Category Archives: Filtration

Goldilocks and the three bears revisited

Three bears stamp

We all know the story of Goldilocks and how she visited the home of the three bears while they were out. You probably heard how she tasted the porridge and tried the chairs, but did you know that she was also really thirsty?

First Goldilocks took a glass and filled it from the tap and it was good, but it was not quite cold enough. So she opened the fridge and saw a bottle of Aquafina. She knew the Aquafina bottle was nice and cold, but Goldilocks had read online about how chemicals can leach from PET plastic into the water. She also knew that over 20 billion plastic water bottles are thrown away in trash cans and landfills every year. So she took her glass and filled it from the the refrigerator’s water dispenser instead. When she tasted it she was pleasantly surprised because it was cold, tasted great, and safe to drink. You see, the filter inside the refrigerator was independently tested by the NSF so Goldilocks knew that the water she was drinking was safe.

Okay, maybe that is not how the story really goes, but the story of Goldilocks and the three bears is just a myth. A lot like these myths about drinking water from the NSF consumer information website. NSF (National Sanitation Foundation) International was founded in 1944 to provide public health and safety-related information to concerned consumers around the world.

NSF International performs independent testing of water filters to verify their contaminant reduction claims.

Here are the common myths about public drinking water from the NSF page, see if you know the truth about your water quality before you click the link to get the answers.

  • We have less water today than we did 100 years ago
  • Once you use water, it is gone
  • If there is lead in your water, it’s the fault of the water treatment plant
  • Using a home water treatment device will make tap water safer or healthier to drink
  • Bottled water is always safer than tap water
  • Water will purify itself, so we don’t need to worry about it

You may be surprised by some of the answers you find. If you know all the answers without checking the NSF page then you should pat yourself on the back and tell all your friends how smart you are!

Sea turtles mistake plastic for jellyfish

Sea turtle

I already knew that fish were eating plastic from watching the documentary film Tapped, but I was not really prepared to see this article from Mother Nature Network, or @MotherNatureNetwork on twitter. A green sea turtle, rescued in 2009, was found to have eaten a large amount of plastic. The team of marine biologists was able to extract the largest piece, but the poor turtle still excreted plastic for a month. Marine biologists believe that sea turtles are eating the plastic waste that finds its way into the ocean because it looks like a jellyfish. Since sea turtles love to eat the jellyfish they chomp down on the plastic bag look-a-likes as well.

Reducing the amount of plastic that we use and dispose of every day can make a difference. Everyone has a part to play in helping keep plastic out of the ocean.

It does not have to be a huge life altering decision, because every little bit helps. Try taking a re-usable cloth bag to the store to get groceries instead of using plastic bags. Take a re-usable water bottle with you to work instead of a single use PET plastic bottle. Remember that re-using is better than recycling and if you can’t avoid disposable goods make sure to recycle whenever you can. Cheap plastic water bottles and plastic grocery bags are convenient, but they cause damage to the environment. Challenge yourself to try just one way to reduce plastic waste. I chose to stop buying bottled water and instead keep a bottle of filtered water in the fridge. I haven’t bought bottled water at all in several months. It’s a small change, but it starts with you and me making the right decisions. Together we can make a big difference.

When water isn’t just water

Water test

It’s real water. Or at least that is what the makers of Real Water want you to believe. According to the Real Water website the water that we drink is damaged, or too acidic and does not hydrate the body properly. The science behind their claims is fairly impressive…in volume. It is true that tap water is slightly acidic, which means it has a pH level lower than 7, but is it really bad for your health? Real Water thinks it is and charges $36 for a case of 24 bottles.

You may think that’s not too much to pay if you are going to get better water. After all if you check out their website Real Water claims to be adding free electrons to the damaged water to increase the pH level. The result is a water with greater alkalinity, or pH level higher than 7, so it actually hydrates you far better than damaged water. To be honest their science looks good to an untrained eye, but an alert tweet from @OpheliaRising led me to a great piece in the Guardian written by Rebecca Hill. In the article she explores the claims made by Real Water and spoke with both a chemist and a nutritionist to get their take on positively charged water and the effects of low pH on “damaged water”.

