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Big Berkey Water Filters

  • Life in the Gutter May Offer Benefits

    Turns out life in the gutter is not all bad. Scientists have just discovered that gutters lining the streets of Paris are teeming with microscopic life that may help improve water quality of urban storm water runoff.

    The research team, comprised of biologists from the BOREA Biology of Aquatic Organisms and Ecosystems research unit in France and a fellow scientist from the Max Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology in Germany, have found that gutters running alongside Parisian streets provide an oasis for a myriad of microscopic organisms, including fungi, microalgae and sponges, as well as mollusks. These urban aquatic communities may provide beneficial ecological services, for example helping to clean storm water and reducing urban waste by breaking down solid organic matter as well as urban contaminants such as engine oil and vehicle exhaust fumes that could otherwise degrade water quality. Gaining a clearer understanding of what organisms make up these communities, and the ecological niche they fill, can help us better understand the ecological services that gutter ecosystems render.

    A storm water drain in Paris A storm water drain in Paris

    The results of the study, which is the first to shed light on the complex biodiversity of microorganisms living on the streets of Paris, appeared in the October 2017 edition of the ISME Journal.

    After noticing the characteristic brown and green tinge of the water flowing in Paris city gutters, as well as bubbles — which are a tell-tale sign of photosynthesis taking place, BOREA researchers suspected that there may be microalgae present in the water. So they set about analyzing non-potable water samples they collected from various locations to identify what microorganisms were present. Sample sites included street gutters, water outlets located on street curbs that pump water from either the Seine or the Canal de l'Ourcq which is used for street cleaning, as well as water collected directly from the Canal de l'Ourcq and the Seine.

    They identified a remarkable 6,900 possible species of eukaryote microorganisms in the roughly one hundred water and biofilm samples they collected off the streets of Paris. Unicellular diatoms were the most abundant, but other unicellular eukaryotes (organisms with a nucleus and organelles) such as amoebas, Rhizaria and alveolates; fungi (including species that are recognized as decomposers); sponges; and even mollusk species were observed. More surprising, the researchers around 70% of the species detected in gutter water were not present in the non-potable source water. The composition of the microorganism communities varied greatly between the sites sampled, which according to the researchers, suggests they may originate as a result of human activity or that they have adapted to thrive in the specific urban location where they are found.

    The researchers conclude that gutters on city streets and the microorganisms they support seem to represent a unique ecosystem that may have a specific, but as yet undiscovered, ecological role to fulfill. Clearly intrigued, the scientists stress that we need to know more about these microorganisms: What exactly are they? What function do they serve? Do they play a key role as minute curbside treatment plants, helping to clean wastewater? How have they adapted to life on the city streets? Should we be monitoring them more closely? To answer these questions, the researchers hope to expand this study by looking at other forms of life, such as bacteria, over a longer timeframe, and assessing microscopic life in gutter water of other cities too.

  • Prenatal Exposure to Fluoride in Mother's Womb Linked to Reduced Intelligence in Kids

    Pregnant women who have high levels of fluoride in their urine are more likely to give birth to children with lower IQ levels, a new study has found. The study, conducted by a team of researchers from the University of Toronto together with experts from the National Institute of Public Health of Mexico, University of Michigan, McGill University, Indiana University, Mount Sinai School of Medicine and Harvard School of Public Health, is the first study of this size and scope that examines the effect of fluoride exposure across multiple stages of neurodevelopment in children.

    "Our study shows that the growing fetal nervous system may be adversely affected by higher levels of fluoride exposure," said Dr. Howard Hu, Professor of Environmental Health, Epidemiology and Global Health at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, and principal investigator of the study. "It also suggests that the pre-natal nervous system may be more sensitive to fluoride compared to that of school-aged children."

    389px-PregnantWoman

     

    For over 60 years, people living in the United States and Canada have been exposed to fluoride in their drinking water as well as dental products, which both have fluoride routinely added in order to prevent dental cavities and strengthen bones. In many other countries around the world it is also added to table salt and milk for the toted health benefits it provides. However, many argue that the health risks far outweigh any health benefits that fluoride offers, and water fluoridation needs to be abolished or at least more strictly controlled. This has fueled a greater interest by the scientific community to explore the issues, particularly the effect that exposure to fluoride has on the developing brains of young children, so that they can provide informed input so that drinking water standards can be regulated accordingly.

    Previous studies have shown that continued exposure to recommended levels of fluoride in Canada and the US can cause some side effects such as mild dental staining, while exposure to fluoride at concentrations 5-10 times higher than the recommended levels can cause fluoride to accumulate in the bones — a condition known as skeletal fluorosis. Yet, according to Hu, "Relatively little is known, with confidence, about fluoride's impact on neurodevelopment."

