May 06

One Drop At A Time

waterdropIn beginning a new season, we are inclined to become introspective. We look at our daily lives and routines and evaluate in order to improve. You may wonder if you are doing enough to care for yourself, your fellow humans and the environment.

When looking for ways to live a more fulfilling and responsible life, it is easy to become overwhelmed. There are many facets of life on which one could focus; however, the thought of conquering everything at once can be daunting. A great solution to this is to begin with some small, simple things that involve daily activities. In reality, the small things that you do each day make the biggest impact overall. For example, here are three easy ways to save water, the world’s most precious resource. In doing so, you will be helping yourself, fellow humans and the environment, one drop at a time.

Time it: Every day, you do things that involve running a faucet for a period of time, whether it’s washing dishes or brushing your teeth. The mind can wander while the tap is running and valuable water is going down the drain. One way to get the job done effectively is to set a timer. If you know that the timer is going to go off, and you will have to shut off the sink at the sound of the alarm, you will be more cognizant of the amount of resources you use. Once you use a timer a few times, you will subconsciously become accustomed to using water in a timelier manner. This way, in addition to saving resources, you will also save time.

Install it: In doing a little research about water conservation devices, you might be surprised at how easy they are to install and implement into your daily routine. Water-saving showerheads use a fraction of the H2O that regular showerheads use, while still functioning efficiently. Once you have your high-efficiency shower head installed, you can save the wet stuff by simply showering normally. You will use less, therefore simultaneously saving money on your bills and helping our planet.

Drink it: Ironically, drinking water is a great way to conserve it. Use a filter to purify your tap water and opt to drink it instead of bottled water, soda or other beverages. Considering that water composes 75 percent of your body, it must be the healthiest thing you can drink. By drinking purified water from you tap, you are also reducing the amount that goes into manufacturing non-water beverages. Everyday, millions of gallons of precious H2O are used to manufacture soda. Make a resolution to limit or discontinue drinking packaged drinks and create a healthier Earth and a healthier you.

Water conservation is one of Ashley’s favorite topics to write about. If you’re looking for more information regarding water saving showerheads, please visit http://www.niagaraconservation.com/

Aug 16

Obama signs bill to help Camp Lejeune water victims

Obama signs bill to help Camp Lejeune water victims

Published: 12:15 AM, Tue Aug 07, 2012
Obama signs bill to help Camp Lejeune water victims
Story Photo
AP file photo
In this 2007 photo. Jerry Ensminger holds a portrait of his daughter, Janey, in White Lake. Janey Ensminger died at age 9. President Obama signed into law Monday the Janey Ensminger Act, which provides health benefits to Marines and family members exposed to contaminated drinking water at Camp Lejeune from 1957 to 1987.

The Associated Press

RALEIGH – President Obama said the United States has a sacred duty to protect its men and women in uniform, even when the dangers lurk on the bases where they lived.

The president signed a bill into law Monday that provides health benefits to Marines and family members exposed to contaminated drinking water at Camp Lejeune from 1957 to 1987.

“I think all Americans feel we have a moral, sacred duty toward our men and women in uniform,” Obama said in an Oval Office ceremony before signing the Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act. “They protect our freedom, and it’s our obligation to do right by them. This bill takes another important step in fulfilling that commitment.”

The law also bans protesting within 300 feet of military funerals.

The bill passed Congress last week with bipartisan support. Health officials believe as many as 1 million people may have been exposed to tainted groundwater at the base along the North Carolina coast.

Jerry Ensminger of Elizabethtown was one of those affected and attended Monday’s ceremony. He led the fight for information about the water problems at Camp Lejeune since his daughter, Janey, died in 1985 at the age of 9 of a rare form of childhood leukemia. Other soldiers, who suffered from a rare form of male breast cancer, also said the government spent years trying to hide the problem and the poor response by officials.

“Some of the veterans and their families who were based in Camp Lejeune in the years when the water was contaminated will now have access to extended medical care,” Obama said. “And, sadly, this act alone will not bring back those we’ve lost, including Jane Ensminger, but it will honor their memory by making a real difference for those who are still suffering.”

Documents show Marine leaders were slow to respond when tests in the early 1980s showed higher than normal levels of contaminants in groundwater and the base, likely caused by leaking fuel tanks and an off-base dry cleaner.

“The Marines affected by this tragedy have sacrificed to keep our country safe,” Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., said in a statement. “I am pleased that today, we are ensuring that our veterans and their family members are taken care of in their time of need.”

Apr 25

Multipure Aquaversa (MP750sb) As Reported By Reactual, Wins Title As The Best Under-Counter Drinking Water Filter For 2012!

Posted By: Pat Connor
Multipure Independent Distributor, ID#424548  http://MultipureUSA.com/koakley

The Best Water Filters For 2012

by  on JANUARY 2, 2012 · in HOME & GARDEN PRODUCTSKITCHEN PRODUCTS

In A Nutshell: The Best Under-Sink Water Filter

We recommend the Multi-Pure MP750SB under-sink water filter. It is Consumer Reports’ top rated under-sink filter, with a rating of 90 out of 100. It has a wide range of NSF Standard 53 contaminant reduction (NSF is an industry-standard filter certifier). The yearly maintenance costs are also low, making it good value for money in terms of the Cost Per Contaminant (CPC) Ratio. Another excellent filter is the Aqua-Pure by Cuno AP-DWS1000, scoring 88 out of 100 from Consumer Reports, also certified by NSF. It sells for around $100 less than the Multi-Pure filter.

