Tag Archives: drinking water

EPA moves forward with new standards for drinking water in the US

After sustained pressure from scientists and environmental groups, the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) has announced it will start regulating the presence of two compounds in the drinking water — compounds linked to cancer and several other health problems.

Two “forever chemicals” will now be regulated by the EPA. Image via Wikipedia.

The government agency will start controlling a group of chemicals known as perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl (or PFAS), known for their persistence in the environment and the human body. EPA will specifically regulate two compounds, PFOA and PFOS, which are banned in the US.

“Under President Trump’s leadership, EPA is following through on its commitment in the Action Plan to evaluate PFOA and PFOS,” EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said in a statement, welcomed by environmental groups – who have questioned Trump for rolling back environmental regulations

The decision means the start of a two-year period for EPA to establish a new maximum contamination level. Once proposed, there will be another 18-month period before it kicks in. Now, the EPA suggests water shouldn’t have more than 70 parts per trillion (ppt) of PFAS, but this isn’t mandatory.

This has led to many states in the last few years implementing their own guidelines and limits for PFAS in drinking water, much tougher than EPA’s suggestion. For example, in California, the limit is 13 ppt, while in Minnesota it is 15 ppt and in Vermont 20 ppt.

“The decision shows that an avalanche of public pressure and overwhelming science is finally forcing EPA to act,” Melanie Benesh with the Environmental Working Group said in a statement. Benesh and other environmental groups estimate it might take up to four years for EPA to get a new standard in place.

A report by the US Environmental Working Group (EWG) warned in January that the presence of PFAS in water was much worse than initially thought. The substance was found in every state except Hawaii, with the highest levels being reported in Philadelphia, New Orleans, and Miami.

The PFAS substances are known as the “forever chemicals” as they persist in the environment and the human body for decades. They have been linked to a growing list of health problems, such as several types of cancer, liver damage and low weight levels on newborn babies.

“EPA needs to move quickly to prevent chronic disease by halting the use of the entire class of these industrial toxins until they are proven safe,” Mindi Messmer, co-founder of the New Hampshire Safe Water Alliance, said in a statement. “Every single day, these chemicals continue to contaminate the air and water.

The chemical substances can be found not only in water but also on food and food packaging, consumer products, and household dust, among others. Food is a big source of exposure to PFAS, but it’s still uncertain how people are being exposed, according to several studies.

The average exposure of a US citizen is equal to drinking water with 14 ppt of PFOA and 36 ppt of PFOS daily for the past few years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s measurements. This is 14 times higher and 36 higher, respectively, than what’s recommended by the EWG

Flint water plant.

Flint’s water is deemed safe, Michigan Governor determined to end free bottled water service

Flint’s water is safe to drink again, say Michigan officials, adding that the state will soon cease the free bottled water service for locals.

Flint water plant.

Image via depositphotos.

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder issued a statement Friday saying tap water in Flint is safe to drink again, so bottled water is no longer necessary. Crews will distribute the remaining supply, at which point the PODS sites — which handle distribution — will all close.

“The scientific data now proves the water system is stable and the need for bottled water has ended,” the office of the Republican governor said in a statement.

“Since Flint’s water is now well within the standards set by the federal government, we will now focus even more of our efforts on continuing with the health, education and economic development assistance needed to help move Flint forward.”

Flint’s troubles with water began in April 2014, when it changed its source of drinking water from treated Detroit Water and Sewerage Department water (sourced from Lake Huron and the Detroit River) to the Flint River. Due to insufficient treatment and improper transport infrastructure, over 100,000 residents (between 6,000 and 12,000 of whom were children) were exposed to high levels of lead (a toxic heavy metal) in the drinking water.

After several studies showed the dangerous levels of lead in the city’s water, and the effects it had on the locals, a federal state of emergency was declared in January 2016. Flint residents were instructed to use only bottled or filtered water for drinking, cooking, cleaning, and bathing. The state began providing free bottled water to Flint residents in January 2016 after Snyder declared a state of emergency. Initially, water was distributed from nine PODS sites — one in each city council ward.

According to observations carried out by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality between 2015 and 2017, however, water quality has now returned to acceptable levels — an overwhelming amount of the samples taken recently are within federal guidelines for lead and copper quantities.

Despite this, residents were instructed to keep using bottled or filtered water until all the city’s lead pipes had been replaced — which is currently scheduled for 2020.

So it’s easy to see why locals are, reportedly, hesitant to trust officials’ assurances — especially considering that the same administration was responsible for the water crisis in the first place. The city switched its supply from the Flint River back to Lake Huron back in 2015, but residents are still wary.

