Archive for the ‘Water Treatment’ Category

August 9, 2017

Citizen Water Academy of Central Iowa

Though Des Moines Water Works has successfully supplied safe, abundant and affordable drinking water to central Iowans for almost 100 years, the associated planning, production, distribution, monitoring and challenges presented by contaminated source water are not common knowledge among most citizens.  With water quality on the minds of Central Iowans, Des Moines Water Works is launching a Citizen Water Academy of Central Iowa in an effort to engage the public in more detail about the evolution of drinking water and understand plans for the future that meet the growing needs of our community.

The Citizen Water Academy is a free, four-session crash course about the history, use and management of water in the Central Iowa region.  The Academy is designed to help current and emerging leaders in our community learn and appreciate our most important natural resource, the water we depend on for life.  Attendees will receive 16 hours of instruction, tour multiple treatment plants operated by Des Moines Water Works, listen to over 15 presentations from soil and water experts, and interact with our expert Des Moines Water Works staff over the 4 courses of the program.  It is our hope that participants not only come away from the Academy with a better understanding of their local water utility, but are also equipped to help lead the debate on important water issues now and in the future.

For more information on the Citizen Water Academy and to apply to be a part of the inaugural class, visit www.citizenwateracademy.com  For specific questions, contact Jennifer Terry, at (515) 283-8706 or terry@dmww.com.

Posted by: Laura Sarcone No Comments
Labels: , , , Posted in About Us, Education, Health, History, Infrastructure, Public Policy, Source Water, Value of Water, Water Quality, Water Treatment March 21, 2017

HF 484/SF 456 A Gamble Not Worth Taking

Legislative Overreach

  • This legislation stands in stark contrast to Home Rule (the right for local self-government).
  • Iowa Code Chapter 388, states that a city may establish or dispose of a city utility, but it is subject to the approval of the voters of the city.
  • This legislation takes the right to vote out of the hands of the citizens of Des Moines, West Des Moines, and Urbandale.
  • In a recent survey of the Des Moines metro, 88% of registered voters said that people who live in the community should have final say over whether to remove an independent utility.
  • The poll results mirror the results of the West Des Moines vote in 2003, on whether or not to dissolve its independent water utility.

Regionalization is already Underway and should not be forced

  • Safe drinking water is a public health issue, and should not be gambled.
  • Regionalization needs to be done in a thoughtful and meaningful manner.
  • Des Moines Water Works is open to and has been actively participating in regionalization discussions for the past few years.
  • It is not necessary for the legislature to create a study committee to examine regionalization because one already exists.  It’s called CIRDWC – Central Iowa Regional Drinking Water Commission.
  • CIRDWC has already completed a regionalization study, and is now in the final stages of a 20-year forecast of the water needs in central Iowa.
  • CIRDWC already provides every metro community with a seat at the table.  This legislative action would not only duplicate and confuse ongoing efforts, but also disregard the work that has already be done.

HF 484 is a mess

  • It takes the management of delivering safe and affordable drinking water from professionals and puts in the hands of politicians.
  • HF 484, as written, has no plan, no mechanism for funding, no assurance that technical experts will be involved.
  • The bill has been changed numerous times; it has had new amendments and language added and then deleted.  The 500,000 people who rely on Des Moines Water Works have been left in the dark.
  • Water utility boards were set up independent from city councils for a reason – to protect a public health necessity from politics.  Simply stated, it is an independent local water utility owned by its customers and it works, and has worked for 100 years.
Posted by: Laura Sarcone 9 Comments
Labels: , , , Posted in Board of Trustees, History, Infrastructure, Public Policy, Source Water, Water Quality, Water Treatment March 17, 2017

New Des Moines Water radio ad warns of the downfalls regarding handing over the water utility to politicians.

DES MOINES, Iowa (March 17, 2017) – In response to legislation being considered by the Iowa House of Representatives, the Des Moines Water Works began running radio ads in central Iowa this week that encourages people to contact their state legislators and ask them to oppose House File 484.