Why Filter Your Water?

Bottled water is expensive, wasteful, and less regulated than tap water. In fact, most bottled water is simply filtered tap water. Filtering your water at home is the most effective and least expensive option overall. However, you will need a good quality water filter, because tap water commonly contains contaminants such as lead, chloroform, arsenic, nitrate, nitrite, radon, and E. coli. The good news is that the filters featured here will remove most of these impurities.

Experts recommend that you should find out which pollutants are in your local water supply. You can then customize your filtration by selecting filters that target those specific pollutants. One way to find out is to check your consumer confidence report, or CCR. The EPA requires utilities to provide a CCR to their customers every year, and they are often available on government websites. Consumer Reports had this to say about CCRs:

Our recent analysis of CCRs from the 13 largest U.S. cities revealed that few claimed to have no federal water-quality violations. Though none of the other water systems were consistently unhealthful, all had some samples containing significant quantities of contaminants. In New York City, for example, some samples had lead levels several times the federal limit.

Here’s the list of the types of contaminants you want to remove from tap water:

  1. Organic compounds (Pesticides, Herbicides, Pharmaceuticals, Fuels, etc.)
  2. Toxic metals (Lead, Mercury, Aluminum, Cadmium, Chromium, Copper, etc.)
  3. Bacterial and viruses (Giardia, Cryptosporidium, etc.)
  4. Radioactive substances (Radon and Uranium, etc.)
  5. Additives (Chlorine and Chloramines, Fluoride, etc.)

Why Choose An Under-Sink Water Filter?

Under-sink water filters are the most convenient and less expensive type of water filter. Pitcher-based filters and faucet-mounted filters are not as effective as under-sink filters. In The Drinking Water Book, water filter expert Colin Ingram rates all pitcher filters and and faucet mounted filters as  “Acceptable” (the lowest rating). Good under-sink water filters get a rating of “Very Good” from him. Water distillers get a rating of “Excellent” but distillers are slow, expensive and time-consuming to operate. Reverse Osmosis filters work well and they are the only type certified to remove arsenic. But you must sanitize them with bleach periodically. Eventually the membrane must be replaced. They can also be extremely slow, rob cabinet space, and create 3 to 5 gallons of waste water for every gallon filtered.

Top Rated: The Multi-Pure MP750SB Water Filter

 

The Multi-Pure MP750SB is a three-stage carbon filter, certified to remove a range of important water contaminants — herbicides, heavy metals, industrial chemicals and volatile organic compounds.

This filter is certified by NSF International, which means it has been tested that it does in fact remove contaminants, and does not re-contaminate the water with bacteria. Many commonly available filters will let quite a few contaminants through. For example, in-fridge or faucet-mount filters may not filter VOCs and chlorination by-products like Trihalomethanes (THMs).

Besides the NSF certification, several states  such as California, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Massachusetts have certified this filter. The Multi-Pure MP750SB was also Consumer Reports’ top rated under-sink filter, with a rating of 90 out of 100.

 

The filter life is approximately 750 gallons, which translates into a year worth of filtration for most households. Replacement filters cost about $120 per year, making this filter inexpensive solution in the long-term.

See also the MP750SB filter’s home page.

You can find the Multi-Pure MP750SB  for around $429.

 

*Or visit  http://MultipureUSA.com/koakley

Call for more information:

Katrina Oakley
Multipure Independent Distributor
I.D. Number 424548

Sep 01

Dangers Of Manganese In Drinking Water

Children’s Intellectual Abilities Affected By Manganese In Drinking Water

Montreal – A study that looked at manganese in drinking water in eight different Quebec communities found that increased levels of the mineral resulted in a measurable decrease in the intellect of children who drank the water.

Key researcher, Dr. Maryse Bouchard, and eight other Canadian colleagues who worked on the project, are calling on the government of Canada to set new guidelines for manganese in drinking water because the levels of manganese they measured in groundwater during the study were below the maximum levels currently allowed. The authors also say the study should be duplicated in other communities.

Published in the journal, Environmental Health Perspectives on Monday, the study, Intellectual Impairment in School-Age Children Exposed to Manganese from Drinking Water examined the link between manganese, groundwater and children’s intellect; finding a very strong correlation. The research results are free to access and are available as a pdf.

In a press release announcing the report, the researchers stated

“… children exposed to high concentrations of manganese in drinking water performed less well in tests of intellectual skills that children are less exposed.

… The neurotoxic effects of manganese exposure are well known in the workplace. Present in the soil, this metal is also found naturally in groundwater. Several regions in Quebec, Canada and around the world have naturally high levels of manganese in the groundwater. Are there dangers? What may be its effect on children’s health? This is the first study to focus on potential risks of exposure to manganese in drinking water in North America.”

After accounting for manganese from food, the ingestion of other metals found in the drinking water, and many other factors that might impact findings, such as maternal depression and smoking; the researchers noted the association between levels of manganese from groundwater and intellect held. Most alarmingly, the study found

“… a very significant reduction of intelligence quotient (IQ) of children has been observed in connection with the presence of manganese in drinking water, and that at concentrations of manganese currently considered low, and without risk to health.”

The impacts of those low levels of maganese were quite striking.

“The children in whom the concentration of manganese in water was 20% in the highest had an average IQ of 6 points lower than children whose water does not contain manganese.”

The researchers also concluded that humans metabolize manganese from water differently than from food.

