Water Quality Myths

There is a lot of misinformation available about water quality.  If taken as true in the wrong situation they could be very costly, they might even cost you your life.

The first myth I want to mention is the belief that ground water is pure. See my article on why I dislike the term “purify” when it concerns water.  I have heard this over and over again, “if we were all drinking ground water we wouldn’t need all these chemicals and we would all be healthier”.  This simply isn’t true.  Ground water does contain bacteria, it is usually free from pathogenic organisms, but that is not guaranteed, and if your system isn’t used to the specific bacteria in the ground water they may still make you a little sick.

The second myth I want to squash is the idea that sunlight, specifically the ultraviolet radiation will kill bacteria.  Let’s think about this for a second.  Using a lack of common sense, sunlight disinfection appears to be true.  UV kills bacteria and the sun emits UV radiation sounds like a win-win scenario.  However with a lot more common sense and some education behind it, it becomes apparent that all the lakes and rivers on the surface of the earth are exposed to sunlight.  If UV from the sun disinfected water, there would be no microscopic life in our water and because this is the bottom of the ecosystem, there would be no ecosystem at all.  In order for life on Earth to evolve and survive it has to adapt to sunlight, I am going to go out on a limb and say this happened millions of years ago.  Just to hammer in the final nail in the coffin on this one, sunlight will warm up the water which will encourage bacterial growth, and sunlight also encouraged the growth of algae, some of which produce toxins.  So please don’t use sunlight as a disinfection method.

The third myth I will cover is the idea that natural sources of water are better than human created ones.  This stems from the misguided conception that the natural water systems and the human water systems are separate.  If you remember from school when you learned about the water cycle, singular, ONE water cycle.  All the water in the human systems is from the natural one and when we are done, the water returns to the natural system.  There is always someone upstream, and your drinking water receives their wastewater.  The one advantage of human water systems is that they are monitored frequently and work is constantly being done to keep these systems safe.

Finally the idea that there is one magic measurement to gauge water quality or that there is one magic treatment.  Water chemistry  and therefor water treatment is as complicated at chemistry and biology combined.  Water has many different things in it.  Some of which is good and some of which needs to be removed.  Below are tables of the parameter that are legislated to be monitored for water quality standards.  I include them here to demonstrate how long the list is and to point out that this is not a total list of every health related parameter.  There are contaminants that are dangerous at too low concentrations to measure. There are contaminants that are too expensive to test for and finally there are too many potential contaminants to test for them all on a regular basis.  What should be taken from this is that there is no magic parameter that determines water quality.  Stemming from this idea, the treatment needs to be diverse as well.  Many people think boiling water will make the water pure.  This will kill any microbiological contaminants, and any volatile elements it will leave behind heavy elements and PCCs.  Many of the contaminants listed below can be treated the same way, others need a very specific chemical reaction to neutralize or remove it from the water.  This specific chemical reaction may include chemicals that are contaminants themselves, and for many of these contaminants listed below removing and replacing the water is the only course of action possible.

Conclusion after the jump.

Parameter followed by the maximum allowable level

Microbiological Parameters

1. Escherichia coli (E. coli): Not detectable

2. Total coliforms : Not detectable

Chemical Parameters

1. Alachlor: 0.005 mg/l

2. Aldicarb: 0.009 mg/l

3. Aldrin + Dieldrin: 0.0007 mg/l

4. Antimony: 0.006 mg/l

5. Arsenic: 0.025 mg/l

6. Atrazine + N-dealkylated metabolites: 0.005 mg/l

7. Azinphos-methyl: 0.02 mg/l

8. Barium: 1.0  mg/l

9. Bendiocarb: 0.04 mg/l

10. Benzene: 0.005 mg/l

11. Benzo(a)pyrene: 0.00001 mg/l

12. Boron: 5.0 mg/l

13. Bromate: 0.01 mg/l

14. Bromoxynil:  0.005 mg/l

15. Cadmium: 0.005 mg/l

16. Carbaryl: 0.09 mg/l

17. Carbofuran: 0.09 mg/l

18. Carbon Tetrachloride:  0.005 mg/l

19. Chloramines: 3.0 mg/l

20. Chlordane (Total): 0.007 mg/l

21. Chlorpyrifos: 0.09 mg/l

22. Chromium: 0.05 mg/l

23. Cyanazine: 0.01 mg/l

24. Cyanide: 0.2 mg/l

25. Diazinon: 0.02 mg/l

26. Dicamba: 0.12 mg/l

27. 1,2-Dichlorobenzene: 0.2 mg/l

28. 1,4-Dichlorobenzene: 0.005 mg/l

29. Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) + metabolites: 0.03 mg/l