So the first claim that our drinking water is “damaged” and bad for our health is untrue. The chemist, Professor Stephen Fletcher, point out that “The lowest possible pH of carbonated water is around 5″. That means that carbonated water, which is obviously bubbly and not at all like tap water, still only has a pH of 5. Vinegar is a thousand times more acidic than carbonated water and is not dangerous to human health so it is perfectly safe to drink water with a pH level that is slightly less than 7.

So what about the claim that water treatment systems cause water to lose electrons to the point where it no longer hydrates us and the loose free radicals harm our cells? Again bogus. Fletcher argues that, “Water molecules do not act as free radicals” and “The acid component of water (called a hydrogen ion) emphatically does not have an unpaired electron. In fact, it has no electrons at all.”

Finally the company claims that their proprietary process adds millions of free radicals back into water to pair with the loose electrons (free radicals) to bind them back together and increase the alkalinity of water. As Fletcher points out the principle of electro-neutrality prevents water from becoming positively charged in the first place. So if the water was never positively charged, how could Real Water add back missing electrons in the form of free radicals? As Professor Fletcher points out “It follows that the E2 technology cannot add ‘hundreds of millions of free electrons’ to anything, no matter how it works.”

So it seems that Real Water is not real water after all. Like other fellow water bottling companies they are trying to convince you that the water you can buy from them is better than the water that comes from your own tap. You can pay $1.50 a bottle for Real Water, or you can pay a few pennies for a nice glass of water from your own home. As nutritionist Sue Baic points out in the article “Normal tap water is perfectly healthy.” Public water systems routinely test your water and have to adhere to higher health and safety standards than bottled water companies. Don’t buy the hype and especially don’t buy Real Water.

A little history lesson

Drought on a shoreline

How much time do you spend each day thinking about where water comes from and where it goes? Probably not very much and I have to admit I often take it for granted too. Since I watched the Tapped documentary though I have had a bug in my brain about the drought of 2007. I grew up in Dekalb county, but had moved to Raleigh by 2007. A few years ago local communities were running dangerously low on water and still people were dragging their feet when it came to conservation. Back in Atlanta folks were hit pretty hard by the drought as well.

Nestle’s new Pure Life brand is being bottled from municipal sources meaning yet another high volume seller has joined Dasani and Aquafina re-bottling public water. Approximately 40% of bottled water is taken from municipal sources and with Nestle moving their Pure Life brand in that direction this percentage is likely to go up. This bothers me for a couple of reasons, public water systems are supported with our taxpayer dollars. This means that we are subsidizing the commercialization of our own water and then being charged hundreds of times more for that same water. So when you buy a bottle of Dasani, Aquafina, or Pure Life water you are essentially buying water that you already pay taxes on to get from your tap.

Which brings me to Atlanta back in 2007 when the shores of Lake Allatoona and the Chattahoochee River were dwindling from the drought. Meanwhile, as Thomas Wheatley pointed out, Coke was taking public water to bottle for their Dasani brand.

The Coca Cola company was doing what made the most sense and running business as usual to meet public demand. The irony is that had the city of Atlanta run out of water people would have been drinking the same water that used to flow from their taps, but they would have been paying as much as 2000 times more for it. Don’t you think it is time we stopped fueling the bottled water industry? Take control of your water and give up the bottle. You can filter your own tap water with a home filter and fill re-usable containers instead of buying bottled water. I have a built in filter in the fridge so I get most of my drinking water from there. How do you filter your water? I look forward to seeing your comments so we can share some ideas about how we can all make smarter decisions about our drinking water.

UC Berkeley vote may do away with bottled water sales on campus

Bottled water stash

As a part of this year’s ASUC voting at UC Berkeley students are asked to lend their support for Bill 94 to help UC Berkeley reach its waste reduction goals. The vote, which lasts from April 5th-7th, will determine the fate of bottled water sales on campus. Thanks to @MyWaterOurWater for sharing the Daily Clog post about the vote.

I wanted to find out more about the ASUC voting so I looked up the 2011 UC Berkeley voters guide to see what Bill 94 was all about and have included it below in it’s entirety.

Bill 94 The End the Sale of Bottled Water Initiative

“UC Berkeley currently has a goal to reach 75% waste diversion by 2012 and zero-waste by 2020. Barring emergency situations, do you support the respectful request for

(1) the renogotiation of any existing campus contracts to phase out the purchase, sale, and distribution of bottled water
(2) for increased campus access to public water including hydration stations and better maintenance of drinking fountains, in order to aid the realization of the aforementioned waste-reduction goals?”

