You are currently browsing the monthly archive for September 2008.

In my business as a utility director, chlorine has been getting a bad rap. Regulators, and some legislators are putting the pressure on utilities to get rid of chlorine–especially chlorine gas, used to disinfect drinking water and treated wastewater.

They’re concerned about its safety. Terrorists in Iraq used the cylinders in “dirty bombs.” And it can mix with other constituents in water to form harmful byproducts.

Well, the month of September marks 100 years of water chlorination, with the first full-scale chlorine disinfection system in Jersey City, NJ. Within 10 years, the number of cities using chlorine for disinfection reached 1,000. In 1941, 85% of cities in the U.S. were using it to treat drinking water.

Chlorine has been responsible for virtually eliminating many infectious diseases and revolutionizing our country’s health. This chemical has saved millions of lives by killing bacteria, parasites and viruses in the water, and I think it deserves some appreciation. Before the use of chlorine, thousands of people died each year from waterborne diseases like cholera and typhoid fever, with over 27,000 deaths from typhoid alone during the Civil War.

In 1989 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency began requiring a residual chlorine level in drinking water distribution systems, and that requirement remains today. Chlorine is the most effective, least costly, and reliable ways to keep us healthy.

Check out the American Chemistry Council’s website, 100 Years of Safer Lives for more information about chlorine and how it benefits us every day.

And raise your glass (of water) to wish a Happy 100th Birthday to this remarkable chemical.

In one of my previous posts I discussed emerging drinking water contaminants that were causing environmental groups and legislators to raise their eyebrows. Trace amounts of pharmaceuticals were found in some drinking water supplies and even in the treated water in certain areas.

Now, with pressure from legislators and environmental groups, there is a push to regulate these substances.

But what are the actual health effects of these micro-constituents–if any? Will we be happier if anti-depressants are in our drinking water–or are men going to develop feminine traits from drinking water with estrogen compounds?

The American Water Works Association conducted a four-year study and found that the highest concentration of any drug detected in a drinking water system was 5,000,000 times lower than the therapeutic dose. Even people most susceptible to harm could safely drink 50,000 glasses of water per day with no health effects.

Part of the problem is our ability to measure ever-smaller amounts of contaminants in the water. When I started working in the water business in the 1970’s, most contaminants were measured in parts per thousand and parts per million. Now we’re able to measure substances in parts per trillion and in some cases at even lower values.

Logical ecology dictates that just because a substance is present in incredibly small concentrations, does not mean it is a risk to our health. Certainly we should continue to do research, but there are many more important problems that need our immediate attention and funding.

I would put replacing our aging infrastructure at the top of the list.

A copy of Dr. Shane Snyder’s Statement before the Senate Subcommittee on Transportation Safety, Infrastructure Security and Water Quality provides an excellent discussion of this topic.

EPA's Energy Star at Work Launchpad

EPA

I have to admit, I may be the Logical Ecologist but I do get tired of hearing about everything “green” multiple times a day, every day.

I shouldn’t complain, though. It’s really a good thing that people are more concerned about all aspects of our environment. And now the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a new online tool to help us green-up the workplace.

Our commercial and industrial workplaces account for almost half the energy use nationwide–and nearly half the greenhouse gas emissions. EPA’s Energy Star at Work tool takes you on an interactive tour of a typical office, with small steps employees can take to make a big difference in the overall energy use at work–everything from using a power strip to turn off all your equipment at the end of the day to creating a Green Team with coworkers.

You can also sign up for the Energy Star Challenge, a national call-to-action to reduce workplace energy consumption by 10% or more.

Energy Star is a joint EPA and U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) program to help the environment through energy efficiency. In 2007, Americans prevented 40 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions by using Energy Star practices and products.

And the other big benefit of going green at work?  We all save money.

Top Clicks

  • None

Flickr Photos

Blog Stats

  • 11,927 hits