Category Archives: Water Quality

Trihalomethane Found in Caseville’s Water System


Updated April 2, 9:15 am.

Online reports from WNEM and other news outlets have reported that recent tests of Caseville, Michigan’s water supply showed excessive levels of Trihalomethine. Trihalomethanes are formed as a by-product when chlorine is used to disinfect drinking water. Trihalomethanes forced the first water safety regulations to be issued after passage of the U.S. Safe Drinking Water Act in 1974.

Chemical Byproduct in Water System Seen in 2016 Testing

Caseville said they are seeing 2017 average test results at of Trihalomethine at 88 parts per billion.  Caseville’s 2016 Water Report showed measurements of Trihalomethine ranging from 40 to 100 parts per billion.  Four tests were conducted in 2016 with an overall average at 74 parts per billion. The safe standard is 80 parts per billion.

We spoke with Troy Hartz, Superintendent of the Caseville Water Plant. Caseville’s water supply comes from Saginaw Bay. He noted that the measurements in August have the highest level of Trihalomethine due to the warmer water from the lake. Hartz noted that the Michigan DEQ informed him that there are other Michigan water systems who draw surface water from lakes who are also experiencing the high Trihalomthine measurements during August testing. 

Steps Being Taken 

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has been brought in to the Caseville Water Plant to determine the best way to address the problem and comply with the water safety standard. Hartz indicated that adjustments may be made of the amount of chlorine applied at Caseville’s pumping station to address the concern.  

Caseville has not asked residents to seek other water sources but have asked residents with heath concerns to consult with their doctor.

Long term exposure to high levels Trihalomethanes can lead to kidney or liver damage and an increased risk for cancer.


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A Bottle of Beer May Be More Healthy Than Water


Imagine yourself at the beach on a bright sunny late morning. It is hot. The kids are playing in the sand. A cool breeze comes in from Saginaw Bay. Time for a refreshing drink. You open the cooler. You have a glass bottle of frosty beer or a plastic bottle of ice-cold water. Which do you chose?

Shock! No Water from Tap or Bottle is Really Clean

Water Nestle

New research by Orb Media, a nonprofit journalism organization based in Washington, D.C., showed that a single plastic bottle of water contains from a few dozen to thousands of strands of microscopic plastic. Researchers at the State University of New York at Fredonia conducted the study. Their results showed that on average, a plastic liter bottle of water contained about 10.4 microplastic particles about the width of a human hair.

The groups earlier work on the level of plastic found in tap water inspired the study. The University showed the “ubiquitous plastic contamination in tap water across the globe, with the highest rate found in the U.S”

The study sampled bottled water from various locations around the globe. They pointed the cause of contamination was partly the result of plastic packaging, and partly the fault of the bottling process. The survey included brands like Nestle, Aquafina, San Pellegrino, Dasani and Evian. Nestle has a bottling plant in Michigan that is currently embroiled in a controversial plan to double the amount of water from Michigan’s underground water aquifer.

Plastic Micro-Pollution is Global

In 2017, the United Nations issued a report that noted that more than a quarter of all fish now contain plastic. They analyzed the guts of fish sold at markets in Indonesia and California.


 

Great Lakes Severally Affected 

microplastics great lakes

Cosmetic and home product companies, including Clarins, Estée Lauder and Proctor & Gamble have pledged to halt the sale and cease utilizing ‘microbeads’, small plastic pieces used as an exfoliating agent in soap and make-up. In 2012 we published a story that a study was conducted showing that microplastic was found in Lake Huron and Saginaw Bay. The 2012 study, was conducted by the 5 Gyres Institute headed by Dr. Sherri Mason SUNY College at Fredonia New York. Water samples were taken in the Lakes Superior, Huron, Erie and Ontario and showed an average abundance was approximately 43,000 microplastic particles/km2.

No Way to Stop Micro-Pollution?

Synthetic fibers released into the Great Lakes and oceans occur even after the water has been treated. The tiny fibers seep to the lakes from laundry water from artificial fabrics like fleece and polyester. This is the source and one of the biggest causes of plastic pollution in the ocean.

Microplastic Effect on Humans Uncertain – But It Doesn’t Look Good

The plastic pollution problem may be even worse in the Great Lakes than in the oceans. The University of Wisconsin-Superior found that the number of microparticles — which are more harmful to marine life because of their small size — was 24 percent higher in the Great Lakes than in samples they collected in the Southern Atlantic Ocean. 65 million pounds of fish are caught in the Great Lakes each year. Dr. Lorena Rios Mendoza, an assistant professor of chemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Superior, said that the bits of plastic have a great capacity to attract persistent pollutants to their surface. “Plastics are not just acting as mimic food, but they can also cause physical damage to the organism,” she said. The EPA warns that Persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic (PBTs) chemicals or substances pose a risk to the marine environment because they resist degradation, persisting for years or even decades. PBTs are toxic to humans and marine organisms and have been shown to accumulate at various levels through the food chain.

Clearly more work needs to be done to ascertain the effect on health and to develop processes to clean and prevent this micro-pollution.


