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Orange County’s pure drinking water comes from filtered sewage



  • Orange County tap water is “as clean as water can be,” activist Seth Siegel writes in his new book, “Troubled Water.”
  • Things weren’t always that way: For decades, seawater was seeping into the community’s fresh water supply, threatening to expose residents to excess sodium in their taps.
  • But in 2008, the county revealed a new system that filters sewage water through microscopic holes and disinfects it with UV light to zap contaminants.
  • Siegel said the system can be replicated all across the country, even in low-income communities.
  • Visit for more stories.

Whenever I visit my hometown of Orange County, California, I get to sip some of the purest drinking water in the country.

The quality is sometimes hard to spot, since many drinking water contaminants are odorless, tasteless, and invisible to the human eye. Even in cities where the water is contaminated with lead, residents have reported that their taps are crystal clear.

But in Orange County, the water is actually as clean as it looks.

It wasn’t always that way. In his new book, “Troubled Water,” activist Seth Siegel explains how Orange County’s taps went from having too much saltwater to spouting the purest drinking water in the US.

Saltwater was seeping into Orange County’s freshwater supply

Orange County is just 35 miles away from Los Angeles, but it relies on a completely different water system to serve its nearly 3.2 million residents. About a decade ago, that system begin churning out the most pristine water the country has ever seen.

From about the 1930s to the 1970s, farmers over-pumped water through Orange County’s underground aquifers, the bodies of porous rock that act as a natural filtration system. The process allowed seawater to seep into the county’s freshwater supply — what’s known as “saltwater intrusion” — and threatened to expose residents to excess sodium in their taps.

Though scientists are still studying the health effects of too much sodium in drinking water, early research suggests it could lead to hypertension and chronic kidney disease.

Orange County prevented this scenario by getting people to drink recycled water instead.

Now, Orange County tap water starts out as sewage

Water orange county

The Groundwater Replenishment System in Fountain Valley, California, converts Orange County’s sewage water into drinking water.
Mary Knox Merrill/The Christian Science Monitor/Getty Images

In 2008, the county unveiled a Groundwater Replenishment System that purifies wastewater from the local sewage system and turns it into clean drinking water.

Many cities have struggled to implement the system due to pushback from local residents who aren’t keen on drinking water that originated in their toilets. But more than 4 million Americans — including residents of Dallas, Phoenix, and Atlanta — now get at least a portion of their drinking water from treated sewage.

Read more: 11 cities with the worst tap water in the US

But Orange County’s process is unique because it filters for inorganic contaminants — things like pesticides and industrial chemicals that are hard to detect in water, and may still be allowed under federal law.

The US Environmental Protection Agency currently has drinking water regulations for more than 90 contaminants, but Siegel said more than 100,000 chemicals and pharmaceutical compounds escape regulation.

“What makes Orange County so special is they say, ‘Okay, fine, the federal rules are X. We don’t really care. We’re going to go so far beyond those rules that we’re going to make the purest water flow we can possibly have,'” he told Business Insider.

Water gets filtered through invisible holes and zapped with UV light

Orange County’s filtration process begins like most “toilet to tap” systems in the US. Household sewage arrives at local wastewater treatment facilities, where it’s filtered by screens. Then friendly bacteria is added to get rid of lingering organic material (aka poop).

Most communities allow this treated water to be discharged into public waterways, but Orange County’s process doesn’t stop there.

Next, the water heads to the Groundwater Replenishment System, where it passes through another set of filters with holes so tiny that they’re invisible to the human eye. Mike Wehner, the assistant general manager at the Orange County Water District, told Siegel that the holes are 150 times smaller than the width of a human hair.

water orange county filtration

Orange County’s underground filtration system removes particles, bacteria, and viruses from pre-treated sewage water, and pumps them through stainless steel pipes.
Mary Knox Merrill/The Christian Science Monitor/Getty Images

From there, the water goes through reverse osmosis, a process that extracts salt, minerals, chemicals, and pharmaceutical compounds.

The water that emerges is free of minerals, so it’s slightly acidic, which means it can corrode local pipes. So the county adds crushed limestone back into the water supply to neutralize the pH. From there, it disinfects the water by zapping it with ultraviolet light. This ensures that not a single molecule of waste can survive.

“It’s not fair to say that a contaminant could never possibly be in Orange County’s water,” Siegel said. But the community’s taps, he added, are “as pure as pure can be.”

The process could be replicated all over the country

Orange County’s “toilet to tap” system was expensive — around $480 million to get off the ground. But Siegel makes the argument in his book that almost any city can replicate the process for cheaper.

water orange county tap

Water from the Groundwater Replenishment System in Fountain Valley, California.
Mary Knox Merrill/The Christian Science Monitor/Getty Images

In many poor communities, he said, water fees aren’t actually used to improve the local water system by investing in water infrastructure and technology. The majority of these fees, he said, go toward the municipal budget.

“Flint actually had the highest water fees in the United States when the crisis broke,” Siegel said. “What they did wrong was they diverted money from water fees to the general budget.”

Based on his conversation with Wehner, Siegel estimates that having water as pure as Orange County’s would cost communities an extra $33 per person per year. (That’s after replaying any loans used to build the system, and not including state and federal subsidies.)

As filtration technologies become more advanced, he said, that cost could drop even lower.

