Tuesday, August 29, 2006

More Water

It is raining today, to the distress of Wellfleet’s tourists. Downtown this afternoon I observed the crowd in slickers and raincoats, exploring our shops and art galleries. The water I want to discuss is not falling from the sky, however. It is the water we drink, groundwater, partially replenished by rain. I wrote a letter to the editor of the Provincetown Banner, inspired by an article in the August 17 issue:

“Thank you for last week’s 'Study finds hormone-disrupting chemicals in groundwater.' I obtained the article Kahrin Deines mentioned and intend to give it to the Wellfleet Board of Health. We all know Barnstable County has a very high cancer rate. Now here is something we can do to lower it. Stop throwing chemicals down the drain! What we put into our septic systems inevitably ends up in our groundwater. I use non-toxic Seventh Generation washing powder for laundry, but what about my neighbors, whose wastewater runs underneath my green bed & breakfast? They may use detergents and detergent contains alkylphenol, “a synthetic compound that mimics estrogen’s structure.” Kahrin Deines’ article indicates a community effort may be needed to lower the incidence of cancer in Barnstable County. Household cleaning products can be hazardous to health.”

Today I sent the study to members of the Wellfleet Board of Health, asking whether they would favor a campaign to inform Wellfleet’s population on the benefits of environmentally-friendly cleaning products. The Banner is conducting an online poll this week about whether or not its readers would be willing to switch. It will be interesting to read the conclusions.

I also contacted Chris Swartz, author of the study mentioned in the Banner article, to ask whether Pur filters eliminate alkylphenols. I would like to share here his response:

“I cannot tell you with a certainty backed by actual data that a PUR or any other activated carbon filter removes alkylphenols (which are a class of chemicals – there are many within this class) because there is no data that I could find. When companies test these products for their removal efficiency, they look at it from the perspective of regulated pollutants – those that EPA has on the list to monitor under the Safe Water Drinking Act. Alkylphenols are not on this list. They are currently unregulated.

I went to the PUR website and found this list of removed contaminants:

Although we cannot endorse any product specifically, the two-stage filter looks like it would remove alkylphenols, as the chemical properties that control the removal of alkylphenols from water fall with the range of other organic chemicals such as pesticides, benzene, etc.) that are removed.

The three-stage removes an even wider range of chemicals for greater peace of mind, but this is only available as an add-on to the tap and as a separate side tap (go to the product section in the Website to see all products available). It doesn’t look like the three-stage is available as a dispenser if you wanted that convenience."

Chez Sven already uses the two-stage. I will buy the add-on, three-stage, too. We have been full all summer. I attribute part of our success to being green. Guests do care. I would love it if all the bed & breakfasts on the Cape stopped using products that are detrimental to the environment. They could take baby steps, the way we did. Start by switching to Seventh Generation washing powder, for instance.

What visitors can do is be more discerning. Ask your waitress whether the restaurant serves water from the tap, or uses activated carbon filters. At your hotel or bed & breakfast, request linens washed in environmentally-friendly products.

Together we can make a difference, and perhaps reverse the cancer statistics on the Cape.