Thursday, April 30, 2020

Supreme Court Allows but Limits Clean Water Act's Oversight of Groundwater Discharge

Under the Clean Water Act “point sources” of pollution, those being discharged from a pipe, are required to obtain permits for “any addition of any pollutant to navigable waters.” The County of Maui’s wastewater reclamation facility collects sewage from the surrounding area, only partially treats it, and each day pumps around 4 million gallons of treated water into the ground through four wells. This effluent then travels about a half mile, through groundwater, to the Pacific Ocean.

Several environmental groups brought a citizens’ Clean Water Act suit, against Maui alleging that Maui was “discharging” a “pollutant” to “navigable waters” without the required permit. The District Court found that the discharge from Maui’s wells into the nearby groundwater was “functionally one into navigable water,” 24 F. Supp. 3d 980, 998, and granted summary judgment to the environmental groups. Maui appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court which affirmed the lower court’s decision, stating that a permit is required when “pollutants are fairly traceable from the point source to a navigable water.” 886 F. 3d 737, 749. Maui then appealed to the Supreme Court.

Justice Stephen G. Breyer, delivered the opinion of the Supreme Court. Writing for the majority, Justice Breyer rejected both sides’ positions in the case as too extreme. The Maui and the Solicitor General had argued that discharges into groundwater were never covered under the Clean Water Act, while environmental groups suing the county said the law applied to discharges that “actually and foreseeably reach navigable surface waters.”

The standard from the Ninth Circuit Court was too broad, Justice Breyer wrote. “Virtually all water, polluted or not, eventually makes its way to navigable water,” he wrote. The question courts should ask, he wrote, was whether “the addition of the pollutants through groundwater is the functional equivalent of a direct discharge from the point source into navigable waters.”

The Ninth Circuit’s “fairly traceable” standard could allow EPA to assert permitting authority over the release of pollutants that reach navigable waters many years after their release and would include all septic systems and other non-point discharges. But Congress did not intend to provide EPA with such broad authority.

On the other hand, Maui argues that the meaning of “from any point source” is not about where the pollution originated, but about how it got there. Thus, Maui claims, a permit is required only if a point source ultimately delivers the pollutant to navigable waters. The Supreme Court found that Maui’s reading would create a serious loophole in the permitting regime also indicates that it is unreasonable. That argument would allow any discharger to bypass the permitting process by utilizing groundwater as a conveyance. 

In the opinion of the majority Justice Breyer wrote;” The reading of the statute that best captures Congress’ meaning, reflected in the statute’s words, structure, and purposes, is that a permit is required when there is a discharge from a point source directly into navigable waters or when there is the functional equivalent of a direct discharge... Many factors may be relevant to determining whether a particular discharge is the functional equivalent of one directly into navigable waters. Time and distance will be the most important factors in most cases, but other relevant factors may include, e.g., the nature of the material through which the pollutant travels and the extent to which the pollutant is diluted or chemically changed as it travels. Courts will provide additional guidance through decisions in individual cases... Although this interpretation does not present as clear a line as the other interpretations proffered, the EPA has applied the permitting provision to some discharges through groundwater for over 30 years, with no evidence of inadministrability or an unmanageable expansion in the statute’s scope. Pp. 15–18.”

The case was remanded back to the lower court.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Measuring Community Spread of Covid-19

The disease we all call Covid-19 is caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). There have been reports of finding the virus, SARS CoV-2 , in faeces . On Jan. 11, Chinese authorities shared the genetic sequence of the virus, and scientists realized that that human wastewater might contain the novel coronavirus.

In a letter published in Lancet on April 1, 2020 Willemijn Lodder and Ama Maria de Roda Husman two scientists from the Centre for Infectious Disease Control, National Institute for Public Health and the Environment detailed their recent work to measure the spread of Covid-19 in communities.

Beginning on Feb 17, 2020, the scientists took samples once a week from human wastewater collected at Amsterdam Airport and reported on April 1, 2020 in Lancet that. “Samples tested positive for the virus RNA 4 days after the first cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) were identified in the Netherlands on Feb 27, 2020 (unpublished data).

“Furthermore, human wastewater sampled near the first Dutch cases in Tilburg, Netherlands, also tested positive for the presence of viral RNA within a week of the first day of disease onset (unpublished data). These findings indicate that wastewater could be a sensitive surveillance system and early warning tool, as was previously shown for poliovirus.”