Given what we know about plastic pollution and the negative effect that bottled water has on the environment, especially in the ocean, it is great to see more students get involved with our future. Bottled water is not sustainable, especially when you consider that only 10% of singe-use water bottles will be recycled. The second point in Bill 94 promotes better maintenance and more availability of hydration stations on campus so students don’t have to buy bottled water and can carry re-usable canteens instead. This is the perfect solution. Nobody likes to pay the high premium on bottled water so give them a viable alternative.

Your home has a hydration station already, your refrigerator. Your fridge is probably where you go when you are thirsty so be sure to keep it stocked with plenty of water, just not the bottled kind please. Use a water pitcher or dispenser to fill a re-usable bottle or glass and drink responsibly. If you have a newer refrigerator it may already have a water filter built-in. You can put Bill 94 to use in your home and help reduce your waste too.

Image Source: Klearchos Kapoutsis under Creative Commons

10 Ways to Protect Groundwater

Small stream in woods

April Fools Day is wrapping up and I hope you were all able to enjoy a good joke or prank today, hopefully not at your own expense either. Even on a fun day like April 1st it is important to think about some serious topics too. I found a great bulletin from Groundwater.org that lists their top ten ways to protect groundwater. I have copied the list into the post for you to check it out.

I think the thing that surprises me the most is how simple it can be to make a difference. Things like taking shorter showers and only running the washing machine or dishwasher when they have a full load are easy and actually will save you money too. My favorite point on the list has to be keeping a pitcher of water in your fridge. One of the big attractions to bottled water is how easy it is to just open the fridge and grab some water to drink. I know because I feel the same draw towards convenience, but bottled water is really bad for the environment and carries a higher price tag as well. Try filling a pitcher with water and storing that in the fridge so that when you need a quick sip you can quickly poor into a glass or a re-usable bottle instead. If your refrigerator has a water filter just fill the glass or bottle from your dispenser. If you don’t have a water filter you can get a pitcher that has a built-in filter. When you refill from that pitcher you will be getting cool, clean, and delicious water straight from your fridge and you will be saving money too.

Here is the full list from groundwater.org of how we can all help protect and conserve groundwater. Each day we can make good choices, like using less water and saying no to single-use plastic bottles.

  1. Reduce household chemical use and dispose of remaining chemicals by taking them to a hazardous waste collection site.
  2. Take used motor oil to a recycling center.
  3. Limit the amount of fertilizer used on plants.
  4. Take short showers.
  5. Shut water off while brushing teeth and shaving.
  6. Run full loads of dishes and laundry.
  7. Check for leaky faucets and have them fixed.
  8. Water plants only when necessary.
  9. Keep a pitcher of drinking water in the refrigerator.
  10. Get involved in water education.

Radiation detected on the East Coast

Radiation warning

Reports are starting to come in from monitoring stations around the country indicating that trace levels of radioactive materials have been detected in the United States. In some states testing has revealed an increase in the presence of radiation in rainwater. This increase in radioactive material is linked to the incident at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan.

The most recent reports from the EPA continue to show that the increased levels of radiation detected are expected and still “far below levels of public-health concern”. The EPA is stepping up monitoring across the country to keep an eye out for public safety. Right now there is very little cause for concern as the increase in radiation levels is expected to be short-lived.

If you are concerned about the radiation level in your drinking water you can try a water filter to remove it. The NSF lists water filter systems that are certified to reduce radium here. A basic carbon filter will not remove radium or radon. These contaminants require a Reverse Osmosis (RO) or Ultraviolet (UV) filter to remove them from drinking water. For more information on radium in water you can check out this page from the Palm Beach County Health Department. It is important to remember that we are all exposed to small amounts of radiation every day and that low level exposure over a short period of time is not a significant health risk.

Vermont says “No” to bottled water

Say-no-to-bottled-water 250"/>

A bit of news from a Businessweek article I read today (special thanks to @MyWaterOurWater for sharing it, follow him on twitter!), the state of Vermont is putting a stop to the purchase of bottled water in state buildings. State employees will have access to clean tap water, which the state government feels is a better use of their budget. Every year the state invests in public water so why spend extra on bottled water?

