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Product Review 4: Drinking Water & Water Purification Equipment

DRINKING WATER SYSTEMS, or HOW TO AVOID DRINKING DOWN TADPOLES FROM THE KITCHEN FAUCET – Oct. 2001

WESTFIELD, NJ: “First,” says Keith Petersen of The Eardly T. Petersen Company in Westfield, “it should be noted that the chances of you drinking a tadpole from your kitchen faucet is very slim. This is largely due to the fact that tadpoles don’t like a lot of chlorine in their water!” (Grin).

“Actually,” continued Mr. Petersen, “the quality of tap water in many areas of the country leaves an awful lot to be desired. The water provider is not necessarily to be faulted in this. For example, in the Westfield area, the tap water is provided by The Elizabethtown Water Company. At the treatment plant, the water is filtered and then treated – usually with chlorine -sometimes with ozone – to purify it and make it potable. However, there is an aging infrastructure that then delivers the water to the house and a variety of things can and do happen on the way to your kitchen sink faucet. It should also be noted that there are a considerable variety of potentially harmful substances that are allowed by the government to be in the tap water. The level of these substances is monitored; however, the presence of these substances is legally allowed. It’s a bit of a trade-off – we need the water and it is difficult at the treatment facility to entirely eliminate many of these foreign substances (MTBE, for example).”

When the water leaves the treatment facility it has been given a “blast” of chlorine to inhibit microbiological activity. This works pretty well; but, the chlorine itself is a suspected carcinogen. As well, the chlorine in the water reacts with certain organic compounds and produces a toxic gas called a Trihalomethane (THM) – this gas is likely to be present in the water you use from the tap for your family’s drinking and cooking needs. And, of course, the presence of chlorine leaves an unacceptable chlorine odor and taste in the water. The water company says that you can fill your glass, etc. and then let it stand for several minutes before drinking it to reduce or eliminate the THMs; however, that is at best an annoyance and at worst a real pain.

There are other things, as well. The infrastructure (all the water pipes underneath the ground and in your house) is most likely contributing particles of asbestos, rust, and, perhaps, lead into your drinking water supply. There is always the possibility that the water may become contaminated with cryptosporidium or giardia cysts. These are pretty nasty little organisms that, essentially, sneer at the presence of chlorine. Several years ago, 400,000 residents of Milwaukee became sickened and over 100 died from a crypto contamination in the public drinking water supply. That’s a lot of sick people! A few years ago the entire population of Sydney, Australia found themselves boiling their drinking water for weeks because of cryptosporidium.

As a result of the above concerns – as well as conditions of poor taste, turbidity and, in some locales, musty and algae-type smells – many people have turned to using bottled water. The bottled water industry in the United States has grown to become a huge, multi-billion dollar industry. However, the quality of bottled water can be a significant concern, as well.

Part of the reason for this is that the bottled water industry is self- regulating. There are no government agencies peering over the shoulders of bottled water purveyors. Partially as a result of this, tests in recent years have shown that, in certain instances, foreign substances in bottled water have exceeded the safe levels that have been established by the government. In many instances, bottled water is obtained from the same type of source that the municipal water company uses to obtain their water – i.e., rivers, streams, etc. – and the water is merely “polished” to make it more palatable.

There is another consideration. Bottled water can average about $1.00 per gallon. You are paying the water company to deliver water to your tap, and then are spending additional money to purchase water to drink. As well, you are likely to have either a cooler in the corner of the kitchen (you can practice wrist control as you upend a five-gallon jug of bottled water into position on the top of the cooler) or have to lug home gallons of water every week from the supermarket. Either way, it is – long term – a bit of an expensive proposition.

What are the alternatives? Many people are deciding to both improve the quality of their drinking water and to greatly diminish the costs and hassles associated with bottled water. This is accomplished by installing a good-quality, Point-of-Use (POU) Drinking Water System (DWS) or, even, in extreme instances where the water quality is too poor to even do laundry, etc., a Whole-House System. A good POU DWS offers a variety of advantages. Good does not mean a counter- top Brita, etc. (such a DWS filters to about 60 microns – a good DWS filters to about 1 micron – in the world of DWS this is a huge difference – analogously, the same type of difference as is found between a skiff and an aircraft carrier). Sorry, Brita.

First, you are purifying water for which you have already paid – you are not double paying for your drinking and cooking water. Second, the water is instantly available whenever you want it – no empty/full cooler jugs, no running to the store, etc. Third, the per-gallon cost of your drinking water goes down to anywhere from about 12 cents per gallon to 20 cents per gallon. It’s a lot, lot cheaper. Next, you’re going to use this water for everything that goes into your body – soups, ice cubes, coffee and tea (do you like a great cup of coffee or tea? Try a cup made with first-class water filtered with the same filter in your house that Starbuck’s uses in their store and then decide!), cooking pasta, vegetables (do you really want to simmer your veggies in chlorine water?). Last, this water is not only healthy, it is extremely delightful to drink! There are no objectionable tastes, no chlorine, no crypto, no turbity, no particles (of rust, asbestos or anything else), no VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds), no THMs, no MTBE. It just tastes great! (oh, I already said that).

So, how much does it cost and how do you select a good one? A good DWS costs from a bit under $400 up to a bit over $500. Ouch! (You can actually spend more if you use a designer faucet for your DWS). Listen up – drink bottled water at the rate (average family) of 1,000 gallons a year and that’s $1,000. Your DWS will pay for itself in 6 months! You’re a smaller family? So, cut it in half – you drink/use 500 gallons a year (you’ll use 1,000 gallons – you’ll be surprised at how much you use). Do the math – you’ll pay for your system in the first year. Because you will have to periodically replace filter(s) your annualized costs, thereafter, for your sparkling, clean and healthy water will be 12 cents to 20 cents per gallon. Good deal, right?

How do you select a good one? First, if it does not have substantiation from NSF (an independent rating company for the DWS industry), you probably shouldn’t consider it. Then, look for the types of things it removes (the contaminants mentioned earlier provide a basic laundry list) and the levels to which they are removed. Basically, you want 99% or greater efficiency. A first-quality DWS is usually removing in excess of 99.9% of impurities. That means no crypto, no lead, no asbestos, no chlorine, no MTBE, no THMs, no VOCs, etc.

Normally, a DWS – even a good one – is not removing or killing bacteria. Most bacteria is beneficial (or, at the least, no directly harmful to humans); however, some pathogens can be deadly (witness the current anthrax scare, etc.) – even the garden variety E-coli can be fatal. Some systems seek to control bacteria, and some systems historically utilize UV light to destroy such pathogens. Today, an environmental company in Tennessee even makes a unique, industry- leading DWS (the same technologies are used in their Whole-House System) that uses a combination of ozone and UV light to create a totally lethal environment inside their DWS to kill bacteria including the dreaded anthrax. Now, that’s peace of mind! And, their system carries a warranty that states there will never be any issues with tadpoles in the water (just kidding!).

For questions on DWS or Whole-House Systems, please contact The Eardly T. Petersen Company in Westfield at 908-232-5723; or e-mail them at: sales@etpetersen.com Closed Wednesdays and Sundays.