“Governor Snyder has failed to address the psychological trauma that his administration put the people of Flint through,” said Michigan State Representative Sheldon Neeley, who represents much of the majority-black city of 100,000. “The fact is, the people of Flint don’t trust the Snyder administration or the science they pay for — science that previously allowed our city to be poisoned.”

For better or worse, Governor Snyder is committed to ending the bottled-water handout program. The city, he says, should focus all funds on repairing and replacing its faulty water delivery systems.

Bottled water will continue to be distributed in Flint Community Schools buildings at least through the end of the current school year. The schools have a separate agreement with several leading beverage companies and retailers to supply water.

Canadian fish know how to party: getting high on cocaine

Both prescription and illegal drugs such as morphine, cocaine and oxycodone have been found in surface waters in Canadian rivers. New research shows that wastewater discharged from wastewater treatment plants in the Grand River watershed of southern Ontario has the potential to contaminate sources of drinking water with these drugs.

Looking for traces of illegal drugs in water.
Credit: McGill University

The study, published in Environmental Toxicology & Chemistry, shows that while such substances are found in relatively limited quantities, their concentrations remained constant downstream from the source – a water treatment plant discharge.

The water treatment plant removes the bulk of contaminants from wastewater coming from a wide range of sources, be it households or chemical plants, before discharging it into the river. Further down, a drinking water treatment plant then further treats the water prior to consumption.

“Improving our wastewater treatment processes can help clean up our drinking water,” said lead author Prof. Viviane Yargeau, of McGill’s Department of Chemical Engineering. “While previous studies have shown that there are trace elements of various chemicals that remain in our drinking water, what is novel about this research is that we looked at the chemicals that are found in the water course between the wastewater treatment plant and the drinking water treatment plant. And what we found has some disturbing implications for the aquatic environment.”

“These results demonstrated a link between wastewater plant discharges and quality of potable water sources,” he added. “Although drinking water treatment plants remove most of the contaminants found in our drinking water, we believe that if improvements are made to wastewater treatment plants to protect the sources of drinking water, this will prove a more effective way of dealing with the problem in the long run — as this strategy would also protect the aquatic environment and all the plants, insects and fish that are found there.”

The next stage in Prof. Yargeau’s research will be a five-year project to look into how improvements of wastewater treatment and natural processes along rivers impact the presence of contaminants of concern in our drinking water.

Most of the world’s population faces water shortages within ‘two generations’

Two generations from now, the over 9 billion people which are likely to walk the face of the planet will face dramatic water shortage, as climate change, pollution and overusage of resources start taking their toll, a group of 500 researchers warns.

water crisis

The thing is, if we, as a society continue developing at the same pace, the world’s water systems will soon reach a tipping point, and will go past the point of no return, which “could trigger irreversible change with potentially catastrophic consequences”, more than 500 water experts warned on Friday as they called on governments to start conserving the vital resource. They stress that freshwater is not an endless renewable resource, and today, people in many areas of the world are pumping out water which can just not renew in time.

“These are self-inflicted wounds,” said Charles Vörösmarty, a professor at the Cooperative Remote Sensing Science and Technology Centre. “We have discovered tipping points in the system. Already, there are 1 billion people relying on ground water supplies that are simply not there as renewable water supplies.”

Water in the Anthropocene from WelcomeAnthropocene on Vimeo.

Even today, 4.5 billion people live 50km or closer to an ‘impaired’ water resource, one that is either polluted, or running dry – and the trend is accelerating. Instead of starting to conserve our most valuable resource, we are polluting and overusing more and more water.

The threats are numerous; climate change is the biggest, but not the only enemy. The run-off from agricultural fertilisers containing nitrogen has already created more than 200 large “dead zones” in seas, near to rivermouths, where fish can no longer live. Cheap technology to pump out enormous quantities of water from the underground has led to the over-use of often scarce resources, usually for irrigation or industrial purposes. The fact that global popullation is constantly growing is not helping either.

Access to water is already a luxury in some parts of the world, and most of the areas where access to water is scarce are in very poor country, which have little chance to cope with this emerging problem.

But scientists warn that the “evolved” areas of the world will have a lot to suffer as well. Even now, 210 million citizens of the US are living within 10 miles of an “impaired” water source, and that number is likely to rise as the effects of global warming take hold. In Europe, some water sources are running dry because of over-extraction for irrigation, which is done highly unsustainably.

Pollutants are also causing massive damage in the so-called ‘rich world’ – researchers especially emphasize endocrine disruptors, which can cause fish to change gender, and the long-term effects of which on human populations are as yet barely known.

