Demonstration of the Vortex Non-electric Water Distiller Kit on Lake Roosevelt

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We demonstrate how to avoid the problem of bucket water warming up too fast by cooling the Vortex coil directly in the river. Worked like a charm. For more information and to purchase the Vortex, please visit our website. View … Continue reading

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Memorable Savings this Memorial Day on Water Filters and Purifiers

We are celebrating Memorial Day with Big Savings this weekend.

Check out the low, low prices on Katadyn, Sawyer, PurestOne, Rainshow’r, New Wave Countertop filters, Vortex Water Distillers, Lifestraw and more.

Remember our fallen soldiers and loved ones.

Have a safe holiday!

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Fracking Chemicals Disclosed

To many of us, the idea of toxic chemicals released by fracking into our water supplies seems remote. We assume only folks living next door to hydraulic fracturing operations in Texas, Ohio or Pennsylvania could possibly be affected.

Hydraulic fracturing has now been applied more than a million times to onshore U.S. oil and gas wells. Worldwide, more than 2.5 million hydraulic fracturings have occurred, with more being planned every day.

Fracking chemicals

Fracking is the process of injecting water, chemicals and sand into shale rock to release natural gas. There are numerous negative consequences of fracking near communities, as the process produces a toxic wastewater that cannot be treated by standard water sanitation facilities. In fact, people who live in areas where fracking occurs may be consuming toxic water straight from their faucets, as many watchdog groups warn.

FracFocus.org has compiled an extensive list of chemicals used in fracking, along with maps and regulations for individual states. The chemical chart is sorted alphabetically by the Product Function to make it easier for readers to compare chemicals to fracturing records .

According to Food and Water Watch.org, more than 7,500 accidents, leaks and spills related to fracking occurred in 2013, negatively impacting water quality in rivers, streams and shallow aquifers. There have also been more than 1,000 documented cases of water contamination near fracking sites around the country, although the process is still used to extract natural gas in spite of claims made against its impact.

Water for fracking operations is mixed with sand and toxic chemicals, including over 100 suspected endocrine disruptors and carcinogens (including lead, mercury and uranium), Food and Water Watch states. Also, giant holding ponds or tanks are needed to store the chemically contaminated waste water that comes back up the hole after wells have been fractured.

Benzene

Besides the fracking chemicals, the fracturing process may release benzene into nearby water sources. Benzene is clear and has a sweet smell. It can be tasted once it reaches .5—4.5 parts per million. One ppm is equivalent to a single drop in 40 gallons of water.  However, Benzene is toxic in water at .005 ppm, which can’t be detected by taste or smell.

Because Benzene is found both naturally and as a result of industrial sources, people are exposed to small amounts of the chemical daily. However, when we are exposed to high quantities of Benzene, serious health problems can develop.  Drinking water contaminated by Benzene can cause stomach irritation, dizziness, sleepiness, convulsion, rapid heart rate, vomiting, or in extreme cases, coma or death.

Fracking technology has been in use for decades, but only recently has the industry developed the capacity to drill horizontally within the rock formations, which requires massive amounts of water and potentially toxic chemicals. But industry secrecy about the chemicals injected into the shale has made it difficult for scientists and government agencies to get the facts on health and environmental impacts of fracking.

Industry oversight

Individual states regulate fracturing that occurs within their borders, and they have different rules over the use of the process. The EPA says it is working with states and other key stakeholders to help ensure that natural gas extraction does not come at the expense of public health and the environment. According to the agency’s website:

“The Agency’s focus and obligations under the law are to provide oversight, guidance and, where appropriate, rulemaking that achieve the best possible protections for the air, water and land where Americans live, work and play. The Agency is investing in improving our scientific understanding of hydraulic fracturing, providing regulatory clarity with respect to existing laws, and using existing authorities where appropriate to enhance health and environmental safeguards.”

New York, Vermont have already banned fracking and now California is contemplating a ban, thanks in great part to forward-thinking environmental protestors and community action groups.

FracTracker.org, a non-profit that launched in 2010, provides oil and gas maps for over 30 U.S. states with drilling activity. Simply click on your state to learn about fracking operations. These maps may include drilled wells, violations, proximity to vulnerable populations, pipelines and proposals, waste disposal sites, sand mining operations, and more.

