What can be done to remove arsenic from drinking water?

Like the play “Arsenic and Old Lace,” arsenic has a complex and dangerous history. It comes in many forms and has the ability to transform between them like a chameleon changing its colors. At the atomic level, arsenic exchanges ions easily, so it can exist in many different chemical forms, and it has the ability to combine readily with other elements. It is this transmutable nature of arsenic that makes it a difficult contaminant to remove from water. It’s almost like playing a game of “Now you see it, now you don’t!”

Because arsenic is so complex, removing it from water is a difficult process. Three water treatment systems noted for arsenic removal: reverse osmosis (RO), adsorption media and distillation. RO systems and adsorption media are only partially effective at arsenic removal while distillation — although sometimes overlooked — is clearly superior at arsenic removal from water.

Adsorption media water treatment systems offer arsenic removal. Adsorption media use metal oxides distributed over a flow-bed to form a chemical bond with arsenic in the water. The metal-oxide media are later discarded. In California, the spent media must be disposed of as hazardous waste. Pretreatment is required to remove suspended solids, iron and manganese from the water. Regular media replacement is required because these systems lose efficiency over time.


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Cotruvo explains that different varieties of ACs are suited for various substances. Iodine number, molasses number and dechlorination half-length are examined to evaluate the proper applications.

  • Granular activated carbon (GAC) can remove chloramines from drinking water, but it must be taken into account that chloramine reduction is much slower than free chlorine reduction. GAC are used in fixed beds and post contactors and can be reactivated when needed.
  • GAC dechlorinates water, accumulates organic material and produces a chemical-reducing environment, a combination that can be conducive to microbial regrowth. Because of this, GAC or carbon block systems are often impregnated with silver salts to depress the heterotrophic plate count, which measures the bacterial regrowth.
  • Powdered activated carbon (PAC) comes in fine powders of granules for various size ranges. PAC is used intermittently to eliminate trace synthetic chemicals and taste and odor causes such as the chemical geosmin, as well as during chemical spills or algal blooms. Filtration can remove PAC after a one-time use.
  • Extruded activated carbon (EAC) are effective in dechlorination and removing chemicals. They are produced by mixing PAC with a brinder, then extruding it into a cylindrical block.

The versatility of AC makes it an effective option for gas phase, drinking water and wastewater treatment, Cotruvo writes. It can also improve beverage and other fluids qualities.


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U.S. water systems repeatedly exceed federal standard for lead

An Associated Press analysis of Environmental Protection Agency data found that nearly 1,400 water systems serving 3.6 million Americans exceeded the federal lead standard at least once in the 2 ¾ years ending on Sept. 30, 2015. The affected systems are large and small, public and private, and include 278 systems that are owned and operated by schools and day care centers in 41 states.

Water operators sought to distance their systems from the situation in Flint, saying they were taking actions to reduce lead.

“We try to minimize it, whatever our contribution is” to childhood lead poisoning, said Joseph Bella, executive director of the Passaic Valley Water Commission in New Jersey, which has repeatedly exceeded the standard.

His agency serves 314,000 customers and has increased its lead sampling. It’s also replacing the last 400 lead service lines the utility owns and is speeding up a $135 million plan to add storage tanks for treated water so phosphate can be added to prevent the corrosion that leads to lead contamination.

One solution is for home owners to consider a quality point of use water filter system for lead removal.


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More than 5,000 in Flint to get lead water filters

FLINT, MI – More than 5,000 Flint residents will be able to get water filters following an influx of $105,000 from private and public sources.

The filters come as the city and county have issued lead advisories related to the city’s drinking water.

A recent study by a Hurley Medical Center doctor says infants and children are being found with elevated levels of lead in their blood since the city switched to using the Flint River as its water source.

The General Motors Foundation donated $50,000, the United Way of Genesee County pitched in $25,000 and another $10,000 came from the Making Our Children Smile Foundation.


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How lead enters your home’s water supply

Just like in Flint, lead can enter your home when lead plumbing materials, which can include faucets, pipes, fittings and the solder that holds them all together, become corroded and begin to release lead into the water. Corrosion is most likely to happen when water has a high acid or low mineral content and sits inside pipes for several hours, says the EPA.

