Lead has been a notoriously sneaky offender when it comes to environmental pollutants. The heavy metal can leach into water when old pipes containing it break down, contaminating a building’s water supply.
When highly corrosive water from the Flint River flowed through old lead pipes in the Flint, MI water crisis, it ate away at the pipes, exposing lead and depositing dangerously high concentrations of it in the local community’s water supply. Whether in chronically small or acutely large doses, lead can be a potent neurotoxin, as well as trigger a host of other health problems. Since fresh, clean water is the cornerstone of human health, this crisis caused anguish, outrage and fear.
Even when lead-free water comes from a perfectly safe public water system, lead can leach into the water from older supply lines leading up to a building, or from old plumbing within the building itself that contains lead.
Obviously, it would be difficult for any individual to monitor the purity of the water being delivered from the tap in any given building environment, leading to general unease around tap water consumption, especially for children in public schools. Elkay, a leading US-based manufacturer of bottle filling stations, offers an easy way for public institutions, such as schools, airports and stadiums, to feel confident that the drinking water they offer to patrons, students and attendees is safer for consumption with their ezH2O filtered bottle filling stations. ezH2O’s point-of-use filters remove contaminants such as lead in compliance with the NSF/ANSI Standard 53. With a digital display that monitors the useful life of the filter, prompting it to be changed whenever needed, ezH2O continues to offer easier ways for the public to keep tabs on the water they consume.
You’ve likely seen bottle filling stations on college campuses, in yoga studios and office buildings, where their bright green displays tally up how many plastic containers have been diverted from the waste stream. The technology has been made popular over the past six years, where their efficiency in filling reusable containers reigns supreme to the water fountain. “They save water because when you try to fill water bottles from a drinking fountain, you can’t fill them more than half way and a significant amount of water goes down the drain,” says John Watson, manager of compliance and sustainability at Elkay, where Elkay’s ezH2O filtered bottle filling stations were conceived. “These products fill at 1.1 gallons per minute. Much faster than a water fountain.” Watson’s role includes responsibility for maintaining Elkay’s required product certifications across all product lines.
But Elkay’s ezH2O filtered bottle filling stations don’t just save water and encourage the use of reusable water containers, they also filter lead extremely effectively, as evidenced by their certification to NSF/ANSI 53 requirements. “Our carbon block filters employ a two-step process: mechanical filtration based on particle size and chemical filtration via adsorption,” Watson explains. “This technology is widely accepted as one of the most reliable means for removing lead from water.”
To explain, certification testing qualifies a product’s ability to remove certain contaminants like lead by using test water with high concentrations of the contaminant and then measuring the filter’s ability to remove those contaminants. Elkay’s filters remove over 99% of the lead in water based on certification test results. The testing included both dissolved lead and particulate lead to test both kinds of filtration. Elkay’s filters are third-party certified to comply with NSF/ANSI 53.
Elkay’s water delivery products themselves have been lead-free since 1991. “In the early 1990s, the movement towards lead-free products was spurred primarily by the onset of products needing to be certified to NSF/ANSI 61 standards. During that time, Elkay knew that lead-free drinking water products were the safest approach and anything that wasn’t already lead-free was converted to lead-free at that time. Given our vision and commitment to manufacture the safest products possible, we’ve been way ahead of the lead-free curve for decades,” Watson says.
Given the recent state of emergency declared in Flint over high levels of lead in drinking water, and that many pipes contain some lead, it simply isn’t enough to filter water before it enters the waterways, on its way to citizen’s faucets, drinking fountains and ice cube trays. For public institutions such as the aforementioned schools, airports and stadiums, the EPA recommends testing for lead at each point of delivery in the building–particularly where drinking water is concerned–to determine the actual lead level before determining whether a point-of-use filter is a sufficient solution, or whether a different remedy is needed.
“Although they are not designed for use in extremely high lead level conditions like we saw in some places in Flint, MI, products like our bottle filling stations are a great safeguard in many applications because they contain point-of-use filters. This is the best way to protect the users who get drinking water from our products,” Watson says.
The new bottle filling stations not only filter out lead and other contaminants, they include diagnostics that let staff and guests know, for example, that their filter is about to reach its maximum use point when it needs to be replaced entirely. Additional features allow building maintenance to regulate when the compressor is turned on so that the ezH2O doesn’t run during periods of non-use, explains Watson. Beyond already diverting much plastic waste from landfills and economizing clean, chilled water, these stations also help schools and other public institutions (which could always benefit from a reduction in costs!) lower their energy bill and shrink their carbon footprint.
Advocating for sustainability means establishing infrastructure that is not only green for future generations, but also accessible to everyone, today. Elkay’s filling stations are a great option to provide clean water economically to large student bodies. Their design also makes it easier for wheelchair users or those who are unable to comfortably sip from a typical drinking fountain. When it comes to green or sustainable design and the safety of our waterways, bottle filling stations are a no-brainer. And the more we see of them on our daily commute, the more likely we are to take one more small and mighty step toward a sustainable future.
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