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Big Berkey Water Filters

  • 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

  • The Invisible Plague: Microplastics Now Contaminate Drinking Water

    A new report, titled "Invisibles: The Plastic Inside Us", recently released by Orb Media, has shockingly revealed that microplastics — tiny bits of plastic less than 5 millimeters long that are the product of industrial waste and discarded plastic consumer products, which are now so prevalent everywhere around the world — contaminates more than 80% of tap water globally.

    Note Regarding our Berkey Systems: The Berkey has yet to be tested for microplastics removal. The study states, "There is nowhere really where you can say these are being trapped 100%. In terms of fibres, the diameter is 10 microns across and it would be very unusual to find that level of filtration in our drinking water systems.”  With that being said, we know that the berkey can filter down to 2 microns and less, so until testing is done, we can only state that the berkey would be filtering out more of these microplastics than your town's municipal water filtering system.

    "Our exclusive research found 83 percent of the tap water samples from 14 countries are contaminated with microscopic plastic fibers," said Molly Bingham, founder and CEO, Orb Media. "Scientists say they don't really know how these microplastics reach our taps or what the health risks might be. But microplastics have been shown to absorb toxic chemicals from the marine environment, and then release them when consumed by fish and mammals. I am concerned by the implications of our research. At the very least, I hope that our work triggers large scale, global research on plastic contamination and the ramifications for human health — particularly that of children."

    The drinking water study, which was conceived by Orb Media, was designed and conducted by Dr Sherri Mason from the State University of New York, Fredonia, and Elizabeth Wattenberg from the University of Minnesota's School of Public Health, who supervised the testing of drinking water samples conducted by research scientist, Mary Kosuth. Kosuth analyzed 159 500ml tap water samples collected from 14 different countries from five continents around the world, including the US, UK and Ireland, as well as countries in Europe, Central America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

    Tiny bits of plastic less than 5 millimeters long that are the product of industrial waste and discarded plastic consumer products, which are now so prevalent everywhere around the world — contaminates more than 80% of tap water globally. Big Berkey Water Filters Tiny bits of plastic less than 5 millimeters long that are the product of industrial waste and discarded plastic consumer products, which are now so prevalent everywhere around the world — contaminates more than 80% of tap water globally. Big Berkey Water Filters

    Reporting from Australia, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Philippines, Uganda, the United Kingdom and the United States, the reporters take an in depth look at how plastic waste has taken over the world, and highlight the environmental and health issues resulting from this ever growing plague. But their research didn't stop at just looking at the scourge of plastic waste, they also oversaw the collection and testing of water samples to create awareness of the extent of the problem and to highlight the health risk that microplastic pollution in drinking water poses to people all around the world.

    The samples show that the extent of tap water contamination is relatively evenly distributed, ranging from 72% in Europe to 94% in the US and in Beirut, Lebanon

    Sources of microplastic particles include:

    • Fibers from synthetic clothing materials in washing wastewater
    • Airborne fibers from synthetic clothing materials due to abrasion
    • Tire dust from roads washing into streams and rivers
    • Paint dust from road markings, house paint and ship paint
    • Secondary microplastics — smaller bits of plastic from large plastic products as they break down
    • Microbeads found in facial scrubs and other cosmetic products

    "Since the problem of plastic was created exclusively by human beings through our indifference, it can be solved by human beings by paying attention to it," said Muhammad Yunus, 2006 Nobel Peace Prize laureate. "Now what we need is a determination to get it done before it gets us."

    What Can You Do?

    The report lists 7 things that we can do to help address the problem:

    1. Say no to plastic bags — take a reusable shopping bag with you when you go shopping.
    2. Refuse straws — plastic straws are another big contributor to plastic waste, what's more they are completely unnecessary. Skip them or keep your own personal reusable metal straw in your bag.
    3. Wash your fleece clothing less frequently, and use a filter on your washing machine to trap any microfibers that come off in the wash.
    4. Share lifts or use public transport to cut down the amount of tire dust produced on the roads.
    5. Opt for an eco-friendly toothbrush made from natural materials such as bamboo rather than a plastic version, which will take years to break down once discarded.
    6. Take care when rinsing paint brushes — rinse them in a can or jar rather than in the sink, then discard that together with the paint responsibly at the landfill. Better still, use a natural paint, such as milk paint, which looks great and is environmentally friendly.
    7. Make use of a reusable water bottle instead of buying plastic bottled water. Some water bottles, such as the Berkey Sport, are even fitted with a filter to help filter out and reduce any microplastic fibers present in the tap water.

