Bird And Fish

Pure Water Occasional

An Email Publication About Water and Water Treatment

June 2011

In this nifty early summer Occasional you'll hear about super sand, "grains" of water hardness, Great Lakes Week, forward osmosis, floods, and fracking. Then there's tritium, strontium, PCE, and, as always, military water pollution galore. A town in Alaska with 4,800 Clean Water Act violations. How drug use can be measured by testing wastewater. How much water swimming pools leak and how much chlorine it takes to get rid of E coli, Cryptosporidium, and Giardia. Learn what absolute and nominal mean to filter makers. A lot about meshes and microns and tiny measurements. Learn how to fix your phone if you drop it in the swimming pool, how to figure what size water softener you need, how to decide if you want 8 X 30 or 12 X 40 carbon in your water filter, and, as always much, much more.

The Occasional is overseen by Pure Water Gazette editor Hardly Waite, underwritten by Pure Water Products, and overrated by the people who produce it.

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Hardly Waite

Water News for June 2011

While you were focused on the basketball playoffs, the tornadoes, the floods, and the hot, hot summer, a lot of important things happened in the world of water. Read on to hear all about it.

New York filed a lawsuit against the US Government over fracking practices in the Delaware River Basin.

The EPA reached a cleanup decision for groundwater pollution caused by the US military at Camp Edwards. (The U.S. military produces more hazardous waste annually than the five largest international chemical companies combined.) 

Traces of tetrachloroethylene, also known as perchloroethene or PCE, a known carcinogen, have been found in the underground streams and groundwater near a U.S. Forces Korea base. Dioxin was recently found at the same base.

Radioactive tritium has leaked from three-quarters of U.S. commercial nuclear power sites, often into groundwater from corroded, buried piping, an Associated Press investigation shows. The number and severity of the leaks has been escalating, even as federal regulators extend the licenses of more and more reactors across the nation.

Tritium, which is a radioactive form of hydrogen, has leaked from at least 48 of 65 sites, according to U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission records reviewed as part of the AP's yearlong examination of safety issues at aging nuclear power plants. Leaks from at least 37 of those facilities contained concentrations exceeding the federal drinking water standard — sometimes at hundreds of times the limit. Read More. (The Occasional finds no evidence of a viable treatment to reduce tritium from water. More about tritium from our website.)

Minot Flood

Melting snow in Saskatchewan and heavy rains sent record flood waters from the Souris River through Minot, North Dakota, driving thousands from their homes.

Florida water officials warned residents to be wary of free water tests and scare tactics.

"Well it's a lot of stress like when you come home after working an 8 hour day on overtime and you couldn't even take a shower that particular day, and you're hot and sweaty and wore out, and then all these extra costs that you don't need, you have enough monthly bills without having to pay on a thing that they didn't even inform you was happening, so yeah it does take a toll on a person.” Read on to find out what Darrell Stearns is talking about.

Norwegian scientists have devised an efficient and inexpensive means to measure drug use in entire cities by sampling municipal wastewater.

The Water System of the city of Greenville SC has won the annual “Best of the Best” Water Taste Test.

Testing at the site of a former dry cleaning business in Terre Haute, IN revealed that the soil and groundwater contained approximately five times the legal limit of tetrachloroethylene, or PCE. High concentrations of PCE can cause dizziness, headache, nausea, difficulty speaking and walking and even death.

Highly toxic radioactive strontium has been found in groundwater near the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant. Strontium tends to accumulate in bones and can cause bone cancer and leukemia.

In Kansas City pervious concrete is being used as a "green" solution to sewer overflows.

Saying that  UV disinfection is more expensive than chlorine, but it’s more effective at eliminating bacteria and viruses, officials at the wastewater plant in Madison Indiana announced they are dropping chlorine in favor of a new $350,000 UV disinfection system.

Frack Sign
Some 75 to 100 people opposed to fracking protested outside Auburn NY Memorial City Hall in hopes of convincing the city to stop accepting wastewater from natural gas drilling well companies. Fracking has become the most contentious water issue in the nation.

On June 15, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other participating organizations announced details of the first-ever Great Lakes Week, which is scheduled for October 2011 in Detroit, MI.

The Acqua for Life Challenge, a collaboration between Green Cross International and Giorgio Armani, has raised over 43 million litres of water in support of Green Cross International’s Smart Water for Green Schools project in Ghana.