Even more important is the acknowledgment by Deb Markowitz of the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources that bottled water has a negative environmental impact on the state ecology. New York, Colorado and Illinois have also taken steps to reduce waste by switching from bottled water to tap water.

It just does not make sense to buy bottled water when we should be investing in public water infrastructure. Tap water is readily available and can be dispensed into re-usable bottles. A simple water filter can reduce chlorine taste and odor to make your tap water taste much better. If you live in an area with poor water quality you should have your water tested. Odds are you can probably get a water filter set up in your home that will remove most of the contaminants in your tap water.

Your water, your health

Water pollution

Yesterday marked the first day of spring and even though the temperature outside is still somewhere between cool and cold in most parts of the country, I find myself looking forward to the warmer weather. You know, the days when you go out and enjoy the warm rays from the sun and a refreshing swim in the neighborhood pool. Or better yet, a day out at the lake, or the beach?

Of course, you probably would not want to go swimming in water that looks like this…but you might be drinking it.

Water is a basic necessity, but it is also a resource we often take for granted. Do you know what is in your drinking water? Do you want to find out?

Here are 3 ways to take control of your tap and be sure your drinking water is safe.

  • Ask for a water-quality report. Your local water utility is required to test the water they provide and create a report with information about the source of the water, any contaminants detected and also any potential health risks from consuming those contaminants.
  • Find out what your plumbing pipes are made of. The EPA regulates the amount of lead that can be detected in the water coming from your supplier, but if your home still has lead piping you may be picking up additional levels of lead from your own plumbing. If you cannot get access to the pipes to find out (in some cases the older lead piping may be buried underground) you can have your water tested to find out how much lead is present in your water. Water test kits are available to purchase online and can be used to test for possible lead contamination.
  • Consider using an in-home water filter. Water filters come in all sizes and serve a wide variety of purposes. Choosing the correct filter may seem daunting at first, but once you know what contaminants are in your water you can make sure the filters you buy can reduce or remove those contaminants.

Remember, do not be afraid to ask questions and get the information that you need. I cannot stress enough how important it is to have safe drinking water. When it comes to the water you use to cook, shower and especially drink, the more you know the better.

More plastic than plankton

Plastic bottles washed up on the beach

We use plastic for a variety of functions because it is cheap and easy to use. The problem is how much of that plastic that we use every day is not handled responsibly and recycled. We have reached the point where pollution from plastics waste is having a severe effect on the environment. I am not talking about landfills, though there is definitely an argument to be made for the work we have to do there. What I wanted to talk about today is the accumulation of plastic in the ocean. Researchers, like Captain Charles Moore and his team, have discovered that plastic are polluting our oceans in a big way.

Ever take a trip down to the beach? Did it look like this image? Let’s hope it did not, but more and more beaches are becoming receptacles for plastic water bottles and other trash that are thrown into lakes and rivers and eventually find their way into the ocean. What many people do not realize is that plastic is forever. It cannot be dissolved or used up and instead is merely broken down into smaller pieces. While plastic waste on beaches is certainly not something we want to see the issue that Captain Moore and the researchers at the Algalita Marine Foundation are focusing on is the pollution found in the oceanic gyres.

Water sample from the north pacific gyre

Have you heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch? You can take a tour and get out there to see it for yourself, but it is not a popular destination. Located in the Pacific gyre, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is an area where oceanic tides have created a gathering point for much of the plastic waste that has found its way out to sea. Samples drawn from the gyre have revealed that there is more plastic than plankton in the water. After being buffeted around and stirred up in the ocean water much of the plastic that has made it to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch has been broken down into small colorful pellets. With the number of these little plastic pieces floating in the water having exceeded the amount of plankton there many fish are starting to eat the plastic. Instead of eating their natural food source, plankton, the fish are eating our trashed plastics.

The garbage patch in the Pacific Ocean is not unique. Researchers have found trash build up in gyres in the North and South Atlantic, Indian, North and South Pacific oceans. Some of the most commonly discarded items are plastic water bottles. With only a small percentage of water bottles actually recycled in the U.S. there is plenty of room for each individual to make a difference. Try to drink from re-usable containers whenever possible and if you do buy a plastic bottle or other container make sure to recycle when you are finished. These are small steps, but together it can make a big difference.