Suddenly, Walters found that the water spewing out of her faucets was discolored and foul-tasting; her son would come out of the bath with alarming rashes. After meticulously sampling her house’s water and testing it with at-home testing kits, Walters discovered that it had lead levels far higher than those considered safe. The chemistry of the water flowing through her pipes had changed profoundly—with toxic results.
Walters tried to contact city and state officials for guidance, but was mostly ignored. That’s when she reached out to Marc Edwards, an engineer at Virginia Tech University who studies water treatment and aquatic chemistry.
The team concludes that that avoiding lead contamination may require far more work than some think—and may even necessitate a nationwide overhaul of America’s outdated plumbing.
The root cause of the Flint lead crisis was corrosion, the new study confirms. For 50 years, Flint had purchased its water from Detroit, its neighbor 70 miles to south. However, in 2014, the cash-strapped city decided to end its agreement with Detroit and start pulling water from the Flint River until a new aqueduct was built. What officials didn’t seem to anticipate was the effect that the slightly more acidic water of the Flint River would have on the city’s pipes.
Furthermore, officials never used common corrosion control methods that Detroit and many other cities use in their water systems. Those methods include adding phosphates to the water, which help keep lead from dissolving into the water flowing through the pipes. When the city switched water supplies, this rust began to be stripped away, strongly discoloring the water and leaching the large amounts of lead from that rust into the water.
The corrosive water pumping underneath Flint quickly ate away at the protective layer inside the city’s old lead pipes, exposing bare lead to the water flowing through them. This lead was the source of the initial contamination, Edwards says. This is what happened in Walters’ house: According to the study, most of the lead appeared to come not from the lead pipe connecting her house to the main line, but from the protective rust that had built up on the house’s iron piping over the decades.
Flint switched back to using water from Detroit in October 2015, and is now adding extra phosphates to that water to help reduce lead levels. But these measures amount to just a “band-aid,” according to Edwards.
“Some people think, ‘If I get rid of the lead pipes, there’s no lead in my water,'” Edwards says. “[That’s] not true.” Definitively solving the lead pipe crisis will require more drastic efforts than just replacing existing pipes—it will require an expensive, time-consuming rehaul of the city’s entire plumbing system. Flint is now in the midst of an effort to replace the city’s thousands of lead pipes, but it’s unclear how long it will take or how much it will end up costing.
Haizhou Liu, an environmental engineer at the University of California at Riverside who studies corrosion and water quality, praised the study’s “careful sampling,” and said it shows how crucial phosphates are to controlling corrosion in water systems. More importantly, he says, it portends the future America faces with outdated water systems in the 21st century. “In my opinion, the Flint story reveals the challenges to maintain our aging water infrastructure nationwide,” says Liu, who was not involved in this study.
While not a new revelation to experts, Edwards says this study exemplifies how lead from main service pipes can build up in the galvanized iron pipes used inside and outside of many American houses built before 1987, and leach from those pipes into the water even after the lead pipes are gone. Using samples taken by Walters in January 2015 and sections of the iron pipe that connected Walters’ house to the lead service pipe, Edwards was able to pinpoint the contamination patterns.
Curt Guyette, an investigative reporter with the Michigan branch of the ACLU who helped expose the lead crisis in Flint, profiled Walters in 2014 for a documentary on the city’s growing water problems. “There’s just a very severe lack of trust,” says Guyette about Flint residents’ current relationship with both their water supply and their government officials.
This suspicion isn’t limited to Flint. Guyette says that on his travels across the country, he’s encountered many Americans who now know and worry about lead in their own drinking water. “What this study does is only add to the evidence of how widespread the concern should be,” he says. Edwards is now working to study the efficacy of Flint’s citywide efforts to replace lead pipes, and says this study is just the first step in getting the full picture.
“A lot of work still needs to be done to better understand the origins of this manmade disaster,” Edwards says.
While Flint is also planning to replace galvanized iron pipes as well as lead pipes, Guyette says, there are thousands of cities across America where lead and iron pipes have been and are still being used together. While Walters had plastic pipes inside of her house, many older homes have galvanized iron pipes in their walls, meaning that removing any chance of lead contamination would take costly renovations.
“It kind of changes your perception of how to solve these problems,” Edwards says.
(Click above image to see an interactive chart/map)
This chart shows Highest Waterfalls in the World.
A waterfall is a place where water flows over a vertical drop or a series of drops in the course of a stream or river. Waterfalls also occur where meltwater drops over the edge of a tabular iceberg or ice shelf. Waterfalls are commonly formed in the upper course of the river.At these times the channel is often narrow and deep.
When the river courses over resistant bedrock, erosion happens slowly, while downstream the erosion occurs more rapidly.As the watercourse increases its velocity at the edge of the waterfall, it plucks material from the riverbed. Whirlpools created in the turbulence as well as sand and stones carried by the watercourse increase the erosion capacity.