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    The study, which was recently published in the scientific journal Environmental Health Perspectives, looked at data collected from 287 Mexico City mother-child pairs who participated in the Early Life Exposures in Mexico to Environmental Toxicants (ELEMENT) project, where pregnant women were recruited between 1994-2005, who, together with their children, have been monitored ever since.

    The researchers analyzed urine samples collected from the mothers during their pregnancy, as well as urine samples collected from their children when they were between 6 and 12 years old, to get a clearer indication of the personal fluoride exposure of both the mother and their child.

    "This is significant because previous studies estimated exposures based on neighborhood measurements of drinking water fluoride levels, which are indirect and much less precise measures of exposure. They also looked at children's exposures instead of prenatal exposures or had much smaller sample sizes of subjects to study," explains Dr. Hu.

    The research team then examined the link between fluoride levels in urine and the verbal, quantitative and perceptual performance, as well as memory and motor skills of children at 4 years old, and again when they were between 6-12 years old. They also took other factors that are known to affect child neurodevelopment into account, including: birth weight, gestational age when born, birth order, and child's sex, as well as mother's marital status, socioeconomic status, IQ, education, age at delivery, smoking history and lead exposure.

    The study found that levels of urinary fluoride where slightly higher in pregnant women compared to non-pregnant women in the US and Canada. However, according to Dr Hu, the study's findings don't provide sufficient information to suggest that there is no safe level of fluoride exposure.

    "The potential risks associated with fluoride should be further studied, particularly among vulnerable populations such as pregnant women and children, and more research on fluoride's impact on the developing brain is clearly needed."

    Journal Reference

    Morteza Bashash, Deena Thomas, Howard Hu, et al. Prenatal Fluoride Exposure and Cognitive Outcomes in Children at 4 and 6–12 Years of Age in Mexico. Environ Health Perspect; (Sept 2017) Vol 125:9; DOI:10.1289/EHP655

  • Can Cloudy Drinking Water Make You Sick

    If you think cloudy drinking water is purely a harmless aesthetic issue, think again. A new study conducted by researchers from Drexel University has revealed that murky drinking water is associated with an increased risk of stomach upsets, sometimes even when it is within the safety limits for water turbidity set by city water safety officials.

    Dr Anneclair De Roose, an associate professor at Drexel University's Dornsife School of Public Health, conducted a review of previous studies that looked at the health effects of water turbidity undertaken at several cities across Europe and North America. She found a link between water turbidity — cloudy water — and acute gastrointestinal illness (AGI) in more than ten studies.

    water-1160541_960_720

    Waterborne pathogens such as Cryptosporidium, Giardia and norovirus can cause gastrointestinal illness with symptoms that include vomiting and diarrhea. It is estimated that in the US alone, between 12 to 16.4 million people fall ill with AGI each year as a result of being supplied contaminated water.

    Since water turbidity is caused by particles held in suspension, it is thought that these suspended particles may in fact provide a hiding place to protect disease causing pathogens against chemicals used in the disinfection process. Cloudy water can also be an indication that water is contaminated by sediment and other harmful pollutants that have washed into the water source with runoff.

    In order to gain a clearer understanding of whether cloudy water could be used as a tool to indicate whether pathogens are present in drinking water, De Roos and her team assessed a number of previous studies that focused on this issue. The goal of these earlier studies was to assess the risk of contamination of drinking water sources (typically rivers that provided the study cities with water), before water was piped into the city's water distribution system. The earlier studies correlated the level of water turbidity with the number of residents falling ill as a result of acute gastrointestinal illness, on a daily basis.

    After analyzing the previous studies, De Roos determined that turbid drinking water led to an increase in AGI in several of the studies, and not only when drinking water became increasingly cloudy.

    "As expected, the association between turbidity and AGI was found in cities with relatively high turbidity levels, often in unfiltered drinking water supplies," De Roos said. "The findings that go against the conventional wisdom are the associations between turbidity and AGI that were seen at very low levels of turbidity -- levels lower than the regulatory limits."

    One of the study cities, Philadelphia, showed a link between cloudy drinking water and AGI reported in children and older citizens. Yet water turbidity reported in the studies, which were conducted in the 1990s, was in fact relatively low by both current and past standards.

    Because there was some variation in terms of the level of water turbidity that were associated with AGI in the studies, De Roos stresses that it is important that we understand the reason why this is so. Future research on this topic should aim to identify the specific conditions that results in turbidity causing AGI.

    "For example, given a similar range of turbidity, is the association with AGI restricted to a certain season or certain climatic conditions, such as periods of heavy rainfall?" De Roos said. "Furthermore, does the association disappear if a different treatment method is used -- like UV disinfection versus chlorination alone?"

    This could help identify specific conditions that lead to turbidity causing AGI, which would in turn assist water utility managers to monitor their water quality data to quickly spot conditions that may make the water supply vulnerable to contamination.