Small amounts of manganese, like many other metals, are needed for human health, but too much manganese can create a host of health problems. Too much manganese becomes a neurotoxin for the human brain.

Some municipalities already filter out metals from drinking water. For those living in communities that do not filter out metals, study co-author Benoit Barbeau recommends

“… the use of filtering pitchers that contain a mixture of resin and activated carbon. Such devices can reduce the concentration of manganese 60-100% depending on the level of filter usage and characteristics of the water to be treated.”

The research project used hair clippings and water testing to determine how much manganese the 362 children, aged between 6 and 13 years, had taken in over time through drinking water.

Health Canada has estimated the average Canadian ingests, through a variety of sources, about 4.7 mg of manganese daily. Health Canada goes on to state

“… The Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) of manganese for Canadians has yet to be established. In a recent comprehensive literature survey of studies of manganese metabolism in humans, it was concluded that previous estimates for a safe and adequate daily dietary allowance for manganese (2.5-5.0 mg/d) were too low, and a new range of 3.5-7.0 mg/d was recommended for adults.(31) A statistical analysis of the metabolic studies showed that a daily manganese intake of approximately 5 mg is required to consistently maintain a positive balance.”

However, the Quebec study demonstrated that lower levels of manganese ingested through drinking water provided sufficient accumulation in children so as to impair with brain functioning. The researchers also noted that Canada has no guidelines for manganese levels in drinking water, and manganese levels are thus not regulated.

The report concludes

“Because of the common occurrence of this metal in drinking water and the observed effects at low manganese concentration in water, we believe that national and international guidelines for safe manganese in water should be revisited.”


 

 

Aug 25

Green Water Is Not Always A Good Thing!

Unchecked pollution chokes Lebanon’s rivers

August 26, 2011 01:44 AM By Niamh Fleming-Farrell

The Daily Star

BEIRUT: “Let me tell you one thing,” Raghida Haddad, the executive editor of Al-Bia Wal-Tanmia, a Lebanese environment and development magazine, says. “There are 12 rivers in Lebanon that go into the sea, and you can call them sewers.

”Poisoned with effluent and often strewn with garbage, Lebanon’s rivers are grotty and unwell. They should be both a source of usable water and recreation, but a report published by the United Nations Development Program and the Environment Ministry in 2010 compiled data showing that rivers, both coastal and inland, contain unacceptable levels of raw sewage. In many, E-coli and coliform are not only above acceptable levels for drinking water, they are also above levels acceptable for bathing water as set by the Environment Ministry.

Blessed among its neighbors in terms of water potential, Lebanon’s contaminated rivers are both a source of sickness and disease and a contributor to the pollution of the country’s coast and marine life.

Haddad points out that the high concentration of heavy metals in river water can accumulate in the human body, affecting the nervous and digestive systems and damaging the heart and kidneys. Meanwhile Mark Saadeh, PhD, a hydrogeology specialist, recites a phrase well known in his profession: “The health of a marine environment is determined by the state of rivers.”

The interconnection of aquifers, rivers, seas and oceans means that pollutants added to any one of these will inevitably affect the others.

Saadeh pulls up a file on his computer and opens a series of images of the Litani river, Lebanon’s longest waterway. The pictures show a bright green, algae-covered channel. “It’s turned into a sewer system,” Saadeh says. “It’s not even moving; it’s stagnant.”

He explains how older people living along the river describe a time when it was clear and fast flowing, and they would happily use it for swimming and as a source of drinking water.

But since Saadeh first studied the waterway as a consultant with the Litani River Authority some five or six years ago, it has looked just as it does in his photographs. “It cannot get any worse than this,” he says.

What has happened can be explained with a short science lesson, which Saadeh provides. The high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus found in fertilizers and pesticides used in agriculture and in raw sewage and detergents seep into the country’s rivers and ultimately groundwater sources. Once in the rivers, these nutrients set off the process of eutrophication, whereby their addition induces an excessive growth of algae and plankton, clogging up the waterway, greatly reducing water quality and bringing about the collapse of the river’s natural ecosystem.

The solutions to this problem appear obvious: regulate use of agricultural fertilizers and pesticides and treat wastewater to avoid the seepage of raw sewage into rivers. But, Saadeh says, “precious little” is being done to address river pollution.

“There’s a huge black hole between legislation and execution [in Lebanon],” he says in explanation for the seemingly unregulated use of fertilizers. However, where a significant impact may be made – in the treatment of raw sewage – Lebanon fails on a grand scale. It is the “only country in the Middle East not treating its wastewater, save Yemen, I believe,” Saadeh says.

Haddad is of a similar view. The “authorities are not doing anything,” she says. “There is not one functioning wastewater treatment plant [in Lebanon].” Wastewater treatment plants have been built in the country. As he goes through his photographs, Saadeh points out one located next to the Qaraoun dam on the Litani. “It isn’t functional,” he says.

Former Environment Minister Mohammad Rahal says that many international organizations, the UNDP, USAID and EU among them, have helped Lebanon build works to treat its wastewater, but these WWTPs have not been maintained by the government. He believes there are two possible causes for WWTPs falling into disoperation in Lebanon: perhaps the budget for their maintenance is insufficient or unavailable, or perhaps a lack of coordination between the ministries responsible for them (the Environment Ministry and the Water and Energy Ministry), the Council for Development and Reconstruction and the municipalities leads to confusion over who is tasked with maintaining the plants.

Saadeh adds to this that projects like WWTPs are high-tech and require not only money but also expertise to remain operational.

