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Tag Archives: contaminated drinking water

  • Contaminated Drinking Water Responsible for Thirteen Deaths, Thousands of Illness Cases in US

    If your drinking water is clear it doesn't necessarily mean it is clean. Clear water may harbor invisible pathogens that can be harmful to your health. A new report that was recently published by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has revealed that during 2013-2014, 42 health related outbreaks associated with drinking water contamination due to the presence of chemicals, pathogens or other toxins (excluding lead) were recorded in 19 US states.

    The outbreaks, which have increased from thirty-two reported during 2011-2012, caused more than a thousand people to fall ill, with 124 patients requiring hospitalization, and resulted in 13 deaths.

    According to the CDC, a large percentage (57%) of these outbreaks was caused by Legionella, which was also responsible for 88% of cases requiring hospitalization and all of the deaths reported. Legionella, a pathogenic bacteria that can cause the deadly Legionnaire's disease, can also cause legionellosis, which although not as deadly, causes symptoms such as coughing, difficulty breathing, high fever, aching muscles and headaches in those affected.

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

    Legionella bacteria can enter the water supply via various channels, for example, through damaged pipes or as a result of flooding. And while water utilities typically treat drinking water with chlorine before it is distributed along the network, there may be cases where the dosage isn't high enough to ensure water reaching the end of the supply line is adequately treated. So if Legionella bacteria are present and are not sufficiently suppressed at the water treatment plant, their numbers can grow again by the time the water reaches the end of the water distribution network, causing people at the end of the supply line to fall ill.

    Cryptosporidium and Giardia parasites, which both cause an infected person to become ill with diarrhea, were responsible for five and three outbreaks respectively, according to the report, while harmful algal blooms or chemicals were responsible for five of the outbreaks.

    The CDC noted that 75% of the reported illnesses were associated with community water supplies that are regulated according to government safety standards.

    Environmental Exposure

    Over the same 2013-2014 period, the CDC received 15 reports of disease outbreaks as a result of environmental exposure to contaminated water from 10 US states, resulting in 226 people falling ill, 69 of which required hospitalization, resulting in 9 deaths. A further 12 outbreaks resulting from 'undetermined exposure to contaminated water' was recorded for eight US states, resulting in 63 people falling ill, 39 of which required hospitalization, and 8 deaths.

    For the disease outbreaks relating to both environmental and undetermined exposure, Legionella was again found to be the largest cause of illness (63%), hospitalizations (94%) and death (100%), while Giardia accounted for most of the illness cases associated with exposure to contaminated natural water bodies.

    Experts warn that even if your drinking water looks clean, it may harbor microscopic pathogens that can be harmful to your health. It is wise to have your water tested so that you know what is in it. But even if you do, there is always that chance that your water supply may become infected after it shows up as clear. To be on the safe side, it is better to filter your drinking water with a good quality drinking water filter that is capable of removing tiny bacteria and viruses, including Legionella and Giardia that may be lurking in your water supply.

    Journal Reference

    Katharine M. Benedict, et al. Surveillance for Waterborne Disease Outbreaks Associated with Drinking Water — United States, 2013–2014. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (November 10, 2017) Vol. 66 / No. 44 (1216-1221). US Department of Health and Human Services/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    R. Paul McClung, et al. Waterborne Disease Outbreaks Associated With Environmental and Undetermined Exposures to Water — United States, 2013–2014. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (November 10, 2017) Vol. 66 / No. 44 (1222-1225 ). US Department of Health and Human Services/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

  • Fixing Leaky Pipes Could Triple U.S. Water Bills

    In many U.S. communities the system of water and sewer pipes, mains and treatment plants that deliver drinking water and sanitation are aging and in need of repair. Aging infrastructure places the community's drinking water at risk of contamination and we see this on a weekly basis around the US with reported bacteria outbreaks and boiling requirements. This is not an problem that can be ignored.  The American Water Works Association estimates that keeping up with drinking water infrastructure needs alone, repairing and replacing old pipes and laying new ones for a growing population, will cost $1.7 trillion dollars over the next 25 years.