" A total of approximately 27,000 people living in 16 communities will thus have access to safe drinking water. Out of those 27,000 people, approximately 3,500 will be children who will enjoy a safe water supply while at school. This will increase the children’s school attendance. In addition, 200 professors will also benefit from the installations. At the end of the project’s implementation about 110 community members – predominantly women, masons and mechanics – will be trained to maintain and refurbish the systems, ensuring their optimal and sustainable utilization." Read More.

A new website developed by University of Virginia engineering professors allows residents to view the concentrations of prescription and generic drugs in the local wastewater.

A House committee approved a Republican-sponsored bill that would give states regulatory authority over water, wetlands and mining operations on mountaintops, stripping the authority from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The EPA has identified its case studies for its investigation of hydraulic fracturing.

The town of Medicine Bow, WY has been lauded for its use of wind turbines to power its water treatment and waste water facilities.

Rice University scientists have developed a modified "super sand" that is said to be five times as effective as regular filter sand as a water filter medium.

The world's first forward osmosis water treatment plant is scheduled for construction in Oman.

The town of Unalaska, AK has been cited in a Dept. of Justice complaint filed on behalf of the EPA. According to the complaint, from October 2004 to October 2010, the city’s wastewater treatment plant reported more than 4,800 violations of pollution limits in its Clean Water Act discharge permit. These violations resulted in discharges into South Unalaska Bay of partially-treated sewage containing several pollutants including fecal coliform bacteria at levels well above legal limits.

The water supply of the town of Jacksonville, IL was disabled by floodwaters and out of service for several days.

And yet another "best tasting water" winner--Artesian Water.

Slipping Through the Cracks

The backyard pool can be a veritable water hog.

Cannonballs aside, a swimming pool naturally loses about 1,000 gallons a month to evaporation, according to the Maui County, Hawaii water department, although the local climate and the pool's overall surface area determine the amount that's actually lost.

A bigger problem arises from the leaks that pools often develop from cracks in their foundations, liner tears and pipe damage. Estimates vary considerably, depending on everything from a region's temperature fluctuations to seismic activity A company based in Mesa, Ariz., puts the figure at a whopping 30 percent. Three hundred miles west in Palm Springs, CA, a leak detection company puts the pool leak rate at a more conservative one in 20. Either way, because most pools have automatic refillers, owners often fail to notice the loss until their next water bill arrives.

Pure Water Annie

Water Softener Sizing 101

by Pure Water Annie

In general terms, what we call hardness is the calcium and magnesium content of water. Hardness of water is measured in grains of calcium and magnesium per gallon of water. The grain is a measurement of weight. Water that has two grains of hardness per gallon is relatively soft. Water with seven grains is slightly hard. Twenty grains per gallon is very hard.

Water softener sizes are usually expressed in "grains" capacity. Theoretically, a 32,000 grain softener has the capacity to treat 32,000 grains of hardness before it needs to be regenerated. If your water has 12 grains per gallon hardness, the 32,000 grain softener will theoretically treat 2,666 gallons of it (32,000 divided by 12) before it needs to regenerate itself. A 48,000 grain softener would treat 4,000 gallons of the same water.

Notice that I've said "theoretically" several times. In subsequent articles on this topic I'll demonstrate that there are always exceptions to theory.

The standard way to "size" a water softener is to figure out how big a softener you'll need to get a week's worth of softened water between regenerations. In other words, you need to figure out how much water your home uses in a week and multiply the gallons by the grains of hardness in your water.

The way the weekly usage is usually estimated is by assuming that each person who lives in the home will use 75 gallons of water per day. If there are four people, assume a daily water usage of 300 gallons (4 times 75). Then multiply by seven to get a figure for the week: 7 X 300 = 2,100 gallons per week.

After you know the gallons per week that your home uses, multiply the gallons by the grains of hardness to get the total grains that need to be treated for a week. With 12 grains of hardness and a consumption of 2100 gallons per week, your weekly softening requirement would be 25,200 grains (12 X 2100).

So the formula is grains of hardness times number of people in the family times 75 times 7 = weekly softening requirement.

If you live in a city, the easy way to find your water's hardness is to call the city water department or to find a water report on the city's website. There are also inexpensive hardness tests sold in hardware stores, pet stores, pool supply stores and on many websites.