The ad, entitled “Drip,” outlines the problems with letting politicians take over this independent utility. The ad also reminds listeners of the $40 million class action the City of Des Moines lost by illegally placing additional fees on gas and electric utility bills.

The legislation pending in the Iowa House would dissolve the Des Moines Water Works and transfer the utilities assets and management over to the Des Moines city council. A recent poll conducted by Harper Polling from March 9th to 12th found that 86% of registered voters rated the quality service provided by their local water utility at excellent or good.

“There is absolutely no need to dismantle the water boards in the metro area that have decades of experience of delivering safe and affordable drinking water,“ said Bill Stowe, CEO and General Manager, Des Moines Water Works.  “Water utility boards were set up independent from city councils for a reason – to protect a public health necessity from politics.”

In addition to high marks from water quality and service, the poll also shows that voters overwhelmingly oppose the legislation. Only 15 percent of respondents favor the controversial bill, while 68 percent oppose it.   Additionally, the survey showed a staggering 88 percent of voters believe that people who live in the community should have the final say over whether or not to remove an independent utility, not the state legislature (5%).

Click here to listen to the ad.

Script of the ad:

FEMALE VOICE-OVER TALENT/SFX

Drip…Drip…Drip… (SFX)

“That sound you hear… it’s the slow drip of big government grabbing hold of another part of your life.”

“…this time…

Kids splashing at pool, pouring a glass of water, a sprinkler in the yard, and faucet or shower being turned on. (SFX)

…it’s your water.

For nearly one hundred years, the Des Moines Water Works has delivered safe and affordable drinking water… it was set up independent from the Des Moines city council for one reason – to protect OUR drinking water from politics.

… but now…politicians in the state legislature… have a bill to dismantle the Des Moines Water Works… HF 484… which would give control over to the City of Des Moines. The same city of Des Moines that has a track record of financial mismanagement and recently lost a $40 million class action lawsuit over charging gas and electric customers an illegal fee.

Don’t let the management of delivering us safe and affordable drinking water be put it in the hands of politicians.

Call your State representatives today at 515-281-3221 and tell them to STOP playing politics with your drinking water, and vote NO on HF 484

Paid for by the Des Moines Water Works.

About Des Moines Water Works

Des Moines Water Works (DMWW) is a municipal water utility serving the citizens of Des Moines and surrounding communities (approximately 500,000 people). DMWW is an independently operated public utility with a commitment to leading, advocating and investing today and in the future to deliver water you can trust for life.

Posted by: Laura Sarcone 6 Comments
Labels: , , , , Posted in Board of Trustees, History, Infrastructure, Public Policy, Water Quality, Water Treatment September 20, 2016

Water Quality Concerns: More than Nitrate

Like high nitrate concentration in the Des Moines and Raccoon Rivers, another agrotoxin from excess nutrients from intensive agricultural production upstream is threatening central Iowa drinking water sources.

Cyanobacteria, commonly referred to as blue-green algae, grow and multiply quickly where there are high nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus). Certain forms of blue-green algae can also produce toxins that can make humans and animals sick.  When cyanobacteria counts rise, there is greater potential for the presence of cyanotoxins, which raise health concerns related to the liver, nervous system and gastrointestinal system.

Microcystin is the cyanotoxin found in the finished drinking water of Toledo, Ohio, in 2014, that prompted the city to issue a “Do Not Drink” order for its 500,000 customers.  The cyanotoxin was released by a cyanobacteria bloom in Lake Erie at the time, near the city’s water intake system.

Much like Toledo, Des Moines Water Works uses surface water to produce drinking water for 500,000 central Iowa customers.

DSC_1437Des Moines Water Works recently began a more aggressive testing regimen for the presence of harmful cyanotoxins when elevated cyanobacteria levels are present in raw water sources.  While many water utilities do not have equipment to test for these toxins, Des Moines Water Works recently invested in instrumentation that allows staff to monitor for microcystin and cylindrospermospin, per U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommendations, as well as two additional known cyanotoxins – anatoxin and saxitoxin.  Des Moines Water Works now routinely samples three times per week during the warmer months of the year, and more frequently when necessary.