"It is not known if SARS-CoV-2 is viable under environmental conditions that could facilitate faecal–oral transmission. However, evidence exists of potential community spread, with the virus spreading easily and sustainably in the community in some affected geographic areas”

Now more than a dozen research groups worldwide are analyzing wastewater inflows for the SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing Covid-19 as a way to estimate the total number of infections in a community. The method could also be used to detect a new surge of the coronavirus if it returns to communities when restrictions are lifted and determine the community spread of the coronavirus since most individuals will never be tested. Without a vaccine, no effective treatments and with a world population without herd immunity, we need to track this virus.

Biobot Analytics, a startup in the Boston area that analyzes wastewater to gain insights into public health, has begun requesting sewage samples from wastewater treatment facilities across the U.S. to test for SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing Covid-19.

The company’s technology, developed by CEO Mariana Matus who received her PhD from MIT in 2018 was originally geared toward using sewage to estimate drug consumption in communities. Biobot developed a device to gather representative samples of sewage. Wastewater sampling can be used to track opioid use, nutrition, environmental contaminants, antibiotic resistance, and the spread of infectious diseases. The resulting insights can be used to understand the health and well-being of small communities or large cities.

The U.S. CDC says: “The virus that causes COVID-19 has been found in the feces of some patients diagnosed with COVID-19. Scientists also do not know how much risk there is that the virus could be spread from the feces of an infected person to another person. However, they think this risk is low based on data from previous outbreaks of diseases caused by related coronaviruses, such as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).”

Biobot Analtiics' SARS-CoV-2/ Covid-19 testing program, is a pro bono collaboration with researchers at MIT, Harvard, and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. The teams will process sewage samples from treatment facilities across the U.S., then use a laboratory technique known as a reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction to determine the presence of SARS-CoV-2.

The collaborators believe the program could complement existing testing methods in addition to helping guide community responses, measure the effectiveness of interventions, and provide an early warning for the re-emergence of the outbreak when the restrictions are lifted. Communities should start sampling immediately.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

The Changing Sources of Electricity in the U.S.

In 2019, about 4,118 million megawatt (MW) of electricity were generated at electric utility facilities in the United States. About 63% of this electricity generation was from fossil fuels—coal, natural gas, petroleum, and other gases. About 20% was from nuclear energy, and about 18% was from renewable energy sources.

Although total electricity generation across the United States has remained relatively flat since the mid-2000s, power plant installations have continued to increase in the past decade, partly to replace retiring coal-fired plants with lower carbon options and partially to rebalance and update the electric grid.. Nearly 14,000 MW of coal-fired capacity was retired in 2019—the third-most annual coal retirements in EIA’s power plant inventory. 

According to Manussawee Sukunta an economist at the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) the electric power sector installed nearly 23,000 megawatts (MW) of new generating capacity in 2019. This new capacity was primarily in onshore wind (9,100 MW), natural gas-fired (8,300 MW), and solar photovoltaic (PV) (5,300 MW) technologies. The Southern region of the country accounted for nearly half of the total capacity additions in the United States last year.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Earth Day 2020

Wednesday, April 22, 2020 is Earth Day, the 50th Earth Day. The first U.S. celebration of Earth Day was held on April 22, 1970. This year’s theme is is climate action. From to the website: “Climate change represents the biggest challenge to the future of humanity and the life-support systems that make our world habitable.”

On April 11th Governor Ralph Northam signed HB 714 “Virginia Energy Plan; climate change pressing challenge” bill making it law in Virginia effective July 1, 2020.
The Law states that it will:
  • Fully decarbonize the electric power supply of the Commonwealth and reach 30% of electric power from renewables by 2030 and 100% carbon-free electric power by 2040;
  • requiring that pathways to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions be determined;
  • establishing greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals across Virginia's economy that reach net-zero emissions by 2045;
  • maximizing energy efficiency programs in order to produce electricity cost
  • establishing sufficient supply and delivery infrastructure to enable widespread deployment of distributed energy resources into the grid;
  • mitigating the negative impacts of climate change and the energy transition on disadvantaged communities
Virginia now joins California, New Mexico, Maine, New York, Hawaii, and Washington State in having 100% clean energy goals. This means that all the state’s coal fired power plants will have to be shut down in the next few years. In 2018, natural gas fueled 53% of Virginia's electricity net generation, nuclear power provided almost 31%, coal fueled about 10% and renewable resources, primarily biomass, supplied nearly 7%.according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