    Tap Water Pipe Repairs Will Cost Households Up To $550 More Per Year

    Because water delivery is funded primarily from utility bills, AWWA estimates the increased cost for repair and expansion of drinking water systems at $100 - $550 or more per household. Estimates vary dramatically at the local level, depending on the age of the community’s pipes and the size of the system:

    “In the most affected small communities, the study suggests that a typical three-person household could see its drinking water bill increase by as much as $550 per year above current levels . . . In the largest water systems, costs can be spread over a large population base. Needed investments would be consistent with annual per household cost increases ranging from roughly $75 to more than $100 per year by the mid-2030s . . .”

    Needed repairs are "going to challenge many communities, particularly those where they've been experiencing economic problems, and also in some places where the population has declined. You have a smaller customer base that has to pay a bigger bill, and that's never a welcome circumstance," Aurel Arndt, general manager of the Lehigh County Authority and advisory council member, explained to the Huffington Post.

    Population Growth and Crumbling Sewers Drive Water Bills Up More

    In the Northeast and Midwest, repair of existing systems will be the primary cost increase driver. But in the West and South, where communities have newer systems but growing populations, laying pipes to new development will be a much bigger component of water bill increases.

    regional_water_infrastructure_costs2

    Regional

    "The needs uncovered in 'Buried No Longer' are large, but they are not insurmountable," said AWWA Executive Director David LaFrance. "When you consider everything that tap water delivers -- public health protection, fire protection, support for the economy, the quality of life we enjoy – we owe it to future generations to confront the infrastructure challenge today." 

    The American Water Works Association is a membership organization of the nation’s public utility companies and is advocating increased federal funding for water infrastructure.

  • 19% of US Drinking Wells Contaminated According To USGS Study - Can the Berkey remove Arsenic, Radon 222, and Manganese?

    Note: Yes, the Berkey water filter is able to remove arsenic, radon 222, and manganese from the water using the standard black berkey filters.

    For the first time a national study has been conducted testing for potential trace contaminants in wells and aquifers. Conducted by the United States Geological Survey, it was found that overall 19 percent of the 5,183 tested untreated public, private and monitoring wells exceeded health-based safety standards. When private drinking water wells were removed from the data set, it was found that a surprising 13 percent of all private wells exceeded the health standards or guidelines. As a result, the report recommends homeowners consider purchasing a home water filter to purify their drinking water to protect themselves from these trace contaminants. According to the study, the estimate of those potentially at risk are 6.5 Million households, or approximately 26 Million people!

    A total of 20 trace elements were monitored in the study. The three that were shown to have the highest levels were Arsenic, Radon, and Manganese. These were not isolated to a couple regions, but rather found to be persistent nationwide stating, "Wells with human health benchmark exceedances were widespread across the United States; they occurred in all aquifer groups and in both humid and dry regions."  A copy of the study can be found here.

    The wells that were found to be most at risk were the private wells used by homeowners. This is due to the fact that these wells are not monitored by any agency and are not regulated. It is the homeowners responsibility to keep tabs on the water quality and for many reasons this is not commonly done. As a result, an increased amount of contaminants and health effecting trace minerals have seeped into these wells unnoticed.

    For the first time a national study has been conducted testing for potential trace contaminants in wells and aquifers. Conducted by the United States Geological Survey, it was found that overall 19 percent of the 5,183 tested untreated public, private and monitoring wells exceeded health-based safety standards. When private drinking water wells were removed from the data set, it was found that a surprising 13 percent of all private wells exceeded the health standards or guidelines. As a result, the report recommends homeowners consider purchasing a home water filter to purify their drinking water to protect themselves from these trace contaminants. According to the study, the estimate of those potentially at risk are 6.5 Million households, or approximately 26 Million people!

    A total of 20 trace elements were monitored in the study. The three that were shown to have the highest levels were Arsenic, Radon, and Manganese. These were not isolated to a couple regions, but rather found to be persistent nationwide stating, "Wells with human health benchmark exceedances were widespread across the United States; they occurred in all aquifer groups and in both humid and dry regions."  A copy of the study can be found here.