A river sometimes flows over a large step in the rocks that may have been formed by a fault line. Waterfalls can occur along the edge of a glacial trough, where a stream or river flowing into a glacier continues to flow into a valley after the glacier has receded or melted. The large waterfalls in Yosemite Valley are examples of this phenomenon, which is referred to as a hanging valley. Another reason hanging valleys may form is where two rivers join and one is flowing faster than the other.
Waterfalls normally form in a rocky area due to erosion. After a long period of being fully formed, the water falling off the ledge will retreat, causing a horizontal pit parallel to the waterfall wall.
Eventually, as the pit grows deeper, the waterfall collapses to be replaced by a steeply sloping stretch of river bed.In addition to gradual processes such as erosion, earth movement caused by earthquakes or landslides or volcanoes can cause a differential in land heights which interfere with the natural course of a water flow, and result in waterfalls.
When I first mentioned the “water enhancer” Stur in August (included on my Recommended Products Page), I noted I wouldn’t even try the popular brand a friend was using since it had “propylene glycol, artificial colors, artificial sweeteners, and preservatives.” Propylene glycol, not to be confused with the antifreeze ethylene glycol, is a synthetic chemical used as a humectant (moistening agent), solvent, and preservative in food and tobacco products — and one of the major ingredients of the “e-liquid” cartridges used in electronic cigarettes. Recently, Kit and I were at a class taught by an organic chemist — a Drug Enforcement Agency agent who has years of field experience. She now travels around giving classes to medics and cops about the latest trends we will encounter in the realm of street drugs. Kit couldn’t help it: she asked why the heck propylene glycol was in “water enhancer” (made to make water taste good so you’ll drink more, which is a Good Thing, right?)
The answer was fascinating: the chemist confirmed it’s used in a lot of foods, and was aghast about that; she doesn’t think it’s safe enough for consumption. The “official” reason it’s used in consumable products is that it’s mildly sweet — but surely there are much better sweeteners out there. The real reason, she said, is it’s a diuretic — it makes you thirsty! It’s also hygroscopic, pulling water out of your mucous membranes (think: the inside of your mouth), and thus dries out your mouth. Therefore, the more you drink, the more you want to drink, so you use more of the product, yet don’t really get most of the benefits of drinking more water. Insidious, isn’t it? I’m gleeful I rejected the “popular” brand in favor of the “natural” one. I just thought it was awfully interesting to hear her take on it.
Roving Blue’s new O-Pen brings ozone purification anywhere you go
The highlight of Overland Expo East was the large motor vehicles and trailers, but the show also had some interesting tech in smaller packages. Perhaps the smallest of all, the Roving Blue O-Pen supports off-roaders and world travelers by keeping drinking water clean and fresh. In contrast to more common purification means, like UV rays and iodine, this pen-sized, battery-powered purification device kills bacteria, protozoa and viruses with the stuff that blocks those UV rays in the atmosphere: ozone.
The concept of using ozone to treat drinking water isn’t a new one, dating back to the late 1800s. The US EPA’s Drinking Water Treatability Database identifies ozone as “one of the strongest disinfectants and oxidants available in drinking water treatment,” and the US Food and Drug Administration recognizes ozone’s use for both water and food.
Ozone has tended to be used for larger applications, such as municipal drinking water systems and household purification. Roving Blue specializes in portable systems, including the MVP-A carry case kit and the all-new O-Pen, possibly the most portable ozone-based purifier out there. The Wisconsin-based company says the stainless steel pen is TSA-approved and markets it at world travellers, hikers and outdoor enthusiasts.
The O-Pen weighs just over an ounce (30 g) and purifies 16 oz (0.5L) of water in less than a minute. You simply drop the tip into the water, turn it on and let it do its thing. It bubbles while in use, providing a visual cue that clean water is on the way. In addition to taking care of all sizes of dangerous microorganisms, from tiny viruses to larger bacteria and protozoa, the O-Pen removes unpleasant tastes and odors, leaving a clean, fresh taste, one of the advantages that ozone offers over other treatment options, such as chlorine.
We took a look at the O-Pen at Bundutec USA’s Overland Expo East booth. At first, it seemed a little strange to see such a small, ultralight purification system there, as the show is targeted mostly at people that travel in large camping vehicles with plenty of room to store larger water treatment systems, including vehicle-integrated systems like the optional one on the Base Camp trailer. But it’s not as though such travelers never leave the vehicle to hike, boat, bike, etc., so a pocketable purifier could certainly find its uses among the attendees.
