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Colorado Water Information: What Should You Know?

 

Buyer beware!  No such thing as a salt free water softener

Several companies are trying to sell a non-electric salt free water softener.  Salt free is, in fact, misleading.  See, a water softener uses water softening salt as a detergent, not a filter media.  Hardness is a liquid that turns to a scale once oxidizing passes right through carbon filtration.  Carbon Block filters are one of the most overused filter medias in the market today.  Its miss-application can cause problems.

Water Basics

What is it? Water is a molecule called H2O that contains two atoms of hydrogen and one atom of oxygen. It’s a transparent, odorless liquid that you can find in lakes, rivers, and oceans. It falls from the sky as rain or snow. Where does it come from? Fresh water is the result of the Earth’s water or hydrologic cycle. Basically, the sun’s heat causes surface water to evaporate. It rises in the atmosphere, then cools and condenses to form clouds. When enough water vapor condenses, it falls back to the surface again as rain, sleet, or snow. The process repeats itself in a never-ending cycle.

The water we consume and use every day comes from two main sources: groundwater and surface water

Better Water Where It Counts The Most

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Groundwater

When rainwater or melting snow seeps into the ground, it collects in underground pockets called aquifers, which store the groundwater and form the water table, another name for the highest level of water that an aquifer can hold. Water levels can reach the water table or fall well below it depending on such factors as rainfall, drought, or the rate at which the water is being used. Groundwater usually comes from aquifers through a drilled well or natural spring.

Learn the Ins And Outs of Water Treatment

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Surface Water

Surface water flows through or collects in streams, rivers, lakes, reservoirs, and oceans — not underground like groundwater. Surface water can be beautiful, even pristine looking, but most of it isn’t directly fit for drinking. Fully 97% is found in the oceans and can’t be used for drinking because of its salt content. The other 3% of water is fresh, and most of that is locked up in ice or glaciers.

Concept image of purposely blurred plastic water jugs

How Much do You Use?

A typical American uses 80-100 gallons of water every day. If that sounds like a lot, consider that the total includes not just drinking water but also the water used for washing, watering lawns, and waste disposal. In fact, people actually drink less than 1% of the water coming into their homes. The rest goes for other purposes.

Unless you have your own well, you likely have to pay something for the water you use. A typical U.S. household pays about $1.50 per 1,000 gallons or $0.0015 per gallon. For a family of four using 100 gallons per person each day, that adds up to about $18 per month.

Bottled water has a higher price tag, although it may be preferred for businesses or homes that want a low-maintenance source of quality drinking water. According to the Beverage Marketing Corp., the wholesale cost of domestic, non-sparkling bottled drinking water was $1.21 per gallon in 2011. Drinking water sold in 20-ounce bottles may cost more than $6 per gallon.

Also, many homeowners have to pay for sewage (water that leaves the home). In the U.S., the average monthly cost for sewage is $84 a month.

A water main manhole cover.

How Does it Get to Your Home or Business?

Typically, pipes bring the water supply from a facility that treats the water to your home or business. A well built and maintained distribution system of pipes helps ensure its quality. Another format to provide water specifically for drinking to a home or business would be the installation of a water cooler or the delivery of bottled water.

Better Water Where It Counts The Most

Fragment of a large diameter main pipe. Urban water system

Municipal Water

Raw and untreated water is obtained from an underground aquifer (usually through wells) or from a surface water source, such as a lake or river. It is pumped, or flows, to a treatment facility. Once there, the water is pretreated to remove debris such as leaves and silt. Then, a sequence of treatment processes — including filtration and disinfection with chemicals or physical processes — eliminates disease causing microorganisms. When the treatment is complete, water flows out into the community through a network of pipes and pumps that are commonly referred to as the distribution system. Approximately 85% of the U.S. population receives its water from community water systems. Community water systems are required to meet the standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the authority of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA).

Well Water

A well is a strategically placed access point drilled into an aquifer, combined with a pump to withdraw the water and a basic filtering or screening system. Approximately 15% of the U.S. population relies on individually owned sources of drinking water, such as wells, cisterns, and springs. The majority of household wells are found in rural areas. Water quality from household wells is the responsibility of the homeowner.

