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New lead testing method could reveal higher levels in water

New lead testing method could reveal higher levels in water


For years, testing of the tap water in an upscale Detroit suburb showed the city was in the clear. Then residents got a notice seemingly out of the blue: Their water could be contaminated with elevated levels of lead.


The city of Royal Oak had not made drastic changes to its water. It was simply using a new testing method that showed lead levels high enough that the utility was legally required to inform residents about the problem.

“We wanted to start a family, so hearing about lead in our drinking water was a little daunting,” said Nicole Obarto, who moved to Royal Oak with her husband in 2017.

In coming years, communities around the country could be in store for similarly unsettling news as U.S. officials consider adopting a more rigorous sampling method for lead in water. What happened in Royal Oak in 2019 offers a preview.

After the Flint water crisis, Michigan passed the country’s most aggressive lead measures, including more stringent testing of water. When using methods similar to what is currently required by the Environmental Protection Agency, testing of 170 systems in Michigan with lead lines resulted in 11 samples that exceeded the federal lead level requiring corrective action. When using another method like the one the EPA is reviewing and could soon mandate nationally, the figure doubled to 22.

Nicole and Simon Obarto, holding a lead and copper analysis of water from the Oakland County Health Division, stand outside their home in Royal Oak, Mich., on Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. The couple had their water line tested for lead and the results were high enough to have the lead service line replaced. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

With an even more thorough testing method Michigan adopted, it climbed to 31.

Other states are likely to see more elevated lead results as well under new testing; lead pipes still deliver water to millions of homes and businesses, a relic of the country’s outdated infrastructure.

“We should expect to see a very large number of utilities that are in compliance with the current rule no longer being in compliance,” said Daniel E. Giammar, an environmental engineering expert at Washington University in St. Louis.

Testing for lead involves turning on the tap and collecting a sample. Currently, federal regulations require sampling the first liter of water out of the tap. The new rule under review would leave the tap on longer to collect the fifth liter. Instead of water sitting near the faucet, the change is intended to test water that sits in the lead service lines that connect buildings to water mains.

A cut lead pipe is pulled from a dig site for testing at a home in Royal Oak, Mich., on Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021. Communities with lead pipes could see higher test results for lead in their tap water if a new method of water sampling goes into effect. The Detroit suburb of Royal Oak historically had low test results but it had to notify the public of a problem after the state mandated new sampling methods. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

The new approach is part of the Trump administration’s overhaul of a rule that regulates lead and copper in drinking water. Under the revamped rule, utilities with lead service lines would also have to confirm a building is served by lead lines before including it in sampling pools. When tests show lead levels at 10 parts per billion, the rule would require systems to address corrosion control, a treatment that helps prevent lead in pipes from seeping into the water. Water systems must take actions — such as replacing lead service lines — at 15 ppb.

The new rule was set to be implemented in early 2024, but the Biden administration delayed it to conduct a review after advocacy groups said it should require faster and more complete replacement of lead service lines.

The EPA plans to announce the results of its review by mid-December, and advocacy groups are hopeful the agency will keep the new lead sampling method intact — or make it even stricter. Environmental groups have been pushing the agency to require sampling of both the first and fifth liters, similar to the approach in Michigan.

Though data is limited, roughly 25% to 40% of water systems with lead service lines could breach the 10 ppb trigger level under the new rule requiring testing of the fifth liter and only buildings with lead lines, said David A. Cornwell, president of Cornwell Engineer Group, which provides consulting for water systems. A recent paper co-authored by Giammar used sampling data from 294 major water systems to estimate the new rule may push as many as 90% of systems above the trigger level.

A crew breaks the concrete floor as they replace the lead water main with copper tubing at a home in Royal Oak, Mich., on Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021. Communities with lead pipes could see higher test results for lead in their tap water if a new method of water sampling goes into effect. The Detroit suburb of Royal Oak historically had low test results but it had to notify the public of a problem after the state mandated new sampling methods. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

How much of a change a city sees will depend on factors like the effectiveness of its corrosion control and the characteristics of its water, said Mark A. Edwards, a Virginia Tech water treatment researcher.