While homes built before 1986 are the most likely to have lead plumbing, it can be found in newer homes as well. Until two years ago, the legal limit for “lead-free” pipes was up to 8% lead.
As of January 1, 2014, all newly installed water faucets, fixtures, pipes and fittings must meet new lead-free requirements, which reduces the amount of lead allowed to 0.25%. But that doesn’t apply to existing fixtures, such as what is found in many older homes and public water suppliers.
Why not just use bottled water? You can do that, but be sure to check out the quality of the water before you buy. Some bottled waters are nothing more than tap water or have not been tested, says the CDC. It advises researching your brand at NSF International, a nonprofit water certification organization.
You can also filter your water. Again, caution is in order, as not all filtering systems on the market block lead.
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Lead-contaminated water is putting children at risk

In March, sampling of water at public schools in Newark, N.J., forced the shutting down of water fountains in half the schools.

In each of these cities, water leaving the pumping station was lead-free. Contamination occurred at the point of delivery of water into individual buildings.

Sophisticated monitoring and treatment of drinking water cannot be done cheaply. Identification and treatment of children exposed to lead is costly. With state and local governments facing cuts in revenue, public health and environmental monitoring often bear the brunt of subsequent cuts in services, hitting poor people and poor neighborhoods hardest.

In this angry political season, some candidates for national office call for radical cuts in government funding and abolition of entire agencies, including the EPA. These candidates offer no explanations of who will assume the functions of the EPA and other health and environmental services.

If you live in a structure built before 1985, consider testing your water with an inexpensive kit that can be ordered online. A positive test requires follow-up by a professional lab. Should the lab confirm the presence of lead, you can take the very expensive step of replacing lead pipes in your home or the far less-costly step of installing a filtering system at the tap.

Do not allow lead to jeopardize the health of your family


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Jackson water customers should take precautions, MSDH says

The Mississippi State Department of Health said later that while pregnant women and children are especially at risk, the precautions apply to all Jackson residents.

“The problem is if a child is exposed to lead contamination because of increased levels, it can interfere with that child’s neurological development, and even a woman that’s carrying a baby, that baby can be affected, as well,” Dr. Timothy Quinn said.

The following precautions were issued after MSDH officials consulted with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Environmental Protection Agency.


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Improve response to lead poisoning

There are recommendations from the Environmental Protection Agency and other state and local entities to minimize lead exposure. Lead in paint and lead dust abatement programs, with federal assistance, may be available in some communities. Lead in the water is more problematic.

There are recommendations to run cold tap water for a period of time before drinking or cooking in some households. Water is treated in some communities to minimize corrosion. Filtering may be recommended.

More widely available testing of water is important. Currently there is testing at a cost to consumers. More landlords and homeowners need to take advantage of lead testing and the programs to rid housing of this toxin. Landlords and homeowners must be encouraged to pursue testing and follow through on remediation. Legislators need to increase education and funding.


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Cincinnati mom stunned to find she’s got lead in her water

The utility agency called Wednesday with test results: GCWW found “the acceptable level of lead is 15 parts per billion, and that our water was testing higher at 33 parts per billion. So, not to use the sink for any cooking or drinking or anything like that,” Dudley said.

Jeff Swertfeger, GCWW director of water quality and treatment, said Dudley’s situation is a “very rare occurrence.”

“Lately, since we’ve tested about 350 sites or so, we’ve have about nine of them that have been above the 15 microgram per liter action level,” he said.

The best solution would be to replace the home’s service line. Because Dudley lives in a rental property, her landlord would need to pay for it.

Other solutions, Swertfeger said: “They can filter the water — use a filter that certified to remove lead. They could use bottled water for cooking and drinking, or they could flush water maybe first thing in the morning or first thing before they use the water to remove any water that’s been sitting around in the pipes.”


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Five myths about lead in water

As Rebecca Renner wrote for the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, in 2006, officials in Durham, N.C., where tap water had passed EPA compliance monitoring, “linked [a] child’s poisoning to drinking water after they found more than 800 ppb lead in his tap water as a result of corroded solder. No other sources of lead were found in the child’s home.” How could this have happened? The water utility and the health department used different sampling techniques. The utility removed the mesh screen from the faucet before collecting fluid. The health department, by contrast, left the screen in place; because that screen “shredded off tiny bits of lead much the way a grater shreds cheese,” this sample was much more toxic. Many studies have similar findings.

One way to decrease the risk of this type of contamination is to use filterscertified to remove lead at the point where it emerges from your faucet.


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