As Virginia works towards a economy that is net zero carbon emissions by 2045 you will need to help. Not only do you need to reduce your use of energy and consumption of goods you need to help capture carbon in the atmosphere.  Negative emissions are an essential element of reaching net zero emission. For all the talk of carbon capture the only proven technology is the one from nature-trees. So, we can all begin by planting trees here is Prince William County to fight climate change.
In the Chesapeake Bay Watershed (which we are part of) 55% of the land area is Forest Covered, but that is changing. According to Julie Mawhorter at the U.S. Forest Service the Chesapeake Bay Watershed is losing 100 acres/day of Forest to development. That has to stop. We need to restore and expand the Riparian Forest Buffers in the county, and conserving what forested area are left. In Prince William County we need to look at expanding the forested areas while there are some rural lands still available to reforest and preserve.

If Prince William County purchased the development rights of lots larger than 20 acres in the Rural Crescent and placed an easement for forest on the land we could increase the carbon capture in the county. In the current crisis this is a tough sell, but it would be a onetime expenditure to purchase land. It would not increase the number of houses, students in our schools or the number of transportation daily trips in the coming years. There would be no additional need for County services, schools or police and fire or infrastructure like roads, waste water treatment plants, sewer pipes, water infrastructure. No additional need for teachers and schools and the capital and carrying costs associated with increased population. There would be no impact on sustainability and availability of groundwater and our surface water resources, but it would serve to capture carbon dioxide and move the county towards our net zero carbon future.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Scientists Don't Know Best Way to Disinfect a Well

A couple of weeks ago I replaced my well pump, the wiring and some fittings. After opening a well or doing any work it is recommended that the well be disinfected by shock chlorination. Shock chlorination is also recommended when a well is flooded or tests positive for bacteria.  The problem is there is no standard rigorously tested method of disinfection though there are many ways that well water can become contaminated with bacteria. For example, improper construction or completion of the well. The well might not have a sanitary well cap, the well might not be grouted. The well might have become damaged over time, for example the well casing may develop holes from rust or cracks or the grouting might be damaged by time or accident. These deficiencies can provide direct pathways for surface water to infiltrate the well and increase the likelihood of microbial contamination. Another way a well can become contaminated is if the groundwater itself is contaminated by a nearby failed septic system or in aquifer in Karst terrain that is under influence of surface water.

During well disinfection, free chlorine is introduced into the well water; however, there is no one standard for how to accomplish this disinfection. Based on a survey of emergency disinfection protocols performed by Dr. Kelsey J. Pieper et. al and published earlier this year “Improving state-level emergency well disinfection strategies in the United States”, there is no single method.

The researchers searched for Emergency well disinfection protocols to be used in the case of flooding. They found well disinfection protocols for 43 of the 50 states. For the seven states without an emergency protocol, five of the states had routine disinfection protocols and two states had disinfection protocols in their well construction regulations. Emergency well disinfection protocols from 34 states were reviewed based on instructions for creating chlorine solutions; circulating chlorine solutions throughout the distribution system; maintaining adequate contact time and post-disinfection guidance.

The scientists found that many protocols were missing key information about fundamentals of disinfection. Only two protocols instructed well users to verify chlorine residuals and three protocols instructed users to measure water pH. Most protocols recommended that high chlorine doses be introduced into the well, circulated throughout the system, and stagnated for several hours. It is important that residual chlorine be measured because if too much of the chlorine solution reacts with iron or organic substances the effectiveness for disinfection is reduced. Likewise if the pH of the well water falls outside of the ideal range of 6.5-7 the formation of HOCl will be impaired and the disinfection will be less effective.