  • Farming Runoff Promotes Drinking Water Contamination

    Environmental standards for water contaminants are set at levels that the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) consider are safe to drink, but for some contaminants, these levels still pose a health risk when consumed consistently over a long period of time.

    One of these contaminants is the trihalomethanes (THMs), which are produced as a byproduct when disinfectants are added to drinking water to eradicate organic matter, typically algae, that may be present in the water.

    "If the water has high levels of organic matter—which in most cases is algae—[utility districts] will disinfect the water," Craig Cox, senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources at the Environmental Working Group (EWG), told Civil Eats. "It's a real conundrum for these facilities because they have to disinfect it to prevent a huge public health threat. But the trade-off is more chronic health threats because so many of these byproducts are carcinogenic. So they don't have a lot of good options."

    But Cox suggests that rather than treating the water to combat algae, we should be limiting the flow of nutrient pollutants entering our waterways from farm runoff. Both nitrogen and phosphorous, commonly used in fertilizers, by their very nature promote algal growth, and should be prevented from entering freshwater systems for both ecological and human health reasons.

    Wallkill River at Wallkill, NY, USA, its waters turned green by an algae bloom in late summer 2016 Wallkill River at Wallkill, NY, USA, its waters turned green by an algae bloom in late summer 2016

    Cox and his colleagues at the EWG have been working on compiling a national Tap Water Database that allows consumers to see what contaminants are in their drinking water by searching an online map or by entering their ZIP code on the website's home-page.

    While some consumers may assume that drinking water contamination is limited to the cities, rural areas have their own set of challenges. In fact, very often water serving rural areas has more contaminants than that piped to cities. And, according to Cox, many of the pollutants that turn up in city water originates from farms.

    In an effort to avoid costly lawsuits, such as the one recently filed by Des Moines Water Works against three farming counties in an attempt to reduce agricultural pollutants entering their water, the farming sector is encouraged to start taking concrete measures to reduce nitrate runoff at the source. While the agricultural industry opposed the suit, which was ultimately dismissed, the Des Moines water utility was left with the hefty bill — US$1.5 million in 2015 — to remove nitrates from its drinking water in order to make it safe to drink.

    "Most industries in the United States have to pay when they pollute," says Des Moines Water Works spokesperson, Laura Sarcone. "But for some reason on the water quality side, that's not the case in the agricultural industry. So we are constantly monitoring, analyzing, treating extensively and expensively to remove agricultural contaminants that shouldn't be there in the first place."

    Our water resources simply aren't afforded the respect they deserve. In fact, they water is a commodity that is pretty much taken for granted. Yet, our health, and ultimately our survival, depends on having access to clean drinking water.

    "I think nationally we, the industry, feel water is an undervalued resource," said Sarcone. "People are willing to pay hundreds for cell phone minutes and unlimited data, or for their cable TV," she added, but rarely do they tend to put the same value on clean drinking water.

    Who Ultimately Foots the Bill?

    In most instances, water utilities pass this additional cost onto the customers they serve. But while these costs may be minimal when divided up amongst thousands of households in larger cities, it can prove very costly for those living in smaller rural areas where there just isn't the same amount of households sharing the cost, explains Cox.

    And even when drinking water meets drinking water standards, it may not necessarily be safe to drink over a lifetime, especially if that water has been heavily treated with chemicals that produce hazardous byproducts such as trihalomethanes. Go ahead and check out the EWG's online database now to see what's in your drinking water. The EWG recommends filtering drinking water with a good quality water filter that is capable of removing chemicals such as trihalomethanes. The Big Berkey range of filters will remove both nitrates and trihalomethanes, as well as a wide range of other drinking water contaminates that could potentially pose a health risk to you and your family.

