After water testing in Flint, Michigan, exposed dangerous levels of toxic lead in the city’s drinking water, national attention focused on the issue of water quality.
In New York City, recent tests of public school drinking water found some alarming results: 1 in 20 taps across the school system were producing potentially toxic water.
New York is famous for its clear, clean drinking water. But old pipes are another matter.
The solution is “super water,” said the CEO of a Brooklyn-based environmental technology company.
Max MacKenzie, of Prosper Technologies, said super-oxygenated water could prove to be a revolutionary cleaning substance to purify lead-contaminated drinking water.
The city needs a fast, economical and highly-effective method to protect children from the neurological damage caused by lead poisoning, MacKenzie said.
He explained how the company's Gas Infusion technology works: “We infuse high concentrations of dissolved oxygen into the lead contaminated water,” he said. The oxygen reacts with the lead, which creates lead hydroxide, and makes it into larger particles. “It’s so simple. It’s instantaneous. In comes lead contaminated water and out comes drinkable water with the added health properties of super-oxygenated water.”
Basically, the dissolved oxygen is lead’s kryptonite. A far larger version of Prosper's filter system was used last year to clean contaminated lakes on Necker Island in the British Virgin Islands, on land belonging to billionaire Richard Branson.
The city Department of Health, however, maintains that there has never been a known case of lead poisoning from drinking water in schools. "New York City’s drinking water is of the highest quality, and families can rest assured that water in schools is safe for students and staff to drink,” according to a statement from the agency. The Department of Health said that over the last few months, it "tested every potential drinking source at schools citywide, and as part of our comprehensive remediation protocol, any elevated fixtures have been successfully remediated or are remaining out of service until remediation is complete."
But MacKenzie said the filters work, and are a necessary safety precaution. One such school that could benefit from the system, MacKenzie said, is PS 289 in Brooklyn. Tests showed the school’s water had 15,000 particles per billion, more lead than the highest amount found in any sample of water from Flint.
“Some of these contamination issues are in a building that doesn’t have the resources or the money to remove all the lead pipes, MacKenzie said. “For that fountain in Brooklyn, with a robust enough filter, it would only have to be changed once a year.”
MacKenzie’s company did not invent the system, but rather bought the technology and improved on it.
The cost is not cheap. An estimate has the price at about $50,000 per school to outfit and maintain the water systems.
While the technology might be an ideal short-term solution, some experts say it delays meaningful repair.
“You cannot not rely on those kind of fixes and actually get at the heart of the problem,” said Richard Luthy, a Stanford University professor of civil and environmental engineering. Luthy specializes in the topics of fresh water and public health. The real answer to the problem, he told Metro, is not the water itself. “You want to replace the lead line,” he said.