Although there is widespread use and data on the efficacy of chlorine-based disinfectants, little research has been done to evaluate the efficacy of well disinfection strategies. Of the 8 steps identified by the scientists, the reviewed protocols contained between 2 and 7 steps, and no protocol included all 8 steps.
  1. Determine  chlorine volume based on well characteristics to add to the well
  2. Measuring water pH before adding chlorine solution and after
  3. Pump contaminated water out of the system
  4. Circulate the chlorine solution through both the well and home plumbing systems and
  5. Measure the chlorine residual to ensure there is adequate chlorine to disinfect the well
  6. Have adequate contact time to disinfect the well and that inactivates Cryptosporidium (for flooding)
  7. Chlorine solution should be removed from the well and home plumbing
  8. Water should be tested for confirmation of microbial reduction

As the scientists point out “ several studies have highlighted that emergency and routine chlorination methods do not always reduce total coliform and E. coli bacteria in well systems (Branz et al., 2017; Cavallaro et al., 2011; Garandeau et al., 2006; Luby et al., 2006; Rowe et al., 1998; Swistock and Sharpe, 2005). Since the concentration of chlorine assumed to be that of the added disinfection solution, any disappearance of chlorine from the water via chemical reactions would cause disinfection efficacy to be overestimated. For example, reactions with high levels of organic matter, ferrous iron, and manganese in water can cause chlorine to disappear quickly (Cavallaro et al., 2011; Garandeau et al., 2006; Luby et al., 2006; Oliphant et al., 2002). Moreover, there are concerns about well users performing disinfection steps correctly (Eykelbosh, 2013). Lastly, researchers have highlighted the high variability and uncertainty associated with drinking water grab samples. For instance, microbial detection rates are higher when wells are sampled more frequently (Atherholt et al., 2015). Despite these challenges, officials continue to promote well disinfection protocols during both routine and emergency conditions because there are no other practical alternatives.”

The bottom line is that the protocols for well disinfection needs to be studied and improved. Most of the protocols recommended some version of high chlorine concentrations should be introduced into the well, circulated throughout the system, and stagnated for several hours. The optimal conditions were not identified. Dr. Pieper et. al. identified two research gaps; determining whether chlorine doses should differ based on well water chemistries and evaluating the appropriate chlorine dose that should be recommended for inactivating pathogens.
Read the full article:

Pieper, Kelsey & Rhoads, William & Saucier, Leslie & Katner, Adrienne & Barrett, Jason & Edwards, Marc. (2020). Improving state-level emergency well disinfection strategies in the United States. Science of The Total Environment. 720. 137451. 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.137451.

Monday, April 13, 2020

A falling Static Water Level in Prince William

Recently, when I replaced my pump, I took the opportunity to have my static water level measured. Monticello Pump Service used a sonic water level meter to measure the water level. Sonic meters are often accurate to within 1/10of a foot, but that was good enough for my purposes. The measured level was 43 feet below grade. Sixteen years ago when the well was installed the static water level was 30 feet below grade. The recharge for the well at completion was 60 gallons per minute and is still quite powerful as demonstrated by my running the hoses to clear the chlorine from the system for 16 hours without a problem. What the falling water level appears to be indicating is that the groundwater table is falling.

The water level in a groundwater well usually fluctuates naturally during the year. Groundwater levels tend to be highest in the early spring in response to winter snow melt and spring rainfall when the groundwater is recharged. Groundwater levels begin to fall in May and typically continue to decline during summer as plants and trees use the available shallow groundwater to grow and streamflow draws water. Natural groundwater levels usually reach their lowest point in late September or October when fall rains begin to recharge the groundwater again.

However, groundwater levels can be affected by how many other wells draw from the aquifer, how much groundwater is being used in the surrounding area for agricultural, industrial or commercial use, or how much groundwater is being recharged. Development of an area can impact groundwater recharge. Land use changes that increases impervious cover from roads, pavement and buildings does two things. It reduces the open area for rain and snow to seep into the ground and percolate into the groundwater and the impervious surfaces cause stormwater velocity to increase preventing water from having enough time to percolate into the earth, increasing storm flooding and preventing recharge of groundwater from occurring. Slowly, over time, this can reduce groundwater supply and the water table falls.

Increasing population density as we have been doing here in the Rural Crescent of Prince William County increases water use. Significant increases in groundwater use and reduction in aquifer recharge can result in the slowly falling water levels that indicate that the water is being used up. Unless there is an earthquake or other geological event groundwater changes are not abrupt and problems with water supply tend to happen very slowly as demand increases with construction and recharge is impacted by adding paved roads, driveways, houses and other impervious surfaces. That appears to be what is happening in this area of Prince William County.