  • Groundwater Extraction is Pumping the Great Plains Dry

    Farms producing grain in the Great Plains of Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado, and Texas account for roughly 17% of all the grain produced throughout the world, with water used to irrigate these crops coming from the High Plains Aquifer, the largest groundwater source in the country. New research has revealed that 50 years of groundwater extraction has caused long sections of rivers to dry up, to the detriment of large-stream fish populations.

    The scientists caution that unless groundwater pumping is curtailed, these aquatic habitats will shrink even further, together with the fish they support.

    Considering that 90% of all water used by humans globally is used for crop irrigation, the results of this study have widespread implications for other watersheds all across the world, particularly in areas where aquifers are running dry.

    A Google Earth image of the crop circles in the lower Arikaree River watershed, highlighting the river reaches that were dry (red), disconnected pools (yellow), and flowing (blue) at the lowest water in late summer 2007. Only one segment of 9 miles of flowing river remained as habitat for fish. The river flows from left to right. A Google Earth image of the crop circles in the lower Arikaree River watershed, highlighting the river reaches that were dry (red), disconnected pools (yellow), and flowing (blue) at the lowest water in late summer 2007. Only one segment of 9 miles of flowing river remained as habitat for fish. The river flows from left to right.

    According to co-author, Kurt Fausch, a professor at Colorado State University, the results of the study are concerning. Earlier field studies and modeling conducted by Jeff Falke, assistant professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and a past student of CSU, show that the Arikaree River to the east of Colorado, which used to flow for around 70 miles, is expected to be reduced to just one-half mile by 2045.

    "You have this train wreck where we're drying up streams to feed a growing human population of more than 7 billion people," said Fausch, who describes the scenario as a "wicked problem," that has no good solution. "More water is pumped out every year than trickles back down into the aquifer from rain and snow," he said. "We are basically drying out the Great Plains."

    Over the last 60-70 years, around 100 trillion gallons of water — equivalent of the volume of water in Lake Erie — has been pumped from the aquifer, and practically none of the water extracted feeds back into the underground aquifer.

    "This pumping has dried up long segments of many streams and small rivers in the region," Fausch said. From 1950 to 2010, a total of 350 miles of stream dried up in the large area the team studied in eastern Colorado, southwestern Nebraska and northwestern Kansas. "Our models project that another 180 miles of stream will dry up by 2060," Fausch said.

    Its not just the loss of water that is concerning, fish populations are also taking a knock. Fish that are dependent upon habitat that is only found in rivers and larger streams in the region are being replaced by species that are able to survive in the smaller streams that remain, said Fausch. Whole populations of fish species are being lost from rivers within that region, as the habitat that supports their existence disappears.

    To illustrate this point, only 9 of the 16 indigenous fish species that used to inhabit the Arikaree River are left. Seven species, including catfish, suckers and small minnows, have completely disappeared. However, because these fish species are not currently endangered, there are no regulations in place to protect their habitats.

    The negative effect of groundwater extraction will not only affect fish in these rivers, but also the farmers themselves, as well as the places that depend on or benefit from water in these rivers, which without water, could disappear too.

    "If they lose the river, they'll not only lose fishes, but they'll also lose water for their cattle, and cottonwoods that provide shade," Fausch explained. "They also lose the grass that grows in the riparian zone, which is critical forage for cattle in summer. Some of that's your livelihood, but it's also the place you go for picnics, and to hunt deer and turkeys. If you lose the river, you lose a major feature of what that landscape is."

    But despite the sombre findings, Fausch says that some progress is being made to address the issue. Meters have been installed on wells to monitor the amount of water farmers pump from the aquifer to ensure they stick to within the quotas allocated to them. By the same token, farmers continue to experiment with new technologies that will enable them to maximize crop yield and minimize water usage, as pumping water from underground aquifers incurs a cost for electricity usage. Cutting costs obviously increases profits, so it is in their interests to optimize water usage. However, Fausch cautions that this doesn't imply that levels of aquifers that feed into streams are no longer dropping, but rather they are dropping more slowly than they were in the past.

    So what are the options? One alternative may be for farmers to transition to growing dryland crops — crops that depend on rainfall only — rather than crops that require pumping water for irrigation. But the problem here is that annual crop yields can vary widely depending on how much rain is received during the year. Another option is for farmers to switch to more economical water-wise irrigation methods, such as drip irrigation as soon as they are locally available.