Still, some experts and environmental groups say many cities are not prepared for the change and should be taking more aggressive action in the meantime.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says no amount of lead in drinking water is considered safe. Young children are especially vulnerable since exposure can slow their cognitive development and cause other health problems. Elin Warn Betanzo of Safe Water Engineering, a consulting firm, said water systems may have limited information on safety because of their sampling methods.

“They’ve used the absence of data to back up their statements that the water is safe,” she said.

Acrew pushes new copper tubing as they replace the lead water main at a home in Royal Oak, Mich., on Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021. Communities with lead pipes could see higher test results for lead in their tap water if a new method of water sampling goes into effect. The Detroit suburb of Royal Oak historically had low test results but it had to notify the public of a problem after the state mandated new sampling methods. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

To avoid alarming people under the new sampling method, utilities should inform customers about the measures they’re taking to minimize lead exposure, said Steve Via, director of government relations at the American Water Works Association, which counts water utilities as members. He said utilities have worked for years to reduce lead levels, but that government funding for the work has been limited.

The recently passed infrastructure bill will provide $15 billion to replace lead service lines and the reconciliation package pending in Congress includes billions more. Some experts say it won’t be enough to fully rid the country of lead pipes.

In Royal Oak, sampling between 2014 and 2017 came back at 4 ppb and 2 ppb — below the federal guideline of 15 ppb requiring action. When the city began testing both the first and fifth liters in 2019, levels shot up to 23 ppb.

In the first 24 hours after residents were alerted, a hotline to field questions got more than 300 calls, said Judy Davids, a community engagement specialist for Royal Oak. Normally, she said even four calls a day about a single topic is a red flag in the city of about 60,000.

A discarded lead pipe is shown after crews replaced with copper fixtures at a home in Royal Oak, Mich., on Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021. Communities with lead pipes could see higher test results for lead in their tap water if a new method of water sampling goes into effect. The Detroit suburb of Royal Oak historically had low test results but it had to notify the public of a problem after the state mandated new sampling methods. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

The city distributed water filters and advised residents in buildings with lead service lines to flush their systems for at least five minutes. Work identifying and replacing lead pipes was accelerated, according to Aaron Filipski, the city’s director of public services and recreation.

After being notified of the risk, Obarto and her husband were relieved when blood tests didn’t indicate any problems from lead exposure. But testing in their home showed lead levels high enough to bump them up the list for new service lines.

Carol Mastroianni, another Royal Oak resident, worried about her twins, now in their 20s. She recalled encouraging them to drink water when they were young, thinking it was safe to do so from the tap.

“It’s like, ‘Oh gosh, is this going to counteract all of the good I thought I was doing?’” she said.

Still, Mastroianni said the new testing method is a positive step. Since the city began working to fix the problem, lead test results have dropped below the federal action level.

“When you know better, you can do better,” she said.

Source:

Michael Phillis via Associated Press



Humans Now Control The Majority of All Surface Freshwater Fluctuations on Earth

Humans Now Control The Majority of All Surface Freshwater Fluctuations on Earth

A regime change of almost unimaginable scale has taken place in the natural world, reflecting humanity’s vast and growing dominance over one of our planet’s most vital resources: freshwater.

In what researchers say is the first global survey of human impacts on the water cycle, scientists have used NASA satellite measurements to remotely quantify changes in the level of water held in a stunning number of water bodies: 227,386 of the world’s ponds, lakes, and reservoirs, whether small or large.

While human-managed reservoirs such as artificial dams comprise only 3.9 percent of this giant planetary-scale system of surface-level water storage, that tiny fraction masks a mind-boggling truth about how much control humanity really exerts over freshwater fluctuations.

When the amount of overall change in water levels across both natural and human-managed systems is calculated, it turns out the human-controlled reservoirs represent 57 percent of all surface water variability – more than half of all the ebb and flow in freshwater systems.