    The wells that were found to be most at risk were the private wells used by homeowners. This is due to the fact that these wells are not monitored by any agency and are not regulated. It is the homeowners responsibility to keep tabs on the water quality and for many reasons this is not commonly done. As a result, an increased amount of contaminants and health effecting trace minerals have seeped into these wells unnoticed.

    Arsenic Well Contamination

    Here we show the study results in map form for Arsenic:

    Arsenic Well Contamination Levels Arsenic Well Contamination Levels

    According to the EPA website on the dangers of arsenic,  "Non-cancer effects can include thickening and discoloration of the skin, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting; diarrhea; numbness in hands and feet; partial paralysis; and blindness. Arsenic has been linked to cancer of the bladder, lungs, skin, kidney, nasal passages, liver, and prostate."

    Joseph Ayotte, one of the researchers and a hydrologist with the U.S.G.S. states "It was a bit surprising how many of these trace elements had exceedances of human health benchmarks, especially compared to other contaminants we are often concerned about. The findings certainly underscore the message we hear from the public health agencies, that everyone should test their wells for a suite of trace elements." For interested customers, the Berkey PF-2 filters are used inside the lower chamber of our home water filter system for removing arsenic from the water.

    So, does the Berkey remove Arsenic from the water? The answer is yes, both the standard Black Berkey filters, and the PF-2 filters have been tested and shown to remove Arsenic from the drinking water.

    Radon Well Contamination

    Here we show the study results in map form for Radon:

    Radon Well Contamination Levels Radon Well Contamination Levels

    According to the EPA website on Radon; "Radon in water is only a concern if your drinking water comes from underground, such as a well that pumps water from an aquifer. Breathing radon in indoor air can cause lung cancer. Radon gas decays into radioactive particles that can get trapped in your lungs when you breathe it.. ..radon in indoor air is the second leading cause of lung cancer." This statement directly corresponds to the radon dangers this study has found.

    Joseph Ayotte makes another statement many should pay heed to. He states, "We often get more upset about these anthropogenic contaminants but we have to remember that these naturally occurring elements are often times more of a widespread problem. Not to diminish the importance of the others, but trace elements are also hugely important and arguably more so."  This is in large portion due to the fact that these trace elements build up in the body over time and can cause a slow degradation of health. This can be more dangerous as an individual can experience a slow growing health issue over many years. That individual and their doctor may struggle to isolate the root cause and not recognize that it could be harmful trace elements from their own well water. With this many Americans potentially at risk, we also strongly advocate that home owners take the necessary steps to test their wells on a yearly basis. We also recommend a home water filter like the berkey to remove these harmful trace elements from the water.

    One additional poignant USGS statement was that harmful elements "far outpace" other pollutants, many of which get far more public attention. Based on previous USGS research, this 19 percent of wells that were discovered in this study compare with 7 percent of wells contaminated with nitrates and 1 to 2 percent for pesticides and volatile organic compounds.

    So, does the Berkey remove Radon 222 from the water? The answer is yes, the Berkey water filter system has been tested and shown to remove Radon 222 at levels below detectable limits.

    Manganese Well Contamination

    Here we show the study results in map form for Manganese:

    Manganese Well Contamination Levels Manganese Well Contamination Levels

    The EPA does not have primary health risks associated with Manganese, rather they set secondary standards due to impacts "such as the corrosion of iron and copper, may stain household fixtures, and impart objectionable metallic taste and red or blue-green color to the water supply as well. Corrosion of distribution system pipes can reduce water flow."  Manganese can have a "black to brown color; black staining; bitter metallic taste"

    So, does the Berkey remove Manganese from the water? The answer is yes, the Berkey water filter system has been tested and shown to remove manganese at levels greater than 99.9%.