If you have a private well, you can test the water yourself by obtaining a test kit.

If the test or report you receive gives the result in parts per million hardness, convert the parts per million to grains by dividing by 17. 120 ppm converts to 7 grains. (120 divided by 17 equals 7.)

You can also send a water sample to Pure Water Products, and we'll test it free.

The formula again: hardness in grains X people in the family X 75 X 7 equals a week's worth of hardness.

The number you get will give you a softener size. If you use this method to choose a softener, you won't be too far off.

But next month I'll show you how to fine tune your selection a bit.

Common Residential Softener Sizes

Stated Capacity Tank Size Cubic Feet of Softener Resin in the Mineral Tank
15,000 Grains 7" X 44"
24,000 Grains 8" x 44" 0.75
32,000 Grains 9" X 48" 1
40,000 Grains 10" X 44" 1.25
48,000 Grains 10" X 54" 1.5
64,000 Grains 12" X 52" 2

Meshes and Microns: The Measurements of Water Treatment

by Gene Franks

So much attention is given to the materials of water filter media (coconut shell vs. standard bituminous filter carbon, for example) that the size measurements of filter media are often ignored. Size, however, is very important in water filters.

Filter media are usually manufactured substances that are ground to a specific size. The "grind," usually expressed as a mesh size, greatly affects the performance of the filter.

In large tank-style filters, the general rule is that the smaller the granules of filter media, the more effective the filter will be at reducing contaminants, but the greater the restriction it will offer to the flow of water. Performance must be weighed against flow rate. A filter is of no value if water won't go through it, nor is it of value if it's so porous that it won't remove the targeted contaminant.

The size of the particles in granular filter media is usually expressed as mesh size. Mesh refers to the number of holes or openings per inch in a testing sieve. A 12 mesh screen has 12 holes per inch. A 40 mesh screen has 40 much smaller openings per inch.

Filter media is usually described with a two number designation. Twelve by 40 mesh filter carbon is a common size. If filter carbon is said to be 12 X 40 mesh, it means that the granules of carbon will fall through a screen with 12 holes per inch but be caught by a screen with 40 holes per inch. (Since nothing is perfect, some allowance is made for a small percentage of granules to be outside the size range. The undersized particles that wash out of the filter when water first goes through it are called "fines." Over-sized chunks are called "overs.") Eight by 30 mesh carbon is a courser blend than 12 X 40 carbon. It will fall through an 8-mesh screen but be retained by a 30-mesh screen. Water goes through 8 X 30 carbon faster, but for many jobs it is less effective. 

In general, the larger the mesh number, the smaller the granules.

The familiar term "granular activated carbon," or GAC, is used to describe most granular carbon. The technical definition of GAC is carbon of which 90% is retained by an 80 mesh screen. Finer-ground carbon, often compressed into carbon block filters, is called powdered activated carbon. Powdered activated carbon is in the 80 X 325 mesh neighborhood. Powdered carbon is more effective than GAC, but it is much more restrictive.


As things get tinier, filter makers usually switch to another measurement, the micron.

Here's the Wikipedia definition: A micrometer or micron , the symbol for which is µm, is one millionth of a meter. It can be written in scientific notation as 1×10−6 m, meaning 1⁄1000000 m. In other words, a micron is a measurement of length, like an inch or a mile.

To put this in context, an inch is 25,400 microns long, or a micron is 0.000039 inches long.

Here are measurements of some common items:

mesh micron

Red blood cell -- 8 microns.

White blood cell--25 microns.

An average human hair (cross section) --70 microns.

Cryptosporidium Cyst -- 3 microns.

Bacteria -- 2 microns.

Tobacco smoke--0.5 microns.

The naked human eye can normally see objects down to about 40 microns in size.

In water treatment, the relative "tightness" of filters is usually expressed in microns. A five-micron sediment filter is a common choice for prefiltration for a reverse osmosis unit or an ultraviolet lamp. A 5-micron filter is one that prevents the passage of most of the particles of five microns or larger. A one-micron filter is much tighter than a five-micron.

Two qualifying words are used to describe the effectiveness of the filter: absolute and nominal. An absolute filter catches virtually all the particles of the specified size, while a nominal filter catches a good portion of them. There is, unfortunately, within the industry a lot of wiggle room in defining what exactly constitutes a nominal or absolute filter rating.