Hydraulic Fracturing 101

Activists such as these, who are rapidly becoming more organized, larger and stronger, are busy gathering data and proof that fracking is not good for the environment – despite industry claims to the contrary.  Consider this innocent-sounding summary of fracking by Halliburton, a leader in the hydraulic fracturing industry:

  • “So how does this process actually work? Well, it starts with a good bit of water and a lot of sand. Mix those two together, apply a couple thousand pounds of pressure, and introduce them to a reservoir several thousand feet below, often with the help of a small percentage of additives that aid in delivering that solution down the hatch.”

[Incidentally, the “good bit of water” Halliburton refers to is actually a lot of water.  In south Texas, home to the hydraulically fractured Eagle Ford Formation, for example, the portion of water use for oil and gas well drilling and completion was 6 percent as of January 2012, compared to 64% for irrigation, and 17% for municipal use, according to Wikipedia.]

  • “Then physics takes over. The force of the water creates a network of tiny fissures in the impermeable rock. The flow of water acts as a delivery mechanism for the sand, which finds its way into those newly created cracks and holds them open. This creates passageways through which the previously trapped natural gas can travel to get to the wellbore. The fracturing process is now finished; on average, it takes 3 to 10 days to complete.”
  • “Now it’s time for the operator to remove the water, clearing the way for the newly stimulated well to produce energy for the next 20, 30, 40, even 50 years. The trucks, the pumps, the equipment, and the traffic that were needed to do the job – they’re long gone. The operator typically leaves a production valve and collection equipment behind. The rest of the site is remediated, often within 120 days.”

Fracking discovered in 1866

Halliburton is not alone in its praise of this new technology credited with bringing wealth and vitality to communities. In “A Brief History of Fracking,” Brian Hicks, investment director for the income and dividend newsletter The Wealth Advisory, explains how the concept of fracking is not new. It was devised in 1866 by Civil War veteran Col. Edward Roberts who patented the “Exploding Torpedo.”

As the story goes, Roberts witnessed Confederate exploding artillery rounds plunging into the narrow millrace (canal) that obstructed a battlefield in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Roberts’ observation gave him an idea that would evolve into what he described as “superincumbent fluid tamping.”

“Nobody knew it at the time, but Roberts’ “Exploding Torpedo” was the birth of the modern-day shale fracturing industry…”

Skip ahead to 2015 and “the U.S. now has 200 years’ worth of natural gas… and is predicted to be the largest oil producer in the world by the end of the decade, thanks to fracking,” says Hicks.

“Oh, and by the way… because the United States is using more natural gas as a result of the fracking revolution, the country’s CO2 emissions are at a six-year low…”

Fracking is good for the environment, Hicks concludes.

U.S. touted as fracking leader

Fracking is not, of course, limited to the United States. Citing U.S. shale-extraction success and energy revitalization, Japan and Algeria are among the most recent countries to begin fracking operations – also with heavy public opposition.

Hacina Zegzeg, a coordinator for a protest movement who lives and works in In Salah, Algeria, said in a January 2015 online Observer article that her group organized protests in 2014, but the debate cooled a bit because the government agreed to hold off beginning the extraction of shale gas until 2022.

“However, at the end of December last year, the prime minister came to inaugurate the country’s first drilling site, located about 28 kilometers from In Salah… And we had not even been warned about his visit. All this reignited the movement.”

Zegzeg said a shale gas mining operation poses a serious threat to her town because the groundwater table is fossilized, meaning that the water doesn’t replenish itself.

“We are at risk of having polluted water and running out of water entirely,” Zegzeg said.

Being proactive

So long as humans rely on fossil fuels and can find a way to get to it, this debate will continue. Meanwhile, freshwater sources dwindle worldwide. If you live in an area where fracking is ongoing or being considered, learn all you can. Have your water tested.  Contact your legislators to hold energy companies accountable for any contamination caused by fracking and to disclose the chemicals they use.

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With Water, Err on the Side of Caution

When a commodity as vital to life as clean water is at stake, we would be wise to be overly cautious rather than rely on government agencies to protect us.

From Love Canal, N.Y., (the nation’s first Superfund site) to the U.S. Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, N.C., news stories abound of disastrous situations where authorities failed to warn residents of unsafe water in a timely manner, or even attempted to cover up or downplay the hazards. Meanwhile, unsuspecting residents became ill drinking and bathing in polluted water.

