaminants can enter surface sources of drinking water such as lakes and rivers. Depending on circumstances, these same contaminants leach down into the groundwater supplies, or aquifers, and render them unsafe to drink. Treating groundwater is very difficult, and in some cases, an impossible venture, not to mention costly.

Industrial

The proliferation of industrial and manufacturing areas in metropolitan areas generates a substantial risk of water pollution. In larger and older cities, lead in the water supply still plagues residents. How does lead get into the water supply? Old infrastructure and aging deteriorated pipes contribute to this hazardous contaminant. A large number of industrial facilities also use freshwater to carry their waste away from their plant and deposit it into rivers, lakes and even oceans.

What Are the Risks of Drinking Contaminated Water?

Contaminated drinking water presents deadly risks. Each contaminant creates its own list of problems for unwary citizens. The Environmental Protection Agency provides a list of some of the most common contaminants and how they affect the population:water treatment

  • Lead: if consumed by children or pregnant women, it can lead to developmental problems and congenital disabilities.
  • E. Coli: E.coli, a bacteria that lives in human and animal feces, can enter water sources through human sewage or farming runoff. The symptoms of E. coli include nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, and diarrhea. If the case is severe enough, anemia, kidney failure, and potentially fatal dehydration can occur.
  • Pesticides and Nitrates: nitrates are components found in fertilizers. These are common water contaminants in farming communities. The most noticeable condition caused by nitrate contamination is methemoglobinemia, which is also known as “blue baby syndrome.”

What’s the Solution?

While the above information is scary and shouldn’t be taken lightly, there are steps that you can take to make sure your family has cleaner, safer water for your home.

Point-of-Entry Filtration System

Point-of-entry (POE) systems, also known as whole house water filters, connect with the main water line for your home. You will find the main water line where the water first enters your home from outside. The POE system treats the water so it can flow to every tap and every water-using appliance in your home. POEs treat wide-range water contaminants including iron, sulfur, chlorine and total dissolved solids. Depending size, POE systems last between five-to-seven years without needing a replacement. A POE does filter out a large number of impurities, making it safe for household and appliance usage. However, it does not filter enough for general consumption.

Point-of-Use Filtration System

Point-of-use (POU) filtration systems connect directly where the water exits the plumbing. For example, many homeowners install their POUs by a single water connection, usually under the kitchen and bathroom sinks. This type of water filtration system is of lower capacity, making it a perfect option for light use application. Again, depending on size, your POU system can last anywhere from three-to-six months or in some cases, up to a year. The most common type of POU system, reverse osmosis, can be installed either under the counter or on the faucet.  Reverse osmosis filters use advanced filtration technology that removes up to 99% of water contaminants, producing the best quality water for consumption. As a result, reverse osmosis POU systems remain the most popular option in the large selection of POU products.

What does All This Mean?

Pollutants, accidents and human error continue to plague the water treatment industry. As a result, you shouldn’t rely on them to take complete care of your water. Water treatment facilities, in general, are a great starting place for water filtration. But, taking advantage of whole-house water filtration systems and point-of-use filtration systems is the sure-fire way to make sure your household has access to the purest water. If your home is missing one or both options contact us today. Let us help you on the right path to clean, crisp, delicious water.

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Basic Water Treatment

One of the things we take for granted nearly every day is clean drinking water. When we are looking for a new home or business building, we automatically assume that it will have clean, running water. While this is not faulty thinking, have you ever wondered where your water comes from and how it is processed to be ready for use and consumption? In this article, you will learn where your water comes from, how it’s cleaned, the differences between public and private water treatment and why good water quality is so important. 

water treatmentWhere does our water come from?

The first part of water treatment is collecting it. Natural or untreated water is collected from underground aquifers, like a well or from a surface source such as a lake or river. It then either flows or is pumped to a water treatment facility.  

How does water treatment work?

Once the water arrives at the treatment facility, it is pre-treated in order to remove larger debris like silt and leaves. After that, the water will undergo a sequence of treatments. These include filtration and disinfection. Filtration and disinfection occur using either chemicals or a physical process. These treatments eliminate any disease-causing microorganisms.  

 Once the water completes this treatment regimen, it travels through a labyrinth of pipes and pumps known as a distribution system. 

In-home Water Treatment 

water treatmentIf you decide that you want even more filtration for your household water, there are in-home water treatment options that you can have installed. Known as Point-of-Use treatment systems, they treat your water at the point of consumption. The typical POU devices include:

Point-of-Entry devices treat water intended for household uses such as laundry, dishes, showering, brushing teeth and flushing toilets. These  include:  

  • Activated Carbon 
  • Ion Exchange
  • Filtration

Public  Distribution Systems Vs. Private Distribution Systems

water treatmentWater treatment and delivery systems fall into two primary groups: public and private. The main difference between the two is who controls the treatment facilities. 