    "While these types of epidemiologic studies can't give definitive answers, they offer a relatively inexpensive tool for screening water supplies in order to prioritize management strategies and further research," De Roos said.

  • Do the Black Berkey Purification Elements remove leptospirosis from the water?

    We are getting many questions recently regarding the Berkey water filter's ability to remove Leptospira.

    In a nutshell; The upper chamber Black Berkey purification elements that come standard with our berkey systems have been tested to remove viruses 8 times smaller in size than the Leptospira virus. This suggests that contaminants much larger like Leptospira should easily be removed. However, since specific testing of Leptospira has not yet been conducted, the company cannot officially make that claim.

    What is Leptospira?

    Leptospira is a bacterium that exists around the world but is most prevalent in hot, wet climates.

    “Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection caused by certain members of the genus Leptospira. Most people who develop a leptospirosis infection only get mild symptoms, but a bit more serious influenza-like symptoms are also quite common. In a minority of infected persons, leptospirosis develops into the dreaded Weill’s disease. Weill’s disease is a serious condition that can involve liver failure, kidney failure, meningitis and sepsis. Weill’s disease can be lethal.

    Urine and blood from a leptospirosis infected person or animal can contain a sufficient amount of bacteria to spread the disease. A common transmission route for humans is getting urine or blood from an infected animal on damaged skin. Even a tiny skin abrasion can be enough for the bacteria to get into the body. Leptospira bacteria can also enter the body through mucous membranes, e.g. those found in the eyes, nose, mouth and genitals.

    Scanning electron micrograph of Leptospira interrogans. Scanning electron micrograph of Leptospira interrogans.

    When infected blood or urine gets into water or soil, the bacteria can survive there for several months. Contract with contaminated water or soil can be enough to catch leptospirosis, e.g. if you have a small abrasion on your skin or get water/soil onto a mucous membrane. Also keep in mind that water and soil can contaminate food, and food can also be directly contaminated by urine and blood.”

    http://www.leptospirosis.org/introduction/

    The size of Leptospira bacteria

    Leptospira are incredibly small – they can pass through the pores in water filters, even those that claim to remove bacteria. They will pass easily through filters with a pore size of more than 0.2 micron, including membrane and charcoal types. High-pressure laboratory filters with a pore size of less than 0.1 micron will block them, but the typical hand-held water filters used by hikers, pool filters and the fitted canisters used in some domestic kitchen appliances are useless at removing leptospires – they are often used to separate leptospires from other bacteria when preparing samples for research, as the leptospires pass through but other bacteria don’t!

    “The Leptospira bacteria are in general about 0.1µm in diameter and 10-20µm in length (0.2 to 0.3 microns in diameter; 6 to 30 microns in length). In comparison, a red blood cell is about 7µm in diameter, so despite being quite long, the very small width of leptospires makes them difficult to see under optical microscopes unless a contrast-enhancing technique such as dark-field is used.”

    http://www.leptospirosis.org/bacteria/

    Why is the micron size of Leptospira important?

    A “micron” is an abbreviated term for “micrometer”, or a millionth of a meter (1/1,000,000 meters). This is about .00004 inches. For Size comparison, a human red blood cell is about 5 microns across. A human hair is about 75 microns across (depending on the person).” **
    Working down to a smaller scale 1 micron = 1,000 nanometers and .1 micron = 100 nanometers
    The Black Berkey purification elements can reduce viruses down to the nanometer scale, in the tested range of 24-26 nanometers:

    From our FAQ:

    Is the MS2 - Fr Coliphage still known to be a good indicator of virus filtration? At least one article suggests that it might not be. Do you have tests on any other viruses?

    MS2 and Fr Coliphage are two separate virus with two different removal characteristics. That is why they are used as surrogates for other types of virus. These virus were selected, by both the EPA and the Military, because of their small size relative to other virus strains and the difficulty in removing both strains. They each are approximates 24-26 nanometers in size which makes them among the smallest of virus. To see their relative size we would suggest that you visit The University of Utah Cell Size and Scale Chart. These virus are comparable in size on that chart to the Rhonivirus. Therefore, in answer to your question, yes MS2 and Fr Coliphage are the ideal virus for use as indicators of a purification systems ability to remove virus.

    MS2 and FR Coliphage are approx 24-26 nanometers in size (.024 to .026 microns) and have been tested and shown to be removed by the black berkey filter elements.  These 2 viruses are approx 8 times smaller than the Leptospira bacteria at .20-.30 microns, that is currently being found in water.

    Black Berkey Filter Elements Black Berkey Filter Elements

    What additional precautions should be taken if I suspect  Leptospira is in my water?

