Columbia, Maryland Water Quality Report
Sources Of Drinking Water in Columbia, Maryland
Where does Columbia's water come from? If you live in the North Laurel area, east of Interstate 95 and south of Patuxent Range Road, your water comes from the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission ( WSSC ) in Laurel. If you live anywhere else in Howard County and are connected to public water, your water comes from Baltimore City. Baltimore uses surface water from rainfall and snowmelt as the source of its water. The City of Baltimore water supply system consists of three major sources: the Gunpowder Falls, North Branch Patapsco River and the Susquehanna River. Three reservoirs outside the city limits collect and store water. Liberty Reservoir is located on the North Branch of the Patapsco River on the boundary between Baltimore and Carroll Counties. It collects water from a 163.4 square mile drainage area that includes eastern Carroll County and southwestern Baltimore County.
Is Columbia's water safe to drink? Does Columbia put fluoride in the water?
Source: City of Columbia, MD
Contaminants Found in Columbia's Water Supply
(Detected above health guidelines)
3rd party independent testing found that this water utility exceeds health guidelines for this drinking water contaminant. The movie Erin Brockovich alerted the public to the great suffering the little town of Hinkley, California experienced due to hexavalent chromium in their drinking water. Today, Hinkley is little more than a ghost town thanks to continued water contamination, health concerns, and plummeting property values. Chromium (hexavalent) is a carcinogen that commonly contaminates American drinking water. Chromium (hexavalent) in drinking water may be due to industrial pollution or natural occurrences in mineral deposits and groundwater. What are the risks of drinking tap water with Chromium (hexavalent)? Cancer. A 2008 study by the National Toxicology Program, part of the National Institutes of Health, found that chromium-6 in drinking water caused cancer in laboratory rats and mice. That study and other research led scientists at the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment to conclude that chromium-6 can cause cancer in people. Find out more about this contaminant and how to remove it here.
What are the best types of filters to remove these contaminants?
Unfortunately, our tap water can contain tiny microscopic particles that impact your long term health, the taste & smell of the water and microbiological organisms that can actually make people sick shortly after drinking. Fortunately, there are water filtration products that remove many of the impurities from water. These filters often use activated carbon. Activated carbon is a form of carbon processed to have small, low-volume pores that increase the surface area available for adsorption of contaminants or chemical reactions with the contaminants causing them to adhere to the carbon. Two dominant carbon filter choices are solid activated carbon blocks and granular activated carbon filters (GAC).
Granular activated carbon filters (GAC) have loose granules of carbon that look like black grains of sand. These black grains of carbon, are dumped into a container and the water is forced to travel through the container to reach the other side, passing by all of the grains of carbon. Solid block carbon filters, on the other hand, are blocks of compressed activated carbon that are formed with the combination of heat and pressure. These filters force the water to try to find a way through the solid wall and thousands of layers of carbon until the reach a channel which leads the water out of the filter. Both filters are made from carbon that’s ground into small particulate sizes. Solid carbon blocks are ground even further into a fine mesh 7 to 19 times smaller than the granular activated carbon filters.
Flow Channels & Contact Time
As water continually passes through Granular Activated Carbon filters, flow channels begin to develop that allow the water to flow around the carbon. Flow channels also develop between the granules of carbon themselves, leading to less effective filtration as there is less and less contact time between the water and the carbon. Solid carbon blocks, on the other hand, are much tighter and won’t even let microbial cysts like giardia and cryptosporidium (7 to 10 Microns in size) pass through the filter without getting caught in the millions of layers of carbon. Because solid carbon block filters are compressed under pressure, they have millions and millions of different sized pores that cause the water to take a long slow path to get through the filter, increasing the contact time that the contaminated water has with the carbon looking for a way through.
During this contact time is when contaminants like lead, adhere to the carbon and are removed from water. This happens during a process called adsorption, the other filtration method that solid carbon blocks use is called depth filtration. This is where the thickness of the carbon block filter comes into play to help remove contaminants as they have to pass through these thick carbon walls. The downside of solid carbon block filters, is that they are often so tight that they can often get plugged up with organic & non-organic matter, forcing owners to replace them on a more regular basis. This is why when you are using a Brita water pitcher filter (granular activated carbon), the filter will keep going and going long after it has stopped removing any water contaminants. A good 5 micron sediment filter in front of your carbon block filter is a good way to extend the life of the carbon block and make it more efficient.
Carbon Block vs Granulated Activated Carbon
The granular activated carbon filters are cheap and simple to manufacture, which is why most water filtration companies choose this method for manufacturing. Solid Carbon Block Filters on the other hand take longer to manufacture and are more expensive to make but with this expense, you will get superior contaminant removal because the water must take a tortured path through millions of layers of compressed carbon before it reaches your drinking glass.
The solid carbon block filters, like the one used in the Epic Smart Shield & Epic Water Filter pitchers, remove more contaminants than the granular activated carbon filters due to the larger surface area and the thickness of the carbon walls, this is why Epic Water Filters has standardized on the solid carbon block design for our water pitchers and our under the sink water filter. Unfortunately, granular activated carbon filters do not do enough to reduce contaminants, this is why they are not used when there is a chance of bacteria or cysts in the water. They are truly not "Epic" so that is why we have passed on the GAC filter design and let our competitors like Woder, Brita, Pur, and Invigorated Water use these loose packed carbon filters for sub-par contaminant removal.
With solid carbon block filters the contaminants are in contact with more carbon for a longer period and therefore have more time to remove stubborn contaminants like lead (Epic Pure Pitcher 99.9% removal), fluoride (Epic Pure Pitcher 97.8% removal), and PFCs (Epic Pure Pitcher 99.8% removal). Carbon blocks can remove chlorine more effectively, eliminate undesirable odors, and removal of endocrine disruptors like volatile organic compounds. Granular activated carbon filters, on the other hand, have small particles that move around under the pressure of water so they do not have as much uniformity throughout and therefore less contact time with the water and less contaminant removal.
What about Reverse Osmosis?
RO filter systems do remove a lot of contaminants. The downside of RO is that it is expensive and wastes a lot of water. Each RO system wastes an average of 5 to 6 gallons for every gallon it produces of drinking water. Also RO systems remove trace minerals and other beneficial substances found in water that your body needs (calcium, manganese, iron and other important nutrients). This is why RO water is considered by many in the natural health world to be dead water and it is said that demineralized water is detrimental to general health due to vitamin and mineral depletion. The other main downside of RO systems is that after your water passes through the filter process, it sits inside of steel drum that is lined with a butyl rubber bladder which is made from polyisobutylene. The filtered water sits in this butyl rubber bladder until it is used. All rubber and plastic containers leach into water at some level. Carbon block filters do not have these issues.
A Colorado based hiker, blogger, and water quality expert...
- April Jones