    Protection With a Home Water Filter

    The primary question we have to ask ourselves is: How have these concentrations gotten so high putting so many US citizens at risk, and how does one protect their family? There are two primary causes for these major well changes; natural chemical evolution / groundwater age, and pollution.

    The geochemistry of groundwater changes in time due to the contact with it's aquifer materials. This constant change and reactions with minerals is considered chemical evolution. Basically, the longer the water has been in contact with the aquifer, the more chemically evolved it is deemed to be and thus the greater concentrations of these trace minerals, some of which are harmful to the body such as arsenic and radon. Not stressed enough in this report is the fact that the study analysis is based on NAWQA (National Water-Quality Assessment) Program data collected from 1992 to 2003. Given the statements in the report and prior historical data, our feeling is that these harmful levels have most likely inclined, not declined since this data was collected.

    In addition, while not discussed nor a focus of the USGS study, a major and still growing problem is pollution. As our lands continue to be treated with fertilizers and chemicals, in concert with continued land development, population growth, and industry pollution we experience an ever increasing trickling of chemical waste into our groundwater systems and waterways. Many of these chemicals seep and soak through the sediment impacting our wells directly. However, they also contaminate the wells indirectly by surface water runoff flowing into the underground waterway systems and ultimately finding their resting spots in karsts and water aquifers that these wells feed off of. The reality is that has been a growing problem for decades now. We've stressed the importance of conservation of karsts before as most folks do not realize that once these groundwater supplies are contaminated naturally or by human pollution, it is very difficult and expensive to reverse the condition. Regardless, protection with a home water filter is essential for homeowners whose wells have been compromised by these harmful trace minerals or chemical pollutants.

  • Chesapeake Energy Company Fined in Drinking Water Contamination

    In a very notable decision, the Department of Environmental Protection of Pennsylvania has fined the Chesapeake Energy Corp. 1.1 million for contaminating the water supplies of local residents. The state agency said that throughout 2010 it investigated complaints of methane contamination in the drinking water of several residential water wells in northeastern PA. Some of this methane contamination, also referred to virally on the web as "tap water catching on fire", could be seen in the HBO documentary Gasland, and reaffirms many of the concerns brought about by the film. Upon DEP conclusion it was determined that the drinking water contamination had been caused by natural gas drilling and that "improper well casing and cementing in shallow zones" allowed gas from deep basins to seep into drinking water aquifers.

    "The water well contamination fine is the largest single penalty DEP has ever assessed against an oil and gas operator, and the Avella tank fire penalty is the highest we could assess under the Oil and Gas Act," said Mike Krancer, who heads the state agency. "Our message to drillers and to the public is clear."

    This is a step in the right direction and it seems that the public's outcry for caution due to water contamination from fracking is being heeded by state officials and more importantly the organization that is designed to protect our environment from careless resource removal.

    Chesapeake has stated that they are accepting the fine and are making a concerted effort towards improving the raised issues. This is left to be seen, but they are officially on notice,... as are the other companies that are engaged in the practice of fracking as quickly as possible in this gas-land-grab.

    The gas industry's wobbly position was brought to the forefront of discussion recently when in April a well blow-out during Chesapeake's well completion operations in Pennsylvania, saw several thousand gallons of drilling fluid escape into local waterways. These sorts of "mishaps" not only threaten to contaminate our own drinking water, but also destroy existence of any animal, fish, and plant life in the affected and surrounding regions.

    The Pennsylvania DEP's decision helps confirm a trend in which individual US states are taking a less lenient stance towards shale gas drilling and its potential health and environmental effects. We've seen this in NY as the battle between environmentalists/homeowners and natural gas companies continues to heat up with drilling bans in place. However, concerns over water supply contamination seem to be based on variables other than some would agree with. Currently, there seems to be a thought that contamination is a result of inadequate well casing and cementing. In reality it is the chemical substances used for the fracking that cause the drinking water contamination. This fracking soup of chemicals are known to be very toxic and environmentalists are concerned that the eye may be taken off the ball if the focus is simply on the casing/cementing. Obviously better insulation of these chemicals from the environment is a move in the right direction, but both issues need to be addressed fully.