The city or town served by the public water treatment facility typically owns and operates the facility. The facility usually falls under the management of the city or town’s elected official, such as a mayor.  

private water treatmentPrivate water treatment facilities vary in size and service area. An individual well that is supplying a single household and a small corporation that provides water to a small group of homes are both private water treatment facilities. So is a large company or business that has its own water service divisions.  

Regardless of the type of water treatment in question, they both must adhere to the water quality standards established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  

Why is water quality important?

Water makes up 70% of the human body, making it vital to human life. The human body can go a month or more without food. Even a week without water, however, can be fatal. Not all water is beneficial, though. Drinking bad or unfiltered, untreated water can have severe health consequences, some even fatal.  

How does water quality affect humans?

water treatment

Giardia lamblia organism

The CDC states that the top causes of drinking water-related outbreaks are: 

  • Giardia
  • Shigella 
  • Norovirus 
  • Hepatitis A 

As scary as that sounds, that is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what can happen when you drink untreated water. Studies have shown high levels of lead in drinking water may cause delays in mental and physical development. Lead is also linked to learning difficulties and short attention spans in children. Again, this is just a short list of what can happen if you consume untreated water.  

hard water = more detergent neededHow are appliances affected?

Treated water also improves the performance of your water-using household appliances. Point-of-Use or Point-of-Entry filtration devices soften your water. Although hard water is not as detrimental as untreated water, it is still not an economical option.  

Water softeners remove the harsh minerals that lead to buildup on your appliances, pipes, tubs, sinks, and dishes. 

Hard water decreases your soap’s effectiveness, increasing the need for more soap or detergent. Soft water is also easier on your clothing, leaving it feeling soft and fresh. Hard water, on the other hand, will leave your laundry feeling stiff and scratchy.    

Free from hard water buildup your showerheads, sink drains, tub drains, dishwasher and washing machine will be more efficient. This saves you money and leaves less of a carbon footprint. 

 EPA Guidelines and Regulations  

According to the CDC, every community water supplier must provide an annual report, called a “CCR” or Consumer Confidence Report. This report provides information on your local drinking water quality. 

Stay tuned for our next article when we’ll discuss homeowner options when it comes to basic water treatment.

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8 Water Blogs To Visit Today

Waterworks is not just a piece of the Monopoly game board, but an actual industry that is quite complex. Water is a beloved topic to many because of its mysterious, but ever-present influence in our lives. Our bodies are made up of around 60% water and our hearts and brains, closer to 75%. Water will always be a highly studied subject and it’s for that reason, we’ve decided to compile this list of resources for anyone as in love with water as we are! Here are 8 water blogs and resources in the waterworks industry, and why you should check them out.

WEF WaterBlog – The Water Environment Federation

This WaterBlog is one of the greater resources of water information because it features interviews and information from water quality experts on the latest news, and ideas in the waterworks industry, while other blogs might focus on one or two specific water topics.

Centre for Alternative Wastewater Treatment

Another great resource for an abundance of scholarly information on all things water treatment, The Centre for Alternative Wastewater Treatment (CAWT) is at the School of Environmental and Natural Resource Sciences at Fleming College, a research institution that’s committed to excellent research and education production and presentation. The organization is head by a number of scientists, faculty researchers, and technologists, as well as other members of academic, industrial, and private organizations.

Drink Tap – American Water Works Association

Drink Tap is a resource written by the very organization who set the guidelines for waterworks standards. The AWWA was established in 1181 and is the oldest, largest non-profit dedicated to safe and sustainable water practices. They’ve been responsible for many advancements of public health safety by uniting the community about important water topics.

Water Main Break Clock – Unibell (PVC) Pipe Manufacturer

Each day, 850 water mains break in North America. This site features a clock that shows you how many have occurred today alone! Corrosion, leaks, and water main breaks are responsible for the degradation of our water delivery and sewage treatment efficiency, so this topic is important, too.

Water.org – Water and Sanitation Advocates

Founded by Matt Damon and Gary White, Water.org is a non-profit dedicated to clean water and solving sanitation problems around the world. This organization has put pressure on the water industry to form new solutions, it’s financed these solutions, and emphasizes transparency and partnerships to further this movement. They hope that one day ALL people will have safe drinking water and the use of toilets.