Haddad does point out though that there are plans to build a number of WWTPs both on the coast and inland. The Energy and Water Ministry although contacted to verify use and construction of WWTPs had not responded at time of print.

The pollution of Lebanon’s rivers also impacts the country’s economy. Beyond the obvious negative repercussions of pollution on tourism, pollution also harms the agricultural and industrial sectors’ potential.

Farmers tap contaminated river water to irrigate their crops, and Rahal says this has resulted in the country’s exported produce being returned.

“The EU sends vegetables back because of pollution,” he says. “We can only sell in Lebanon.”

Meanwhile the decreased water quantity available due to pollution curtails opportunities to establish industry. “Limited water resources make some industries impossible,” Saadeh says. “There’ll be no Levi’s factory in Lebanon.” (Tony Allan, a British geographer, estimates that a pair of jeans takes 11,000 liters of water to produce.)

Saadeh argues that the best thing Lebanon can do to deal with water pollution aside from building wastewater treatment plants is educate its citizens about water conservation.

“Water quantity is inextricably linked to pollution because water efficiency and conservation would lead to reduction in effluent volumes,” he says.

As an initial step, he suggests metering water use and charging people on the basis of the volume used rather than a flat rate for an annual water connection. He also recommends revision of the irrigation systems used in agriculture – the furrow, flood, and sprinkler irrigation systems favored in Lebanon use larger quantities of water and are much less efficient than drip irrigation systems. Finally, he recommends the installation of more discerning household plumbing – toilet flush systems that give the option of both a smaller and a larger flush would be a good starting point, Saadeh says.

But, he concludes, “change is going to require a shock to the system.”

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 26, 2011, on page 12.

Aug 20

Coal Mining Polluting Kentucky’s Water

Flaming drinking-water well in Kentucky illuminates
Big Coal’s abuses

calvin_howard_burning_well.pngThe flaming drinking water well at a home in eastern Kentucky’s Pike County first came to public attention back in May, thanks to a report by a local TV station.

WKYT visited the home of Calvin and Denise Howard on Big Branch Road, where the Howards reported that the water, which runs orange and black, burned their skin when they bathed. They also said that Excel Mining, the operator of a nearby coal mine, had offered to install a water filtration system — but only if the residents signed a liability waiver.

The Howards refused the company’s offer — and when WKYT checked back in July, the flames that had been just about to the top of the well were shooting out at least a foot and a half.

Since then, the Howards have filed a lawsuit [pdf] over the contamination. In addition, environmental advocates have gotten involved, arranging for the delivery this week of clean water to 13 area families amid inaction by the company and state environmental regulators.

“In all my 20 years of working on water quality problems, I have never seen a drinking water well catch on fire and burn continuously for days on end,” says Donna Lisenby of Appalachian Voices, who with Kentuckians for the Commonwealth has arranged for the delivery of bottled water from Nestle and Keeper Springs Natural Spring Water, a company founded by environmental advocate Bobby Kennedy Jr. that gives 100 percent of its profits to clean-water causes.

According to the lawsuit, the trouble for the Howards began back in late January when they started hearing explosions beneath their home. About the same time, their well water turned gray and took on an offensive odor. Around May 1, the well exploded into flames, destroying the well house. It’s burned continuously ever since.

Earlier this month, Ted Withrow, a former regulator with the Kentucky Division of Water who now works with the grassroots citizens group Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, and KFTC activist Sue Tallichet visited the community, where residents confirmed the water contamination. Residents also reported mysterious health problems they feared could be connected to the poisoned water, including a teenage girl’s hair falling out and a boy vomiting blood.

The Kentucky Department of Mining Reclamation has investigated the burning well and confirmed that it “is creating an environmental and public safety hazard.” At that point, the company began providing bottled water to the Howards, but other impacted families did not get any assistance. The Howards have been advised to evacuate their trailer home but can’t afford to do so. The lawsuit seeks compensation for their replacement housing and their water.

“Based on my direct, firsthand experience with contamination of water by coal operations, I am deeply worried about the safety of the drinking water of these families,” says KFTC’s Withrow.

An ‘ineffective, choregraphed sham’

The water contamination along Big Branch Road illustrates a larger problem facing Kentucky: the coal mining industry’s abuse of communities and regulators’ failure to protect them from harm.

The Pike County situation is unfolding against a backdrop of coal company lawlessness and regulatory inaction in Kentucky. Back in June, an alliance of environmental groups including Appalachian Voices and KFTC sent notice-to-sue letters to two mining companies after discovering they had exceeded their pollution permit limits more than 4,000 times in the first quarter of this year alone.

The companies targeted by that action are International Coal Group, which is owned by Arch Coal of St. Louis, one of the world’s largest coal companies, and Frasure Creek Mining, a subsidiary of West Virginia’s Trinity Coal, which is owned by India’s Essar Group. They are the largest producers of mountaintop-removal-mined coal in Kentucky.

The watchdogs notified the same companies last October of their intent to sue over more than 20,000 violations of the Clean Water Act, including falsification of pollution monitoring reports. But Kentucky’s Energy and Environment Cabinet stepped in at the last minute and fined the companies a total of just $660,000 — less than 1 percent of the maximum fine that could be imposed under the law. Environmental advocates denounced the state’s action as an “ineffective, choreographed sham.”