    Fausch, who has spent his entire career studying rivers, grows wistful as he contemplates the fate of these rivers.

    "When we lose these rivers, we will lose them for our lifetime, our children's lifetime, and our grandchildren's lifetime," he said.

    Even if we stopped all pumping tomorrow, it would take a very long time — probably 100 years, possibly more — for the aquifer to refill and rivers to start flowing again, said Fausch, providing some perspective.

    Journal Reference

    Joshuah S. Perkin et al, Groundwater declines are linked to changes in Great Plains stream fish assemblages, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2017). DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1618936114

  • If Berkey’s recent test results show that the Black Berkey Purification Elements reduce Fluoride, then why do I need the Berkey PF-2 Post Filter Elements?

    Berkey's most recent laboratory testing indicates that the Black Berkey Purification Elements will initially reduce Fluoride up to 99.9%. Typically, carbon-based elements that reduce Fluoride begin to lose that ability rather quickly. This may be the case with Black Berkey Elements as their efficiency at removing Fluoride likely plays out long before the 3,000-gallon life of the element.

    There are a number of filters on the market that utilize carbonized bone char (a media that Berkey purposely chooses not to use), and that make claims for Fluoride reduction, without informing their customers that the fluoride removing ability of the filters plays out quickly. The reason this occurs is because it takes a very large amount of media to remove small amounts of Fluoride. Therefore, there is not enough media in such filters to remove Fluoride effectively over the long term. For example, we have testing for a competitor’s 3-filter system that utilizes bone char for their Fluoride removal claims and, as one would expect, those elements become quickly exhausted. Testing shows that their efficiency declines from 100% removal to 81.4% removal after filtering a mere 45 gallons. This is equivalent to only 15 gallons per element required for them to experience a dramatic ~20% decline in efficiency.

    FluorideFilter

    This same effect likely occurs with Black Berkey Elements after a few hundred gallons. For that reason Berkey developed a more durable and longer lasting solution for Fluoride reduction by creating the replaceable Berkey PF-2 Fluoride reduction elements. The media in a set of Berkey PF-2 elements can reliably remove Fluoride contaminants for up to 1,000 gallons, which is less than the 3,000 gallon life of the Black Berkey Elements but again, that is why they were designed to be replaceable. This enables the users to reliably remove Fluoride contaminants from their water while taking full advantage of the 3,000 gallon life of their Black Berkey Elements.

    The Black Berkey Purification Element’s job is to remove a wide variety of potential contaminants, while the Berkey PF-2 Post Filter’s job is to remove Fluoride contaminants that the Black Berkey Purification Elements may begin to miss after extended use. Actual capacity is dependent on the presence of other competing contaminants in the source water. High levels of arsenic and heavy metals may reduce the capacity and efficiency of these elements.

  • Watershed Contaminated with Harmful Chemicals Released in Hydrofracking Wastewater

    Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has resulted in a boom in the oil and gas industry across the US. But the rapid growth of the industry has raised the issue of how to dispose of the billions of gallons of wastewater generated as a result of fracking operations.

    A recent study has found that treating this wastewater before releasing it into the environment does not necessarily make it safe. The study, which was recently published in the American Chemistry Society's journal Environmental Science & Technology, has reported that release of treated fracking wastewater has led to a Pennsylvanian watershed becoming contaminated with radioactive material and hormone disrupting chemicals, both of which pose a human health risk.

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    According to the US Energy Information Administration, in 2015, more than 50% of all oil produced in the US, and 66% of gas produced was a result of the hydraulic fracturing method used to extract oil and gas from deep below the Earth's surface. This method of extraction is expected to expand even further in the future. Yet while fracking has led to a transition away from burning coal, which could effectively reduce atmospheric emissions, large volumes of wastewater are produced as a result, which contain a wide array of pollutants, including heavy metals, salts, hormone disrupting chemicals, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and radioactive material, which could potentially pose both an environmental and human health risk.