30. 1,2-dichloroethane: 0.005 mg/l

31. 1,1-Dichloroethylene (vinylidene chloride): 0.014 mg/l

32. Dichloromethane: 0.05 mg/l

33. 2,4-Dichlorophenol: 0.9 mg/l

34. 2,4-Dichlorophenoxy acetic acid (2,4-D): 0.1 mg/l

35. Diclofop-methyl: 0.009 mg/l

36. Dimethoate: 0.02 mg/l

37. Dinoseb: 0.01 mg/l

38. Dioxin and Furan: 0.000000015  mg/l

39. Diquat: 0.07 mg/l

40. Diuron: 0.15 mg/l

41. Fluoride:  1.5 mg/l

42. Glyphosate:  0.28 mg/l

43. Heptachlor + Heptachlor Epoxide: 0.003 mg/l

44. Lead:  0.010 mg/l

45. Lindane (Total): 0.004 mg/l

46. Malathion: 0.19 mg/l

47. Mercury: 0.001 mg/l

48. Methoxychlor: 0.9 mg/l

49. Metolachlor: 0.05 mg/l

50. Metribuzin: 0.08 mg/l

51. Microcystin LR: 0.0015 mg/l

52. Monochlorobenzene: 0.08 mg/l

53. Nitrate (as nitrogen): 10.0 mg/l

54. Nitrite (as nitrogen): 1.0 mg/l

55. Nitrate + Nitrite (as nitrogen): 10.0 mg/l

56. Nitrilotriacetic Acid (NTA): 0.4 mg/l

57. N-Nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA):  0.000009 mg/l

58. Paraquat: 0.01 mg/l

59. Parathion: 0.05 mg/l

60. Pentachlorophenol: 0.06 mg/l

61. Phorate: 0.002 mg/l

62. Picloram: 0.19 mg/l

63. Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCB):  0.003 mg/l

64. Prometryne:  0.001 mg/l

65. Selenium:  0.01 mg/l

66. Simazine: 0.01 mg/l

67. Temephos: 0.28 mg/l

68. Terbufos:  0.001 mg/l

69. Tetrachloroethylene (perchloroethylene):  0.03 mg/l

70. 2,3,4,6-Tetrachlorophenol: 0.1 mg/l

71. Triallate: 0.23 mg/l

72. Trichloroethylene: 0.005 mg/l

73. 2,4,6-Trichlorophenol: 0.005 mg/l

74. 2,4,5-Trichlorophenoxy acetic acid (2,4,5-T): 0.28 mg/l

75. Trifluralin: 0.045 mg/l

76. Trihalomethanes:  0.100 mg/l

77. Uranium: 0.02 mg/l

78. Vinyl Chloride:  0.002 mg/l

Radiological Parameters maximum allowable limit expressed as becquerels per liter

1. Beryllium-7    4000.0

2. Bismuth -210   70.0

3. Lead-210   0.1

4. Polonium-210  0.2

5. Radium-224   2.0

6. Radium-226   0.6

7. Radium-228   0.5

8. Thorium-228   2.0

9. Thorium-230   0.4

10. Thorium-232   0.1

11. Thorium-234   20.0

12. Uranium-234   4.0

13. Uranium-235   4.0

14. Uranium-238   4.0

15. Americium-241   0.2

16. Antimony-122   50.0

17. Antimony-124   40.0

18. Antimony-125   100.0

19. Barium-140   40.0

20. Bromine-82   300.0

21. Calcium-45   200.0

22. Calcium-47   60.0

23. Carbon-14   200.0

24. Cerium-141   100.0

25. Cerium-144   20.0

26. Cesium-131   2000.0

27. Cesium-134   7.0

28.  Cesium-136   50.0

29. Cesium-137   10.0

30. Chromium-51   3000.0

31. Cobalt-57   40.0

32. Cobalt-58   20.0

33. Cobalt-60   2.0

34. Gallium-67   500.0

35. Gold-198   90.0

36. Indium-111   400.0

37. Iodine-125   10.0

38. Iodine-129   1.0

39. Iodine-131   6.0

40. Iron-55   300.0

41. Iron-59   40.0

42. Manganese-54   200.0

43. Mercury-197   400.0

44. Mercury-203   80.0

45. Molybdenum-99   70.0

46. Neptunium-239   100.0

47. Niobium-95   200.0

48. Phosphorus-32   50.0

49. Plutonium-238   0.3

50. Plutonium-239   0.2

51. Plutonium-240   0.2

52. Plutonium-241   10.0

53. Rhodium-105   300.0

54. Rubidium-81   3000.0

55. Rubidium-86   50.0

56. Ruthenium-103   100.0

57. Ruthenium-106   10.0

58. Selenium-75   70.0

59. Silver-108m   70.0

60. Silver-110m   50.0

61. Silver-111   70.0

62. Sodium-22   50.0

63. Strontium-85   300.0

64. Strontium-89   40.0

65. Strontium-90   5.0

66. Sulphur-35   500.0

67. Technetium-99   200.0

68. Technetium-99m   7000.0

69. Tellurium-129m   40.0

70. Tellurium-131m   40.0

71. Tellurium-132   40.0

72. Thallium-201   2000.0

73. Tritium   7000.0

74. Ytterbium-169   100.0

75. Yttrium-90   30.0

76. Yttrium-91   30.0

77. Zinc-65   40.0

78. Zirconium-95   100.0

I hope this journal entry sheds some light on the misinformation about water quality.  Next time you hear someone tell you these things remember that they just aren’t  true.  A lot of the misinformation stems from the complexity involved in water treatment.  It can be learned by anyone willing to try, but that takes effort, effort not many people want to put in.  If you read this far you probably aren’t one of the people not willing to put the effort in.  (Those lists above are pretty long eh?).  So keep up the learning, and I will keep trying to dispel the misinformation and spread accurate information in its place.

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2 thoughts on “Water Quality Myths

  1. Pingback: Water Quality Myths | Preparedness Blogs

  2. This is really great info. I looove your site, really really glad I stumbled on it. Thank you very much sir for taking your time to break down these things.

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