Excel Mining, the mine operator implicated in the burning-well situation, is owned by Oklahoma-based Alliance Resource Partners, among the largest coal producers in the eastern United States. Alliance reported record profits in 2010, with a 67.1 percent jump in net income over the previous year to $321 million.

The company landed in the spotlight last year when a roof collapsed at its Dotiki Mine in Hopkins County, Ky., killing two miners. News reports after the incident revealed that inspectors from the Kentucky Office of Mine Safety and Licensing issued 31 orders to close sections of the mine or shut down equipment because of safety violations between January 2009 and the time of the collapse, according to Sourcewatch. Reporters found that the company received a total of 649 citations in 2009 alone.

In addition, Alliance was involved in a 2009 controversy over the firing of the director of Kentucky’s Division of Mine Permits. Ron Mills’ termination came after he refused to issue about a half-dozen mine permits — most requested by Alliance — because they failed to comply with federal and state laws. Mills’ denials were ultimately overruled by higher state officials.

Joe Craft, the president of Alliance Resource Partners, is a major political powerhouse. He has contributed over $150,000 at the federal level over the past decade, including $10,000 to the Republican Party of Kentucky; $17,500 to the Kentucky State Democratic Central Committee; $4,600 to U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R); and $2,300 each to Barack Obama (D) and Mitt Romney (R), according to the Center for Responsive Politics’ OpenSecrets.org database. The company’s political action committee has also invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in politicians’ campaigns — $193,665 in the 2010 election cycle alone.

Craft and others affiliated with the company as well as Alliance’s PAC are also major donors at the state level, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics’ FollowtheMoney.org database. Alliance Coal employees were among the biggest campaign donors in Kentucky’s primary election this year, together with their spouses contributing a total of $60,000 to three candidates, WBKO reported last month.

And in 2009, Craft organized a group of donors to pay for a new $7 million “Wildcat Coal Lodge” to house the University of Kentucky’s basketball players on campus — a move that sparked considerable controversy and led noted writer and environmental activist Wendell Berry to pull his personal papers from the school’s archive. While the university’s sports teams are known as the Wildcats, “wildcat coal” also refers to coal that’s mined illegally.

Meanwhile, residents along Big Branch Road are hoping to connect to a clean municipal water source — but price is a concern. Pike County officials have said it could cost as much as $150,000 to connect them to their existing water lines. The families have said they would pay to connect to closer lines in nearby Martin County, but that could take at least three months.

(Photo of Calvin Howard standing next to his burning well and destroyed wellhouse by Appalachian Voices.)

user-pic

By Sue Sturgis on August 19, 2011 10:26 AM 

Aug 16

Water, Water Everywhere…But Not a Drop to Drink?

Published July 18, 2011 By Rev. Amy Butler on her blog, Talk with the Preacher.

One of the best parts of international travel is the way it can submerge you in a context totally different from your own, an experience that is usually really uncomfortable but offers some great perspective if you let it.

Among my recent adventures in Southeast Asia I had the opportunity to visit the country of Cambodia.  There are oh-so-many things I could write about that experience; my visit to Cambodia was definitely a high point of the trip.  One thing that struck me was just the experience of meeting Cambodian people.  They seemed so affable and cheerful, even living in a country that is clearly still reeling from the horrors of genocide under the Khmer Rouge.

Given the tattered state of Cambodian society still, it wasn’t surprising to me to see quite a lot of poverty and extreme rural living right in the middle of the country’s second largest city, Siem Reap.  In other words, while I can certainly understand the convenience of keeping your cows on the ground floor of your house, this Cambodian tradition would qualify as “an experience totally different from my own.”  Geez, I personally think the dog is bad enough.

Anyway, among my Cambodian adventures was a visit to a floating village.  The floating village I visited was on the Tonle Sap lake, the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia.  I hate to publicly claim such ignorance, but my mental image of a “floating village” was a little different than what I encountered on Tonle Sap.  Seriously, when I imagined a “floating village” I was thinking something really beautiful and maybe a bit mysterious—you know, with lots of bamboo and probably some mist floating up from still waters filled with koi fish. 

Uh, not so much.

A floating village is more like a large group of people trying desperately to piece together some kind of existence, all the while trying to stay afloat on a large body of water.  Families of ten, for example, live together in a little tiny houseboat, with no electricity and no plumbing system of any kind.  The poverty in the floating village was staggering.

I kept looking around at all the water…water everywhere.  The people who live on Tonle Sap use the water to get around in any manner of floating vessels—many of them not boats at all.  They also use the water to bathe, to cook, to deposit sewage, to drink.  For someone coming from my comparatively sterile environment, witnessing all of this was rather shocking.

After what I saw I have no idea how these folks eek out an existence and stay relatively healthy.  With my limited perspective I kept wondering: do they know there’s a way to have clean drinking water?  Don’t they want that?  Why don’t they set up a sewage system so they don’t have to use the lake water for everything?  I felt almost panicky about it.

The guide telling me about the village said the government has tried to offer village residents options of resettlement, education, etc., in the city, but without fail those who are resettled return to the floating villages within a matter of months.  There’s something about the community that they love, something about living all together in one place and having the water under your feet all the time.

I’m still processing this experience, for sure.  I can’t get the image of the water out of my mind.  Maybe it’s because a side effect of growing up in Hawaii is my strong association of God with all the water that was always around me.  In the ocean in particular I always felt a sense of God’s immensity and power, but also the gift of life that is readily apparent wherever you see the water.