    The Berkey water purification systems can efficiently purify raw untreated pond, lake and river water. However, always use the cleanest and clearest water possible. As an additional precaution, if using a source of water that you believe might contain extreme viral and bacteriological contamination, it is recommended by the CDC, EPA and other organizations that approximately sixteen drops of plain bleach (sodium hypochlorite) or iodine per gallon be added to treat the source water before purifying. This should kill minute pathogens such as viruses, within 30 minutes. The disinfectant will be removed from the treated water entirely with the Berkey system, including any odor or taste.

    For more information about disinfecting water, please reference the following links.

    cdc.gov or  water.epa.gov

    The fact that Black Berkey purification elements have been tested to remove viruses to the nanometer range suggests that contaminants much larger in size, such as Leptospira should also be removed. Nonetheless, since actual testing of Leptospira has not yet been conducted, NMCL can’t officially make that claim.

  • High-res Maps Assess the Impact that Cities have on Aquatic Ecosystems

    Scientists from the Department of Energy (DOE) have developed a new method of mapping that can help town planners reduce the environmental impact that a city's energy and water demands can have on the ecology of surrounding streams.

    In a report that was recently published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, DOE researchers from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory used high-res geospatial models to determine the environmental impacts of energy, water and land infrastructure on the country's streams and rivers.

    The scientists used streamflow data obtained from the US Geological Survey (USGS) to map changes observed in the natural hydrology, which in turn helped them get a better understanding of how infrastructural development and competition for water resources impacts the environment nationwide. This data-intensive approach provides some insight on the effect that urban infrastructure has on both aquatic species and the countries water resources, and the information could help city managers reduce the burden on regional aquatic ecosystems.

    A new study from ORNL shows the far-reaching impacts of US cities' energy consumption on regional ecosystems. Urban areas cover only about 5 percent of the Southeast's landscape but cities' water and energy infrastructures often extend well beyond urban areas as power plants (represented as black dots) are distributed throughout the entire region. A new study from ORNL shows the far-reaching impacts of US cities' energy consumption on regional ecosystems. Urban areas cover only about 5 percent of the Southeast's landscape but cities' water and energy infrastructures often extend well beyond urban areas as power plants (represented as black dots) are distributed throughout the entire region.

    According to the authors, the combined effects from the transformation of urban landscapes and power production negatively impact 7% of streams across the US, influencing the aquatic habitat of over 60% of all freshwater fish, crayfish and mussel species across the country.

    "When you consider that most of these streams include big rivers and their major tributaries with abundant species, the environmental impacts are staggering," said Ryan McManamay, an aquatic ecologist with ORNL's Environmental Sciences Division and Urban Dynamics Institute, and lead author of the study.

    The researchers analyzed the impact on 1223 species of fish, crayfish and mussels for the study. Of these, 260 or more are currently locally extinct, while many of the others are listed as endangered.

    The researchers also looked at specific case studies of five cities — Atlanta, Knoxville, Las Vegas, Phoenix and Tucson — creating models that characterized region-specific geographic variables and isolated the land-energy-water footprint that the surrounding landscape of each city had on the environment.

    800px-Urban_stream_in_park

    In all five cities assessed urban land transformation had the greatest negative effect in terms of the length of stream impacted than any of the other factors assessed, including power production. Construction of buildings, roads, and other impervious concrete surfaces changes the natural water-cycle, reduces the water supply for communities living further downstream, and can reduce biodiversity and threaten the existence of aquatic organisms.

    "Urban land transformation and electricity production are important issues for cities because their impacts will grow as cities continue to develop their infrastructures," said ORNL co-author Budhendra Bhaduri, Director of the Urban Dynamics Institute.

    The study shows that the impacts on natural ecosystems are not necessarily directly proportional to the population size of cities — bigger cities don't always have more of an impact than smaller cities. The researchers emphasize the need for cities to work together to develop local policies that will enable them to reduce their impact on regional ecosystems as many energy, water and land infrastructures are managed by local utilities and governments.

    "Both the source and solution to global environmental challenges may lie in the hands of cities. Unfortunately, the changes we discuss are highly transformative, not cheap," said McManamay. "Our goal here is to give cities a way to look at the big picture, so to speak, and to generate metrics that will help them move toward more environmentally sound policies as they continue to develop."

  • Water Safety Tips for Extreme Weather Events

    With Hurricane Harvey recently leaving a trail of destruction in Texas, Hurricane Irma barreling through the Caribbean and Florida, and finally Hurricane Maria devastating Puerto Rico, it is clear that hurricane season can be extremely difficult for many. During extreme weather events such as these, access to clean drinking water can be a serious and life threatening issue for hundreds, or even thousands of people. Disaster management agencies recommend taking the following steps to ensure you have access to water that is safe to drink.