Yet, according to a recent Pew Research Center poll, 59 percent of survey respondents view the Environmental Protection Agency favorably. In other words, they believe the EPA informs and protects them. Pew conducted the survey Jan. 7-11 among 1,504 adults nationwide.

I suspect the 6,000 residents of Glendive, Mont., are less trusting of the EPA and their local government since a ruptured Bridger Pipeline Company pipeline poisoned their town’s drinking water supply in January with benzene, a human carcinogen found in oil and gas.

Benzene in nature

Often, industry professionals and government agencies point out that so-called hazards such as radiation, ozone, mercury, lead and benzene, to name a few, occur organically in the environment. A poster produced by Environmental Programs at Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center states that benzene is produced naturally by volcanoes and forest fires and does not build up in living organisms.

“It is also present in many plants and animals and in fossil fuels such as coal and oil. Benzene evaporates very quickly into the air. It can pass into the air from water and soil. It reacts with other chemicals in the air and usually breaks down within a few days.”

This makes benzene sound benign, doesn’t it? The information poster concludes by stating that benzene can cause cancer and disrupt the immune system in humans.

Yellowstone River and benzene

The Bridger pipeline split on Jan. 17, 2015, spilling approximately 30,000 gallons (some sources say 50,000 gallons) of crude oil into the Yellowstone River four miles upstream from Glendive. Glendive’s treatment plant officials did not issue an advisory against drinking the carcinogenic tap water until 48 hours after the catastrophe, according to news reports.

According to the EPA, the 12-inch diameter, ½-inch-thick pipeline broke between two block valves approximately 6,800 feet apart where the line crosses under the river.

“To date, response crews have collected 548 barrels of oil (about 23,000 gallons) out of more than 1,200 barrels that could have been released. Most of the oil recovery was from within the pipeline after it was shut down. Additional oil has been recovered from on-ice recovery efforts.”

The EPA says workers conducted water sampling at the Glendive Water Treatment Plant and environmental specialists took water samples along the river at the site of the release and at select points downstream. “Additional environmental sampling will also be conducted to determine the extent of the spill’s environmental impact and to guide future response and recovery plans once the ice breaks up.”

“Brief” water contamination

The EPA said Glendive’s public drinking water supply was “briefly contaminated soon after the spill when volatile organic compounds, specifically benzene, showed up in early sampling results.”  Solutions were put in place to mitigate these VOCs and the water treatment plant has since been decontaminated and the main distribution lines flushed through the city’s fire hydrants.

“Residents were instructed to flush the pipes in their homes and businesses and advised that they could continue using their water as normal. DEQ has confirmed that the municipal water delivery system now meets standards set out by the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.”

The EPA ordered additional monitoring equipment to install at the intake to detect VOCs and other oil constituents entering the system, sounding an alarm that will trigger a shutdown of the treatment plant if benzene levels reach 2 ppb (less than half of the benzene maximum contaminant level).

The EPA also sampled 10 shallow groundwater wells near the break. No VOCs were detected.

Ten days later, city water was again deemed safe.

Not safe for all creatures

A month later, however, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks advised fishermen to use caution when deciding whether to eat fish they caught in the area affected by the spill. In February, detectable levels of petroleum were found in tests of fish pulled from the Yellowstone River downstream from the broken pipeline.

Apparently, the fish didn’t read the EPA’s press release certifying the water as safe to use.

The state agency said sampling for contaminated fish – as well as cleanup of the spilled oil – has been difficult because ice covers most of the river downstream from the spill site.

FWP fisheries biologists were able to catch several species of fish at sites downstream from the break. The fish were sent to laboratories in Billings and Wisconsin, which tested the edible muscle tissue and internal organs for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons – or PAHs.

“Published research indicates that petroleum compounds can accumulate in fish for 40 or more days after a spill. FWP will resume catching fish after the ice leaves the river and test tissues for PAH accumulation.”

The agency said petroleum compounds can also be passed on to fish through the food chain when micro-organisms, insects, worms, crustaceans and other aquatic animals absorb petroleum compounds then eaten by fish.

The advisory was issued as a precaution, instructing anglers to tend toward conservative decisions and prudent practice when it comes to the health effects of the oil spill.