Pump Aid – Water Treatment Pumps in Africa

Pump Aid is an organization that funds and installs water treatment pumps in Africa, to remove waste from existing water lines and provide the residents with cleaner water. Pump Aid is well-known for its “Elephant Pump”, named for its shape because it resembles a trunk and ears. Over 7,600 Elephant Pumps have been installed in Africa where residents once suffered from a lack of water.

Water World – News/Magazine Style Information Output

Water World is an easier read for water and wastewater info. Its website is an impressive online news platform that many engineers, managers, and constultants frequent for the most up to date, trending information on water and wastewater worldwide.

Water Chat – Water Strategist – Another Online Water News Source

The Water Strategist is another valuable news source for anyone working in or who is interested in the topic of water conservation, treatment, and waste solutions because it’s considered a community that is partnered with over 250 other organizations who contribute to the database that provides the latest news releases.

 

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Water Testing 101

Water testing is recommended for well owners, if the water changes in taste, appearance, or odor, once if you’ve moved into a new home or area of the city, if the septic system has recently malfunctioned or some other circumstances that would cause you to worry about contamination, recurring gastrointestinal illness in the family/residents of the home, if or when an infant is residing in the home, and to monitor the efficiency regularly of any at-home water treatment equipment you are employing.

If you don’t know when you should test your water beyond these suggestions, you can contact your local health and/or environmental agency for the recommendations for your area. At-home water testing kits are available, otherwise you can employ a professional like any other home service such as a plumber or electrician, or your water works company. If you do a home water test and you are unsure how to interpret the results, a professional can help you interpret them as well.

Some common markers to look for are:

Coliform Bacteria

This is the most common marker for bacterial contaminants. The presence of this element is an indicator of contamination of human or animal waste. Total Coliform is a broad category of bacteria and poses little threat to humans unless the number is incredibly high. The marker can also be caused by soil, vegetation, insects and others. This marker is important because it gives you a place to begin, so future water testing can indicate whether or not your water condition is worsening. If fecal matter is a concern, further testing can determine if it’s a matter in need of attention, such as the e-coli test.

Nitrates

Nitrates typically come from fertilizers, septic systems, animal manure, and sewer lines. It can also occur naturally in the breakdown process of soil and rocks. High levels indicate a health risk and additional testing will be necessary to check for other markers of bacteria and pesticides. This particular contaminant is especially harmful to babies and children and should not be used to mix with formula or food.

Other Natural Contaminants

As previously mentioned, your city or state may have guidelines for which testing will best suit your region. Some water-quality concerns in certain areas may include arsenic and radon testing. Arsenic ca occur in water that comes into contact with certain types of rock and soil and Radon is a colorless, odorless, and taste-free gas that comes from radioactivity of uranium in the ground. Areas that are at risk for Radon exposure have to test both the air and water, because they can be ingested into the body by both.

Other parts of home water testing including checking the PH balance and hardness, iron, manganese, and sulfides that can cause problems with plumbing, staining things it comes into contact with, the way the water appears, its odor, and how it feels on your body and hair. If your water appears cloudy or oily, your fixtures become visibly disturbed, or water treatment equipment seems to have malfunctioned, be sure to bring in a professional prior to consuming or using any more of the water.

 

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HOW A MUNICIPAL WATER DISASTER CAN HAPPEN

A municipal water disaster can present itself without warning. The potential for adverse health effects can be great. Contact your city’s municipal water department for the latest report on the safety and quality of your water. The following are examples of water disasters that took the residents of these cities by surprise.

Most recently the Flint Michigan water disaster comes to mind. Flint had switched using the Detroit water system to using the Flint River. Soon after, high levels of lead were detected in tested homes. The water from the river was corrosive to the city water pipes which leached lead into the water supply. Lead poisoning can cause organ damage. In children it can cause brain damage.

Our nations capitol Washington, D.C. faced a water crisis when it was discovered that their lead levels were unacceptable. It was found that the change from using chlorine to chloramine caused premature pipe corrosion resulting in lead leaching into the water supply.

Cryptosporidium, a parasite, lives in the intestines of infected humans and animals. Feces from hosts can enter municipal water supplies by farm runoff and storm water. Milwaukee Wisconsin had a cryptosporidiosis outbreak in 1993 which caused illness to 400,000 people. Of which at least 69 people died. This incident became the largest documented waterborne disease outbreak in U.S. History. Cryptosporidium oocysts are tiny and were able to pass through the water facility’s filtration system. Milwaukee has put in place practices that has improved water quality security including water monitoring equipment and updated filters.

In 2014, the Toledo , Ohio metropolitan area residents were under an order not to drink or cook with the water. Samples taken from a water treatment plant indicated a toxin call microcystin. This toxin was a result of a large bloom of algae on Lake Erie. Microcystins form with the conditions of warm stagnant water and oversupply of nutrients. Fertilizer runoff from cropland contributing to the process. Ingestion of this toxin can cause liver damage.