The water I saw at Tonle Sap, though, stunk of poverty and desperation…and sewage.  I wondered about a lot of things as I looked out over that brown water.  I wondered if sometimes the church feels like Tonle Sap lake to some people…with trappings of God all around, but no God really.

I thought about that as I sat, that afternoon, water all around me…and I was so thirsty.

 

 

 

amydec08Rev. Amy Butler has served as pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. since 2003.  She grew up in Hawaii, where she recently spent an amazing sabbatical working with the translation team of the Hawaiian Bible.  Amy graduated from Baylor Universityin Waco, Texas, with degrees in religion and political science, received her seminary training in Europe, and recently completed her Doctor of Ministry degree in preaching at Wesley Theological Seminary.  She lives with her family in downtown Silver Spring, Maryland.

Aug 14

Unhealthy Levels Of Chromium-6 Found In Chicago’s Tap Water

Tests Confirm High Levels Of The Carcinogen, Chromium-6, In Tap Water

2011_8_10_tapwater.jpg

The results are in and they are hard to swallow: Chicago’s drinking water contains levels of the toxic metal chromium-6 11 times higher than a public health standard established recently in California.

City officials responded to a memo from the EPA in January urging public water departments to check their drinking water for the hazardous compound chromium-6, also called hexavalent chromium — a contaminant perhaps best known from the 2000 film Erin Brockovich and the real-life crusade of its titular character.

Chicago’s Department of Water Management said they would begin quarterly tests for the heavy metal. The Tribune’s Michael Hawthorne reported Saturday on the results.

Test results obtained by the Tribune show that treated Lake Michigan water pumped to 7 million people in Chicago and its suburbs contains up to 0.23 parts per billion of the toxic metal, well above an amount that researchers say could increase the long-term risk of cancer.

The National Toxicology Program’s most recent Report on Carcinogens identifies chromium-6 as a known human carcinogen. Scientists once thought stomach acids converted most chromium-6 into chromium-3 (or trivalent chromium), an essential nutrient. But studies have affirmed the chemical’s link to cancer in animal experiments.

In 1991, EPA established a standard of 100 parts per billion for total chromium, which includes both hexavalent and trivalent chromium. The Obama administration is finishing a scientific review, which may result in the first national standard for the toxic hexavalent variety.

EPA’s own memo came on the heels of a report published by the non-profit Environmental Working Group in December 2010. The report is a snapshot of chromium-6 levels in the water supplies of 35 U.S. cities.

Chicago is one of 25 cities identified in the report with concerning levels of chromium-6. The amount then was 0.18 ppb, over 20 percent less than more recent measurements.

Chromium-6 does occur naturally, but EPA identifies industrial chemical manufacturing and steelworks as major sources of the carcinogen. Lake Michigan’s southern shores in Northwest Indiana are home to several large steel mills, some of which dump wastewater into Chicago’s source of drinking water.

Reverse osmosis filters are a good precaution against water contaminants in general, but cheaper, more widely available carbon filters won’t reduce chromium levels. And no need to stock up on bottled water (again, Hawthorne):

Bottled water is no different. Food and Drug Administration regulations for bottled water limit most of the same contaminants monitored in tap water but are silent when it comes to hexavalent chromium, drug residues or other unregulated substances. Moreover, some brands of bottled water use municipal tap water supplies.

Tap water is still safe to drink in Chicago, city officials urge. Levels are even worse elsewhere. Environmental Working Group’s report found a chromium-6 level of 12.9 parts per billion in Oklahoma city — more than 70 times that found in Chicago.

Posted August 14, 2011 at the Chicagoist.com By Chris Bentley


Jul 31

Is Your Water Bottle Really BPA Free?

Think your Water Bottle is “BPA Free”? Better double check.

JULY 14, 2011

By Margot Pagan, EWG Summer Press Intern

Is your reusable water bottle aluminum? In an effort to be more sustainable and protect my health, I made the switch from plastic water bottles to my reliable metal bottle that I carry with me every day. I thought this switch was a positive change, which is why I’m a little concerned to read headlines that “Metal Water Bottles May Leach BPA.” Just when I thought I was doing something good for my health and the environment, I learn otherwise. Just my luck!
Aluminum water bottles aren’t just aluminum

The issue is that some aluminum water bottles aren’t just aluminum – they’re lined with a resin meant to prevent that bad aluminum taste in your water. Problem is, the resin is epoxy, and epoxy is made with bisphenol A, or BPA, which is a synthetic estrogen. The epoxy molecule is unstable. It comes apart and releases BPA readily into whatever it touches.

This new study from the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine has discovered that switching from polycarbonate to aluminum might not protect you from BPA exposure as well as you thought. Keep in mind – The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has called for parents to take action to reduce their children’s exposure to BPA. The chemical isn’t healthy for any age group: it is linked to an alarming list of health conditions – breast and prostate cancer, diabetes and heart disease.

The study found that epoxy-lined aluminum bottles (including older SIGG bottles) leached BPA. But SIGG’s new linings, made of a synthetic the company calls Ecocare did not emit the troublesome chemical. Stainless steel bottles, which are unlined, were also free of BPA.

BPA is an essential ingredient of polycarbonate, a hard, clear plastic ideal for safety glasses, safety helmets and computer and cell phone houses. Until a few years ago, Nalgene water bottles were made of polycarbonate. Like epoxy, polycarbonate is unstable and, experiments show, readily leaches BPA into surrounded liquids, even cold water. Nalgene, Camelbak and some other sports bottle makers moved to a non-BPA-based plastic called Tritan. The University of Cincinnati study found bottles made with Tritan did not emit BPA.

