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  • Town of Riverhead Issues State of Emergency Due to Lack of Water

    With a name like Riverhead, you wouldn’t expect there to be a water shortage. Despite being on Newfoundland’s Avalon Peninsula, this small Canadian town is out of water. A state of emergency has been declared.

    No water for Riverhead

    Riverhead isn’t even in a drought, and yet they have practically zero access to water. People in California can at least turn on their faucets and get water. Those in Riverhead can’t even do that. Due to a faulty pump in a local pump house, water has ceased flowing since Wednesday, May 11, 2016. Five days later, they still had no water.

    And when we say they’re out of water, we mean there is absolutely none available from an open faucet.

    Drinking water has to be imported from other nearby towns or purchased from stores. But that’s just one problem. Since the pump went out, “residents have been unable to shower, water their lawns, or do their laundry.”

    Sanitation is a major issue. At least getting clean drinking water is easier. But if they plan on bathing, washing, and doing laundry, using drinking water for that could get expensive.

    Riverhead Map Riverhead, Newfoundland (via Google Maps)

    Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time this has happened to the residents of Riverhead. A state of emergency was also declared in 2013 due to similar issues. For the folks in Riverhead, being prepared for lack of water is probably going to become a priority.

    For everyone else, this emergency in Riverhead shows us just how fragile our freely flowing water source can be.

    From broken water mains to drought conditions, there are many reasons why you might be faced with an instant shortage of usable water, be it for drinking or other activities. In order to prepare for such events, there are certain steps you can take to alleviate the problem.

     

    Water Storage

    Part of any emergency plan should include enough water to last 72 hours per person. It is strongly advised to have at least one gallon of water per day for each person, so for 72 hours, you’ll need three gallons of water for yourself. If you have the room for it, it is recommended to have at least that as a minimum – more if you can.

    Water for Riverhead!One method of water storage is in large barrels. For homes with more room, a 160 gallon water reserve could come in mighty handy. Stack another one on top for an impressive 320 gallon water supply. That would keep you going for quite some time.

    Barrels come in smaller sizes, such as 55 gallons, 30 gallons, and 15 gallons. Any of these sizes will be enough for at least 72 hours, but of course, the more you’re prepared, the less you’ll have to worry during an emergency.

    Water jugs and other alternate water storage methods can be used if space is an issue, such as in apartments or small homes. Store them under your bed, a crawl space, bathtub, or other location that is out of the way yet easy to access.

     

    Water Filters

    Water filters aren’t necessarily an alternative to stored water rather than a backup. However, if running water disappears from your faucet and your water storage is running low, you can always take your filter to a nearby river, stream, or lake and fill your containers from there. Don’t forget that water is heavy (about 8 pounds per gallon), so be careful not to overfill your containers or you might be hard pressed to tote them back to your home.

     

    Pre-Packaged Water

    If preparing your own water for storage isn’t your cup of tea, there’s always the option to go with pre-packaged water. Bottled water from the local store is always a safe option, since it is usually purified before being bottled (still, it doesn’t hurt to check the labels first). Alternately, water can come in cans, or even small pouches for convenience in emergency kits as well as hikes and outdoor activities.

     

    No matter your situation or living conditions, there is generally a way for you to have access to clean drinking water (as well as water for washing and cleaning). It may take a little bit of extra planning, but water is literally life, and by investing in water storage, you’re putting your resources towards a more comfortable experience during and after disasters and unexpected water shut offs.

    The emergency in Riverhead shows us yet another way how running water can slip between our fingers and leave us with nothing.  If this were to happen where you live, would you be prepared to go days without clean, running water?

     

    Disaster_Blog_Banner - River Song...er, Riverhead

  • Flint Followup: Unsafe Drinking Water is More Widespread Than You Think

    Flint Water Tower - unsafe drinking waterThe water emergency in Flint, Mich., where lead was found in unsafe amounts in the drinking water, has served one positive purpose. It’s brought attention to a widely neglected safety issue: unsafe drinking water. Here’s a rundown of stories just within the last month that discuss unsafe drinking water, and some ideas for how to protect your family.