Bottled Water

Bottled water is popular. Studies suggest that half of all Americans drink bottled water from time to time, and about a third consume it regularly. As with tap water, the source of bottled water is usually a municipal water system or a natural spring, and from there, it may go through additional purification. As a packaged product, bottled water is regulated under the guidelines of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). To find out more, check out www.bottledwater.org.

PFOA and PFOS

PFOA and PFOS are fluorinated organic chemicals that are part of a larger group of chemicals referred to as perfluoroalkyl substances(PFASs).  PFOA and PFOS have been most extensively produced and studied of these chemicals.  They have been used to make carpets, clothing, fabrics for furniture, paper packaging for foods, and other materials (cookware) that are resistant to water, grease, or stains.  They are also used for firefighting at airfields and in a number of industries processes.  Because these chemicals have been used in an array of consumer products, most people have been exposed to them.  Between 2000 and 2002, PFOS was voluntarily phased out of production in the U.S. by its primary manufacture.  In 2006, eight major companies voluntarily agreed to phase out their global production of POFA and PFOA-related chemicals, although there is a limited number of ongoing uses.  Scientists have found PFOA and PFOS in the blood of all the people they have tested.  While the levels have been decreasing, it is most common in the water supplies. While consumer products and food are a large source of exposure to these chemicals for most people, drinking water can be an additional source in the small percentage of communities where these chemicals have contaminated water supplies. Such contamination is typically localized and associated with a specific facility, for example, an industrial facility where these chemicals were produced or used to manufacture other products or an airfield at which they were used for firefighting.

EPA’s 2016 Lifetime Health Advisories

To provide Americans, including the most sensitive populations, with a margin of protection from a lifetime of exposure to PFOA and PFOS from drinking water, EPA established the health advisory levels at 70 parts per trillion. When both PFOA and PFOS are found in drinking water, the combined concentrations of PFOA and PFOS should be compared with the 70 parts per trillion health advisory level. This health advisory level offers a margin of protection for all Americans throughout their life from adverse health effects resulting from exposure to PFOA and PFOS in drinking water. How the Health Advisories were developed EPA’s health advisories are based on the best available peer-reviewed studies of the effects of PFOA and PFOS on laboratory animals (rats and mice) and were also informed by epidemiological studies of human populations that have been exposed to PFASs. These studies indicate that exposure to PFOA and PFOS over certain levels may result in adverse health effects, including developmental effects to fetuses during pregnancy’s or to breastfed infants (e.g., low birth weight, accelerated puberty, skeletal variations), cancer (e.g., testicular, kidney), liver effects (e.g., tissue damage), immune effects (e.g., antibody production and immunity), thyroid effects and other effects (e.g., cholesterol changes). EPA’s health advisory levels were calculated to offer a margin of protection against adverse health effects to the most sensitive populations: fetuses during pregnancy and breastfed infants. The health advisory levels are calculated based on the drinking water intake of lactating women, who drink more water than other people and can pass these chemicals along to nursing infants through breastmilk. Recommended Actions for Drinking Water Systems Steps to Assess Contamination If water sampling results confirm that drinking water contains PFOA and PFOS at individual or combined concentrations greater than 70 parts per trillion, water systems should quickly undertake additional sampling to assess the level, scope, and localized source of contamination to inform next steps. Steps to inform if water sampling results confirm that drinking water contains PFOA and PFOS at individual or combined concentrations greater than 70 parts per trillion, water systems should promptly notify their State drinking water safety agency (or with EPA in jurisdictions for which EPA is the primary drinking water safety agency) and consult with the relevant agency on the best approach to conduct additional sampling. Drinking water systems and public health officials should also promptly provide consumers with information about the levels of PFOA and PFOS in their drinking water. This notice should include specific information on the risks to fetuses during pregnancy and breastfed and formula-fed infants from exposure to drinking water with an individual or combined concentration of PFOA and PFOS above EPA’s health advisory level of 70 parts per trillion. In addition, the notification should include actions they are taking and identify options that consumers may consider reducing risk, such as seeking an alternative drinking water source, or in the case of parents of formula-fed infants, using a formula that does not require adding water.

