Fast and Free Shipping on orders over $50!
questions? call 877-992-3753 or visit helpful resources >>

Polluted Waters

  • Simple Filtration Method Can Stop Urban Storm Water from Killing Salmon

    A recent study has revealed that pollutants in stormwater runoff from parking lots, roads and other paved surfaces is killing adult salmon in West Coast urban streams. The study, which was recently published in the Journal of Applied Ecology, is the first to show how salmon mortality is linked to urban stormwater, and suggests that by filtering urban runoff using a simple inexpensive filtration system consisting of sand and soil filter media, the fish can be protected from the toxic effects of pollutants in runoff.

    According to Julann Spromberg, a NOAA Fisheries research scientist and lead author of the paper, untreated urban stormwater runoff is highly toxic to salmon, and the primary goal of this study is to come up with an inexpensive and practical solution for improving water quality. As salmon are good indicators of water quality, their survival is a good indicator of whether a water treatment method is effective or not.

    Credit: Credit:

    Biologists have been studying the impact that urban storm water has on salmon, concentrating largely on streams surrounding Puget Sound, Washington, where over half of the spawning adults returning to stormwater impacted streams each year die before they have had the chance to spawn.

    Coho salmon are listed as an endangered species in south western Washington, Oregon and California, and these significant annual losses of wild coho stocks to storm water toxins before they are able to spawn, could further endanger their populations.

    The proposed filtration columns function on the same principal as rain gardens, which are rapidly gaining in popularity in the Northwest. The authors suggest that this simple, ecologically sound, natural stormwater filtration method is an example of new green storm water management technologies that should be implemented in both new development and redevelopment projects in an effort to reverse the declining trend and help wild salmon stocks recover.

    The study, which exposed adult salmon from a hatchery in Washington to differing degrees of contaminated and uncontaminated water, including stormwater runoff from a major Washington highway, shows that coho salmon are ecological indicators of harmful water pollutants present in urban stormwater runoff. Fish that were exposed to runoff originating from the highway were killed within a 24 hour period. However, once the scientists filtered the polluted water through a 3ft column consisting of layers of sand, compost, gravel and bark, all of the exposed fish survived as they did when exposed to clean water. A water analysis revealed that the sand column filters reduced heavy metal pollutants by 58% and toxic hydrocarbons by 94%.

    Jen McIntyre, co-author and researcher at the storm water program at Washington State Univerity’s Puyallup Research and Extension Center, was most impressed with how effective the treatment was.

    "It's remarkable that we could take runoff that killed all of the adult coho in less than 24 hours - sometimes less than four hours - and render it non-toxic, even after putting several storms worth of water through the same soil mixture."

    The researchers initially attempted to create a potion resembling stormwater runoff by mixing together various contaminants such as heavy metals and crude oil that are known to be present in urban runoff. However, this artificial concoction did not have the same fatal impact on the fish as the runoff from the highway — the fish survived being exposed to it the same as they did to uncontaminated water — which suggests that urban runoff contains other unknown pollutants from motor oil, exhaust and dust emitted by tires and brakes due to wear and tear.

    According to the scientists, it could take some time to conduct further tests and analysis to pinpoint what exactly in the water is killing the salmon. Previous research in this regard indicates that coho salmon mortality is correlated to the extent of paved surface within a watershed, so it appears that the toxic ingredients in streams originate from urban runoff rather than agricultural or household toxins such as pesticides or pharmaceuticals.

    "The recurring coho spawner deaths have been a high-profile mystery for many years, and we're now much closer to the cause," concludes co-author Nat Scholz. "Although we haven't identified a smoking gun, our study shows that toxic stormwater is killing coho, and that the problem can be addressed."

    Journal Reference

    Julann A. Spromberg, David H. Baldwin, Steven E. Damm, Jenifer K. McIntyre, Michael Huff, Catherine A. Sloan, Bernadita F. Anulacion, Jay W. Davis, Nathaniel L. Scholz. Coho salmon spawner mortality in western US urban watersheds: bioinfiltration prevents lethal storm water impacts. Journal of Applied Ecology, 2015; DOI: 10.1111/1365-2664.12534

  • Industrial Pollutants in Drinking Water

    A recently released report by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) documenting the occurrence of contaminated water in storage tanks at U.S. Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina over a thirty year period between 1957 and 1987 revealed that the drinking water at this base was contaminated with various industrial pollutants that put the health of servicemen and their families living on the base at risk.

