Written by, Samuel K. Burlum, Investigative Reporter
and author of The Green Lane, a syndicated column
Published on 7/15/16, a SamBurlum.com Exclusive
Source: Homeowners look for ways to mediate water supplies at the tap in addressing water sources that have been affected by pollution. Advances in water filtration technology have drastically improved, allowing for more affordable options for homeowners to choose solutions in addressing this rising challenge.
As more municipalities continue to have challenges with containing outside pollution sources from entering public water supplies, home owners are now taking responsibilities of clean drinking water into their own hands, and are instituting technology and practices to assure they have healthy and clean drinking water for their households and their families. Cities like Flint, Michigan, are still struggling with aging water delivery systems and decaying infrastructure, while also trying to source drinking water from supplies less influenced by pollution.
Even private wells may be affected by outside influences that have made their way into their water supply deep in the ground. Some private wells are in areas known for heavy minerals and metals naturally found in the ground; hence having “hard water,” which will require some sort of filtration. Concerns and negative effects associated with the practice of fracking for oil and natural gas have only driven up the need to filter underground water sources at the tap. Home owners search out for the best options that will give them more comfort in assuring better water quality at the tap. We take a look at a number of available technology options in mitigating effected water at the tap.
Water treatment systems can improve the quality of water supplies and reduce the hazards created by bacteria, chemical pollutants, and toxic substances. Before you purchase a system for your home, you should have your water tested first, to decide what the top risk is affecting your water, if any, and to determine the best option to address your situation. No two homes are the same. Some homes, even if they are next door, can differ. A home’s infrastructure (piping, well, water basin, tanks, coils, etc.) can also effect water quality before it is poured from the facet.
The most common water treatment systems for the home generally utilized will fall into one of the following types: disinfection practices (chlorination, ultraviolet light, radio frequency); filtration (using carbon filters and disposable cartridges); reverse osmosis; distillation, and ion exchanges (water softener units). There are a number of additional methods that can be instituted for purifying your water supply in your home. Some of these practices cost little or no money to sophisticated systems that can cost upwards to thousands of dollars.
Disinfection practices and systems are designed to bacteria which are harmful to humans, viruses, and other agents that can be found in water that can cause great illness and disease. Four disinfection methods to address these concerns include chlorination, treating water with ultraviolet light, radio frequency, pasteurizing, and you can deal with disinfecting your water simply by boiling it. The oldest and most common method of disinfection is chlorination. An automated pump is designed to inject chlorine in small doses into water supplies, acting as an oxidizing agent that kills most bacteria and viruses. Using chlorine must be applied with caution. Chlorine will react to heavy metals, so additional filters with disposable cartridges are recommended.
Pasteurization and boiling water are cost effective ways to address cleaning water supplies, however it is time consuming. Both practices aim to destroy bacteria by heating the water to a high degree of temperature, however boiled water has a flat taste since the carbon dioxide within the water is removed. Most municipalities that experience a disruption in service, when water pipe infrastructure is serviced, recommend boiling your water before usage. This is meant as only a short term remedy.
Ultraviolet light uses a system of low pressure mercury lamps to produce ultraviolet light which then projects its radiant heat to the targeted source of treatment; will kill bacteria, however it is less effective on viruses and other living matter that cause illnesses. Lamps have to be replaced, as they have a short life expectancy and become less effective as the lamps degrade over time. Radio frequency also works in as similar fashion. Radio frequency of light pulses of electrical current will charge pipes and tubes, making for water scale less prevailing. You will still need an additional filter system to deal with granular material left behind to either process.
There are several types of filters to choose from for treating water. Depending on how your water test results reveal, will usually help you in selecting the type of filtration system you purchase for your home. Mechanical filters are designed to remove material from water such as sand, dirt, grit, salt, clay, and other organic matter. These systems are usually stacked together with other water treatment options because mechanical filters do not have the ability to address bacteria and or virus living in tainted water supplies. These filters are made from a host of materials including paper, fabric, ceramic, or metal screening materials, and need to be serviced on a regular basis as granular material is collected in these filters.
Active carbon filters soak up water impurities into the filter cartridge. These types of filters are commonly used in filtering chlorine chemical residue, odors and horrible agents that influence taste. Some advanced carbon filters are designed to even remove radon gas. These filters can be very highly effective in dealing with basic water treatment contaminates, but they are unable to treat highly effected polluted water sources. These filters need to be integrated into the home using other types of water treatment, or the water source should be abandoned for a healthier clean drinking water source. These filters lose their ability to treat water as these filters collect impurities, and must be changed from time to time.
Oxidizing filters have the ability to remove iron, manganese, and sulfur. This is an alternative to water softener treatment systems. To treat acidic water supplies, naturalizing filters are a viable option. This filtration system used broken up limestone chips as the catalyst in addressing such lead, copper, and other toxic heavy metals that leach into water from aging water infrastructure such as decaying metal pipes. This is in part the cause of Flint, Michigan’s, and many other metro cities dilemma that have experienced the tragedy of neglecting aging infrastructure.
Another option for home water treatment is by way of reverse osmosis. This process includes pressurizing and forcing water through a filtering membrane which removes up to 80-90% of contaminates impurities, and glandular material. Mechanical and or carbon filters are always accompanied a reverse osmosis system. The filters are first in charge, to remove granular material, impurities, and contaminates, before the water subject to passing through the membrane. These systems are costly, however they are most recommended for cooking and food preparation, and must be checked on a regular basis for form and functionality.
Distillation is a process of water is boiled to a steam and then the steam is collected and cooled back to a water state then filtered. This removes all minerals, impurities, bacteria, since the unwanted agents are left behind. This is a relatively slow process, where only five to ten gallons of water are distilled at a time, and five gallons of regular unfiltered water from the faucet will equal just one gallon of distilled water. Stills must be maintained more than other systems and can be costly based on the quality.
Ion exchangers are a fancy way of saying water softener systems. Most homes supplied by private well water have an issue with being “hard water,” where the mineral content makes the water very course. Iron, calcium, magnesium in excessive amounts can be reason for hard water. These minerals can wreak havoc on copper pipes, coils, and faucets because they react to metal. In this process of an ion exchanger, water is pumped through a system of a tank which is treated with salt crystals used to dissolve the mineral count. The water then passes through a series of filters to extract the impurities and smaller granular materials. These are the most common systems found in homes that have their own private wells.
Before considering a final purchase on any one system, you will want to consider a number of factors. In long term, is it cheaper to rent or buy a system, and what is the life span and return of investment of each system? Take into consideration consumer ratings on these systems. Know that some water treatment systems are more popular than others depending on the region of geographic area your home may be located in. These systems should be installed by a professional since they do involve tying into plumbing and/or electrical systems. Check your local town for permit requirements when installing your water treatment remediation system.