     

    Chemistry in the Water

    Three drinking water systems near Colorado Springs, Colo., shut down wells after they found traces of man-made chemicals once used in things like nonstick cookware and firefighting foam.

    The chemicals are unregulated but can cause problems in laboratory animals. Water experts don’t know how the chemicals got into the water: leaking from landfills, maybe, or possibly even from airport firefighting foam.

     

    Unsafe Pipes

    Lead Pipe Lead pipes haven't been used in decades, but many old pipes haven't been replaced and can put out unsafe drinking water.

    Although lead pipes have been banned for 30 years, anywhere from 3.3 to 10 million older ones remain. And since it costs an estimated $5,000 per pipe to replace them, most will probably stay put. The trouble is, changes in water chemistry can cause lead pipes to leach lead into the drinking water.

    The school district of Sebring, Ohio, a town about 60 miles southeast of Cleveland, canceled school January 22-26 because of high levels of lead in two schools’ drinking fountains. The water system that serves about 8,100 homes around the town of Sebring, Ohio, tested the water over the summer and found high levels of lead in seven out of 20 homes tested. However, the system’s manager didn’t tell residents until January. As of February 6, after Sebring changed its water’s chemistry to reduce corrosion, about 30 homes, 4 percent of homes tested, still had lead levels above allowable amounts. Sebring’s water district blames lead pipes in homes.

    Lead can lead to digestive problems, muscle weakness, decreased IQ, attention problems and behavior changes. Lead poisoning affects young children first.

     

    Spills

    Remember last August, when the accidental spill of contaminants from a Colorado mine dyed the Animas River orange? On February 5, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released a report saying the 3-million-gallon spill dumped more than 880,000 pounds of metals into the river. The metals included cadmium, copper, lead, mercury, nickel and zinc. Arsenic levels also tested high. Some of the metals reached the San Juan River in New Mexico, and Utah officials said some reached that state too.

    At the time, officials briefly closed the river to recreation and encouraged people with wells to get their water tested.

    However, the mountains in that area have dozens of idle mines that release contaminated wastewater every day. In fact, the EPA’s report estimated the amount of metals released during the accident is similar to that released on a spring day with high runoff from melting snow.

    The EPA had previously tried to declare the area a Superfund site, but local leaders refused because they were afraid that, among other things, it would discourage tourists.

     

    What to Do

    Most of the country’s drinking water is safe, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If you decide you want to filter drinking water at home, the CDC recommends four steps to choosing a filter.

    First, know your water source. If it’s a private well, you should get it tested yearly. If it’s a public system, the system is required to send an annual report about the water’s quality and contaminants.

    Second, think about why you want a filter. The main function of the activated carbon filters found in fridges and pitchers is to change the water’s taste. They may not fully protect against contaminants. If a test to your water system shows the presence of volatile organic contaminants, you may want a full-house or point-of-entry filter system so you can use the water for bathing and cleaning as well as cooking and drinking.

    Third, consider how the filter fits your home, lifestyle and budget. All water filters should be NSF-certified. Also, check the labels on filters, because no water filter removes everything. Often, filters that remove chemicals don’t remove organic contaminants. Consider things like cost of the filter system, how much filtered water you need and how a system might fit into your home.

    Fourth, maintain your filters. Change them on schedule.

    “Filters that are not well maintained can do more harm than good,” the CDC wrote.

    If you decide you only need a water filter for drinking and cooking, Emergency Essentials sells several. Also, water storage can be a great help if your water gets contaminated for a short period, like the Animas river spill.

     

    - Melissa

     

    February - Power Banner - unsafe drinking water

  • Flint is Being Poisoned: Lead in the Drinking Water a Lingering Problem

    Flushing a Fire Extinguisher - Flint Flint's water problem is less than healthy... - via CNN

    Flint, Mich. is in crisis. Its 99,000 citizens haven’t had safe tap water for almost two years because of high concentrations of lead, and it could be months more before their water is safe. The National Guard has deployed soldiers to help pass out water, water filters and filter cartridges, and lead testing kits, and volunteers are going door to door with water.

