Oakland, California Water Quality Report
Sources of Oakland, California Drinking Water
Where does Oakland get its water from? The water that the East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) provides to people in Alameda and Contra Costa County comes from the watershed of the Mokelumne River in the Sierra Foothills. EBMUD secured water rights to the river in the early 1920s and built Pardee Dam across a valley, creating Pardee Reservoir. The reservoir supplies water to more than 1.2 million people in 22 East Bay cities from San Lorenzo to Crockett, including Oakland and Berkeley. Three 6-foot-wide steel aqueducts carry the water across the Central Valley to Walnut Creek, more than 80 miles away. Gravity alone will move up to 202 million gallons a day. With all three aqueducts open and the station’s pumping plants running, EBMUD can move 325 million gallons. The energy required for all water treatment and pumping, including over the East Bay hills, is the equivalent of the energy required to power about 95 million homes. From Walnut Creek, the water goes either to a treatment plant in Orinda or to three East Bay reservoirs, where it takes on local runoff before reaching two treatment plants. Together, the reservoirs can hold enough water to supply locals for four to six months. From the treatment plants, which add chloramine and fluoride, the water flows through more than 3,944 miles of distribution pipes and 164 neighborhood reservoirs — and on to businesses and households.
Lead and Copper — Although water coming from the EBMUD water main is relatively free of these heavy metals, they can enter the water supply from pipes that connect the water main to the home, and from plumbing and faucets inside the home. Hot water systems in particular can contain elevated levels of lead and copper, and drinking water from hot water taps is inadvisable. The best way to know how much lead is in your water is to have it tested. If the lead level is more than fifteen parts per billion, it is best to filter your water. Note that lead in East Bay tap water is not common. Is Oakland's water safe to drink? Does Oakland put fluoride in the water?
Source: City of Oakland
A list of contaminants in Oakland, California Water Supply
(Detected above health guidelines)
3rd party independent testing found that this 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.
Total Trihalomethanes (TTHMs)
3rd party independent testing found that this utility exceeds health guidelines for this drinking water contaminant. Total Trihalomethanes (TTHMs) are the result of a reaction between the chlorine used for disinfecting tap water and natural organic matter in the water. At elevated levels, TTHMs have been associated with negative health effects such as cancer and adverse reproductive outcomes. Now a study by government and academic researchers adds to previous evidence that dermal absorption and inhalation of TTHMs associated with everyday tap water use can result in significantly higher blood TTHM concentrations than simply drinking the water does. What are the risks of drinking tap water with Total Trihalomethanes (TTHMs)? Cancer. Studies from around the world including the United States & Europe have found that drinking tap water that carries Total Trihalomethanes increases the risk of developing cancer. In animal studies, all trihalomethanes cause liver, kidney and intestinal tumors. Find out more about this contaminant and how to remove it here.
There is a drinking water standard of 4 ppm for fluoride but there is no health guideline for this contaminant and much is not known about the effects of fluoride long term on the human body. This water utility did not exceed the drinking water standard for fluoride but fluoride was found in their water. Fluoride occurs naturally in surface and groundwater and is also added to drinking water by many water systems. The fluoride that is added to water is not the naturally occurring kind, the main chemicals used to fluoridate drinking water are known as “silicofluorides” (i.e., hydrofluorosilicic acid and sodium fluorosilicate). Silicofluorides are not pharmaceutical-grade fluoride products; they are unprocessed industrial by-products of the phosphate fertilizer industry (Gross!). Since these silicofluorides undergo no purification procedures, they can contain elevated levels of arsenic — more so than any other water treatment chemical. In addition, recent research suggests that the addition of silicofluorides to water is a risk factor for elevated lead exposure, particularly among residents who live in homes with old pipes. What are the risks of drinking tap water with Fluoride? Unknown. A growing body of evidence reasonably indicates that fluoridated water, in addition to other sources of daily fluoride exposure, can cause or contribute to a range of serious effects, including neurological issues, arthritis, damage to the developing brain, reduced thyroid function, and possibly osteosarcoma (bone cancer) in adolescent males. Animal studies indicate a moderate level of evidence that support adverse effects on learning and memory in animals exposed to fluoride in the diet or drinking water. Find out more about this contaminant and how to remove it here.
What are the best types of filters to remove these contaminants?
Water sources can contain contaminants that impact your long term health, the taste & smell of the water and other microbiological contaminants 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. Two dominant carbon filter choices are solid activated carbon blocks and granular activated carbon filters.
Granular activated carbon filters 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 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 & Less Contact Time
As water continually pass through Granular Activated Carbon filters, flow channels begin to develop that allows the water to flow around the carbon. Flow channels also develop between the granules, leading to less effective filtration as there’s less contact between the water and carbon. Solid carbon blocks are much tighter and won’t even let through microbial cysts like giardia and cryptosporidium (7 to 10 Microns in size). However, solid carbon block filters are 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.
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 (ex: Brita, Woder). Solid Carbon Block Filters on the other hand take longer to manufacture and are more expensive but with this expense, you get superior contaminant removal because the water must take a tortured path through thousands 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 tighter filters, 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 this design and let our competitors like Woder, Brita, Pur, and Invigorated Water use these loose packed carbon filters for sub-par contaminant removal.
Solid carbon block filters, on the other hand, 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. During this contact time is when contaminants adhere to the carbon and are removed from water. This happens during a process called adsorption, the other filtration method that carbon blocks use is called depth filtration where the thickness of the filter comes into play to help remove contaminants as they have to pass through this carbon walls.
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 filters are good at contaminant removal. The downside of RO is that it 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 last 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.
Hiker, blogger, clean living enthusiast, water quality expert
- April Jones