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Lessons from Flint Water Crisis


As far back at 2015 ThumbWind started ringing the warning bell as Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s Financial Manager Darnell Earley authorizes the utilization of the Flint River as a point water source for the city. Needless-to-say the rest is history. The Flint Water Crisis resulted in 1000’s of people becoming poisoned with lead and $100’s of millions spend to re-mediate the debacle.  I was recently approached by some folks in Ireland from the Water Filter Men who provided this awesome infographic to update us on this modern crisis. 

What-Can-We-Learn-From-The-Flint-Water-Crisis

Infographic provided by The Water Filter Men (https://www.thewaterfiltermen.ie/) is an online stockist of water filtration products based in the town of Dundalk in Ireland. It is known as a well-respected stockist of products such as reverse osmosis water filter systems, UV sterilizer systems and water softeners, while the company is committed to promoting the provision of clean water for all homes and businesses. Its owners are renowned for their encyclopedic knowledge of water treatment and ethical standpoint on environmentally friendly filtration practices.

 

Have we made the Great Lakes into a Plastic Soup?


This post was also published in 2012 and is the third most read environmental post on ThumbWind. To me this is development is disheartening but so evident with plastic debris commonly washing up on our beach. This is the fourth article in the Our Water, Our Life Series. 

The next time you brush your teeth or wash your face you may be contributing to adding plastic into the Great Lakes. The New York Times is reporting that micro-plastics are now identified as a serious threat to the Great Lakes ecosystem. As of now there is no way to stop the plastic contamination from products with micro-plastics from entering the watershed.

 The Great Lakes are now a Plastic Soup

microplastics great lakesIn a recent study was conducted by the 5 Gyres Institute headed by Dr. Sherri Mason SUNY College at Fredonia New York. Water samples in July 2012 were taken in the Lakes Superior, Huron, Erie and Ontario and showed an average abundance was approximately 43,000 microplastic particles/km2. One sample taken downstream from two major cities in Lake Erie, contained over 466,000 particles/km2, greater than all other sample areas combined. Samples taken in Lake Huron just north of Port Austin, Michigan showed a microplastic contamination range between 10,000 and 20,000 microplastic particles/km2. This was the first study to analyze the impact of plastic contamination of the Great Lakes. The surprise is that concentrations of plastic contamination exceed data collected in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch

 Detrimental Effect on Humans Unknown but Likely

Scientists are still working through the links of the chain leading back to humans; about 65 million pounds of fish are caught in the Great microplastic in fishLakes each year. Dr. Lorena Rios Mendoza, an assistant professor of chemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Superior, said that the bits of plastic have a great capacity to attract persistent pollutants to their surface. “Plastics are not just acting as mimic food, but they can also cause physical damage to the organism,” she said. She has examined fish guts and found plastic fibers — possibly from the breakdown of synthetic fabrics through clothes washing — that are laden with the chemicals, and said she expected to find beads as well. The entire food chain in the Great Lakes region appear to be affected.

The plastic pollution problem may be even worse in the Great Lakes than in the oceans, Rios said. Her team found that the number of microparticles — which are more harmful to marine life because of their small size — was 24 percent higher in the Great Lakes than in samples they collected in the Southern Atlantic Ocean.

 Waste Treatment Plants Fall Short

microplastic4While many of the beads appear to enter the environment when storms cause many wastewater treatment plants to release raw sewage, it is increasingly clear that the beads slip through the processing plants as well, Dr. Mason said at a sewage treatment plant in North East, a town near Erie.

Studies are currently underway to assess the effectiveness of waste treatment plans in the Great Lakes region. Dr. Mason and several students are looking at the presence of these plastics and synthetic materials passing through waste water treatment plants. This would cover water that was flushed down toilets and passed through household drains. Currently Mason’s study is focused on treatment plants in upstate New York.

 Products to Avoid

Facial and body scrubs are the largest contributor to microplastic contamination. In a Hair_wash_with_shampoostudy conducted by 5 Gyres, a single tube of Neutrogena “Deep Clean” contained over 350,000 plastic particles. Microplastic particles and microbeads can be found in facial scrubs, shampoos & soaps, toothpaste, eyeliners, lip gloss, deodorant and sunblock sticks. These microparticles are made of Polyethylene (PE), Polypropylene (PP), Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET), Polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) and Nylon. PE and PP are the most common.

Some companies have promised a voluntary phase-out of plastic beads. Others have made no commitments.

Promises to phase-out:

  • Beiersdorf (no set date)
  • Colgate-Palmolive (by end of 2014)
  • Johnson & Johnson (by end of 2015)
  • L’Oreal (no set date)
  • Proctor & Gamble (by end of 2017)
  • Unilever (by end of 2015) (D)

 Citations

New York Times Scientists Turn Their Gaze Toward Tiny Threats to Great Lakes, December 14, 2013. By John Schwartz

Polluting plastic particles invade the Great Lakes, Reported by American Chemical Society, April 8, 2013, By Lorena M. Rios Mendoza, Ph.D

Microplastics in consumer products and in the marine environment, Position Paper – 2013, 5 Gyres Institute, Plastic Soup Foundation, Surfrider Foundation, Plastic Free Seas, Clean Seas Coalition

Graphics

  • Wikipedia Commons, NOAA, Thumbwind