The O-Pen seems like a natural competitor to light, portable UV purifiers. The Steripen Freedom we covered years ago, which is now listed as discontinued but available in limited quantities at various retailers in the US and Europe, weighs just over double the O-Pen at 2.6 oz (74 g) and treats 1/2 a liter of water in 48 seconds. The Freedom offers more uses per charge at 40 treatments (20 liters) versus 30 treatments (15 liters) for the O-Pen. Like the Freedom, the O-Pen recharges via USB cord.
The O-Pen launched in July and is available for US$199. That’s more expensive than any Steripen model, but perhaps the price will become more competitive over time.
Market research company Euromonitor International’s white paper “Sustainability and the New Normal for Natural Resources” has revealed that reliable access to natural resources is of critical importance to governments, businesses and consumers.
According to the whitepaper, in 2015, the World Economic Forum mentioned water crisis as the number one long-term global threat.
Still underestimated by many businesses, water risk is a very serious and complex issue which threatens wildlife, human access to clean water and continuation of business through shortage, flooding and pollution.
A well-managed water strategy, conversely, can help build a resilient and innovative business and a strong ethical brand image.
“Water stress and poor water stewardship can have a sizeable impact on profit and a huge impact on businesses’ reputation and operations.
The most obviously affected sector is the food and drinks industry, where water is a key input.
But many other sectors are also at risk, including apparel, energy and beauty and personal care,” says Sarah Boumphrey, Global Lead of Economies and Consumers at Euromonitor International.
The whitepaper also reveals that a large amount of packaged food companies’ growth is increasingly reliant on water-stressed regions with India having the largest area harvested for cereals in 2015.
It also mentioned that soft drinks and beer record the highest absolute volume of water consumption and are highly vulnerable to water risk.
The prediction is that by 2020, 50 per cent of the global laundry detergents market by volume will be accounted for, by water stressed countries such as China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, South Africa and the US.
Based in the Eifel region of Germany, the Perlenbach Water Supply Association is using the condition monitoring of Schaeffler’s new FAG SmartQB, which can identify problems in advance and then recommend preventative actions to be taken.
The SmartQB unit has been released in Australia and provides information about the condition of up to six machines or assemblies using plain text messages.
“The technology used by the Perlenbach Water Supply Association is readily available across Australasia, and is our easiest to use condition monitoring device,” says Mark Ciechanowicz, Industrial Services Manager, Schaeffler Australia. “It’s designed to generate plain text messages on its screen, so that any in-house technician can operated the unit without additional knowledge of vibration technology.”
The Perlenbach Water Supply Association supplies fresh drinking water to roughly 50,000 residents in seven municipalities in the Eifel region each day. Around 2.4 cubic meters of water is supplied in the area each year, which has been filtered and treated using complex methods until it meets the high requirements defined in the German drinking water regulations.
This system has proven to be reliable only after a short period. The maintenance personnel were able to react quickly and in a targeted manner thanks to the information and specific fault assessment provided at an early stage about the onset of bearing damage. Both bearings in the 8-stage centrifugal pump were replaced by the maintenance staff in an extremely short period of time, thereby preventing severe damage to the facility. Unplanned downtimes of up to several weeks in combination with considerable damage could be prevented this way.
Increased vibrations and noise on the centrifugal pumps are often due to bearing abnormalities. These irregularities may cause the centrifugal pumps to fail and thus pose a threat to the supply of water. To prevent this, the Perlenbach water supply association decided to change from a temporary pump monitoring system to a continuous pump monitoring system. The objective was to generate long advanced warning times.
As part of a pilot project at the association, two centrifugal pumps were equipped with two FAG SmartQB sensors each and linked with the FAG SmartQB. In the event of irregularities, the FAG SmartLamp installed adjacent the FAG SmartQB illuminates red and the system generates a message. With only two extra clicks on the touch display, the maintenance technician can view more detailed data about the fault and specific recommended actions.
A brief odyssey into the world that I cherish most: water.
A beautiful vid by Morgan Maassen in which everything is blue, moving, perfect. We anglers depend on water, we love water not only because fish live in it, but because we know all life comes from the ocean. There’s something magic in water, and we can feel it in this film, selected by the Vimeo staff.
Perfect music on perfect images:
“Shopping Malls” by SJD
Man and the Sea
Free man, you will always cherish the sea!
The sea is your mirror; you contemplate your soul
In the infinite unrolling of its billows;
Your mind is an abyss that is no less bitter.
You like to plunge into the bosom of your image;
You embrace it with eyes and arms, and your heart
Is distracted at times from its own clamoring
By the sound of this plaint, wild and untamable.
Both of you are gloomy and reticent:
Man, no one has sounded the depths of your being;
O Sea, no person knows your most hidden riches,
So zealously do you keep your secrets!
Yet for countless ages you have fought each other
Without pity, without remorse,
So fiercely do you love carnage and death,
O eternal fighters, implacable brothers!
How much does your bottled water cost? Where is it sourced from? And what does its label say?