  • Where Has All The Water Gone?

    Around the world, freshwater sources are shrinking as lake, river and aquifer levels are falling faster than can be replenished. In addition, the usefulness of water contained in these natural reservoirs is being compromised by pollution from industrial and household chemicals. It is estimated that worldwide water consumption doubles every 20 years, with predictions that demand will surpass supply within 30 years. That may be too optimistic. With all of these conditions persisting, it's no wonder that public concerned interest in our water resources and drinking water quality is exponentially rising.

    Impact of Water Runoff

    One explanation for falling water table levels is offered by Richard McGrath, director of codes and standards, Cement Association of Canada: "The increased use of hardscaping (impervious pavements) in our major urban areas allows the direct run-off of oil and other contaminants into the storm water system, preventing the recharging of groundwater levels and natural purification of the run-off water."

    Storm water runoff that would normally seep through the porous ground must often find its own path across toxic paved areas. The resulting environmental waste water is re-routed to man-made runoff areas. Household ‘grey water’, the water waste from sinks and washing is increasingly contaminated with household chemicals. Now, this more toxic soup of water runoff either saturates the surrounding land or gets routed through community sewer systems to water treatment plants where industrial filtration attempts to make it drinkable. More can learned about this phenomenon in our article reviewing the importance of Karst conservation.

    Disturbance of Natural Waterways

    Another contributor to the depletion and contamination of our water sources is the fact that housing development is no longer limited to geographical locations with a ready source of water. Today, people routinely live in areas where water must be transported hundreds of miles from a distant water source. A great example of this is Las Vegas, NV where water is routed from hundreds of miles away and is recognized as the lifeline to it's survival. To accomplish this, the natural course of rivers gets rerouted without consideration for the long-term implications. Businesses have the ability to purchase the rights to divert water from a lake, river, aquifer, or other natural source further depleting reserves. Ultimately what occurs is that rivers and lakes that would normally be naturally replenished begin to dry up under the high demand of urban and residential growth. All the while, most residents are completely unaware that their valuable water resources are being increasingly contaminated while also slowly diminishing in availability.

    We Need To Protect Our Water Supplies

    Waters that were once generously replenished and filtered by nature are now being depleted and soiled by humans. This places a large percentage of the population at an increased risk from their drinking water as these once plentiful and pristine sources are becoming contaminated and scarce. For all of these reasons, it is increasingly important for individuals to monitor the water quality from their faucets and ensure they have a quality water filter at their disposal.  Also, it's imperative that we become more proactive as a society in protecting our existing water supplies for future generations.

  • Outdated Water Infrastructures May Be A Health Hazard

    Water treatment plants are charged with keeping our water free of bacteria, poisonous chemicals, parasites and other waterborne toxins. However, keeping facilities manned, maintained and up to date is not cheap and requires substantial taxpayer dollars. Even in communities with state of the art treatment facilities, the infrastructure that connects these facilities to homes, businesses, and schools is often in dire need of repair and maintenance.

    Extreme rainfall can deluge sewage systems, especially those systems that are called upon to manage both waste water and storm water runoff. Storm water and wastewater can then mix and overflow, ultimately resulting in contaminated drinking water.

    The problem is further complicated by limited taxpayer dollars set to the backdrop of towns and states facing major budget shortfalls. In Pittsburgh for example, officials are debating over how to fund needed updates to both their water treatment facilities and maintenance of sewer lines which were installed in 1912.

    The condition of infrastructure in Pennsylvania and across the nation has been in the spotlight as federal stimulus dollars begin to dry up. The 2010 Report Card recently released by the American Society of Civil Engineers gave Pennsylvania's water and waste water management systems failing grades. Local governments are looking to the Commonwealth's H2O funding announcements to help cover a small portion, but it is estimated that more than $25 billion will be required. Meanwhile, as this gets worked out, the risks to your health ever increase without a home water filter.