    Before the Storm Hits

    When preparing for a hurricane or any other extreme weather event where there's a good chance that the power may be knocked out, take the following steps to ensure you are adequately prepared, making use of your current supply of safe drinking water while it is still available.

    800px-Hurricane_Rita_Peak

    Store Water

    Fill up clean plastic containers, such as empty milk jugs or soda bottles, with tap water ahead of the storm. Steer clear of containers such a glass bottles or cardboard cartons that are not durable. It is also a good idea to fill up your bathtub so that you have a supply of water to flush the toilet in the event your water gets cut after the storm hits.

    Ensure that you'll have enough water stored to meet your family's needs for at least three days. Each person will require about one gallon of clean water per day. On average, each person will require a minimum of two quarts of fresh drinking water daily, but possibly twice as much to prevent dehydration due to physical exertion or if temperatures are high. Children, nursing moms and people that are ill also require more water to remain adequately hydrated. Furthermore, each person will require an additional two quarts of safe water daily for personal hygiene and food preparation/cooking.

    Freeze Water

    Put some of the filled containers in the freezer so that they can be used to keep frozen or refrigerated food cold for longer. Also fill up ice trays and frozen ice-packs, which can both be used to treat minor injuries such as bruising that may occur as the storm passes through.

    Bottled Water

    Purchase bottled water and store it in an area that is not likely to be affected by rising floodwaters

    During the Storm

    As the storm passes through, take the following safety measures to ensure your water is safe to drink while you ride it out.

    Refrain from Rationing Water Unnecessarily

    Unless a water rationing order is issued, drink as much water as you need to stay hydrated. To keep this to a minimum, try to remain inactive and keep cool, and refrain from using your backup water supply for making coffee, as coffee and other caffeinated beverages are dehydrating and will increase your water requirements.

    Boil Water

    Flooding from heavy rainfall or storm surges can cause municipal water treatment facilities to be overwhelmed, which can result in your water supply becoming contaminated with E.coli, or other common pollutants. If the safety of the water supply is compromised you may be issued with a boil-water advisory. In this event, you will need to boil any water you use for drinking, food preparation, or cleaning your teeth. Even if the water looks clean, bring it to a rolling boil and boil for at least a minute to ensure invisible viruses and bacteria that may be present are killed.

    Treat any Suspect Water

    Consume water from your safe water supply first. Once this is exhausted, treat any suspect water — including cloudy tap water — adequately to ensure that it is safe before drinking. If you have a good quality water filter like a Berkey, this will come in really handy in events such as these to ensure that your water supply is safe to drink.

    If you don't have a water filter at hand, you will need to disinfect the water. Pour the water into a container and let any sediment settle to the bottom before treating the water. Once the sediment has settled, pour the water into a separate container, straining the sediment with a coffee filter, tea strainer or layered cloth. Then either boil the water or treat with household bleach. When using bleach to disinfect water, use only non-scented bleach, adding 1/8th of a teaspoon of bleach per gallon water. Mix well and leave to stand for 30 minutes. You should be able to detect a faint odor of bleach, if not, then put another 1/8th teaspoon of bleach into the water and leave to stand for 15 minutes. If you still can't detect a bleach odor, discard the water and look for a different water source.

    After the Storm

    Once the storm passes, you will still need to take precautions to ensure that your water supply is not tainted.

    Test Your Well

    If your drinking water well was flooded as a result of the storm, once the floodwaters recede, the water will need to be tested for contaminants and disinfected to ensure that it is safe for human consumption. For more specific advice on the measures you need to take, you should contact the local health department in your area.

    For more safety tips visit Ready.gov

  • Improve Water Quality by Installing Permeable Paving & Pervious Driveways

    In your efforts to make your home greener and more eco-friendly, you may want to consider doing your bit for water conservation by installing permeable paving and/or a pervious driveway. Pervious paving not only offers environmental benefits, it is also attractive, durable, requires very little maintenance, and doesn't cost too much to install. These characteristics alone make pervious driveways an investment worth considering, yet it has even more benefits to offer.

    Surface Water & Storm Water Management

    A key feature of pervious driveways is that they are constructed from permeable materials that allow rainwater to seep into the ground rather than wash away as surface runoff. This natural irrigation benefits the soil by reducing erosion and increasing soil moisture content, and replenishes groundwater systems which would otherwise not benefit fully from the rainfall.

    Illustration of relationship between impervious surfaces and surface runoff Illustration of relationship between impervious surfaces and surface runoff

    Since pervious paving is porous, water runoff is captured and absorbed into the ground, preventing storm-water runoff from overloading storm-water drains and sewer systems, thus reducing the risk of flooding.

