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Tuscaloosa, Alabama Water Quality Report

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Sources Of Drinking Water in Tuscaloosa, Alabama

Where does Tuscaloosa get its water from? Lake Tuscaloosa is our primary source for drinking water. It is a 5,885-acre impoundment of North River and several other creeks and holds over 40 billion gallons of excellent quality water. Lake Nicol and Harris Lake are our alternate sources of water. Currently, Harris Lake is used for industrial water. The water quality of Lake Tuscaloosa is generally within drinking water limits and acceptable for most uses. The maximum and median concentrations of sulfate increased every year at the dam from 1979 to 1985 (7.2 to 18 mg/L and 6.2 to 14 mg/L, respectively). The dissolved solids concentrations for water at the dam have varied from 27 to 43 mg/L; the sulfate, 5.2 to 18 mg/L; and the dissolved iron, 10 to 250 micrograms/L--all within the recommended drinking water limits. However, concentrations of dissolved manganese and total recoverable iron and manganese at the dam commonly exceeded the recommended drinking water limits. 

Two water filtration facilities supply water to nearly 200,000 customers in the metropolitan Tuscaloosa area 24-hours a day, 365 days a year: The Ed Love Water Filtration Plant and the Jerry  Plott Water Filtration Plant. The Ed Love facility uses conventional technology to treat water. The process begins with raw water receiving a dose of chlorine dioxide and then entering a flash mixer where the addition of aluminum sulfate and lime rapidly begins coagulation. On rare occasions, sodium permanganate is added to aid in the removal 

of iron and manganese, and control taste and odor. The water then travels through four flocculators and four settling basins. The water moves through filters layered with anthracite coal and  “torpedo” sand, which is special for filtration because of its uniformity. Lime addition balances the pH and aids with corrosion control, and sodium hypochlorite disinfects the filtered water. 

Zinc polyphosphate dosing controls corrosion. The Ed Love facility also adds fluoride to aid in the prevention of tooth decay. After this process is completed, the finished water is pumped into  the water distribution system. While the same basic treatment is used at the Jerry Plott facility, the chemicals and technique vary. Coagulation starts in a flash mixer with poly aluminum chloride. As the water passes through  one of two flocculators, it enters one of two settling basins. Settling is accelerated with a series of settling plates. The settled water is then pumped to seven membrane filter racks. 

Using pressure, the water is squeezed through the pores of the membranes while impurities are left behind. Sodium hydroxide is added for pH control, as well as sodium hypochlorite, fluoride,  and zinc phosphate. The finished water then goes to the water distribution system. These steps ensure that water produced at both plants is similar.  Is Tuscaloosa's water safe to drink? Does Tuscaloosa put fluoride in the water?

Source: City of Tuscaloosa, AL

Contaminants Found in Tuscaloosa, AL Water Supply

(Detected above health guidelines)

Bromodichloromethane

3rd party independent testing found that this utility exceeds health guidelines for this drinking water contaminant. Bromodichloromethane is one of the total trihalomethanes (TTHMs) that formed when disinfectants, such as chlorine, are used to treat tap water. What are the risks of drinking tap water with Bromodichloromethane? Cancer, Kidney & Liver Damage. Bromodichloromethane and other disinfection byproducts increase the risk of cancer and may cause problems during pregnancy.  In recent animal studies, the main effect of eating or drinking large amounts of Bromodichloromethane is injury to the liver and kidneys. Find out more about this contaminant and how to remove it here.

Chlorate

3rd party independent testing found that this utility exceeds health guidelines for this drinking water contaminant. Chlorate is a disinfection by-product resulting from the use of chlorine dioxide as a disinfectant and for odor & taste control in water. The term “chlorate” most commonly refers only to chlorine in the +5 oxidation state. Chlorate ion is a known byproduct of the drinking water disinfection process, forming when sodium hypochlorite or chlorine dioxide are used in the disinfection process. What is the risk of drinking tap water with chlorate? Impaired thyroid function. Exposure to chlorine dioxide and chlorite in excess of EPA-regulated maximum levels can have effects on the nervous system in infants, small children, and unborn fetuses. Chlorite and chlorate have been shown to affect red blood cells in animal studies, but similar results did not appear in the highest doses tested on humans (36 micrograms per kilogram of body weight). According to the EPA, long term exposure to large amounts may lead to anemia. There is currently no evidence of human carcinogenicity. Find out more about this contaminant and how to remove it here.