    The results of a recent study indicate that it may not even take a severe rain event to cause contamination of tap water. Dr. Marc Gorelick, chief of pediatric emergency medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin, led a group of researchers that studied the incidence of illnesses following rainfall.

    The study reviewed data detailing the number of emergency room visits by children due to gastroenteritis or diarrhea. Children were studied because they, along with the elderly and those in poor health, are the first ones to become ill following an assault upon their immune systems. Researchers found that the average number of emergency room visits increased by 11 percent for four days after any amount of rainfall. The study concluded that the incidence of waterborne illnesses occur more frequently even after comparatively mild rain events.

    Study collaborator Sandra McLellan is a senior scientist at the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee’s Great Lakes W.A.T.E.R. Institute (Wisconsin Aquatic Technology and Environmental Research). According to McLellan, water leaving Milwaukee’s treatment plant is very high quality. Dr. Gorelick stated that the mystery “is what happens to water between the time it leaves the treatment plant and gets to your tap.”

    The answer to that mystery likely lies in an aging infrastructure of pipes used to transport water. These pipes are kept under pressure and are designed to keep contaminants out of the treated water. However, this pressure can fail after a water main break results in a breach. This can also be an issue after rainfall saturates the surrounding soil, allowing contaminated water to leach into the piping system. In this way, even moderate rainfall or water events can contribute to drinking water contamination.

    These variables affect water after it leaves the treatment plant and makes it difficult to guarantee that water exiting the tap will be consistently safe. For this reason, spending the time and resources finding a home water filter should be a top priority.

  • What's In Our Drinking Water?

    If you live in a city, you probably take your water quality for granted. After all, it is monitored regularly by law. However, this summer I was washing my car and I realized that if I didn’t wipe the windows, the evaporated water would leave white stains on the glass. “If this is pure water, why would it stain the window?” I asked myself. Well, this didn't mean I had contaminated drinking water, but it motivated me to do some additional research into my what i was drinking. In doing so, I quickly learned that while we consider well and city water to be inherently safe to drink, this many times is far from the case.

    It began with me returning to the water quality report that I recently received. Though our city of 64,000 is located on a major river, the city does not get it's water from that river. Instead fifteen wells provide on average 9.25 million gallons of water per day. They did not state why the water utility does not use river water but I assume that, in the past, it was too easy to contaminate an open source, especially with manufacturing plants located on the banks.

    However, just because the water comes from wells does not mean it is ready for use. This can apply to all wells especially since we are seeing a large increase in the amount of underground karsts and aquifers that are being contaminated by humans. The report goes on, “The treatment plant then filters the water to remove iron and manganese before it is pumped into the water distribution system. These minerals are not a health concern and are removed because they can discolor the water and create a slight taste of iron.”

    At the treatment plant the water is cleansed of the following:

    • Microbial contaminants, such as viruses and bacteria, which may come from sewage treatment plants, septic systems, agricultural livestock operations, and wildlife
    • Inorganic contaminants, such as salts and metals, which can be naturally-occurring or result from urban storm water runoff, industrial or domestic wastewater discharges, oil and gas production, mining or farming
    • Pesticides and herbicides, which may come from a variety of sources such as agriculture, urban storm water runoff, and residential uses
    • Organic chemical contaminants, including synthetic and volatile organic chemicals, which are by-products of industrial processes and petroleum production, and can also come from gas stations, urban stormwater runoff, and septic systems
    • Radioactive contaminants, which can be naturally occurring or be the result of oil and gas production and mining activities.

    What I learned is that all of these are not atypical of what can be found in well water. Our city not only removes these unwanted chemicals and contaminants, but also makes their own chemical additions to the water; “The water is also chlorinated for disinfection and fluoride is added for dental purposes before it is pumped into the water pipe system.” From there the water goes to water towers for pressure, and then to homes, schools, businesses, and the like.

    Two lessons emerge from this study. First, if you are served by a private well, it is wise to have it tested regularly as water quality changes as the surrounding environment changes. The city must have theirs tested for EPA regulated contaminants every year, and larger cities have to run tests on their water daily. Second, even if you live on tested city water, it would be wise to take precaution and filter your drinking water with a high quality purifier like the black berkey, found in all our Berkey water filters. This will guarantee that your water is safe, even if something unhealthy sneaks in unnoticed.