    800px-Rasenpflasterstein_1 An example of a permeable driveway

    Surface runoff can potentially wash toxic contaminants, such as fertilizers, pesticides, oil and industrial chemicals off paved surfaces into streams, rivers and lakes, where it can endanger wildlife and contaminate drinking water resources. Because soil acts as a natural filter that removes contaminants from the water as it seeps through, by allowing water to soak into soil rather than washing into storm-water drains you can help keep our groundwater resources free from pollutants.

    Save Water by Reducing the Need for Irrigation

    By facilitating absorption or rainwater and snowmelt into the soil you will minimize the need to irrigate your garden, lawn and surrounding landscape. This not only saves water, but will save you money on your water bill too.

    Reducing the Heat Island Effect

    A common problem associated with hard surfaces, such as concrete and asphalt, is that they absorb heat from the sun, which accumulates, resulting in high ambient temperatures in urban environments – a phenomenon known as the 'heat island effect'.

    Pervious paving allows water to filter through the soil into the ground, helping it to stay damp and cool. This provides a natural cooling effect to the surrounding area, which is enhanced if light colored materials are used that reflect heat away. Both surface and surrounding air temperatures are cooler compared to when hard impervious materials are used on driveway surfaces. These cool, damp conditions also stimulate growth and promote vigor of local plants.

    Benefits in Cold Climates

    In areas that have colder climates pervious paving provides extremely good traction when walking on the surface, which may prevent injuries from slips and falls associated with slippery surfaces. When ice begins to melt the meltwater seeps into the ground preventing it from refreezing to create potentially hazardous conditions.

    Enhanced Appearance

    Pervious paving typically has more aesthetic appeal than standard concrete or asphalt, which tends to be rather monotonous. There are many options to choose from, including:

    • Pervious concrete – a porous type of concrete that consists of stone aggregate and cement, but very little sand, resulting in a porous cement that contains many drainage holes within the surface to allow water to drain away.

    • Open-cell concrete blocks or permeable pavers – these paving blocks are specifically designed to take the weight of vehicles yet allow water to drain away into the soil below. Spaces in the blocks can be filled with sand or gravel, or grass or other ground cover can be grown in the spaces between blocks to eliminate heat buildup.

    So, if you are looking for simple ideas to green up your property, a pervious driveway or paving system offers a fantastic solution to prevent stormwater runoff, save water, minimize costs, and at the same time improve the aesthetics and value of your property.

  • How a Rain Garden Contributes to Better Water Quality

    A rain garden is a landscape feature that is specially designed to utilize rainwater and storm water runoff to support the plants contained within. A rain garden can take many shapes or forms: it can be incorporated into a larger landscape feature garden, it can form a border or entrance to an existing garden, or it can be a stand-alone focal point of a garden. What defines a rain garden is how it is irrigated, and what happens to the water after it reaches the rain garden.

    Controlling Storm Water Runoff

    In urban areas that consist largely of paved and tarred surfaces, rain washes off rooftops, driveways and other impervious paved surfaces and flows into storm water drains, eventually making its way to streams, rivers and lakes. As the water flows over these surfaces, it removes loose topsoil and debris, as well as surface contaminants such as pesticides, fertilizer, oil, and animal waste, which are all carried to our surface waterbodies. Excess sediment loads as a result of erosion can cause our rivers and lakes to become silted up, while excess nutrients from fertilizers and animal wastes can cause eutrophication and harmful algal blooms – both of which can have a severe impact on natural ecosystems and the wildlife they support. Toxins can pollute surface waters, posing a risk to wildlife, and they can also contaminate drinking water sources, posing a health risk to humans too. As the Pacific Northwest becomes more and more developed and urban areas expand, the problem is intensifying.

    Rain garden in the Allen Centennial Gardens on the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Rain garden in the Allen Centennial Gardens on the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Madison

    Rain gardens slow this runoff, allowing it to filter into the ground in your yard rather than gushing downhill. Surface pollutants are either removed as the water filters through the soil, or in the case of nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus from fertilizers and animals waste, are absorbed by plants and utilized for growth.

    Healthy Natural Ecosystems

    On the surface, a rain garden provides a healthy wildlife habitat. Below the soil's surface there are a number processes taking place that mimic the hydrology of a natural forest ecosystem. The soil structure needs to be carefully engineered, and plants wisely selected to ensure that the system functions effectively. A rain garden is essentially a small bioretention system that cleans and reduces the volume of storm water that enters the system. Plants remove nitrogen and phosphorus, reducing the levels of these nutrients, together with sediment loads from storm water.

    Plant Selection

    As plants need to be able to withstand extreme variations in soil moisture and nutrient availability, plants selected for a rain garden therefore need to be able to tolerate extreme variability in moisture, as well as high concentrations of nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus that are often present in storm water runoff.

    Deep-rooted plants with fibrous root systems tend to thrive in a rain garden and also provide optimal cleaning and filtering action. Choose native plants that are well adapted to local conditions where possible, however, non-invasive ornamental plants that are well suited to the conditions may also be used.

