Press Releases

Are The Dangers Of Iron In Water Being Ignored?

Iron in drinking water may pose more health risks than federal water regulators currently acknowledge.

Marc Edwards, an environmental engineering professor at Virginia Tech, says that iron may have played a critical role in the Flint lead-contamination crisis, according to WWL-TV.

“What we’ve discovered in the last, say, five or ten years is a legitimate public health concern about having too much iron and manganese in the water,” he said. “This is part of the scientific process that this doesn’t just look bad, it poses a significant public health threat.”

Edwards helped uncover the severity of the lead crisis in Flint. He explained to WWL-TV how iron can have a negative impact on the water system.

“[Iron] increases the leaching of lead into the water,” Edwards said.

“While the iron itself won’t likely make people sick, Edwards says high iron in the water can remove disinfectants like chlorine, allowing harmful bacteria to grow. Bacteria like legionella, which causes Legionnaire’s Disease. That’s what Edwards said he believes may have happened in Flint,” the report said.

In Flint, cases of Legionnaires’ Disease have spiked in recent years, CNN reported. “From June 2014 to November 2015, at least 87 county residents developed Legionnaires’ disease, compared to between six and 13 cases in the four preceding years,” the report said, citing a public health official. At least 12 people have died, according to variousreports.

These considerations may be important for towns facing high iron levels. St. Joseph, LA, is one town with major iron concerns.

The town of just over 1,200 people has discolored brown water running through its taps. “Pictures posted online of chalky, dirt-brown water in bathtubs, washing machines, and sinks present a sickening image,” ATTN reported.

WWL-TV decided to run its own tests on the water in St. Joseph. “Those independent tests confirmed the findings of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals. The water has extremely high levels of iron and manganese. One of the samples tested at more than 230 times the EPA’s recommended level for iron, .3mg/L,” the report said.

Regulators have consistently claimed that the problem in St. Joseph is a cosmetic one, not a health hazard. Louisiana’s State Health Officer Jimmy Guidry said in February, per WWL-TV: “That’s not something we regulate because it’s something for color purposes, it’s not a serious threat to your health.”

“Meanwhile, the EPA doesn’t require that states enforce the agency’s set of so-called secondary drinking water standards because high iron and manganese have not been considered health risks,” the report said.

St. Joseph is not the only town facing this challenge.

“DHH tests have shown 457 water systems across the state have had iron levels above the EPA’s recommended level. About half of them do not treat the water to remove iron, including the Slidell Water Supply, Abita Springs Water and St. Tammany Water Districts 2 and 3,” WWL-TV reported.

By Sara Jerome

Bottled Water Strikes Thousands With Norovirus

Thousands of people got ill from norovirus contaminated water bottles in Spain last month.

“On April 25, the health department in Catalonia said that more than 4,100 people in the region came down with vomiting and diarrhea, symptoms of the notorious ‘stomach bug’ called norovirus, between April 11 and April 18. The illnesses were linked to contaminated office water coolers that were distributed to hundreds of companies in the cities of Barcelona and Tarragona,” Live Science reported.

Benjamin Chapman, an associate professor and food safety specialist at North Carolina State University, said norovirus may have contaminated the water at the location where it was bottled. The water was bottled in Andorra. Chapman is not a part of the investigation.

“Water is a really good source of pathogens,” Chapman said, per the report.

Norovirus is one of the top ten causes of outbreaks in public water systems, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “Noroviruses may be found in water sources, such as private wells, that have been contaminated with the feces of infected humans,” the CDC reported.

Disinfection is one way to treat norovirus contamination in water, according to the CDC. Norovirus is moderately tolerant to chlorination. Boiling water can be used to inactivate norovirus.

The virus is known for spreading rapidly through populations. Passengers on a cruise ship liner from England to Baltimore, MD, recently got hit with it. “Two days into the trip, the Centers for Disease Control says a highly contagious norovirus swept through the passengers and crew, sickening more than 150 people on board,” CBS Local reported.