    A Pennsylvanian report estimated 1.7 billion gallons of wastewater was produced by 10,000 oil and gas wells at fracking sites in the Marcellus Shale in 2015. This wastewater is collected by wastewater treatment facilities that, after providing limited treatment, release the partially treated water into nearby surface waters. William Burgos together with a team of scientists from Penn State University, Colarado State University and Dartmouth College wanted to determine whether treating and releasing fracking wastewater in this manner might be having an impact on the environment.

    In order to assess this, they analyzed porewater and sediment samples they had collected from a lake situated further downstream from two fracking wastewater treatment facilities in Pennsylvania. They found high levels of salts, alkaline earth metals, organic chemicals and radium all tended to occur within the same layer of the sediments collected. The organic chemical contaminants included both hormone disrupting nonylphenol ethoxylates and carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Sediment layers that were deposited between 5-10 years ago — during a time when fracking wastewater disposal peaked — had the highest concentrations of contaminants. High concentrations of radium were found in samples collected 12 miles further downstream of the wastewater treatment plants. The authors conclude that while it is not yet clear what, if any, potential environmental and health risks this contamination may pose, they suggest that it would be prudent to impose more stringent regulations on fracking wastewater disposal in order to protect both environmental and human health.

    Journal Reference:

    William D. Burgos, Luis Castillo-Meza, Travis L. Tasker, Thomas J. Geeza, Patrick J. Drohan, Xiaofeng Liu, Joshua D. Landis, Jens Blotevogel, Molly McLaughlin, Thomas Borch, Nathaniel R. Warner. Watershed-Scale Impacts from Surface Water Disposal of Oil and Gas Wastewater in Western Pennsylvania. Environmental Science & Technology, 2017; DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.7b01696

  • Congressman Introduces Bill to Set National PFC Drinking Water Standard

    Philadelphia Congressman, Brendan Boyle, on Thursday reintroduced a bill that will set a national drinking water standard for the now widespread perfluorinated compounds — a common drinking water contaminant that poses a grave public health risk, The Intelligencer has reported.

    Perfluorinated compounds include hundreds of chemicals, but PFOA and PFOS are the two of the best known as they have recently been detected in drinking water sources serving 15 million people across the United States.

    The Safe Drinking Water Act's Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR) currently requires the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to test drinking water across the country for up to 30 unregulated drinking water contaminants and no more, every five years.

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    The PFCs, PFOS and PFOA, were included on the list of unregulated contaminants to be tested for in the third UCMR testing program conducted by the EPA, which resulted in their being discovered in many drinking water supplies between 2013-2015. As there is currently no drinking water standard set for these contaminants, the EPA has set a drinking water "health advisory limit" of 70ppt for these contaminants. But according to Boyle, this limit isn't enough.

    "Every day we continue to learn more about the scope and seriousness of perfluorinated compounds across the country. It's past time we address these contaminants with the seriousness they merit," Boyle said.

    Although brief, the bill introduced by Boyle, H.R. 3106, stipulates that the EPA introduce a drinking water standard for chemicals in the perfluorinated compound family, including PFOS and PFOA within two 2 years of the bill being passed.

    The bill, which is co-sponsored by congressmen Patrick Meehan of Upper Darby and Brian Fitzpatrick of Middletown, and by D-N.Y. Rep. Paul Tonko and D-N.J. Rep. Frank Pallone, forms part of a broader spectrum of bills put forward by Pallone in an effort to update and redefine the Safe Drinking Water Act to in fact make drinking water safer for consumers to drink.

    "All Americans deserve to have confidence in the safety of their drinking water, no matter what state they live in or what activities have taken place in their communities," Boyle added.

    Yet even though this is well overdue, it's highly unlikely that the bills will go unchallenged. Both Pallone and Boyle introduced similar bills in 2016, which ultimately were not passed. And while Boyle's current bill has gained some support from both within and outside his party, Pallone's bill H.R. 1068, is currently not as well supported.

    While politicians do their thing behind the scene, people across the country are still being exposed to unsafe levels of PFCs in their drinking water. But consumers can be proactive and take measures to remove contaminants such as these from their water by investing in a good quality drinking water filter, such as a filter from the Berkey range, that is capable of removing PFCs from the water they drink.

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