Saturday, May 23, 2009

Scofield park closed

The issue reported in the Advocate today is PCB's.
The information on PCB's is at best interesting because even in the EPA's own website on the subject there is some question concerning the real problem.
In a nut shell, PCB's are a probable cancer causing item.
Unlike most carcinogens, which are definite, there are enough studies on people that did NOT show the link, that they had to pit it up on the website. That in of itself is significant.
PCB's bioaccumulate in the environment, meaning that small things ingest them and bigger things ingest the smaller things etc. That is why there is a restriction on the nubers of some fish we can eat it CT.
Now all this area has been tested for years, even before I started at the Health Department. I believe the first survey was done in 1968 and there have been others done since then.
The newest one showed PCB's. We do not know the amount in the soil. It took workers who had years of daily exposure to develop any of the things that are talked about in the EPA studies.
Do I think this is an imminent danger? NO!
Do I think city officials are wise to close the park? Maybe, especially if you look at possible legal claims that the city would need to deal with, but not as far as health goes.
Do I think there will be hysteria over this? Absolutely! Anything people have a suspicion about creates hysteria whether it is warranted or not.
Do I think there will be lawsuits? Yes, especially from workers who have been there for any length of time.
Was the Health Director notified? I have no idea. I was not and I happen to be the only Chemist working for the city.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Stamford Well water -metals

Some of the issues with metals are not health related, they simply stain, everything.
Yellow, brown, black, blue.
They add pleasant and unpleasant tastes in the water.
Lead is sweet - you do not want sweet water.
Iron and manganese give a bitter flavor.
Copper is really metallic.
Lead is really bad for children under the age of six.
Copper is an essential nutrient, but too much can cause severe gastrointestinal problems.
Very high levels of manganese can cause mercury-like brain damage, small doses are good for muscle growth.
Iron is not used by the body and does nothing against it either.
Copper and lead are products of corrosion, either by water quality or by electrical problems.

Test Average value High Okay % Okay
METALS in mg/L
above 0.3 0.2 to 0.3
iron 0.58 657 173 2234 72.91%
above 5.0 0.5 to 5 0.05 to 0.499
manganese 0.14 8 186 745 1528 61.94%
above 5.0
zinc 0.23 1 175 99.43%
above 1.3 .5 to 1.3
copper 0.38 168 336 2473 83.07%
above 0.015 0.005 to 0.015
lead 0.01 24 37 115 65.34%

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Stamford Well Water - discussion on minerals and Salt

In the mineral post at first glance it might seem hardness is an issue, however if you look at what the US EPA's guidance on hardness is the problem resolves into a slight problem with about 16% of the wells having significant hardness in the water. When you look at the type of hardness, calcium hardness is much more benign than magnesium hardness, the wells with difficult water drops to less than 5%. So what is the issue here. Hard water (or water that is presented as being hard) sells softeners, which a lucrative business. The true issue, acidic water, is not as lucrative and not addressed unless a softener can be sold as well.

This next presentation is of Salts in well water, the major source of which is softener backwash. Most backwash is pumped into septic systems, which will destroy the cement of the septic and is against public health code for a very good reason. The water pumped into the septic system goes back into the water a well draws from.

Test Average value High Okay % Okay
SALTS in mg/L
above 250 100 to 250
chlorides 105.69 441 1337 3632 67.13%
chlorides with softener 138.84 147 358 583 53.58%
chlorides without softener 69.04 0 923 2789 75.13%
above 100 28 to 100
sodium 49.84 547 1481 2417 54.38%
sodium treated 85.74 263 371 217 25.50%
sodium untreated 51.14 577 1423 2209 52.48%
more than 2500 500 to 2500 Above Average
potassium 25.27 0 2 281 371 56.73%
potassium treated 95.47 0 2 109 23 17.16%
potassium not treated 4.75 0 0 23 71 75.53%

The wells with problem salts that do not have softeners are linked to their neighbors softener backwash except in only 4 cases where the wells have road salt drain over them.