By Sara Jerome

Maintaining an Underground Potable Water Tank

Underground potable water tanks can be a cost-effective way to store healthy drinking water, but only if they are maintained properly. To reduce operating costs and conserve water, tanks must be inspected, cleaned, and maintained regularly. Documentation must be accurate, consistent, easy to analyze, current, and accessible to be a useful tool in deciding priorities and establishing a plan. Water quality and distribution monitored closely reduces the risk of contamination and water loss, and repairs made promptly will reduce property damage, liability, and possibly insurance.

Detecting and repairing leaks may be the most cost-effective way to conserve water in an underground water tank. Unnoticed leaks are costly occurrences in underground water tanks, and many may only be found when they become visible at the surface, or when a collapse occurs. However, leaks detected and repaired early may only incur minor costs.
Crack in concrete 1

Credit: Pittsburg Tank and Tower
Crack in concrete

The best way to make sure leaks do not go unnoticed is to get the tank inspected regularly and monitor the distribution carefully. If the system has experienced a noticeable drop in water pressure, a sudden occurrence with rust or air in the water supply, an unexplained sudden increase in water use, or water loss greater than 10%, then a leak may be suspected and priority attention is required. Structural damage can also cause leaks, and if the location of the underground tank has recently experienced an earthquake, then it should be inspected immediately to insure no structural damage or leaks have occurred.
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Sludge buildup
During the inspection, information and documentation needed to establish priorities should be gathered, and a full-bound written inspection report that includes a detailed evaluation, photographs, and recommendations of needed repairs, code updates, and a detailed cost estimate for each item should be included in the inspection. Signs of underground leaks should be noted, and inspectors should look for ponding water, discolored areas in the grass, cracks, and uneven structures. All aspects of the tank should be inspected for structural, safety, and coating conditions in accordance with NFPA, AWWA, OSHA, and EPA standards. The walls and floor are visually inspected for cracks or failures.
Roots growing into tank 3

Credit: Pittsburg Tank and Tower
Roots growing into tank

Underground water tank inspections can also be performed with a robot, which eliminates the need to drain the tank and does not require lock out/tag out procedures or confined space permits, because no one enters the tank. However, to perform a robotic inspection the underground tank must be equipped with a manway at least 24 inches wide.

After an inspection has been performed and the condition of the tank has been determined, the issues found must then be addressed. Structural repairs and leaks are priority and should be repaired on an emergency basis. A tank with structural repairs could collapse under certain conditions and lives could be at risk, but structural damage is not the only risk associated with leaks.

Leaks can also result in water contamination. If water is leaking from an underground tank, then contaminated groundwater can also seep into the tank. Many water system operators realize the risks for contaminated water, but pathogenic microorganisms that create water-borne diseases are still sometimes found in public water systems. Pathogenic microorganisms are in human and animal feces, and they invade the body when water contaminated with them is consumed. An infection is often created by the bacteria, virus, fungi, or protozoa. These infections can spread rapidly, and sometimes even create an epidemic. Water is treated and tested for microorganisms during the water treatment process. But, if the clean and healthy water is stored in a contaminated water tank, then all the water becomes contaminated, and people’s lives may be put at risk.
Sludge buildup 4

Credit: Pittsburg Tank and Tower
Sludge buildup

Deaths and illnesses occur daily from unhealthy water, and water operators can lose their license to operate a water system if unhealthy water is found in their system. The best way to prevent the spread of infection and diseases linked to drinking water is to have these tanks inspected, cleaned, and disinfected regularly to prevent the growth of pathogenic microorganisms and other contaminants. Excess amounts of sedimentation can also cause sanitation problems. Cloudy or dirty water could indicate a sanitation problem and should be cleaned.

American Water Works Association (AWWA) states that, “Tanks should be washed out and inspected at least once every three years, and where water supplies have sediment problems, annual washouts are recommended” (AWWA M42-88). Cleaning underground tanks are much easier to perform now and do not require the system to be shut down or drained. Thanks to modern technology, underground water tanks can also be cleaned with robots.

By Erika Henderson On February 19, 2015 @ 10:36 am In Water Storage

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Triton Stormwater Solutions, LLC
7600 Grand River Rd, Suite 195
Brighton, Michigan 48114
Phone: (810) 222-7652 - Fax: (810) 222-1769
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