water-testing procedures are ‘worse than Flint’
City council will hold hearings in testing drinking water for lead after a warning that residents’ health could be at risk in wake of contamination
city council will investigate how it tests its water, after an expert told the Guardian the city’s procedures are “worse than Flint” and risk putting residents’ health in jeopardy.
council members revealed plans to hold hearings “concerning best practices followed by the Philadelphia Water Department” in its testing of drinking water for lead, in the wake of high lead levels in Flint
Water testing instructions given out to residents include the requirement to remove the faucet’s aerator, a small filter, from the nozzle of the tap before sampling. Testers are asked to run cold water through the tap for two minutes, known as “pre-flushing”, at least six hours before the test
Research suggests both of these practices reduce the amount of lead flowing into the sample. Tests conducted by scientists at Tech showed that of 21 samples taken from households, 16 were found to have higher lead levels than the official results when tested under conditions that replicate how people use tap water.
Postharvest water includes any water that contacts fresh produce at or after harvest. This includes water used for rinsing, washing, cooling, waxing, icing, or moving fruits and vegetables. Postharvest water use may be a necessary part of fruit and vegetable production, but it is also a potential source of contamination. Understanding the risks associated with postharvest water use and how to minimize them are important for produce safety.
The key things you need to do to ensure the safety of postharvest water are to:
Start with water that is the equivalent of drinking water.
Add a sanitizer to all postharvest water.
Change bulk/batch tank water when dirty.
Make sure water is at the appropriate temperature to avoid infiltration.
Clean and sanitize tanks/bins daily, making sure to reduce or eliminate pooled water.
Document all postharvest activities.
Start with water that is the equivalent of drinking water
Only use water that is the equivalent of drinking water (i.e., potable) to begin all postharvest activities. Water quality should be verified through testing. Water testing can be done by the farm or by the municipality or water supplier, but the water must be tested to know its quality. Contaminated water can contaminate produce, so starting with clean water is essential. If you are using a surface water source, you will need to treat the water and regularly test it to make sure the treatment process is working.
Add a sanitizer to all postharvest water
Postharvest water, even if it is potable at the start, may become contaminated by produce that contacts the water. Adding a sanitizer does not clean each individual piece of produce, but prevents cross contamination from the water to the produce and limits the build-up of pathogens in the water. It is critical to add a sanitizer to all batch/bulk water where many pieces of produce are submerged in the same water because the risk of cross contamination is highest at this step.
Change bulk/batch tank water when dirty
Anything added to the batch/bulk tank water can introduce contamination. Leaves, stems, dirt, and even harvest containers submerged in the water, can contaminate the water and reduce the effectiveness of sanitizers. To reduce food safety risks, bulk/batch water should be changed frequently or filtered. One way to monitor water quality is by measuring turbidity.
Private Well Testing
we are lucky to have a plentiful source of ground water. Ground water fills the cracks and pores in sand, soil, and rocks that lie beneath the surface of the earth, much like water saturates a sponge.
Due to its protected location underground, most ground water is naturally clean and free of contaminants. Bacteria and nitrate can reach the ground water and wells through poorly maintained septic systems, livestock areas and fertilizer application, or as a result of poorly constructed wells. Chemicals can enter into the ground water from leaking gasoline storage tanks, pesticide applications, landfills, and improper disposal of toxic and hazardous wastes.
Do you have a well?
About 88% of residents are served by public water systems covered by the Federal and State Safe Drinking Water Acts. The other 12% receive their water from “limited-use” public water systems and private wells. While all public water systems in Florida are required to perform routine testing to ensure that they meet state drinking water standards, private well owners are responsible for ensuring that their OWN well water is safe to drink.
The Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have reported that consumption of contaminated drinking water in the United States has resulted in thousands of cases of illness each year. Contaminated drinking water can cause a number of diseases, and is sometimes fatal. The most common contaminants are microbes and nitrate.
Microbes: Many types of bacteria themselves are generally not harmful, but their presence is an indication that other harmful bacteria, viruses, or parasites may also be present. Diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting are some of the most common symptoms resulting from drinking water that is contaminated with harmful bacteria.
How can I tell if my fish tank water is healthy?
The key to healthy fish is healthy tank water. Here’s how to check your aquarium health and stop your fish looking green around the gills.
The easiest way to check your fish tank water is to buy a good all-round tester kit. The key things to look out for are ammonia, nitrite, nitrate and pH. These compounds will be kept largely in check with a good mechanical, chemical and biological filter. But it’s a delicate balance, so check your tank’s water health regularly.
The number one killer of fish is ammonia. It forms the first part of your tank’s nitrogen cycle and comes from fish waste and uneaten food. Whether your aquarium is fresh or salt water, you want the ammonia level to be 0.0ppm or undetectable. Any higher and the water could be toxic for your fish and needs to be treated with an ammonia removal product. To stay on top of your aquarium’s ammonia levels, install an ammonia alert sensor.
The second part of the nitrogen cycle is nitrites. They are the result of ammonia being broken down by the natural bacteria in your tank. Again, nitrites are toxic and should be in concentrations no greater than 0.0ppm. To contain toxic nitrite levels during a cycle, use a conditioner.
Nitrates come from the break down of nitrites. This compound is not particularly dangerous for fish, but if levels rise it can become toxic and stresses a tank’s inhabitants. For freshwater tanks, nitrate should register below 40ppm. Acceptable levels vary among saltwater ecosystems but are generally lower. An appropriate filter media and regular water changes will keep nitrate levels down.
ensures that residents, businesses and visitors have access to clean, safe drinking water. This is done through a complex water treatment process and continuous testing so that water always meets or exceeds the Safe Drinking Water Act set by the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP).
tap water is continuously tested, monitored and analyzed to ensure it meets the strict standards of Public Health, the Province of and Government.
Water’s accredited lab:
tests drinking water every six hours (over 6,000 times a year)
conducts more than 20,000 tests at the water treatment plants annually
conducts 15,000 bacteriological tests on samples collected from the water distribution system annually
treats more than 1 billion litres of safe drinking water at four water treatment plants, which operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
How treatment works
Water is collected from Lake through intake pipes deep below the lake and one to five kilometres away from shore.
Lake water passes through screens to remove large debris and then through filters to remove additional impurities. Water is disinfected by using either chlorine or ozone.
Alum or Poly Aluminum Chloride is added to the water to form a jelly-like substance that joins larger particles called floc, and goes through additional filtration.
The water travels though settling basins so larger particles settle to the bottom. The clear water at the top proceeds to filters containing gravel, sand and carbon to remove suspended impurities and bacteria.
Before water is pumped for distribution to homes and businesses, the following is added:
chlorine to destroy bacteria, algae and viruses
fluoride to help prevent tooth decay
ammonia to ensure chlorine levels remain consistent as water travels through the distribution system
phosphoric acid, which is used for corrosion control to help create a barrier between residential lead pipes and drinking water
Supply, storage and distribution
To ensure an uninterrupted water supply, there is a computerized process control system overseen by Water staff. The aim is to distribute superior quality water in a reliable, cost-effective and environmentally sound manner