“There is no citizen of the world who can be complacent about this,” said Janos Bogardy, director of the UN University’s Institute for Environment and Human Security.

Via Guardian


Peruvian engineers create water out of thin air through billboards

aquaThe Peruvian capital of Lima, along with its outskirts, is plagued by a vicious drought, which coupled with pollution and unsanitary water extraction methods, has made the water there stagnant, dirty and dangerous. Doing what they know best – fix problems – engineers at Peru’s University for Engineering and Technology have devised an resourceful system that sucks up the moisture out of the air and turns it into clean, drinkable water. To make sure the populace is aware of this, they’ve installed the system under the form of a double paneled billboard which is sure to highlight there is safe water to be found at the location.

“If the problem is water, we’ll make some,” said Alejandro Aponte, one of the people who worked on the project, which was both an engineering feat and a marketing challenge.

The engineers had to think of a way to build a system that’s able to suck enough water from the air, while at the same time letting people know there’s water readily available. Engineers part of the project have installed five generators to suck moisture out of the air and convert it into liquid. The system requires at least 30% moisture in the air for it to be effective, something of the least worry since Lima and its vicinity are often soaked in an unbearably sticky 98 percent, despite the barren landscape where there is very little evident vegetation and not very much actual rainfall.

The UN and other global leaders have recently called for greater solutions to the water crisis, as projections point to the fact that about 60 percent of the world’s population will be living in cities in the next eight years, adding more strain on sanitation systems and resources. In Lima, one million of the more than eight million people lack reliably clean water.

The whole system was then sandwiched  between two huge billboards which advertise the availability of the water. The system produces some 100 liters of water per day, and given the sounding success the Peruvian engineers are currently discussing ways to implement it through the city, country and even overseas.

“We have seen that this has a huge potential if you get to use it in other areas of Lima, or even other countries that have many water problems,” said Aponte, who said he has received overseas queries about the project.

Now, this is the kind of advertising that we really enjoy and support. Less TV shows, Victoria’s Secret and McDonald’s, more water please.

Climate Change Threatens Drinking Water

sea level rise

As sea levels rise coastal communities could lose up to 50 percent more of their fresh water supplies than previously thought, according to a new study from Ohio State University. This is not just bad news for them; it is a warning for everybody.Studies have shown how altwater will intrude into fresh water aquifers, given the sea level rise predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The results were very discouraging; sea level could rise as much as 23 inches, flooding coasts worldwide in the next 100. This argues with what they believed before that as saltwater moved inland, it would penetrate underground only as far as it did above ground.

But the research they have made obviously shows that when saltwater and fresh water meet, they mix in complex ways, depending on the texture of the sand along the coastline and things are not as easy as they seemed. Just as saltwater, brackish water is not safe to drink because it causes dehydration. Graduate student Jun Mizuno said that “Almost 40 percent of the world population lives in coastal areas, less than 60 kilometers from the shoreline,” and These regions may face loss of freshwater resources more than we originally thought.”.

The further increase in sea level makes things even harder to predict. But what is certain is that water is getting scarcer with every passing year. “In order to obtain cheap water for everybody, we need to use groundwater, river water, or lake water,” Ibaraki said. “But all those waters are disappearing due to several factors –including an increase in demand and climate change.”. We could desalinate saltwater but that would be very expensive.

Drinking Too Much Water Can Kill



Alcoholics everywhere you can now rejoyce. It has been discovered for quite a while that drinking water faster than your body can eliminate it can kill you. But wait because that does not apply just to water but it applies to any other liquid. So this is not a such good thing for alcoholics as it would appear at a first glance.

It is known that water is about 66 percent of our body, in your blood and cells and just about everywhere; rehydration is very important because the water supplies our body has should not go low at any given moment. But there also is is such a thing as a fatal water overdose. The bad thing is that there are numerous tragic examples of death by water.

A 2005 study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that close to one sixth of marathon runners develop some degree of hyponatremia, or dilution of the blood caused by drinking too much water. Hyponatremia, a word cobbled together from Latin and Greek roots, translates as “insufficient salt in the blood.”. Rapid and severe hyponatremia causes entry of water into brain cells leading to brain swelling, which manifests as seizures, coma, respiratory arrest, brain stem herniation and death,” explains M. Amin Arnaout, chief of nephrology at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School.

So since there are so numerous studies that prove that water can do a lot of bad why are there so many people who think that enormous quantities of water is healthful is hard to understand. You should drink water as your body wants guiding yourself by thirst. It is the easiest and smartest way.