Recommended Actions for Drinking Water Systems. Steps to Limit Exposure

A number of options are available to drinking water systems to lower concentrations of PFOA and PFOS in their drinking water supply. In some cases, drinking water systems can reduce concentrations of perfluoroalkyl substances, including PFOA and PFOS, by closing contaminated wells or changing rates of blending of water sources. Alternatively, public water systems can treat source water with activated carbon or high pressure membrane systems (e.g., reverse osmosis) to remove PFOA and PFOS from drinking water. These treatment systems are used by some public water systems today but should be carefully designed and maintained to ensure that they are effective for treating PFOA and PFOS. In some communities, entities have provided bottled water to consumers while steps to reduce or remove PFOA or PFOS from drinking water or to establish a new water supply are completed. Many home drinking water treatment units are certified by independent accredited third party organizations against American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standards to verify their contaminant removal claims. NSF International (NSF®) has developed a protocol for NSF/ANSI Standards 53 and 58 that establishes minimum requirements for materials, design, and construction, and performance of point-of-use (POU) activated carbon drinking water treatment systems and reverse osmosis systems that are designed to reduce PFOA and PFOS in public water supplies. The protocol has been established to certify systems (e.g., home treatment systems) that meet the minimum requirements. The systems are evaluated for contaminant reduction by challenging them with an influent of 1.5±30% µg/L (total of both PFOA and PFOS) and must reduce this concentration by more than 95% to 0.07 µg/L or less (total of both PFOA and PFOS) throughout the manufacturer’s stated life of the treatment system. Product certification to this protocol for testing home treatment systems verifies that devices effectively reduces PFOA and PFOS to acceptable levels. Other Actions Relating to PFOA and PFOS Between 2000 and 2002, PFOS was voluntarily phased out of production in the U.S. by its primary manufacturer, 3M. EPA also issued regulations to limit future manufacturing, including importation, of PFOS and its precursors, without first having EPA review the new use. A limited set of existing uses for PFOS (fire resistant aviation hydraulic fluids, photography and film products, photomicrolithography process to produce semiconductors, metal finishing, and plating baths, component of an etchant) was excluded from these regulations.

Health Advisories!

EPA has established health advisories for PFOA and PFOS based on the agency’s assessment of the latest peer-reviewed science to provide drinking water system operators and state, tribal, and local officials who have the primary responsibility for overseeing these systems with information on the health risks of these chemicals, so they can take the appropriate actions to protect their residents. EPA is committed to supporting states and public water systems as they determine the appropriate steps to reduce exposure to PFOA and PFOS in drinking water. As science on the health effects of these chemicals evolves, EPA will continue to evaluate new evidence.

To provide Americans, including the most sensitive populations, with a margin of protection from a lifetime of exposure to PFOA and PFOS from drinking water, EPA has established the health advisory levels at 70 parts per trillion.

What’s a Health Advisory?

Health advisories provide information on contaminants that can cause human health effects and are known or anticipated to occur in drinking water. EPA’s health advisories are non-enforceable and non-regulatory and provide technical information to states agencies and other public health officials on health effects, analytical methodologies, and treatment technologies associated with drinking water contamination. EPA’s health advisory level for PFOA and PFOS offers a margin of protection for all Americans throughout their life from adverse health effects resulting from exposure to PFOA and PFOS in drinking water.

What Health Effects are The Basis for the Health Advisories?

EPA’s health advisories are based on the best available peer-reviewed studies of the effects of PFOA and PFOS on laboratory animals (rats and mice) and were also informed by epidemiological studies of human populations that have been exposed to perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs). These studies indicate that exposure to PFOA and PFOS over certain levels may result in adverse health effects, including developmental effects to fetuses during pregnancy or to breastfed infants (e.g., low birth weight, accelerated puberty, skeletal variations), cancer (e.g., testicular, kidney), liver effects (e.g., tissue damage), immune effects (e.g., antibody production and immunity), thyroid effects and other effects (e.g., cholesterol changes). There is limited information identifying health effects from inhalation or dermal exposures to PFOA or PFOS in humans and animals. To learn more about the underlying studies for the health advisories,

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