    Siting a Rain Garden

    Rain gardens should ideally be sited as close to the source of the surface runoff as possible, so that they are effective at slowing storm water runoff as it flows downhill. This gives the storm water a chance to infiltrate the ground rather than washing downhill, thus preventing erosion.When there are a number of rain gardens capturing storm water in an area there will be a cumulative positive effect on the quality and volume of the surface water runoff.

    A Rain Garden Offers Multiple Environmental Benefits

    Rain gardens play an important role in preventing flooding by reducing the volume of water that is transported to rivers during heavy rain storms. Instead, rain water seeps into the ground to replenish groundwater sources, which helps to keep your garden naturally irrigated, alleviating the need to water often, and thus saving water. By carefully choosing the plants that go into your rain garden you can create a wildlife refuge that not only attracts frogs, but also butterflies, bees and birds.

  • Puerto Rico's Water Crisis Highlights Need to be Prepared

    After Hurricane Maria smashed into Puerto Rico last month, pummeling the island with winds of up to 155 miles per hour and dumping a deluge of rain, most of the island has been reduced to rubble. As a result, the majority of the island's 3.4 million inhabitants have been left without power and nearly half the population without water, and it will likely take months before either are restored.

    The category 4 storm has left 16 people dead, with those that survived the initial brunt of the storm now trying to survive in "near-death conditions", according to Carmen Yulín Cruz, the mayor of Puerto Rico's capital, San Juan.

    Note:  We have been making system donations to charities involved in relief efforts.  Pls contact us if you are part of a organization looking for donations.

    Puerto Rico's drinking water quality has always been questionable. Mother Jones reported that in 2015 99.5% of the population was served by water systems that did not meet Drinking Water Safety Standards. This devastation left by Hurricane Maria is testing the islands already strained water infrastructure, leaving around 1.5 million residents without access to safe drinking water and thus dependent on bottled water for drinking, cooking and cleaning. FEMA has delivered around 6 million liters of bottled water to residents affected by hurricane damage in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands (following Hurricane Irma). But as humans require at least two liters of water a day just for drinking, these water rations are not going to go far, especially considering that safe drinking water supplies are not likely to be restored anytime soon.

    A Puerto Rico National Guard soldier helps transport food and water to Jayuya, Puerto Rico, Sept. 27, 2017, while supporting Hurricane Maria relief efforts. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. José Ahiram Díaz-Ramos A Puerto Rico National Guard soldier helps transport food and water to Jayuya, Puerto Rico, Sept. 27, 2017, while supporting Hurricane Maria relief efforts. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. José Ahiram Díaz-Ramos

    The power outages caused by Hurricane Maria caused water pumps at treatment facilities throughout the island to fail. The resulting reduction in water pressure makes the water supply vulnerable to contamination by bacteria as well as other contaminants, which can easily seep into the water supply lines, especially given the fact that they are old and leaky. Furthermore, drinking water sources may become contaminated with floodwater and raw sewage, and because officials are not able to effectively treat the drinking water, this poses a potential health hazard to inhabitants. In many of the affected areas, residents won't have access to safe drinking water until power is restored, which may only be in six months time.

    While they wait for assistance, residents are dependent on bottled water as their only safe supply. FEMA is doing their best to deliver water that has been shipped into the country to those in need, but with roads blocked with debris and bridges badly damaged, they cannot get to some communities who are running out of water.

    Some grocery stores have reopened and are rationing limited supplies of food and bottled water. But residents who can't get to a grocery store that is open have been forced to collect water from leaking or broken pipes — a source that has the risk of being contaminated.

    Now that President Trump has finally waived the Jones Act, loosening shipping regulations for Puerto Rico for 10 days, neighboring countries, such as the Dominican Republic and Cuba who are willing to help but have been hindered by red tape, can provide assistance such as much needed supplies of bottled water of drinking water filters to the desperate residents of Puerto Rico.

    But environmental experts warn that residents may still not be safe once water services are restored, as the water supply will most like contain a concoction of pollutants and toxins.

    According to Erik Olson, a lawyer for the Natural Resources Defense Council: "You don't have to have a huge water upset to create a very serious problem. In 1993, Milwaukee's water supply was compromised after the system's filters stopped working properly. More than 400,000 people were sickened and 69 people died. This is the kind of thing that happens when a source water becomes contaminated," warns Olson.

  • Gaps in Flint's Water Pipes Confirm Cause of Water Crisis

    An analysis of damaged lead water pipelines supplying drinking water to the residents of Flint by a conducted by a team of scientists from the University of Michigan has revealed a perforated interior surface with holes akin to Swiss cheese where there used to be lead.