Nature’s Best, based in Sydney, treats tap water and slaps “pure, safe” on the label of a 600-millilitre bottle, which is typically marked up by 1720 per cent to $2 in shops across Australia.
“The water is basically free, so I see it as just selling plastic bottles,” said Warren Peffer, owner of Nature’s Best, which sells 25 million units each year. “Our filters are not a huge cost; being filtered may be part of the appeal for some.”
A Fairfax Media survey of bottled water sold in Sydney’s cafes, supermarkets and convenience stores has found seven out of 34 brands are “purified” tap water.
The average price of bottled tap water is $2.75 per litre, with the cheapest being a Pureau 600ml in a six-pack at $1.41 a litre from Coles, and the priciest a Mount Everest 600ml at $4.17/lt from City Convenience – reflecting the logic that buying in bulk leads to a better deal.
Sydney’s most expensive water is Santa Vittoria in a green 250ml glass bottle at Woolworths. It is a staggering $12/lt – a price usually seen at fancy, hatted restaurants.
The average price of spring and mineral water is $5.18/lt, with the bargain being a Harris Farm 600ml at 60¢/lt in a 12-pack.
Australians are guzzling more bottled water than ever before, with the latest Euromonitor figures showing annual sales of still bottled water soared to 466 million litres in 2015, 39 per cent more than in 2010.
“The two main reasons are health and convenience. A lot of people are switching from soft drink, and bottled water is an easy, on-the-go alternative,” said Euromonitor’s Sara Agostino.
Fairfax Media spotted farcical claims on labels, such as “Suitable for vegetarians and vegans” on Aldi’s Northbrook spring water.
The label on Nature’s Best carries lines such as “Refrigeration after opening is recommended” and “Not for re-use”.
Mr Peffer said his water tastes better cold: “If you drink lukewarm water that’s been sitting in the car, it’s just not so nice, so it’s a recommendation to make it nicer.”
On its website, Saka Water Australia states its spring water from Turkey’s Koroglu Mountain has “no sugar, no fat, no calories”.
Its director Richard Ayoub argued the claim is necessary to make people “aware that unlike soft drinks, sports drinks, energy drinks, with Saka Water you are not having any of the above.”
The website also declares Saka achieves “Better absorption than any other water brand”.
Mr Ayoub said tests by a kinesiologist showed: “On average, most regular brands absorb at 60 per cent, tap water at 62 per cent, electric alkaline ioniser at 92 per cent and Saka Water at 99 per cent, 100 per cent with a squeeze of lemon.”
The survey also found Capi Mineral Water Still has the highest sodium content at 50 milligrams a litre.
While sodium is an essential nutrient and consumed in large amounts in food, an official state health guideline suggests people with high blood pressure, heart disease, kidney problems and preparing baby formula should take extra care when the sodium content is above 20mg/lt.
Ben Woysky from Capi said the bottle featured a typical water analysis of minerals at the source.
“These minerals vary season to season and are very dependent on factors such as rainfall and drought periods, which can skew the level of minerals in water,” he said.
“The contents of each bottle may not reflect what is actually stated on the label. It is not regulated in Australia.”
Sydney Water adds small but effective amounts of sodium, fluoride and chlorine, among other things, to produce high-quality tap water that’s safe to drink.
Its principal public health adviser Peter Cox said guidelines limit sodium to 180mg/lt, but its tap water was well below that and the focus was primarily on taste.
“We once considered bottling our drinking water, but we learned even if you take the cleanest water out of a spring, the micro-organisms will change the water quality,” he said.
“People like to believe bottled water is pure, straight from nature, with no human intervention, but it has to be treated.”
The survey also found a third of the bottles were tinted blue, which strengthens the image of purity. Some have opted to use see-through labels, such as Capi, Fiji and the new-look Evian, which desires to “showcase the purity of the contents”.
Gary Mortimer, marketing expert at Queensland University of Technology, said manufacturers use labels, colours and design to appeal to different market segments.
“Marketers can’t claim bottled water is better for you than tap water, so they use things like ‘fresh’, ‘natural’ or use images like snow-cap mountains to lead us to believe that,” he said.
Of the 34 brands surveyed, eight were from overseas, with Evian, sourced from the French Alps, and Voss, from southern Norway, travelling the furthest.
Mineral Water – Ground water obtained from a subterranean water-bearing strata that, in its natural state, contains soluble matter. It must have a level of total dissolved solids of greater than 250 parts per million. No minerals may be added.
Natural Water – Bottled spring, mineral or well water which is derived from an underground formation or water from surface water that only requires minimal processing, is not derived from a municipal system or public water supply, and is unmodified except for limited treatment.
Purified Water – Bottled water produced by distillation, deionisation, reverse osmosis.
Spring water – Ground water obtained from a subterranean water-bearing stratum that, in its natural state, contains soluble matter. No minerals may be added.