    The state’s chief medical executive said every child in the city under six years old, an estimated 8,657, should be considered exposed to lead and get tested. Experts say lead poisoning most affects children and has a lifelong impact, leading to lower IQ, learning disabilities, speech and language problems and a higher risk for behavioral problems.

    In short, this crisis could continue for a long time and cost millions – even billions – of dollars.

    And, yes, it could happen to you.

    It didn’t have to happen. In 2014, a state-appointed city manager decided to change the city’s water supply to save about $9.2 million per year. Flint had been getting water from Lake Huron, but in April 2014 it switched to water from the Flint River while waiting to connect to a new regional water system (The new system isn’t ready yet). The river water corroded the city’s old pipes and leached their metals, including lead, into the water. Residents immediately complained about the change and a General Motors engine plant stopped using the water, saying it rusted parts. However, officials said the water was in compliance for safety.

    In September 2015, a group of doctors found a spike in lead levels in the blood of children and recommended Flint residents stop using city water for drinking and cooking. In mid-October, the state agreed to switch Flint’s water back to the previous system. But the pipes were already corroded, so the danger remained. On January 5, the governor declared a state of emergency and asked for federal help for the city. On January 16, President Obama declared it a federal emergency.

    Volunteers Helping Unload Water - Flint A volunteer helps unload water from a truck - via Independent

    The city had started passing out free water to residents. However, as of January 14, distribution was limited to a case per family, or about 3 gallons. FEMA recommends a disaster supply kit contain a gallon of water per person per day, so if a family has more than three people, they need alternate water sources. Many people and organizations are donating water. A list of ways to help is at the bottom.

    The mayor says the city’s pipes may need replacing, at a cost of up to $1.5 billion. But frankly, aging water infrastructure is a problem throughout the U.S.

    The American Society for Civil Engineers (ASCE) in a 2013 report gave the U.S. a D+ grade for its drinking water infrastructure. Some water pipes are 100 years old. Some are made of wood. Many, even some installed in the 1980s, contain lead. The ASCE report said there are an estimated 240,000 water main breaks per year in the U.S. The Environmental Protection Agency estimated it would cost $334.8 billion over 20 years to replace the old infrastructure. ASCE put the cost closer to $1 trillion. And frankly, water distributors don’t have the money. In 2010, Austin Water lost $53 million compared to its budget forecast, according to Circle of Blue, a water news service. The most expensive water bills are usually in places where infrastructure is being improved or water treatment equipment is being installed.

    Bottle Water and Kid - Flint People of Flint have to rely on bottled water - via Flint Journal

    Even functioning water systems have problems. Last August, algae blooms in Lake Erie poisoned the water supply for Toledo, causing hundreds of thousands of people to rely on bottled water for about a week.

    Individuals can help. The Environmental Protection Agency has steps people can take to protect watersheds. They include properly disposing hazardous material like motor oil and pesticides, volunteering for a watershed cleanup, and posting signs and stenciling storm drains with “No Dumping” reminders.

    Emergency Essentials sells many types of water filters. If lead is a concern, make sure that any filter is NSF certified for lead removal.

     

    How to help residents of Flint, from USA Today

    A fund has been established to address the short- and long-term needs of Flint children exposed to lead through contaminated drinking water. Donations can be made at www.flintkids.com.

    Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, 39020 Five Mile in Livonia, is asking for gallon jugs of water to be dropped off at the church by Jan. 30. Volunteers will take the donations to be distributed in Flint. Call 734-464-0211.

    Flint Community Schools is accepting cash donations and bottled water. Call the district's finance office at 810-767-6030 about cash donations. Bottled water drop-offs can be coordinated by calling 810-760-1310.

    Donations are being accepted by the United Way of Genesee Count: Visit unitedwaygenesee.org and click on the "GIVE" button. There's an option to support the Flint Water Project. Call 810-232-8121 for details. A new phase for outreach is investment in services to help residents who have been exposed to contaminated water.

    Catholic Charities of Genesee County accepts cash or bottled water donations to aid soup kitchens and warming centers, call 810-785-6911.

    To help Flint community activists who are delivering water: Call Melissa Mays at 810-423-3435.

     

    Disaster_Blog_Banner - Flint

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