    More than 70 pollutants were identified, including volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as perchloroethylene (PCE), a solvent commonly used in dry cleaning; trichloroethylene (TCE), a degreasing agent; as well as benzene and other fuel additives, which most likely leaked into water sources from nearby fuel storage tanks.

    The maximum contaminant level (MCL) as set out by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for benzene in drinking water is 0.005 mg/L, however according to the report, water samples taken from wells at Camp Lejeune had benzene concentrations as high as 46 mg/L in some wells. Petrochemicals and VOCs are known carcinogens that can affect human health at low levels of exposure.

    It is believed that long-term exposure to the contaminants has severely compromised the health of people living and working at the base during these years. Families exposed to water contamination at Camp Lejeune have suffered various health effects, including infertility, miscarriages, birth defects, stunted growth, neurological effects, Hodgkins Disease, and various forms of cancer, including leukemia.

    Testing For Industrial Pollutants In Water

    When toxicity tests of various water contaminants are conducted, they typically test the effect of a single contaminant on a range of aquatic organisms, and rarely consider the possible chemical interactions that may occur when a water source is contaminated by multiple toxic chemical compounds. One study that examined the effects of multiple chemical contaminants originating from various industry sectors on aquatic wildlife, revealed that toxicity is far greater when aquatic organisms are exposed to multiple toxins than when they are only exposed to one type of contaminant. This study illustrates how water that contains multiple contaminants can pose a more severe health risk to living organisms – including humans.

    The Camp Lejuene case illustrates this point. As most industrial pollutants that enter a water source originate from various sources, the cumulative effect of these pollutants – even if they are present at acceptable levels – have the potential to interact with one another to form an even more hazardous cocktail that may have little known long-term implications for our health. One of the major environmental and health concerns surrounding fracking is the practice of pumping a cocktail of multiple industrial chemicals into fissures in underground shale beds to force the gas contained within to the surface. The potential of fracking to contaminate underground water sources, including private wells will chemicals such as benzine and other VOCs has caused much controversy and debate.

    Filtering Industrial Pollutants With A Water Filter

    One way to ensure that the water you drink is free from industrial contaminants is to use a good quality home water filter that is capable of removing toxic industrial chemicals that may be present in your water source. The Berkey range of drinking water filters, fitted with reusable Black Berkey filter cartridges, are capable of removing industrial contaminants, including VOCs and organic solvents to below detectable levels. By investing in a high quality home water filter you can ensure that the water that you drink is free from contaminants and safe for your family to drink.

  • Coal Ash Contaminating Local Communitys' Drinking Water

    A new study finds that across the US, coal ash waste contamination is much worse than what was quoted by a new EPA report, with dozens more ash-waste ponds and landfills also leaching toxins into streams and drinking water. This reinforces water contamination concerns much of the public has had with the coal ash industry, and comes to light only 1 year after one of the worst coal ash disasters happened in Dec 2009, "Tennessee Coal Ash Spill, An Environmental Disaster".

    The Environmental Integrity Project and Earthjustice groups have identified serious water contamination caused by coal ash dumps at 31 locations in 14 states, bringing the total to 101, the number of U.S. sites where damages from coal ash have been confirmed. The groups identified the sites by assembling contamination data from state files using “similar criteria” to those sites the EPA had already identified. Arsenic, selenium, boron, and other toxic metal levels were found at up to 145 times federally permissible levels in the adjacent land and water areas of these 31 sites.

    Indian River Power Plant - Delaware


    Contamination of Surrounding Drinking Water

    Not surprisingly, contaminated water from coal-ash chemicals was found to be washing into streams and leaching into groundwater, including drinking water supplies. The full extent of how it has affected the downstream residents and wildlife is not fully understood due the enormity of the regions affected, however enough data has been accumulated to identify many contaminated areas.

