January 2010

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An email extension of the Pure Water Gazette.

I Can Hardly Wait

In this festive Groundhog Day issue of the Occasional you'll hear about Russia's ban on US poultry, the intelligence level of fish, changes in our understanding of water migration in soil, and cocaine, vanilla extract, and hormones in our drinking water. Learn why you shouldn't drink Holy Water in Siberia and why you might cast a suspicious eye on the band U2's environmental message. Hear about oil spills in the Yellow River and the Texas Gulf. Find out how to raise the pH of acidic water and how not to. Hear about the EPA's contaminant list, how to deal with 1,1 dichlorethylene, carbon tetrachloride, and dioxin, and water vapor's influence on global warming. Discover how much toilet paper the average American uses per year, the astounding fecal output of the canines living amongst us, and, as always, much, much more. The Occasional is overseen and edited by Pure Water Gazette Editor-in- Chief Hardly Waite.



The Pure Water Occasional Wishes You and Yours the Happiest of Groundhog Days


Water News from Around the World


While you were breaking your New Year's resolutions, a lot of important things happened. Follow the links if you want to learn what you missed.

A pipeline rupture leaked 100 tons of diesel fuel into a tributary of the Yellow River compromising the drinking water of 850,000 Chinese.

Residents of Fremont, Ohio were cautioned to not give tap water to infants because of high nitrate levels.

Cities in India are starting to rely on rainwater harvesting to provide clean drinking water.  

National Geographic research found cocaine, spices (especially vanilla), and hormones in drinking water.

A new clothes washer developed by Leeds University uses 10% as much water as standard washing machines.

Russia refuses to buy US poultry because of its unsafe levels of chlorine.

Oregon State University studies indicated that century-old beliefs about how water moves through the soil are not correct.

The International Bottled Water Association produced a propaganda video so bad you won't believe they weren't ashamed to release it.

Australian researchers debunked the common belief that fish have only a 3-second memory capability and demonstrated that fish are much smarter than people believe

Two hundred Russians fell ill in Eastern Siberia after drinking holy water, although church leaders denied a connection.  

A tanker spilled 450,000 gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico off of Port Arthur, Texas.  (The real news is that it barely made the news.)

Slowdown in the warming of the earth has been credited to the influence of water vapor




Filter Carbon: What It Does and What It Doesn't

by Gene Franks

If you've wondered what makes water filters effective, this article will give some answers. Water filters aren't magic. Except for rare specialty items, what we call a water filter works because of a single ingredient--activated carbon. The present article is a slightly truncated and revised version of one that's been on Pure Water Products' main commercial website for a number of years.-- Hardly Waite, Editor.


The largest single section in the “EPA Regulated Water Contaminants” list is the section on Organics (including VOCs, or “Volatile Organics”). In this category the EPA lists numerous very nasty organic chemical contaminants—many with familiar names like benzene, 1,1 dichlorethylene, carbon tetrachloride, dioxin, styrene, toluene, chloroform, and vinyl chloride. To give an idea of the extensiveness of this list, a single item,  “Total Trihalomethanes,” consists of hundreds of chemicals, some  still undiscovered or unstudied, that are formed as by-products of the chlorination process. The EPA's maximum allowable level for trihalomethanes, many of which are suspected or known cancer causers and are present in virtually all chlorinated tap water, is less than 1/10 of one part per million.

For the Organics category, the primary treatment in all cases and the only recommended treatment in most cases, is activated carbon.

The EPA’s Pesticides category lists many familiar poisons such as Aldicarb, Chlordane, Heptachlor, and Lindane. In all cases, activated carbon is the only recommended treatment.

Of the Herbicides listed (2,4-D, Atrazine, etc.), activated carbon is the only treatment recommended.

In short, for Organics, Pesticides, and Herbicides, which together make up 90% of EPA's regulated substances, the standard treatment, and in many cases the only treatment recommended, is activated carbon.

What carbon filtration does not do can be seen in the remaining three categories of the EPA contaminant list.

Microbiological contaminants.  Carbon is listed as a treatment in only under one category--turbidity. It is not recommended for coliform removal or for cysts, though in reality some of the very tight solid carbon block filters now on the market remove bacteria (though manufacturers seldom make this claim), and many carbon block filters are now certified for removal of cysts (giardia and cryptosporidium). 

Inorganic contaminants.  Carbon appears in the EPA list only as a preferred treatment for mercury.  Carbon filters are also frequently engineered to remove lead (by the addition of ion exchange resins) and some carbon filter makers claim asbestos reduction, but by and large carbon is not a good treatment for most inorganic water contaminants.

The same is true in the final category, Radionuclides, where carbon is ineffective and reverse osmosis (RO) and ion exchange are definitely the treatments of choice.