BPA leaching by the “worst” water bottles is still less than the amount you’d get from a serving of most canned foods but still important to consider since exposures add up.

The study also examined the effects of BPA on heart muscle cells and found that increasing exposure to this estrogen-like chemical can result in potentially deadly heart arrhythmias in rodents. This finding leads the group to suggest that heart arrhythmias could be an issue for women specifically, because they already have natural estrogen in their bodies.

Does the Claim “BPA Free” Mean Anything?

“BPA free” is not a defined and consistent term, noted the study’s author Scott Belcher in an interview with Science News. For “BPA free” to have a useful meaning for consumers there should be regulations to limit its use, Belcher said.

Legislation to control BPA in food containers, especially those made for infants and children, is making its way through lawmaking bodies, with varying degrees of success.

In Maine, a bill to remove BPA from children’s products became law without the signature of Gov. Paul LePage. Now Maine’s Environmental Health Strategy Center is accusing LePage of foot-dragging and has petitioned the state Attorney General to force LePage to put the law into effect. LePage is famed for declaring that BPA is harmless, except that “some women may have little beards” if exposed to the chemical. (LePage confused it with another sex hormone, testosterone).

Meanwhile, in California, the state assembly is moving the Toxin-Free Infants and Toddlers Act, which would bar BPA in bottles or cups intended for infants or children three years of age or younger.

So what should you do to protect your health?

– Buy a glass or stainless steel bottle without an epoxy liner.

– Examine the inside of a bottle. A golden-orange coating indicates a material that can shed BPA, while a white coating doesn’t. Contact the manufacturer to see if it has tested its product for BPA leaching.

– Don’t put hot liquids in your water bottles.

Remember, BPA is most harmful during pregnancy and early childhood. Pregnant women, babies and children should take extra efforts to avoid BPA. Check out what EWG has been saying about kid-size Klean Kanteen bottles.
Buying a water bottle might seem like a simple purchase (it should be, right?), but doing your BPA research before you buy could grant you peace of mind that your bottle isn’t leaching BPA.

Jul 07

Feeling Sick? It May Be Your Tap Water

Public water supplies in 42 U.S. states are contaminated with 141 unregulated chemicals for which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has never established safety standards, according to an investigation by the Environmental Working Group (EWG).

Tainted Tap Water Used by Millions of Americans
Another 119 regulated chemicals—a total of 260 contaminants altogether—were found by the environmental group in a two-and-a-half-year analysis of more than 22 million tap water quality tests. The tests, which are required under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act, were conducted at nearly 40,000 utilities that supply water to 231 million people. If you are feeling ill, for no apparent reason, it really could be the water in your own home! Below are listed some contaminants found in your public water supply that truly could be making you sick!

Water Disinfection Byproducts

  • What are water disinfection byproducts?
    The term refers not to one chemical compound but a group of chemicals that are formed as byproducts of water treatment. Up to 600 disinfection byproducts have been identified but only a fraction of them — including bromate, total trihalomethanes (chloroform, bromodichloromethane, dibromochloromethane and bromoform) and haloacetic acids (dichloroacetic acid, trichloroacetic acid, monochloroacetic acid, monobromoacetic acid and dibromoacetic acid) — are monitored by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
  • How often do they occur in drinking water?
    According to the Environmental Working Group’s analysis of about 20 million drinking water tests conducted by water suppliers between 2004 and 2009, disinfection byproducts, many of which are unregulated, were the most common water pollutants found in US water supplies.
  • How did the water pollutants end up in water supplies?
    Chemical byproducts are formed when disinfectants used to treat water, such as chlorine, react with organic pollution washed off from cities, suburbs and agricultural farms.
  • What are the possible health effects of water disinfection byproducts?
    Disinfection byproducts can cause gene mutation, induce birth defects, accelerate the aging process, sets off an inflammatory response in the body, and even induce cancer after long-term exposures.
Associations have also been made between exposure to certain trihalomethanes and haloacetic acids at concentrations above the maximum contaminant level and injury to the liver, kidney, eyes, nerves and the reproductive system.
  • How to remove water disinfection byproducts from water?
    Water filtration systems using activated carbon filters can reduce levels of disinfection byproducts (such as trihalomethanes and haloacetic acids) as can a reverse osmosis unit. Look out for certification, or confirm with the manufacturer before making your purchase.