Des Moines Water Works’ treatment process has limited ability to thoroughly remove these toxins from finished water; however, the ability to avoid the river source with the greatest amount of toxins remains the single most effective strategy to protect customers. Des Moines Water Works must remain nimble to the emerging science and public health considerations of these toxins.  Staff from Des Moines Water Works is working with state regulators from Iowa Department of Natural Resources and public health and emergency management personnel, to communicate health advisories if microcystin or cylindrospermospin are detected in the finished drinking water, as prescribed by EPA.

Des Moines Water Works is committed to delivering safe, affordable and abundant drinking water to its customers. Finished drinking water continues to meet or exceed drinking water quality standards; however, it is increasingly challenging.  Des Moines Water Works remains advocates for a holistic approach for addressing water quality in Iowa, including promoting precision conservation practices to reduce excess nutrients, E. Coli, eroded soil, and emerging contaminants – much of which can be attributable to agricultural production.

Posted by: Laura Sarcone 2 Comments
Labels: , , , , , , Posted in Source Water, Water Quality, Water Treatment May 23, 2016

Travel the Water Treatment Process

Many Des Moines metro area residents turn on the tap without thinking about where their water came from, how  it got there and who made it safe to drink. Whether you are 8 or 98 or anywhere in between, it is important to understand the multi-barrier approach that provides you with a vital public health product. Travel along the Des Moines Water Works’ water treatment process in a two-part video series that explains the many steps taken from river to tap, and the importance to Think Downstream.

To view the videos, visit www.dmww.com/education/education-resources/video.

Posted by: Laura Sarcone 1 Comment
Labels: , , , , , , Posted in About Us, Source Water, Water Quality, Water Treatment May 5, 2016

What do I Need to Know about the Risks of Lead in Drinking Water?

How does lead get into drinking water?

  • Generally, finished drinking water contains no lead.
  • Lead may be present in piping and plumbing fixtures found in customers’ homes.
  • If drinking water is corrosive, it can corrode customers’ lead service lines and plumbing fixtures, which can result in elevated lead levels in drinking water.
  • Homes constructed before 1950 may be served by a lead water service line. Copper pipe installed before 1985 may have been installed using lead-containing solder.
  • To see if your property is in a Des Moines or Polk County neighborhood that has the greatest potential for a lead service line, view the Potential Lead Service Lines in Des Moines map.

What are the health effects of lead in drinking water?

  • Customers who drink water with elevated lead levels can suffer long term health impacts including damage to the liver, kidneys, or even the brain.
  • Mental development issues are a significant concern for children exposed to lead contamination.
  • In 1991, the Environmental Protection Agency published a regulation to control lead and copper in drinking water. The rule is part of the Safe Water Drinking Act, and it requires water systems to monitor drinking water at customer taps.  If lead concentrations exceed the Action Level of 0.015 mg/L (or 15 parts per billion) in more than 10 percent of taps, the system must complete additional actions to control the corrosion.

What is Des Moines Water Works doing to control elevated lead levels?

  • Des Moines Water Works treats the drinking water to ensure it is not corrosive.
  • Corrosion control is an important part of Des Moines Water Works’ treatment process.  By carefully managing the chemistry of our drinking water, Des Moines Water Works ensures the water is not corrosive.
  • A number of factors impact how corrosive treated drinking water will be.  These factors include the total amount of dissolved minerals in the water (calcium and magnesium), alkalinity, temperature, and pH.
  • Each day, samples are analyzed to ensure Des Moines Water Works’ treatment for corrosion control remains effective.

Could what happened in Flint, Michigan happen in Des Moines?