Stamford Well Water - minerals

Test Average value High Okay % Okay
above 200 150 to 200
Ca hardness 98.16 200 262 910 66.33%
above 200 150 to 200 below 80
total hardness 128.77 740 797 1466 1667 67.09%
total hardness no treatment 124.93 264 1795 1582 1582 60.58%
total hardness treated 39.53 28 29 503 56 9.09%
total hardness treatment off 159.91 102 69 110 82 52.89%
Avg Of Ca Avg Of Mg Mg > Ca Mg > 2Ca
Calcium And Magnesium 37.95 9.62968661 93 175 1935 95.36%
above 10.0 Corrosion indicated
aggressive index 9.97 56 1151 1184 49.52%
above 200 150 to 200 below 80
alkalinity, total 66.17 41 112 1644 612 93.65%
above 10 8.5 to 10 below 6.4
pH 6.79 9 101 1306 2812 66.51%
above 250 100 to 250
sulfate 23.70 0 4 2241 99.82%

Stamford Well Water - the stats

Compiled from 1977 by the number of tests

BACTERIA in colonies/ 100 mL

above 30 not potable 1 colony Okay
% Okay
total coliform 6.38 140 724 113 5671 85.30%

above 30 E coli present No E Coli

Escherichia coli 5.85 7 115 477

tested not present Present

cp-Crenothrix polyspora, Iron bacteria 0 4

gf-Gallionella ferruginea, Iron bacteria 8 115

sn-Sphaerotilus natans, Iron bacteria 0 23

st-Siderocapsa treubii, Iron bacteria 0 12

tmu-Thiodendron mucosum, Sulfur bacteria 0 1

tto-Thiobacillus thiooxid, Sulfur bacteria 0 3



above 1 0.1 to 1 0.01 to 0.1

nitrite nitrogen 0.02 6 1 276 1995 87.58%

above 15 10 to 15 5 to 10

nitrate nitrogen 2.32 13 0 251 2776 91.32%

First set is of bacteria and nutrients. Basically over 30 years 15% of the wells have a problem, That really is not bad.
The nutrients show both the influx of fertilizer (almost non-existent) and microbial activity (also not really an issue).

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Well Water

I am in the process of compiling asurvey of all well water in Stamford. I have on record about 4,000 of the 5,100 wells that are in North Stamford.
I have a basic fact sheet almost completed and will post. I will also GIS the info to see any patterns.
The basic info so far shows things I have already published, softeners will pollute your own water supply and are the main reason for excess chloride in the water.
There is not much info (14 tests) on Radon, but at this point that looks pretty grim.
Discoloration from Iron and Manganese and acid water are the main issues.
Most wells are very healthy.
That is the summary.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

H1N1 Influenza A - update

Earlier post were not complete, partly because I do not have all the background other do to understand everything about this.
First, this was really important because like the 1917 influenza, it effected young, healthy adults.
The reason is because when you get sick with the flu, the immune system kicks into high gear producing certain reactions in the body (aches, malaise, production of mucous, etc,,) which make you feel sick. In this case, the healthier you are, the more likely that you will have a strong reaction. It is our own immune systems which create this problem and in some cases kill us.
Older people and people with depreciated immune systems still have to worry, but not as much as healthy adults. Regular flues generally cause real trouble for this population.
Why Mexico and not here? No answers are coming from my expert, who generally has a really good handle on such things.
And we really do need to watch out for this in the fall. There will probably be a vaccine by that time.
And for the post concerning this topic from the Streets of Stamford, The CDC is recommending AGAINST the use of face masks!

Centers for Disease Control & Prevention
Sent: Thursday, May 07, 2009 9:50 AM
Subject: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Reference to wearing a face mask has been removed. Wearing a face mask is not advised

Updates are happening from the CDC and WHO and a more than daily basis. Go to for current info.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The State Beach meeting

Some items of importance were discussed:
New legislation in the house and senate, desires to develop quick testing methods, geese population and control, employment and service cuts in the state lab.