Nitrate and Nitrite

·What are nitrate and nitrite?
Nitrates and nitrites are common inorganic compounds that are found contaminating drinking water.
·How often do they occur in drinking water?
Nitrate ranks number five in EWG’s list of frequently detected water pollutants. Nitrate and/or nitrite contamination is also not uncommon in drinking water drawn from private wells in the US.
·How did the water pollutants end up in water supplies?
The major sources of nitrates and nitrites in drinking water are excessive use of nitrogen-containing fertilizers (e.g. potassium nitrate and ammonium nitrate) by farmers and homeowners, leaching from septic sewer systems, discharge by chemical, petrochemical and metal-finishing industries, human and animal organic wastes, as well as erosion of natural deposits.
·What are the possible health effects of nitrate and nitrite?
Infants are susceptible to ‘blue baby syndrome’, or methemoglobinemia, after drinking water containing excess nitrate. This potentially dangerous condition occurs when hemoglobins in the red blood cells are converted into methemoglobin in the presence of nitrate and/or nitrite and loses their ability to carry oxygen.
Although older children and adults can tolerate higher levels of nitrates, little is known about the possible long-term effects of nitrate ingestion. Some evidence suggests that nitrate exposure above safety limits may be carcinogenic.
·How to remove nitrate and nitrite from water?
Unfortunately, nitrate and nitrite cannot be removed by carbon-only water filters. Technologies that can reduce the water pollutants effectively include reverse osmosis and atmospheric water generation.
But these technologies have their drawbacks too.
Although reverse osmosis filters are effective in eliminating most disease causing organisms and chemical contaminants, they generally use about three times as much water as they treat. They also remove most of the minerals in the water and may worsen mineral deficiency in those who are already getting insufficient minerals from their diet.
Atmospheric water generator, which extracts water from humid ambient air, is slow, huge (almost the size of a medium refrigerator), and requires an environment with a relatively high humidity to generate water at an acceptable rate. Though you can connect it to a water supply and use it as a regular purifier, its water filtration capabilities may not be sufficient to remove the types of contaminants in your water.

Pharmaceuticals

·What are pharmaceutical contaminants?
Pharmaceutical contaminants refer to a cocktail of dissolved prescription pills, over-the-counter drugs as well as ingredients used for making drugs that are found in drinking water.
According to the 2008-2009 annual report presented by the President’s Cancer Panel, some medications found in water supplies include antidepressants, chemotherapy drugs, medications for hypertension and diabetes, steroid medications, oral contraceptives, non-prescription pain relievers, hormone replacement therapy medications, anti-convulsants, heart medications and antibiotics.
·How often do they occur in drinking water?
A shocking Associated Press report in 2009 revealed that at least 271 million pounds of pharmaceuticals have been poured into US waterways that often provide drinking water.
Unlike nitrate and other regulated contaminants, the presence of pharmaceuticals in drinking water is not monitored by government in most countries and hence, water suppliers are not required to test for them. To make things worse, conventional water treatment plants are also incapable of removing dissolved medications that have entered the water systems.
·How did the water pollutants end up in water supplies?
Dumping of active pharmaceutical ingredients by manufacturers into waterways, as well as improper disposal of medications by consumers into household drains and toilets. Drugs of all types also enter the water supply when they are excreted.
(If you’ve the habit of flushing expired drugs down the toilet, please stop!)
·What are the possible health effects of pharmaceuticals?
Currently, there is no study looking into the long-term effects of drinking water containing low doses of multiple drugs for extended period of time. However, considering that a number of medications are formulated to work at relatively low dosage, their long-term unintended effects cannot be ruled out completely.
· How to remove pharmaceuticals from water?
Water filters that use only basic carbon blocker are unlikely to remove pharmaceutical contaminants. Reverse osmosis system, however, is able to remove dissolved drugs, so is atmospheric water generator which skips contaminated water altogether and generates water from air.

Arsenic

·What is arsenic?
Arsenic is a natural occurring element found in soil, rocks, air, food and water. It’s also used for producing electronic parts, automotive batteries, wood preservatives, glass, pesticides and more.
·How often does it occur in drinking water?
Arsenic contamination of water is a global problem. According to the Wikipedia, over 137 million people in more than 70 countries, including America, are probably affected by arsenic poisoning of drinking water.
· How did the water pollutant end up in water supplies?
Arsenic leaches into water when water flows pass arsenic-rich soils and rocks. Mining activities, discharges from industries that use arsenic compounds, and runoffs from farms and homes that use arsenic-containing pesticides also add to the amount of the pollutant in water supplies.
·What are the possible health effects of arsenic?
Arsenic is a highly toxic substance and is classified as a carcinogen which can cause cancers of the skin, lung, and bladder as well as heart disease.
·How to remove arsenic from water?
Reverse osmosis is currently the most effective way to remove arsenic. Generating water through air is also another way to avoid arsenic. But take note of the cons highlighted earlier for each of them before purchasing to make sure you can live with the drawbacks.

Hexavalent Chromium

·What is hexavalent chromium?
Hexavalent chromium, or chromium-6, is a common industrial chemical used for the production of textile dyes, pigments, stainless steel, wood preservation, leather tanning, anti-corrosion coatings and other niche uses.
It was made famous by the film “Erin Brockovich”, starring Julia Roberts, that tells the real-life story of cancer-stricken residents of Hinkley who in 1996 won a $333 million settlement from Pacific Gas and Electric Co. for contaminating their tap water with hexavalent chromium.
· How often does it occur in drinking water?
A 2010 study commissioned by the Environmental Working Group found that water from 31 out of 35 US cities was polluted with hexavalent chromium. Of those, 25 had levels that exceeded the safety limits proposed by California regulators.
·How did the water pollutant end up in water supplies?
Discharge by irresponsible industries that produce or use hexavalent chromium, such as metal-plating and leather-tanning facilities as well as steel and pulp mills.
Other forms of chromium, such as chromium-3, also occur naturally in soil, rocks, rivers, plants and animals.
·What are the possible health effects of hexavalent chromium?
Hexavalent chromium has long been known to cause lung cancer when inhaled. There are also increasing scientific evidence linking the pollutant to liver and kidney damage as well as leukemia, stomach cancer and other cancers in lab animals.
·How to remove hexavalent chromium from water?
Use a water filter that is certified to remove hexavalent chromium (chromium-6). MultiPure’s Reverse Osmosis water filter unit is NSF certified to remove all or most of these contaminants.