“We tend to think of the water cycle as a purely natural system: Rain and snowmelt run into rivers, which run to the ocean where evaporation starts the whole cycle again,” explains geophysicist Sarah Cooley from Stanford University.

“But humans are actually intervening substantially in that cycle. Our work demonstrates that humans are responsible for a majority of the seasonal surface water storage variability on Earth.”

Full story by Peter Dockrill at Science Alert


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Our Kindle Unlimited Reading List, November

Our Kindle Unlimited Reading List, November

Click on the banner above to get a one month free trial subscription to Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited to get access to the entire Kindle library on any device, at any time, anywhere. To get you started, here’s our reading list for November:

“We understand that educating the citizens of this planet is only path towards sustainability.” -Kyle Michaud

Kyle Michaud explores the necessary changes society needs to make, in order to preserve and protect the planet. He discusses sustainability as it applies to businesses, products, and everyday life. Michaud gives reasonable suggestions for simple adjustments that will lead to a healthier world. This book will assist consumers in choosing safe and environmentally-friendly items, as well as understanding the advantages of living green.

Agent H2O is on a mission, chased by his evil nemesis, Scummy Pollution. Will Agent H2O reach thirsty plants and animals in time?

Follow along on his zany romp through the water cycle, as he changes disguises from a liquid drop to vapor, then to an ice crystal. The science is accurate and S.T.E.M. based. The message is important: an eco-friendly lifestyle, reduction of pollution, and water conservation. These concepts are offered in a character-driven adventure, a funny plot, and award-winning illustrations. This story will bring a smile to grown-ups and kids.

What if humanity could start all over again? In a future not so far away, a diverse group of carefully selected people are sent to Gaya, a planet very much like Earth. They want to build a better world: free of war, pollution, racism, and greed. The settlers find a paradise of undisturbed nature – but they soon meet unknown dangers, poisonous plants, and aggressive animals. And above all, they have to deal with each other: a bunch of people with different ideas and desires, memories and individual quirks. And not everyone is willing to follow the rules.

A motley crew of saboteurs wreak outrageous havoc on the corporations destroying America’s Western wilderness in this classic, comic extravaganza.

When George Washington Hayduke III returns home from war in the jungles of Southeast Asia, he finds the unspoiled West he once knew has been transformed. The pristine lands and waterways are being strip mined, dammed up, and paved over by greedy government hacks and their corrupt corporate coconspirators. And the manic, beer-guzzling, rabidly antisocial ex-Green Beret isn’t just getting mad. Hayduke plans to get even.

Together with a radical feminist from the Bronx; a wealthy, billboard-torching libertarian MD; and a disgraced Mormon polygamist, Hayduke’s ready to stick it to the Man in the most creative ways imaginable. By the time they’re done, there won’t be a bridge left standing, a dam unblown, or a bulldozer unmolested from Arizona to Utah.

Plastic is all around us. It’s one of the defining traits of this modern world. Our use of plastics has quickly boomed since the time we invented it. And even now, the world will be a much, much different place—in a bad way—without plastics.


But our use of this material, something we’ve so carelessly taken for granted, is coming back to haunt us. Plastic is polluting our world, and if we fail to act on this growing and pressing problem, there might no longer be any hope of saving the world at all.

Full of beautiful nature, you won’t believe that central Osaka, Japan, is only 30 minutes away.

Listen to the sound of the river and walk beneath the relaxing maple trees and cedars, fot it will leave you with a smile. One of the main attractions in Minoh is a famous 33-meter waterfall that has been selected as one of Japan’s top 100 Waterfalls. It has breathtaking views and sounds that will make you forget time.

Over 80 photos of baby animals from around the world, by some of the most gifted photographers around the world.

Have you read any of these books? Leave a comment below and tell us what you thought! If you’d like to help us continue our mission, please consider buying one of our recommended products below. As an Amazon Affiliate, we earn a commission on sales, which will assist us greatly.