Prevention

Lois Gibbs, the Love Canal housewife who rallied neighbors in a 3-year fight to force legislators to listen and the EPA to evacuate 833 households from their highly toxic, dioxin-laden neighborhoods, said in 2008, “The federal government’s failure to prevent harm for American citizens is unacceptable: When will government learn to err on the side of caution instead of risk equations?”

Gibbs, the founder/executive director of the Center for Health, Environment and Justice, was speaking about the Food and Drug Administration’s decision that bisphenol-A (BPA), a common plasticizer used in a variety of consumer food and beverage containers, is safe for babies.

Seven years later, a newly published study reported an association between BPA with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in children. The study, by researchers at Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine (RowanSOM) and Rutgers New Jersey Medical School (NJMS), shows that BPA is not metabolized well in children with ASD.

Perhaps we cannot rely on government agencies to keep us safe from all hazards lurking in our environment. But, we can be proactive. First, have your water tested.

 

Home water filters are available today that can eliminate dangerous pollutants, whether they occur naturally or from horrific oil spills, leach from chemical dump sites or seep into the groundwater from landfills.

As Lois Gibbs says, wouldn’t we also be wise to err on the side of caution?

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Rivers of Manure Poison Drinking Water

Manure doesn’t immediately come to mind when envisioning deadly overflows. Two liquid manure mishaps, however, were among the top-10 manmade poisonous spills of all time, according to “Wave Goodbye: 10 of the World’s Worst Toxic Floods.” The rivers of cow pies and hog poo were as lethal as coal ash slurry and mining waste tainted with arsenic and cadmium.

Besides harmful chemicals, the Natural Resources Defense Council reports that animal waste contains disease-causing pathogens, such as Salmonella, E. coli, Cryptosporidium, and fecal coliform, which can be 10 to 100 times more concentrated than in human waste. More than 40 diseases can be transferred to humans through manure.

Perhaps we don’t think of animal manure that way because it was once a natural byproduct of raising livestock, back when most farms had no more than a couple dozen cows, sheep or hogs. I can still recall the sensation of cow patties squishing between my naked kid-sized toes as we herded the neighbor’s modest 35 or so Holsteins from the pasture in the 1960s.

I didn’t much like sliminess when tramping through a fresh patty, although it was natural, green and usually involved no more than one or two pies per episode. Incidentally, we also cupped drinking water with our bare hands from the creek in that pasture and weren’t later curled over with gastroenteritis.

That family farm, like thousands of others, no longer exists. A subdivision occupies the land, while industrial-sized factory farms produce milk elsewhere. Not only has farm size exploded in recent decades, with many recording animal populations in the tens of thousands, not mere hundreds. But, the number and amount of hazardous chemicals found in the manure produced there has also increased. Running barefoot through it is not advised.

Horse manure, for example, responsible for damaging crops and home gardens after normal application, has been found to contain herbicides that were traced back to the horses’ feed. Manure also contains high concentrations of phosphorous and nitrates. So, when a flood of the stuff accidentally runs across the landscape, plants and creatures above ground are not the only things harmed. Manure spills kill wildlife in natural waterways and contaminate drinking water supplies in wells, aquifers and reservoirs.

When thousands of gallons of manure flow from a lagoon into a nearby creek, the farmer is commonly blamed and fined. In many cases, however, the containment systems failed – a faulty or nonexistent check valve, broken pipes, cracked concrete walls, soil berms saturated by rain or lagoons overflowing by excessive rainfall. Government agencies established to protect the environment have also been accused of not doing enough to prevent catastrophes. In December 2014, for example, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources advised residents of a manure spill that could contaminate water wells, but did not mention the number of gallons or how the spill happened.

Some recent mishaps include 25 million gallons of hog waste spilling from a North Carolina farm in 1995, 3 million gallons of cow manure at a New York dairy farm, 640,000 gallons of manure spilled from a Wisconsin dairy in 2014, 300,000 gallons of manure at Arlington Agricultural Research Station in Wisconsin in 2013 and 200,000 gallons of hog manure spilled in Illinois in 2009 . These are but a few of the disasters filling the news and damaging ecosystems.

Meanwhile, whatever the cause, water everywhere becomes tainted. Sadly, we can’t wish ourselves back to a pristine world of unspoiled, crystal clear water and harmless cow patties. We can, however, protect ourselves with a simple household water filter system.

And be sure to wear your shoes in the barn.

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