The new legislation is to extend/revive the Bract act of 2003 (?) and contains additional funds and expansions and maybe some punitive actions.
The additional funds may be a joke since of the $30 Million called for in the current act, only $10 million is appropriated.
The expansions are talking about developing new quick test methods and may be giving money to find out why and where high levels of bacteria come from.
The punitive actions are to cut funding if states do not meet the goal.
Quick testing methods are desired to be 2 hour turn around time, but are really very expensive (and there is no help with the cost of use).
A presentation from the fish and wildlife management division of CT was on Geese, everything you ever thought you wanted to know and more.
Population, areas of high concentrations, human attitudes toward them and possible control.
There was a clear statement that NO research has shown a link between human illness and geese feces.
It was also clear that Urban areas have had their fill of geese in the parks.
Stamford was one of 7 towns that DID NOT fill out a survey concerning attitudes and population from this Department in 2003.
It was also clear that the only real way to get rid of the resident population of geese (not migratory), was to kill them.
Stamford may get more work, the state can not hire the couriers as of this date for sample pick up. We are one of the few labs outside of the state, equipped to do the testing. Darien uses us. Fairfield has used us. Driving to Stamford is easier than driving to Hartford for any one west of Fairfield.
The state water quality lab lost one person to budget cuts and may have furlough days also.
Stamford still stands out in the state as far as data collection and knowledge of what goes on at its shores.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Beach Meeting

Every year about this time the State of Connecticut hosts its annual beach conference.
This is basically a meeting of all the coastal towns and a few inland where there are public lakes to discuss what is new, how the state testing will proceed and it can be somewhat boring.
The issue has been that since the US EPA gives states money for testing, the state will pick up samples from localities who want them tested for free, but there is a catch.
We in the lower Fairfield county would have to get the samples some significant distance to get picked up and if we wanted to have a re-sample we would have to get the samples to Hartford.
So much for free, this is one of the reasons that we have our own lab in Stamford. the other, well now there is NO private lab in the immediate area for any water testing. The closest is in Norwalk. try getting a sample there within 145 minutes of collection!
On to the subject tho. the meeting also describes methods, actions and directions for the beach testing program. We in Stamford have been at it longer than most, 35 plus years. I have been involved 30 years, since I started working with Stamford.
The US EPA will be there listening and sharing wisdom of how they want NO beach closings.
Having figured out long ago that this was impossible if you wanted to protest public health, I have been relieved as of late that the US GS and the Great Lakes beach watch program has fairly much figured out the same thing.
They have gone to great lengths to prove that the bacteria we look for is very naturally present in the environment and it my not have anything to do with sewage.
The portions that is interesting is that it is still the organism that can get us sick.
They have found that people bring it with them into the water, that the bacteria survives well in wet beach sand, that geese, gulls any any other shore bird can bring it into the water, it gets increased with rain and strong winds will raise the levels also.
None of this is surprising to me and does prove some of my own testing, but we are talking about natural water that is a shared resource with animals and fish. this is not a pool, clean and hopefully disinfected properly. This is what we should expect.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Predictive closures

Back to items I really know.
After work 20 years perfecting Stamford's policy of closing the beaches when conditions say that there is a good chance that there will be bacteria type problems in the recreational water, I became a bit defensive when I challenged the State's person in regards his take on this.
There is legislation in the US House to increase funding for testing (it will go to state agencies only) and require the development of rapid (2 hour) testing.
The portion I find laughable is that more or faster testing does not mean a great deal to me.
The example is when we were trying to understand problems that occurred at Cummings' beach and did time/tide/location studies.
We took a lot of samples.
They varied tremendously over all of the parameters. the sample sites were only about 10 feet apart.
This taught me a great lesson, bacteria are very different than chemicals and this was in 1988.
They clump together, they grow, they separate, they get eaten, they die.
The best I could do for my little 100 mL samples was get a hint of the activity beneath the waves.
So we began keeping very good records.
We tracked tides, rainfall, wind, temperature, bather load and other issues and slowly over thousands of samples we began to see things.
We established our bathing prohibitions based mostly on what was known from testing shellfish water, that rain will wash bacteria into the water, where it will live for a recordable time.
We knew this was not sewage, just normal bacteria that lives in everyday soil from every animal population that exists.
We figured that it lived in wet sand, but not dry. It seemed to exist in the water for at most 24 hours, then it was gone.
When you go to the beaches in Stamford after a heavy rain, there will be no bathing permitted. Enjoy the sand, the sun, but not the water until the next day.
We spent a lot of time trying to make sure you do not get sick from something that should be enjoyable.