The nominal pore size rating describes the ability of the filter media to retain the majority of particles at the rated pore size. Depending on the standard used, a "nominal" filter can be anywhere from 60% or 98% efficient. 

Absolute is a higher standard, but again the term is slippery and its meaning depends on whose definition you accept. The standard water treatment industry's trade associations, to accommodate marketers, in some cases lower its definition of "absolute" to as little as 85% efficiency. Other standards exist, such as industrial/commercial filtration (98%-99%), US EPA "purifier grade" (99.9%), and very high purity industry standards, e. g. pharmaceutical, (99.99%).

To clarify: a "0.5 micron absolute" carbon block filter sold by an aggressive commercial marketer isn't necessarily as tight a filter as a 0.9 micron absolute ceramic filter that is designed to purify water by removing bacteria. Marketing standards allow some leeway because the carbon block filter isn't being sold as a purifier (i.e., bacteria remover).

Here is some common size information regarding water filtration that may be helpful.

Granular tank-style filters are generally assumed to have about a 20 micron particle rating. Some are tighter. A multi-media filter (containing filter sand, anthracite, garnet, etc.) is considered to be about a 10 micron filter. Some of the newer natural zeolite media (ChemSorb, Micro Z, for example) are considered 5 micron filters. 

Good carbon block drinking water filters, which are manufactured by binding very small carbon particles together, are frequently in the 0.5 and smaller range.  Doulton ceramic filters, which are very effective bacteria reducers, are in the 0.9 micron absolute area.  As you would guess, flow rates are slow and pressure drop is significant.  Newer technologies known as ultrafiltration operate in the 0.1 micron range, and nano filtration (often called "loose reverse osmosis") goes down to the 0.01 micron range.  Reverse osmosis membranes have a micron rating of around 0.0005 to 0.001 microns--so tight that they reduce the "dissolved solids" (minerals) in water which pass easily through carbon and ceramic filters.

Comparing and converting mesh sizes to microns is most easily done by visiting one of the many web sites that offer conversion charts. Some common equivalents, to give you the idea:

10 mesh equals about 2,000 microns.

100 mesh equals about 149 microns.

400 mesh equals 37 microns.

Saving Your Cell Phone From Water

Water is essential to plants and animals, but it is death to cell phones. Here's Yahoo News advice on how to save your phone in six easy steps should you drop it in water (as almost everyone does at least once):

Step 1: Do NOT turn on the phone
Step 2: Pull out the battery and SIM card
Step 3: Rinse quickly in freshwater if you dropped your phone in salt water (to rinse out the salt)
Step 4: Dry your phone using compressed air (DO NOT dry it in the oven)
Step 5: Cover your phone with uncooked rice (in a ziplock bag) for at least 24 hours (to absorb moisture)
Step 6: Turn your phone back on and see if it works!

More details.


Pure Water Gazette numerical wizard B. Bea Sharper reports the water facts that Harper's misses.

Please email your comments to bbsharper@pwgazette,com

Gallons of water required to produce an automobile -- 39,000.

Gallons of water required to produce the tires for an automobile -- 2.000.

Gallons of water required to produce the cotton used to make a pair of jeans --1,800.

Gallons of water required to produce the cotton used to make a shirt-- 700.

Gallons of water required to grow the beans to produce a cup of coffee -- 35.

Different kinds of bottled water served at the Bar a Eaux in Paris:--150

Percentage of the referendums on water fluoridation held since 1950 that have been voted down:--60.

Disinfection time required for 1 ppm chlorine to treat E coli -- <1 minute.

Disinfect ion time required for 1 ppm chlorine to treat Hepatitis A --16 minutes.

Disinfection time required for 1 ppm chlorine to treat Giardia -- 45 minutes

Disinfection time required for 1 ppm chlorine to treat Cryptosporidium -- 15,300 minutes (10.6 days).

Percentage of Chlorine Gas that is chlorine -- 100%.

Percentage of Calcium Hypochlorite (e. g. water treatment pellets) that is chlorine -- 65% to 70%.

Percentage of household bleach (sodium hypochlorite) that is chlorine -- 5% to 6%.

Suggested reading this month from the Pure Water Gazette's archive: The Earth Could Hold More Water by Philip Ball.

Model 77: "The World's Greatest $77 Water Filter"
Sprite Shower Filters: You'll Sing Better!
An Alphabetical Index to Water Treatment Products

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