Chloramines and Chlorine

Chlorine was not considered in the discussion above because the EPA does not consider it a water contaminant. Nevertheless,  chlorine removal is a top priority of water filter purchasers.  Chlorine removal is what carbon is best at, and nothing else equals carbon’s ability to remove chlorine. Carbon, especially the specially processed carbon known as "catalytic carbon," is also the best treatment by far for chloramines, the increasingly (un)popular chlorine substitute.

Fluoride, another EPA-unlisted additive that people frequently want removed from tap water, is not readily removed by carbon filtration.  (Although carbon can remove fluoride under the right circumstances, its performance is sporadic and unpredictable, so it's best not to count on it.) I should note, too, that a unique carbon called "bone char," which is made from animal bones, is widely used as a fluoride remover in some parts of the world, though rarely in the United States.

TDS, "total dissolved solids," the count of the total mineral content of water, is not affected by carbon filtration. The EPA suggests a non-enforceable upper limit of 500 parts per million (ppm) total dissolved solids. TDS can be reduced only by reverse osmosis or a distiller or by a very expensive process called deionization.  

Sodium, Fluoride, and Nitrates

Tap water ingredients that people most frequently want removed that are not readily removed by carbon filtration are fluoride, nitrates, and sodium. (Sodium is measured in water as part of the Total Dissolved Solids, discussed above.) Reverse osmosis and distillation remove all three. so either of them, combined with a high quality carbon filter, provides complete treatment. All three can also be removed by selective, non-carbon filters designed for the purpose. For example, you can obtain a double filter with one fluoride and one carbon cartridge if fluoride removal is desired. The fluoride cartridge does not contain carbon but a specialty medium called Activated Alumina.

When distiller sellers or zealous home marketers show you a chart that indicates that reverse osmosis (RO) units do not remove chlorine or certain chemicals, keep in mind that RO units contain one or more carbon filters. In fact, “thin film” RO units, the most common type, must remove chlorine from the water as the very first operation else the unit’s membrane will be destroyed. Such statements are simply advertising cheap shots that are technically true but in reality totally false and intentionally misleading. It's surprising and disappointing that some large companies actually do this in their promotional literature.

A reverse osmosis unit that has at least two high quality carbon filters is the best and most complete drinking water treatment for the home. When people say they want a water treatment system that "removes everything," reverse osmosis is as close as you can get.

Featured Water Issue : Acidic Water

"Acidic Water" is defined technically as water with a pH below 7.0. Water with low pH is more a plumbing problem than a health issue, since acidic water can take its toll on copper pipes and plumbing fixtures if not corrected. Since municipal water suppliers control the pH of their product, low pH is sometimes a concern to people with wells but seldom a problem for city water users. Acidic water can also be an issue for aquarium owners, since fish are very pH sensitive and each variety of fish may have its own pH requirements.

Treatment for acidic water in wells is usually done by injecting soda ash with a chemical feed pump or sending the water through a tank-sized "calcite" filter. Both calcite and soda ash are natural substances that are readily available and relatively inexpensive. Smaller calcite filters are frequently used as post filters for home reverse osmosis units, since reverse osmosis normally lowers treated water to below 7.0 pH. There is no evidence that the lowered pH of reverse osmosis water is a health issue despite the fear mongering exaggerations of high pressure sales literature promoting pricey electronic products commonly marketed as "ionizers."

For more about low pH, please visit the Occasional's Water Treatment Issues page on Acidic Water.

For a complete description of the Occasional's own ionizer, pictured below, go the the Model 77 Ionizer section in our How It Works series. (Please don't take this ad seriously. It's a joke. Times haven't yet got hard enough to push us into the "Ionizer" business.)


77 Ionizer


BB Sharper

Numerical water facts from B. Bee Sharper, the Pure Water Gazette's numerical wizard.

Number of average British citizens it would take, living for a year, to equal the carbon emissions of a recent tour of the "environmentally friendly" rock band U2: 6,500. 

Number of people who could fly from London to Dublin on the energy expenditure by the U2 tour: 90.000.

Number of years a standard 100 watt light bulb would burn on the energy expended by the U2 tour: 150, 000.

Number of trees U2 would need to plant to offset this year's carbon emissions by the band: 20,118.

Pounds of feces dropped by the average dog each day: 1/4.

Pounds of feces produced each day by the dogs living in a watershed with a population of  100,000 Americans: 5000.

Pounds of feces produced each year by the dogs living in a watershed with a population of  100,000 Americans: 1,825,000. 

Pounds of feces produced each leap year by the dogs living in a watershed with a population of  100,000 Americans: 1,830,000.

Pounds of toilet paper used per year by each American:  5O.

Number of times you'll have to click here to see Pure Water Products' latest product addition, the awesome Big Bubba: 1.


Go here for More B.B. Sharper.