  • How Do Hurricanes Affect Drinking Water?

    As we all now, a hurricane is like a giant tornado, with winds circulating around a calm center at 75 mph or more. Yet even though we've seen the devastation of a hurricane like Katrina, how many of us are fully prepared? Given we're well into the hurricane season, there's no better time to discuss the importance of preparing you and your family for the dangers.

    2010 Hurricane Season

    The hurricane season starts June 1st and ends November 30th, and again this year (2010) the National Hurricane Center has predicted an above average number of storms in the Atlantic. The first, category 2 hurricane Alex, appeared less than a month after the season began. At the rate of one a month, the Atlantic Ocean will surely reach its predicted quota.

    Initial fear that Alex would strike Florida proved unfounded. Instead the hurricane moved across the Gulf and slammed into Mexico, leaving several dead and millions of dollars in damage. That was good news for the United States, but of course bad news for Mexico.

    However, it was not all good news for the U.S.. The storm hampered cleanup progress of the BP oil disaster that started on April 20th and there is still serious concern that oil could be blown and stretched out across the Gulf of Mexico and it's beaches over the next couple months. This would obviously make cleanup much more difficult than it already is.

    Hurricane Katrina

    Hurricane

    The destructive power of a hurricane is in the wind, but also in the amount of water it drops. Katrina, for example, dropped 15 inches of rain in some regions in less than a 24 hour period. An inch of rain drops 65,000 tons of water per square mile, and the average hurricane covers 8000 square miles! That much water inevitably has the potential to be very destructive!

    Extreme Weather and Our Drinking Water

    Why do weather extremes like this affect drinking water? Hurricane rain is not just unadulterated distilled water. It can often contain chemicals similar to acid rain yet also churn up undrinkable salt water from the ocean that causes corrosive damage. This water essentially has a negative impact on any source of drinking water it touches. This is particularly noticeable in rural areas where high volumes of run-off from fields containing fertilizers and other chemicals can quickly contaminate  karsts and private wells.

    In more populated ares, polluted floodwater is typically an even bigger concern as it mixes and contaminates the water supplies of municipal water systems. Damage to municipal water pipes is often a part of storm destruction, and this means that safe drinking water is unable to get to homes and individuals on that pipeline for days, weeks, and sometimes months.

    Make Sure You Are Prepared

    Make

    Prepare Yourself and Your Family

    Knowing all this, how can one be prepared for a possible hurricane disaster? Of course, some parts of a disaster are unavoidable and they must be endured until the crisis is over. But other foreseeable problems can be a part of the preparation. For example, if you live in a flood plain, or along the coasts where hurricanes (or typhoons on the Pacific coast) may occur, it would be wise to stock up on food, clean water or a water filter, and at least a 2 day responder pack for your family. These are just the basics, but every family should begin with this foundation for preparedness. Do you research as many disaster survival companies have just the sort of supplies you would need.

    For water security, we recommend purchasing a gravity fed water filter like the Berkey water filter. These are very efficient in removing virtually anything that may threaten your health such as pathogenic bacteria and chemicals. The berkey filter will provide clean drinking and cooking water you could trust for the duration of the disaster that you experience. There is a peace of mind in knowing that you have water security for you and your family in the event of a potential hurricane disaster.

  • E. Coli Contamination of Drinking Water

    E. coli, short for Escherichia coli, is a type of fecal coliform bacteria commonly found in the intestines of animals and humans. If ingested, this bacteria can result in serious sickness and even death. When E. coli contaminates your drinking water, one should either avoid drinking it completely, or render it safe by boiling the water or purifying it with a high quality water filter.

    During rainfalls, snow melts, or other types of precipitation, E. coli may be washed into creeks, rivers, streams, lakes, or ground water. When these waters are used as sources of drinking water and the water is not adequately treated, E. coli may be inadvertently ingested.