  • Des Moines Water Works is paying close attention to what unfolded in Flint, Michigan.  In North America, no one should have to question the safety of water at the tap.  Flint underscores that Des Moines Water Works’ first job is to protect the families we serve. Those of us involved in managing, cleaning and delivering water share an obligation to protect public health.
  • We do not have first-hand knowledge about what occurred in Flint, but this much seems clear: When Flint switched its water supply source, the new water caused lead to leach from service lines and home plumbing – lead that ended up in water coming out of the taps.
  •  This kind of incident is unlikely here because Des Moines Water Works monitors water quality parameters on a daily or even hourly basis to ensure the drinking water we produce will not be corrosive.  Des Moines Water Works also follows a written Lead and Copper Sampling Plan.  This plan helps ensure we stay in compliance with the requirements of the Lead and Copper Rule.
  • Des Moines Water Works tests for lead and copper contamination by asking customers with specific types of plumbing to collect samples in their homes.
  • These results are published annually in Des Moines Water Works’ Consumer Confidence Report, which describes the regulatory requirements Des Moines Water Works must meet or exceed.
  • Des Moines Water Works continues to be in compliance with Lead and Copper Rule requirements.
  • Supplying approximately 500,000 central Iowans with safe, affordable and abundant drinking water is Des Moines Water Works’ mission. Water plays a key role in your health and Des Moines Water Works plays a key role in providing water you can trust for life.

What can you do to limit exposure to elevated levels of lead?

  • Use only water from the cold tap for drinking, cooking, or preparing baby formula.
  • Flush the tap for two to four minutes before using water for drinking or cooking when no water has been used for several hours. Showering, washing dishes, or doing laundry can be effective ways to flush household plumbing before water is used for drinking or cooking.
  • While in-home water treatment devices such as softeners or filtration systems are not necessary in Des Moines, if such in-home treatment devices are used, they must be properly operated and maintained in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations.  Improperly operated in-home treatment devices can increase the potential for water to become corrosive.

Where can I find more information?

  • To see if your property is in a Des Moines or Polk County neighborhood that has the greatest potential for a lead service line, view the Potential Lead Service Lines in Des Moines map.
  • If you are concerned about lead in your water, you may wish to have your water tested. Please contact Des Moines Water Works at 283-8700 to learn if you are eligible for a complimentary lead test.  If you are not eligible for a free test but still wish to have your water tested, a $18 fee will apply.
  • Visit EPA’s lead information website: http://www.epa.gov/lead/protect-your-family#homeleadsafe.
Posted by: Laura Sarcone No Comments
Labels: , , , , Posted in Customer Service, Water Quality, Water Treatment August 20, 2015

Plans for Third Aquifer Storage and Recovery Well

ASRDes Moines Water Works has utilized aquifer storage and recovery (ASR) wells as sources of water since 2008.  These wells are installed deep into the Jordan Aquifer and are used to store treated water that is needed when water demand is high.  When water demand is low, mainly during winter months, treated water is injected into the wells which displaces the native Jordan water around the wells. A total of 270 million gallons can be stored in an ASR well during the winter months when Des Moines Water Works has excess water treatment capacity.  In summer months, during higher water demand, the drinking water is pumped out of the ASR well and into the water distribution system for use by customers.  The wells pump for a total of 90 days to recover the 270 million gallons put into the wells.  ASR wells can be constructed for about one-third the cost of adding capacity to an existing water treatment plant.  Des Moines Water Works currently operates two ASR wells, and plans for a third are underway.

West Des Moines Water Works, a wholesale customer of Des Moines Water Works, desires to purchase additional water from Des Moines Water Works in order to meet the needs of a large-demand customer, Microsoft Corporation, who is developing a facility in the southeast portion of West Des Moines Water Works’ service area.  In order to meet the water demand requirements of Microsoft, West Des Moines Water Works, City of West Des Moines and Des Moines Water Works have agreed to a joint project to construct a 3.0 million gallon per day (mgd) ASR well. The City of West Des Moines will pay the estimated $3,591,132 construction cost of the ASR well.  Des Moines Water Works will contribute a 5.28 acre parcel of land it already owns. Des Moines Water Works will be responsible for the design of the new Army Post Road ASR facility and will administer and oversee its construction. The project is expected to be completed by the end of 2016. Des Moines Water Works will own the ASR upon completion, will have full operational control of the constructed assets, and will retain the right to use the ASR to serve customers, including but not limited to Microsoft.