The U.S. Geological Survey, USGS, maintains a group of groundwater monitoring wells in Virginia that measure groundwater conditions daily and can be viewed online. Only one of the Virginia wells is within the Rural Crescent. That well is in the northwest portion of the Rural Area just west or Route 15 in the Culpeper groundwater basin not too far from my home. Daily monitoring data available from that well go back to 2004 (other records exist covering 39 years 1975-2014, but are no longer available on line). What can be seen in the graph below is the slow decline in the water level despite not experiencing any significant droughts since 2008 and having the wettest year on record in 2018. The decline is modest over this period, but will continue and get worse over time especially if demand for groundwater is increased and impervious surfaces continue to grow, reducing recharge.
In the monitoring well the fall lows have been getting lower and the recharge even in 2018, the wettest year on record, did not reach the level of recharge during a drought in 2007-8. We appear to have a problem in this area. There is no information available in any other area of the Rural Crescent. Prince William County needs to engage the USGS and DEQ to study the groundwater in Prince William County expanding on the study they are performing for Fauquier County.

Little is known about the sustainability of our groundwater basins, but potential problems are still at a manageable stage. Groundwater models and data from more monitoring wells can help develop a picture of the volume of the water within the groundwater basin and at what rate it is being used and at what rate it is being recharged. We need to know if the current and planned use of our groundwater is sustainable even in drought years. We need to understand how ground cover by roads, parking lots and buildings will impact groundwater recharge and what level of groundwater withdrawals are sustainable on site to determine if a proposed change in land use or additional use of groundwater is sustainable before it is granted. Without coordinated and proactive management, the aquifers supplying our region will be depleted.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

How to Lookup if Chickens allowed at Your House in Prince William County

Back in 2011 the Board of Supervisors changed the zoning to allow backyard chickens in some parts of Prince William County. The Supervisors voted to create a Domestic Fowl Overlay District in the county where residents can keep a limited number of chickens and other domestic fowl. To know if your house is within the “Domestic Fowl Overlay District” you start by going to the  Prince William County RealEstate Assessment site at this link.

Next you enter the number and name of the street without street direction (N, S, E, W) or suffix (St, Dr., Ave, Ct etc.) and hit search. 

This takes you to the property information page. You notice I am using as an example Reagan Middle School in Haymarket.  I did this because the information page has lots of information about the property: Who owns it, the purchase price, taxes, size additions etc.

If you look at the top of the page, along the first row are three tabs; General information, notes and map. Click on map. This takes you to the GIS mapping for the property that looks something like this.

In the upper left corner of the map site is a drop down menu that says layers. Click on “Land Development” in the left hand column and check the box forth from the bottom of the list on the right for Domestic Fowl Overlay District. If you property turns coral it is in the overlay district.

Next click the box for zoning. If your property is in the Domestic Fowl Overlay District you need to know the zoning to know your next steps. Reagan Middle School is zoned A-1. Note that when you check the zoning box the coral color disappears.

In areas of the overlay district (coral areas) that are zoned A-1 and consisting of more than one acre, chickens and domestic fowl are permitted “by right” subject only to any restrictions that may exist in the HOA Covenants and Restrictions. In areas of the Domestic Fowl Overlay District that are zoned SR-1, SR-3 or SR-5  that have more than one acre and not further restricted by HOA Covenants and Restrictions, chickens and domestic fowl are permitted after a Special Use Permit is obtained from the County.

To obtain the Special Use Permit for those in areas zoned SR-1, SR-3, SR-5 within the Domestic Fowl Overlay District, you first fill out an application. Then the Special Use Permit applications are submitted to the Planning Office for staff review. The planning staff will then prepare an analysis and recommendation for consideration by the Planning Commission at a public hearing. The Planning Commission will then submit its recommendation to the Board of County Supervisors, and at a subsequent public hearing the Board will consider the case and the Planning Commission recommendation and either approve or deny the application. The Board action is final.

There are additional rules for the keeping domestic fowl in the county. The domestic fowl regulations require coops or cages and runs on any lot with less than five acres and specifies construction standards and humane areas for each bird, distance from Resource Protected Areas (RPA) under the Chesapeake Bay Act, distance from well heads. The required coops, cages or runs must be enclosed with a minimum four feet high chicken wire fence and must be kept clean and free from excess feed, excrement, and such substances that may attract rodents or other predators. In addition, runs and cages for chickens must have a maximum density of four square feet per bird. For larger fowl, such as geese or turkey, the maximum run or cage density per bird is 15 square feet. For emus, ostriches and similar large birds, the maximum run or cage density is 100 square feet per bird.