    The results of the study, which was recently published in the scientific journal, Environmental Science and Technology Letters, supports the widely accepted view that lack of preventative corrosion treatment measures caused lead to leach into the water supply system. The findings contradict a statement made by a regulator earlier in the year who claimed that the water crisis would not have been prevented even if chemicals to control corrosion had been added to the system.

    Interior of Flint Lead Pipe -  Inside a Flint lead service line.  University of Michigan researchers have closely examined the rust layer to  confirm that the cause of the water crisis was, indeed, a lack of corrosion - controlling chemicals in the water. Courtesy of Terese Olson Interior of Flint Lead Pipe - Interior of Flint Lead Pipe - Inside a Flint lead service line. University of Michigan researchers have closely examined the rust layer to confirm that the cause of the water crisis was, indeed, a lack of corrosion - controlling chemicals in the water. Courtesy of Terese Olson

    According to the researchers, these findings highlight the importance of continuous anti-corrosion treatment for America's aging water supply network that provides millions of Americans with drinking water.

    For the study, the researchers used a scanning electron microscope to closely scrutinize the metal scale, or rust, that encrusts the inside of water service line pipes. They analyzed samples from 10 lead service lines supplying drinking water to Flint, looking at both the texture and chemical composition of the rust scale. They estimated that on average each lead service pipeline released 18 grams of lead into the water over the course of 17 months when Flint river water was used as a drinking water source without any anti-corrosion additives.

    "This is the amount of lead that would have entered a single home," said Terese Olson, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Michigan, and lead author of the study. "If we average that release over the entire period the city received Flint River water, it would suggest that on average, the lead concentration would be at least twice the EPA action level of 15 parts per billion."

    That lead ended up in various places. According to Olson, some of it was ingested, some of it flowed out with wastewater, and some lead may still be lingering in household plumbing, where it continues to pose a potential risk to human health even if the lead service line has since been removed.

    Interior of Flint Lead Pipe -  Inside a Flint lead service line.  University of Michigan researchers have closely examined the rust layer to  confirm that the cause of the water crisis was, indeed, a lack of corrosion - controlling chemicals in the water. Courtesy of Terese Olson Interior of Flint Lead Pipe - Inside a Flint lead service line. University of Michigan researchers have closely examined the rust layer to confirm that the cause of the water crisis was, indeed, a lack of corrosion - controlling chemicals in the water. Courtesy of Terese Olson

    According to co-author, Brian Ellis, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at U-M, when a lead service line supplies a home fitted with galvanized steel water pipes, those water pipes can absorb the lead and later release it back into the water. So even if the lead service line is replaced with a non-toxic alternative, any lead clinging onto the galvanized steel pipes within the home still poses a health threat.

    The researchers also pulverized the service pipe linings to determine what material they were made of. After comparing the composition to that of lead service pipes of twenty-six other water suppliers, they found that Flint lead service pipes had a higher ratio of magnesium and aluminum to lead than normal.

    "We estimated how much lead was 'missing' in order to bring the Flint lead scale into line with the amount of aluminum and magnesium that was reported in other communities," Olson said. "That missing lead represents what was leached from the pipes during the Flint corrosion episode."

    Over the years, the inner surface of lead pipes become corroded due to oxidization or reactions with other chemicals, causing a layer of rust to develop. Adequate corrosion treatment doesn't prevent the pipes from being corroded, but rather prevents the rust layer from breaking down.

    "It's like when you put an old penny in a glass of Coke and watch it get shiny again," Ellis said. "The acid in the Coke dissolves the copper corrosion product. This is similar to what happened in Flint's lines. You can have a stable corrosion product, but when you change the water chemistry the oxidized lead compounds on the surface may become unstable and readily dissolve."

    Water supplies that have corrosive water flowing through lead service pipes typically add orthophosphates — a chemical that prevents the layer of rust from breaking down. When Flint's water utility switched their water source from Lake Huron to the more cost effective, yet more corrosive, Flint River, they failed to implement the necessary treatment measures — i.e. they failed to add orthophosphates.

    "Beyond implications for Flint, we demonstrated that small changes in water chemistry can release what was stable lead in a fairly quick pulse," Ellis said. "This is a known condition. So while we weren't surprised, being able to show it underscores the importance of maintaining uninterrupted lead corrosion control."

    The researchers hope to take their findings one step further by verifying their estimate of how much lead each home was exposed to. To do this they hope to analyze a lead service pipe supplying a home that has been standing vacant since 2014 and thus was never supplied with water originating from the corrosive Flint River.

    Journal Reference

    Teresa M. Olson, et al. Forensic Estimates of Lead Release from Lead Service Lines during the Water Crisis in Flint, Michigan. Environ. Sci. Technol. Lett., (Web): July 19, 2017, DOI: 10.1021/acs.estlett.7b00226

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