 

Posted by: Laura Sarcone No Comments
Labels: , , , , Posted in Infrastructure, Water Treatment August 6, 2014

Toledo’s “Do Not Drink” Order Should be a Wake-up Call

Toledo glass of algaeLast weekend, the City of Toledo advised its customers against drinking the city’s tap water. The municipal ban left 500,000 Toledo and Michigan residents without drinking water for three days, which was contaminated by a toxin produced by an algae bloom in Lake Erie.

Cyanobacteria, commonly referred to as blue-green algae, are a serious problem in surface water sources in the United States. In drinking water, they are most commonly known for causing taste and odor problems.  In some cases they can also release cyanotoxins, which raise health concerns related to the liver, nervous system and gastrointestinal system.

In Toledo, a cyanobacteria bloom is an annual occurrence and was recently quite visible near Toledo’s water intake system on Lake Erie. Tests last week from the city’s water treatment plant confirmed the detection of microcystin — a cyanotoxin produced by the harmful blue-green algae. City officials were told by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to issue a “do not drink” order for its entire population.

The cause of the annual cyanobacteria bloom in Toledo is primarily phosphorus from farm fertilizer runoff, and the amount of phosphorus determines the bloom’s size. Scientists are also learning that another farm fertilizer, nitrogen, affects the size and composition of the annual bloom.

The “do not drink” incident in Toledo is a reminder that the protection of our source waters is critical to the protection of public health.

Much like Toledo, cyanobacteria is prevalent in Iowa. At Des Moines Water Works, phytoplankton studies are performed on Des Moines’ sources waters – the Raccoon and Des Moines Rivers. Cyanobacterial and algal counts comprise the phytoplankton studies.  These studies determine the numbers and species of the most common phytoplankton viewed microscopically.

Blue-green algae bloom at Big Creek

 

Both cyanobacteria and algae grow in response to warm weather and nutrients (i.e. nitrogen and phosphorus), and can proliferate in the source water to a degree that affects water treatment operations.

Des Moines Water Works staff treats for unfavorable tastes, odors, and toxins by dispersing powdered activated carbon throughout the water (much like when water is ran through a carbon filter).  Chlorination of the water also helps remove or destroy bad tastes, odors, and cyanotoxins.

When the phytoplankton counts become high, Des Moines Water Works staff can respond by switching from one river to the other, by maximizing use of the infiltration gallery system (a series of underground pipes located throughout Water Works Park next to the Raccoon River), and by using water stored in aquifer storage reservoirs or water produced at the L. D. McMullen and Saylorville Water Treatment Plants.

Currently there is not a federal standard for blue-green algae or their toxins in drinking water; however, a growing number of states are introducing their own guidelines and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has named cyanotoxins as a candidate for federal regulation.

Strategic water treatment, testing, and federal regulation of cyanotoxins are worthy, but a remedy at the source of the contaminant is more urgent. The only viable option to curtail the presence of algae that can potentially cause toxins to infiltrate our drinking water is changing upstream land practices.

Creating buffers, like plants and trees that stand between farms and the water, may help catch fertilizer chemicals before they get into water ways, spurring algae growth. Farmers could also, theoretically, use less fertilizer, though there are no regulations in place as of now.

Farm runoff is not very regulated, so the drinking water contamination incidence in Toledo could happen again, and here in Iowa.

This should be a call to action for citizens to advocate for cleaner source water and to question if voluntary water protection measures work.

 

Top photo credit: A glass of algae filled Lake Erie water, near the Toledo water intake crib, on Sunday via The Toledo Blade.

 

Posted by: Laura Sarcone No Comments
Labels: , , , , , , Posted in Source Water, Water Quality, Water Treatment February 20, 2014

Taste and Odor Episode Due to Runoff from Recent Snowmelt

Des Moines Water Works uses both the Raccoon and Des Moines Rivers as water sources. By using surface water, seasonal variations can occur. The recent warm-up in temperatures has caused increased runoff into our water supply, requiring Des Moines Water Works to use more chlorine to achieve the desired chlorine levels in the finished product.