Coops and runs must be located only in the rear or side yard and be at least five feet from the principal dwelling on the property and at least 100 feet from an RPA stream (Resource Protected Area under the Chesapeake Bay Act) and 50 feet from all other streams. A zoning permit must be obtained for these structures even in A-1 zoned properties. Waste management guidelines for surface and groundwater protection were established using Prince William Soil and Water Conservation district guidance. You can get the specifics from the District.

Prince William also regulates how the chicken and domestic fowl can be used. Fowl raised on properties less than five acres in size may only be used for producing eggs. No "dispatch" of fowl may take place on the premises. Chickens and domestic fowl raised on properties five acres or larger but less than ten acres may be dispatched for domestic use only- so you can’t sell them. Fowl raised on parcels of ten acres or larger can be sold if the property is not further restricted by HOA Covenants, many rural neighborhoods restrict the number of animals that can be maintained on site and the type of activities that can take place within the neighborhood. These restrictions take precedence.  

Monday, April 6, 2020

Spring Flushing of the Water Mains

As part of the annual maintenance program on March 23th, 2020 Fairfax Water and the Washington Aqueduct, Loudoun Water and the City of Manassas switched from chloramine to chlorine to disinfect their water. During this time, Arlington Department of Environmental Services, DC Water, the Prince William Service Authority, Loudoun Water and Fairfax Water began flushing their water distribution systems. Each spring these water distribution companies flush their water mains by opening fire hydrants and allowing them to flow freely for a short period of time.

Fairfax Water will disinfect with chlorine from March 23th to June 17th and the water systems the flushing of the water mains in Fairfax and Prince William will occur during that time. Crews from the Service Authority and Fairfax Water will open hydrants throughout their service area in brief intervals in order to draw water more forcefully through the distribution system. This helps to dislodge sediment that may have collected in water mains over the past year. In DC, the flushing will occur from March 23 through May 4, 2019. DC Water purchases treated drinking water from the Washington Aqueduct. Loudoun Water announced they were starting their program on March 17th .During the temporary switch to chlorine, the Washington Aqueduct will continue to add a corrosion control inhibitor during this temporary switch to prevent lead release into the water system.

For most of the year, chloramines, also known as combined chlorine, is added to the water as the primary disinfectant. During the spring the water treatment plants for Fairfax Water, and the Washington Aqueduct switch back to chlorine in an uncombined state, commonly referred to as free chlorine. This free chlorine reacts with sediments suspended during flushing and kills bacteria that may be in the bio-film that forms on the pipe walls. Many water chemistry experts believe this short exposure to a different type of disinfectant maintains a low microbial growth in the bio-film and improves the quality and safety of the water.

This change in disinfection is an annual program to clean the water distribution pipes and maintain high water quality throughout the year. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Washington Aqueduct provides water to the District of Columbia, Arlington County, and other areas in Virginia. Fairfax Water provides water to Fairfax County and parts of both Loudoun and Prince William County. WSSC does not switch their disinfectant.

You may notice a slight chlorine taste and smell in your drinking water during this time, this is not harmful and the water remains safe to drink. Also this disinfection is unrelated to the coronavirus pandemic. You may want to use filtered water to drink or leave an open container of water in the refrigerator for a couple of hours to allow the smell to dissipate. Refrigerator filters remove chlorine so you do not have to worry about ice. Water customers who normally take special precautions to remove chloramine from tap water, such as dialysis centers, medical facilities and aquarium owners, should continue to take the same precautions during the temporary switch to chlorine. Most methods for removing chloramine from tap water are effective in removing chlorine. The annual chlorination is important step to remove residue from the water distribution system.

Flushing the water system entails sending a rapid flow of chlorinated water through the water mains. As part of the flushing program, fire hydrants are checked and operated in a coordinated pattern to help ensure their operation and adequate flushing of the system. The flushing removes sediments made up of minerals which have accumulated over time in the pipes as well as bacteria on the bio-film. An annual flushing program helps to keep fresh and clear water throughout the distribution system. Removing the residue ensures that when the water arrives in your home, it is the same high quality as when it left the water treatment plant.

