5 Top Water Stories on World Water Day

As we celebrate World Water Day, we’re taking a look at the 5 top water stories that have broken in the past year. While World Water Day is meant to highlight the fact that many of the world’s people don’t have clean, fresh drinking water, these stories also remind us that we can’t take our water resources for granted.

Lead in the water
It’s hard to believe that in 2016, a major American city is dealing with lead, copper and iron contamination in the water supply, but that’s just what’s happening in Flint, MI. Flint failed to add anti-corrosion measures to its water when it switched water sources in 2013, and destroyed the city’s fresh water infrastructure in the process. Cities around the nation are watching Flint and Michigan to see how they’ll deal with the looming self-inflicted public health crisis.

While we remain relatively wet in the Northeast, much of the country is suffering from drought conditions. California is entering its second year of restricted water use as nearly 100% of the state copes with severe drought. Some experts predict that the drought pattern will last as many as 25 years, and Western states are scrambling to enact water conservation measures.

One of President Obama’s last acts of 2015 was to ban microbeads in consumer products. A microbead is any solid plastic particle that is less than 5 millimeters, and you can find them in cleansers, toothpaste, shampoos and soaps. They’re meant to scrub, clean and exfoliate, but they’re accumulating in alarming numbers in the nation’s lakes and rivers. They’re also accumulating in fish and other marine life. As it turns out, we’re not really sure what their cumulative effect is on the ecosystem. Companies have until July 1, 2017 to get the beads out of their products.

Water quality
Flint’s misfortune has caused cities around the country, including Boston, to redouble their efforts to test water quality in the homes still served by lead water lines and ultimately replace those pipes. The MWRA has established a $100M fund to help homeowners in their service area replace their lead water lines via zero-interest loans.

Algae blooms
In 2014, Toledo and surrounding communities famously dealt with a toxic algae bloom in Lake Erie that shut down the city’s municipal water supply for several days. Agricultural runoff was targeted as the cause of the algae bloom, but Toledo isn’t the only city doing battle with algae. The EPA has indicated that it will order communities along the Charles River to adopt sweeping changes designed to inhibit the toxic algae blooms that have affected the area annually for the past decade. The measures are expected to boost some local water bills by as much as $25 per month and require communities to treat more water to make sure enough is available to meet demand. The new regulations will require communities to remove at least 54% of all phosphorus that currently enters the Charles River. The major sources of phosphorus are agricultural and include animal waste and fertilizers. Auto exhaust is also a major contributor to phosphorus contamination.

At Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating, we strive to provide clean safe water to homes and businesses in the Boston area. While we don’t treat the water, we can make sure that your home’s water infrastructure is in excellent condition! Give us a call at (617) 288-2911 any time of the day or night and let us take care of your plumbing, heating and cooling needs!

Photo Credit: Johanna Ljungblom, via

Boston's Water Source Cleans Up Nicely!

The Environmental Protection Agency said on Wednesday that the Charles River, the source of Boston’s municipal water, is the cleanest the river has been since the agency started performing regular water quality tests in 1995. That’s good news for Boston residents, and the announcement comes during World Water Week.

The testing measures the percentage of time during a year that the water is deemed to be safe for swimming and boating. In 2013, the last year for which complete sample data is available, the Charles River was given an A-. Previously, the river’s best grade was a B+. According to the 2013 samples, the river was found to be safe for recreational boating 96% of the time, and recreational swimming 70% of the time. Comparatively, the first water samples, taken in 1995, showed that the river was safe for boating only 39% of the time, and safe for swimming just 19% of the time.

According to the EPA, most of the contaminants that enter the river today come from improperly connected sewer drains. Previously, industrial pollutants had been the largest source of drinking water contamination. In the early 1970’s, the EPA began to regulate industrial waste disposal, and prohibited it from being discharged into rivers and streams.

Additionally, there has been a local push to eliminate improper sewer connections that dump untreated waste directly into the river. In 2013 alone, the Boston Water and Sewer Commission prevented nearly 3 million gallons of raw sewage from entering its storm water management system by eliminating illegal sewer hookups throughout the area.

Bob Zimmerman, Executive Director of the Charles River Watershed Association cautions that the high grades don’t mean that the river is in the clear. He emphasizes that the river is still vulnerable to other conditions, like toxic algal blooms, polluted storm water runoff, and the impacts of climate change. In August, the City of Toledo, OH had to shut down its municipal water system for two days to prevent toxic blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) from entering the city’s water supply. Ohio’s fourth-largest city also supplies water to surrounding communities in northwestern Ohio and southeastern Michigan.

Depending upon the strain, blue-green algae can produce neurotoxins, and cause liver and endocrine system damage. Some blue-green algae by-products can be toxic on contact, resist traditional water purification techniques, and release higher concentrations of toxins when boiled. Exposure to high concentrations of some blue-green algae toxins has been implicated in the neurological disorder amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

Preventing uncontrolled sewage discharges into the river is key to controlling both E. coli levels in the river and preventing the conditions that can cause a blue-green algae bloom. Blue-green algae feeds on fertilizers and waste products in the water, so minimizing their presence is important. Several local communities are currently offering a sewer discharge “amnesty” program to encourage residents with illegal sewer-to-storm drain connections to correct those.

Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating can help. We can diagnose and correct your sewer connection issues, and help you determine whether your community has a storm drain amnesty program to reduce the cost of correcting your storm and/or sewage drains.

Please give us a call at (617) 288-2911 anytime for a consultation or an appointment.