Both rivers are currently experiencing elevated levels of ammonia. Disinfection with chlorine is more difficult when ammonia is present in source waters. Ammonia consumes chlorine, leaving it unavailable for disinfection. This requires addition of extra chlorine to eliminate the ammonia and maintain adequate disinfection. For these reasons, chlorine levels have been purposefully higher for the past three weeks. Chlorine levels in the water leaving Des Moines Water Works’ treatment plants are monitored continuously to ensure they do not exceed the maximum allowable limit set by Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Finished drinking water from Des Moines Water Works is safe to consume. Some people are more sensitive to these subtle changes in taste or odors. These conditions will improve as the weather stabilizes and levels of runoff decrease.

Posted by: Laura Sarcone 4 Comments
Labels: , , , Posted in Customer Service, Source Water, Water Quality, Water Treatment December 3, 2013

Des Moines Water Works Continues Community Water Fluoridation at Current Levels

Drink Tap WaterAt the December 3, 2013, Board of Water Works Trustees’ Planning Committee meeting, Des Moines Water Works (DMWW) staff announced the utility, which serves approximately 500,000 customers in Central Iowa,  will continue community water fluoridation at the current level of 0.7 mg/L.

“Staff has reviewed currently available data and the data overwhelmingly supports that fluoridation of drinking water at current levels does not pose a detectable health risk,” said Bill Stowe, CEO and General Manager, Des Moines Water Works. “From these findings, together with the health and economic benefits provided, staff concludes that the current levels of fluoride delivered to our customers (0.7 mg/L) is appropriate for public health and is consistent with the balance of scientific and medical opinion currently available.”

The issue was opened up for public comment at the October committee meeting and staff solicited comments, research and studies on fluoridation. Unlike other providers of drinking water, including private water companies and corporate bottled water providers, DMWW actively sought and received public comment and engaged in public discussions, providing transparency in its process, inviting the public to provide their opinions and point toward scientific data or studies. As anticipated, the solicitation of public comments drew significant interest and elicited many emotional responses. Approximately 650 comments were received. Comments can be viewed online at http://www.dmww.com/water-quality/fluoride-comments/.

Community water fluoridation is supported by more than 100 national and international health, service, and professional organizations.  A few of these supporters are American Dental Association (ADA), American Medical Association (AMA), American Water Works Association, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. Surgeon General, and the World Health Organization.  The CDC proclaimed community water fluoridation as one of the ten great public health achievements of the 20th century.

“Des Moines Water Works continuously reviews its water treatment and distribution practices to ensure both regulatory compliance and economic delivery of safe, affordable, and abundant drinking water,” said Stowe. “Processes are dynamic, and as new science becomes available, DMWW will adjust accordingly; however, the clear weight of peer-reviewed scientific evidence shows that fluoridated water, at proper levels, safely and effectively reduces tooth decay in children and adults.”

Numerous studies have also shown the cost benefits of fluoridation. One study, “An economic evaluation of community water fluoridation,” has shown every dollar spent on fluoridation can save residents $38.00 in dental costs. DMWW spends approximately $130,000 annually in direct costs for water fluoridation.

Anti-fluoridation proponents point toward several concerns about adding fluoride to public water supplies. However, studies citing significant health detriment have been based on fluoride concentrations well beyond the current levels of 0.7 mg/L. This level of fluoridation is supported by the AMA, ADA, CDC, Department of Health and Human Services, and Iowa Department of Public Health.  DMWW’s policy of fluoridation through the public water system supports its mission of providing safe and quality drinking water for the public health of its community.

The Board of Water Works Trustees will hold their regularly scheduled meeting, which includes a public comment period, on December 17, at 3:30 p.m. at the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden, located at 909 Robert D. Ray Drive.

Posted by: Laura Sarcone 1 Comment
Labels: , , , Posted in Customer Service, Fluoride, Water Treatment