The final steps in the water treatment process is the second disinfection. For most of the year Fairfax Water and the Washington Aqueduct use chloramine as the final disinfection step in water treatment. However, during the spring of every year they use chlorine to disinfect and flush the delivery network. Free chlorine is better suited to remove residue that may have collected in the pipes and a coordinated opening of fire hydrants serves to flush the system.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Only Flush Toilet Paper

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has sent out a press release to remind us to only flush toilet paper, not disinfecting wipes or other non-flushable items that some have resorted to in the absence of toilet paper (that includes facial tissue) that should be disposed of in the trash. Toilet paper is designed to break down easily. Flushing only toilet paper helps ensure that the toilets, plumbing, sewer systems and septic systems will continue working properly to safely manage our nation’s wastewater.

Toilet and sewer backups can pose a threat to human health and present an extra challenge to our water utilities and their workforce. Flushing anything other than toilet paper, including disinfecting wipes, can damage internal plumbing, local sewer systems and septic systems. Fixing these backups is costly and takes time and resources away from ensuring that wastewater management systems are otherwise working properly.

Only toilet paper and human waste should go down the toilet. Do not flush wipes, facial tissues, paper towels, floss, cotton swabs or other items such as coffee grinds, kitty litter. The wastewater treatment systems are not designed to do any more than screen out trash, skim off scum and grease and use bacterial action to digest toilet paper and bio-solids. Pharmaceuticals, pesticides, hydrocarbons and anything else you or your children can think to pour down the drain will either clog the system or be released into our waterways or the Bay. Also, a reminder; cooking grease hardens when it cools in the sewer pipes. This can constrict the sewer pipes or form blockages that increasing pressure and often causing sewer pipe failure. Do not pour grease down the drain.

For septic systems owners you need to limit what goes down the drain to prevent bacterial die-off in the tank so that it will continue to function as designed. Die-off of the bacteria necessary for a septic system to perform properly has been seen in experiments where excessive amount of harsh household chemicals were added to the septic tank. As little as of 1.85 gallons of liquid bleach, 5.0 gallons of liquid Lysol cleaner, or 11.3 grams of Drano drain cleaner added to a 1,000-gallon septic tank have caused die-off of the bacteria in experiments. Other factors that can cause die-off include the excessive use of anti-bacterial agents, and, in certain cases, antibiotic medications taken by members of a household.

Having fully operational wastewater services is critical to containing COVID-19 and protecting Americans from other public health risks. Our nation’s wastewater employees are everyday heroes who are on the frontline of protecting human health and the environment every single day.

Further Restrictions In Virginia

On Monday March 30th Governor Ralph Northam expanded the restriction in Virginia and declared a stay at home order in response to COVID-19 and the increasing number of cases in Virginia. Effective 11:59 p.m., Monday March 30th , 2020 until 11:59 p.m., Wednesday, June 10th, 2020, All individuals in Virginia shall remain at their place of residence, except as provided below by this Order and Executive Order 53.

When using shared or outdoor spaces, you must maintain social distancing of at least six feet except from family or household members or caretakers. You can only leave their residences for the purpose of:
  • Obtaining food, beverages, goods, or services as permitted in Executive Order 53;
  • Seeking medical attention, essential social services, governmental services, assistance from law enforcement, or emergency services;
  • Taking care of other individuals, animals, or visiting the home of a family member;
  • Traveling required by court order or to facilitate child custody, visitation, or child care;
  • Engaging in outdoor activity, including exercise, provided individuals comply with social distancing requirements;
  • Traveling to and from one’s residence, place of worship, or work;
  • Traveling to and from an educational institution;
  • Volunteering with organizations that provide charitable or social services.

This order also closed all campgrounds to reservations of less than 14 days. Allowing those living at the campgrounds to remain. You can read both the full order here.

The hope is to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus so that the medical facilities will not be overwhelmed. Life and the service economy are coming to a screeching halt. I am worried how hotel workers, retail clerks, waiters, cooks, hairdressers, nail technicians, house cleaners, people employed by non-government employers will fair over the next 10 weeks. There are a significant number of people who may not have money for food, rent, loan payments?