Chlorite

3rd party independent testing found that this utility exceeds health guidelines for this drinking water contaminant. Chlorite is a disinfectant byproduct of the water treatment process. Chlorite occurs when chlorine dioxide breaks down. Chlorine dioxide is added to drinking water to protect people from harmful bacteria and other microorganisms. Most people will be exposed to chlorine dioxide and its disinfection by-product, chlorite ions, when they drink water that has been treated with chlorine dioxide. What are the risks of drinking tap water with chlorite? Thyroid, Child Development, & Hormone Disruption. Animal studies have shown effects of chlorine dioxide and chlorite that are similar to those seen in people exposed to very high amounts of these chemicals. In addition, exposure to high levels of chlorine dioxide and chlorite in animals both before birth and during early development after birth may cause delays in brain development. Find out more about this contaminant and how to remove it here.

Chloroform

3rd party independent testing found that this utility exceeds health guidelines for this drinking water contaminant. Chloroform, is a total trihalomethanes (TTHMs) which is formed when disinfectants are used to treat tap water. Most of the chloroform found in the environment comes from industry. Chloroform enters the environment from chemical companies and paper mills, It is also found in waste water from sewage treatment plants and drinking water to which chlorine has been added. Chlorine is added to most drinking water and many waste waters to destroy bacteria. Small amounts of chloroform are formed as an unwanted product during the process of adding chlorine to water. What are the risks of drinking tap water with chloroform? Cancer, central nervous system (brain), liver, and kidneys. Cancer of the liver and kidneys developed in rats and mice that ate food or drank water that had large amounts of chloroform in it for a long time. We do not know whether liver and kidney cancer would develop in people after long-term exposure to chloroform in drinking water. Based on animal studies, the Department of Health and Human Services has determined that chloroform may reasonably be anticipated to be a carcinogen (a substance that causes cancer). Find out more about this contaminant and how to remove it here.

Dibromochloromethane

3rd party independent testing found that this utility exceeds health guidelines for this drinking water contaminant. Dibromochloromethane, one of the total trihalomethanes (TTHMs), was used in the past to make other chemicals such as fire extinguisher fluids, spray can propellants, refrigerator fluid, and pesticides. It is now only used on a small scale in laboratories. In the environment, dibromochloromethane is not found as a pure liquid, but instead, it is found either dissolved in water or evaporated into the air as a gas. What are the risks of drinking tap water with Dibromochloromethane? Liver & Kidney Damage. Animal studies indicate that long-term intake of dibromochloromethane can cause liver and kidney cancer. Find out more about this contaminant and how to remove it here.

Radiological Contaminants

3rd party independent testing found that this water utility exceeds health guidelines for this drinking water contaminant. Radiological contamination of water is due to the presence of radionuclides, which are defined as atoms with unstable nuclei. In an effort to become more stable, a radionuclide emits energy in the form of rays or high-speed particles. This is called ionizing radiation because it displaces electrons, which creates ions. The three major types of ionizing radiation are alpha particles, beta particles and gamma rays. Radiological contaminants leach into water from certain minerals and from mining. What are the risks of drinking tap water with Radiological contaminants? Cancer. Over and over again, regardless of the source, long-term exposure or brief exposure in high doses, leads to cancer. Cancers of the bone, liver, stomach, lungs, skin, kidneys, thyroid gland, and most other tissues are common, and medical science is still discovering other maladies that may be cancer-related. 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.

Fluoride

There is a drinking water standard of 4 ppm for fluoride but there is no health guideline for this contaminant and much is unknown 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.

Filter Design

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.

Better Filtration

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. Another major downside of RO systems that is often overlooked, 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 this issue. 

Epic Pure Pitcher

April Jones

A Colorado based hiker, blogger, and water quality expert.

Impacted Zip Codes: 35401 35404 35405 35406 35402 35403 35407 35486 35487

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