It is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to have an emergency supply of water in an event of a water crisis. Your water supply should include one gallon of water per person for three days. Ideally This water should be commercially bottled and sealed to ensure its safety. Rotate out bottles with close expiration dates. Include extra water if you have pets.

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Good Water Makes Good Coffee

For many people, the first thing they consume in the morning is a cup of coffee. A good cup of coffee would taste like coffee and look like coffee. A good recipe for good coffee starts with good water.

Good water can come right out of your kitchen faucet. If you’re lucky. Water hardness can vary depending on your geographical location. Water quality can vary from town to town. Call your water supplier for the most recent water report to learn how good your water is. The water report should also tell you how hard your water is. The United States Environmental Protection Agency requires the monitoring of 91 contaminants.

You know you have hard water if you see mineral deposits on your pots, sinks, and toilets. Hard water can leave whitish deposits on your coffee maker parts that do not wipe off. These deposits are from calcium and magnesium and do not pose a health risk. Over time mineral deposits can clog the tube and drip arm resulting in an uneven or failed brew. These minerals can also leave a slime floating on top of your coffee. Clean your coffee maker by running vinegar through a brew cycle. Be sure to run a cycle of water through after that to rinse the vinegar out.

Water that makes bad coffee? Pretty much the same culprits that make bad tasting drinking water can make bad coffee. How about hydrogen sulfide, that rotten egg smell. The presence of iron can give your water a metallic taste. How about too much chlorine?

Coffee shop chains use a filter system that treats their water so essentially a cup of their coffee tastes the same no matter where the coffee shop is located.

A better cup of coffee for you might just involve using a pitcher type water filter product. These can reduce chlorine taste, odor, and contaminants. Be sure to read the instructions on how often to change the filter. Keep the pitcher and parts clean and store your water in the refrigerator to inhibit bacteria growth.

Using bottled water can make a good cup of coffee but the expense makes this not such a good idea. Lugging several gallons of water from store to car to house can be a lot of work.

If you need a more advanced filter system call your local professional water treatment company for their advice and solutions. If you already have a water system in place a regular inspection is a good idea to make sure it is working properly and maintained correctly.

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3 Tips to Save Money With Water Purification Devices

Some of the water purification devices on the market are not really purifiers, at all. If you aren’t careful about which water purification device you choose, you could waste a lot of money and end up with little or no protection. Here’s how to tell the difference.

1. High Priced does not always mean high quality.

Most of us are used to paying more to get more, but when it comes to a water purification device; price has nothing to do with quality. The most expensive systems on the market include a reverse osmosis (RO) step.

Now, I’m talking only about systems that are designed for use by homeowners with a public provider. If you have a private well or other private source, you need laboratory testing to determine contaminants and then you can design an effective system.

If reverse osmosis is your only choice to remove specific contaminants, then you will also need to include other steps. Some companies’ advertisements make it seem that RO is all that you need, when nothing could be further from the truth.

People who are serviced by a public provider do not need an RO step in their water purification devices. There are less expensive, more effective options.

2. Low Priced might not do the job

On the other end of the spectrum are cheap products like the Brita water purification device. While the system does remove chlorine and some other common contaminants, it does not remove chlorine byproducts, commonly referred to as THMs.

THMs or trihalomethanes are known carcinogens. For many years, we were told that the amount released during the chlorination process was safe for consumption. The first studies that showed an increased cancer risk from this level of consumption were withheld from the public.

Now, we know that one of the reasons we need water purification devices in our homes is because of THMs and the increased cancer risk that accompanies them. If a water purification device does not include a multi-media adsorptive block, don’t buy it. No matter how cheap it is, it is still a waste of money.

3. The Best Water Purification Devices.

The best systems include several steps to remove the widest range of contaminants. First, granular carbon to reduce chlorine and other chemical contaminants, then a multi-media block to further reduce chemicals and get rid of the ones that are not trapped by carbon, alone.

The block should have a sub-micron sized porous structure to prevent water from circling around the granules, which would result in less effective contaminants removal. The structure also removes illness causing parasitic cysts that can be deadly.

The best water purification device also includes an ion exchange step to remove lead and other metallic ions. Heavy metals are exchanged for potassium and sodium, to both improve the taste and the healthfulness of your water.

These are not the most of the least expensive systems. The price is around a hundred dollars for a kitchen counter top purifier. People who install water purification devices like these save thousands of dollars per year by not buying bottled. It’s the safest and most economical choice for your family.