    Most of the hundreds of strains of E. coli are harmless and live in the intestines of healthy humans and animals. However E. coli O157:H7 is an exception; as it produces a powerful toxin. Evidence but not proof of ingestion includes severe bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramps, or non-bloody diarrhea. Frequently, a fever will not be one of the symptoms.

    In 2%-7% of those infected with E. coli O157:H7, the bacterium will also cause hemolytic uremic syndrome. This is evident when the red blood cells are destroyed and the kidneys fail. This condition is a life threatening and may require blood transfusions and kidney dialysis as treatments.

    Symptoms usually appear within two to four days, but could take longer. With this strain of E. coli, antibiotics should be avoided as they can some exacerbate kidney problems. Recovery within five to ten days usually follows without antibiotics. Any person who has sudden bloody diarrhea should get their stool tested for E. coli O157:H7 immediately. Children under five, the elderly, and those with weak immune systems are the most vulnerable.

    You might ask, “Is my drinking water vulnerable to E. coli O157:H7?” Public water is by law constantly monitored for all bacterial contamination. However, those using private sources and wells for water should be cautious, especially when farm animals are present, as these sources typically do not have routine E. Coli monitoring. The addition of chlorine, or treatment of water with ultra-violet light or ozone will kill or inactivate this strain of E. coli.

    If you have determined that your drinking water is contaminated, then one of the the safest procedures is to boil your water. In addition, there are high quality water purifiers on the market that will also remove E. Coli.  One of these water purifiers is the Berkey water filter. With the ability to remove E. coli bacteria to a log 7 degree, or 99.99999%, the Berkey water filter will render contaminated drinking water safe to drink. Purchasing a Berkey water purifier is a relatively inexpensive way to provide peace of mind for you and your family.

  • 20% of Municipalities Violate Safe Drinking Water Act - NYT Reports

    This week, the New York Times reported on it's disturbing findings of an investigation into the US municipal water systems that serve millions of Americans. It highlights failures and obvious enforcement gaps in current government regulations that we've assumed are protecting our drinking water, including the realization that 20 percent of the nation’s water treatment systems have violated key provisions of the Safe Drinking Water Act.

    Water Quality (Un)enforcement

    The discovery that municipalities fail water quality reports is nothing new, but what's a little surprising is that the majority of  municipalities that received violations were never penalized for their failures in meeting water safety requirements. Many were given a pass under the impression that fining would be counterproductive to cash-strapped municipalities. This has serious ramifications to our public health and needs to be regarded as such.

    Contaminants in our Drinking Water

    As I've written about in earlier articles, this is partly a byproduct of the public's assumption that our drinking water is safe with no spotlight being placed on the regulators. The American people are coping with many other personal and financial issues, and unless it makes headlines, they are unaware of the continuing destruction of our water sources thanks to human pollution.  As the NYT points out, water treatment facilities are struggling with the current identified list of monitored contaminants, but this is only half the story. The cold hard fact is that there exists an inability for private and government organizations to keep pace in identifying and filtering out the swelling number of chemicals that continue to show up in our water supply. As long as we continue to increase our use of chemicals in products and manufacturing, then it's a safe bet to assume that the chemicals and contaminants found in our water will continue to increase in lockstep.

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    We Must Improve Our Drinking Water Quality Regulations

    In this New York Times report, many of the water contaminants that show links to cancer were the very same contaminants that these towns were found to be in violation of.  In one referenced example, "the E.P.A. has reported that more than three million Americans have been exposed since 2005 to drinking water with illegal concentrations of arsenic and radioactive elements, both of which have been linked to cancer at small doses." As was mentioned in our lead in our drinking water post, schools are far from exempt from this poor water quality problem, as a more recent article by the NYT on Dec 8th covers; Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing on EPA School Water Quality We need to continue to increase out awareness of how we affect the water supply through pollution and daily living habits, but we must also be aware that water we had originally assumed was healthy for consumption may require a run through a quality water filter prior to drinking.

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