    To get an idea as to the degree of contamination, some cited findings in the report include:

    1. Boron and sulfate contaminated drinking water supply that sickened people in Montana and had to be abandoned
    2. Major arsenic pollution from a coal ash dump that contributed to a Great Lake Bay becoming an "International Area of Concern"
    3. A mile-long plume of contamination in Florida
    4. Mercury contamination of residential wells in Tennessee
    5. Selenium levels in West Virginia surface waters at 4-5 times what is permitted under federal law
    6. Lead was found at 10 times the federal limit at 8 sites

    Many States and Communities Affected

    Every year, roughly 400 coal-fired power plants in the US produce about 140 million tons of scrubber sludge, fly ash, and other wastes. A fraction of that waste can be used in products like concrete and the rest goes into landfills and retention ponds becoming a subject of high concern for local communities and environmental groups alike.

    14 states are directly caught up in this firestorm of  the 31 identified including Delaware (1), Florida (3), Illinois (1), Indiana (2), Maryland (1), Michigan (1), Montana (1), Nevada (1), New Mexico (1), North Carolina (6), Pennsylvania (6), South Carolina (3), Tennessee (2), and West Virginia (2). There is a fear however that this may be an even larger problem than what this reports covers as more than the 101 sites cited are prone to polluting the surrounding region.

    Concentrations of toxic pollution at many of these coal-ash sites are shockingly high. Groundwater monitoring data show that pollutant concentrations have exceeded federal drinking water standards by a factor of 10 or more at the following sites: Indian River Power Plant Burton Island Landfill (arsenic, 145 times the standards); Grainger Generating Station (arsenic, 92 times); Trans Ash Landfill (arsenic, 27 times); Seminole Generating Station (arsenic, 19 times); Karn Weadock Generating Facility (arsenic, 100 times); Brandywine Landfill (cadmium, 100 times); Big Bend Station (arsenic, 11 times); Seward Generating Station (antimony, 17 times); Fern Valley Landfill (arsenic, 36 times); Lee Steam Plant (arsenic, 44 times); Sutton Steam Plant (arsenic, 29 times); Hunlock Power Station (arsenic, 12 times); and Wateree Station (arsenic, 18 times)

    Federal Regulation of Coal Ash Long Overdue

    Jeff Stant, lead investigator for the Environmental Integrity Project stated “While the catastrophic spill at TVA’s Kingston plant has become the poster child for the damage that coal ash can wreak, there are hundreds of leaking sites throughout the United States where the damage is deadly, but far less conspicuous”

    The environmental groups are in agreement that it's long overdue for the US government to regulate coal ash as a hazardous waste. State by state regulations are loose and not enforced to the degree that's required to protect the environment and local communities. The groups have called on the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to complete its review of a coal-ash contamination rule and allow the EPA to begin addressing the problem.

    However, many business groups and members of Congress say federal regulations on coal ash would harm the economy and businesses in that industry. In a letter this month to Peter Orszag, director of the OMB, Rep. Jerry Costello (D) of Illinois and seven other lawmakers asked him to “consider the impact the regulation of CCBs [coal combustion byproducts] will have on jobs and the economy in Illinois."

    If you live around, or downstream from a coal-fired plant, we recommend you take the time to research to what degree you may be at risk. Using a home water filter like a berkey system will help protect you and your family from the types of chemicals and contaminants that they've discovered in this study. It's your responsibility to ensure that you are ingesting the highest quality of drinking water on a daily basis.

  • High Levels of Phosphates Affecting Chesapeake Bay

    True wisdom teaches us that life is all about balance.  When we stop and take a moment to appreciate nature, we recognize that we are surrounded by this wisdom.  Unfortunately, the human species has played a significant role in disrupting this balance in ways that we are still continuing to discover.   The following news story provides an example of how a common item we use in our kitchen everyday is contributing to this disruption.


  • Indianapolis - Polluted River Water, Pt's 1 & 2

    A water treatment plant in Indianapolis has been dumping sewage overflow into the White River for over 40 years now.  This is a river that people swim and fish in...even though there are warning signs posted.  Pay attention to the amount of E-Coli they find from a river sample.

    It makes you wonder how much of this contaminated water made it into the water supply of the downstream popuation over these 40 years.  What seeped into the well water systems?  Was it filtered out in some way?  I'd be real interested to see illness or cancer rates across this potentially affected population to look for correlations.  Environmentally speaking, this is just sad.

    Berkey Water Filters

5 Item(s)