“Now that Orange County has led the way and spent fortunes of money to figure it out, everybody can adopt more or less the Orange County system at not a phenomenal expense,” Siegel said. “Why isn’t everyone doing it? The answer is: because nobody’s pushing them to.”

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Video: Tesla Cybertruck ‘armor glass’ windows smash in test gone wrong



Tesla’s new Cybertruck launch didn’t go quite as smoothly as expected after its “armor glass” windows got smashed during a live test.

CEO Elon Musk unveiled the $39,900 truck in Los Angeles on Thursday, and got lead designer Franz von Holzhausen to test the left-side windows by throwing a silver metal ball at them.

After von Holzhausen smashed the front-left window with ease, Musk exclaimed: “Oh my f—–g God. Well, maybe that was a little too hard.”

“It didn’t go through, that’s a plus side,” he said.

Von Halzhausen then tested the back-left window, which also smashed. “Room for improvement,” Musk joked.

“We threw wrenches, we threw literally the kitchen sink at the glass and it didn’t break. For some reason it broke now… I don’t know why.”

Tesla Cybertruck

Tesla Cybertruck.

Before the hiccup, in his opening remarks Musk said: “Trucks have been the same for a very long time,”  while images of conventional trucks flashed on a screen behind him.

A caption on the screen read: “100 years of the same.”

Elon Musk smashed windows

Elon Musk in front of his Cybertruck, complete with smashed windows, on Thursday.

The Cybertruck is made of a heavy-duty exterior shell made from “ultra-hard 30X cold-rolled stainless steel” and armored glass, according to Tesla.

Musk took pains to show the Cybertruck as being unlike any other production passenger truck on the road, punctuated by a 100-cubic-foot cargo area, and up to 14,000 pounds of towing capacity.

The Cybertruck can reach 60 miles per hour in 2.9 seconds, according to Musk.

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Payments Industry Ecosystem Report 2019: Full Value Chain Explained



The digitization of daily life is making phones and connected devices the preferred payment tools for consumers — preferences that are causing digital payment volume to blossom worldwide.

The Payment Processing Industry Overview

As noncash payment volume accelerates, the power dynamics of the payments industry are shifting further in favor of digital and omnichannel providers, attracting a wide swath of providers to the space and forcing firms to diversify, collaborate, or consolidate in order to capitalize on a growing revenue opportunity.

More and more, consumers want fast and simple payments. Rising e- and m-commerce, surges in mobile P2P, and increasing willingness among customers in developed countries to try new transaction channels, like mobile in-store payments, voice and chatbot payments, or connected device payments are all increasing transaction touchpoints for providers.

US Mobile Point-Of-Sale Installed Base

Business Insider Intelligence

This is helping payments become seamless, allowing firms to boost adoption, build and strengthen relationships, offer more services, and increase usage.

But payment ubiquity and invisibility also comes with challenges. Regulatory changes and geopolitical tensions are forcing players to reevaluate their approach to scale. And fraudsters are more aggressively exploiting vulnerabilities, making data breaches feel almost inevitable and pushing providers to improve their defenses and crisis response capabilities alike.

The Payments Industry Explained

In the latest annual edition of The Payments Ecosystem Report, Business Insider Intelligence unpacks the current digital payments ecosystem, and explores how changes will impact the industry in both the short- and long-term. The report traces the path of an in-store card payment from processing to settlement to clarify the role of key stakeholders and assess how the landscape has shifted.

It uses forecasts, case studies, and product developments from the past year to explain how digital transformation is impacting major payment processing industry segments and evaluate the pace of change. Finally, it highlights five trends that should shape the payments industry in the year ahead, looking at how regulatory shifts, emerging technologies, and competition could impact the payments ecosystem.

Here are some key takeaways from the report:

  • Behind the scenes, payment processes and stakeholders remain similar. But providers are forced to make payments as frictionless as possible as online shopping surges: E-commerce is poised to exceed $1 trillion — nearly a fifth of total US retail — by 2023.
  • The channels and front-end methods that consumers use to make payments are evolving. Mobile in-store payments are huge in developing markets, but approaching an inflection point in developed regions where adoption has been laggy. And the ubiquity of mobile P2P services like Venmo and Square Cash will propel digital P2P to $574 billion by 2023.
  • The competitive payments industry landscape will shift as companies pursue joint ventures to grow abroad in response to geopolitical tensions, or consolidate to achieve rapid scale amid digitization.
  • Fees, bans, steering, or regulation could impact the way consumers pay, pushing them toward emerging methods that bypass card rails, and limit key revenue sources that providers use to fund rewards and marketing initiatives.
  • Tokenization will continue to mainstream as a key way providers are preventing and responding to the omnipresent data breach threat.

In full, the report:

  • Explains the factors contributing to a swell in global noncash payments
  • Examines shifts in the roles of major industry stakeholders, including issuers, card networks, acquirer-processors, POS terminal vendors, and gateways
  • Presents forecasts and highlights major trends and payments events driving digital payments growth
  • Identifies five trends that will shape the payments industry ecosystem in the year ahead

Interested in getting the full report? Here’s how to get access:

  1. Purchase & download the full report from our research store. >>  Purchase & Download Now
  2. Sign up for Payments & Commerce Pro, Business Insider Intelligence’s expert product suite keeping you up-to-date on the people, technologies, trends, and companies shaping the future of consumerism, delivered to your inbox 6x a week. >> Get Started
  3. Join thousands of top companies worldwide who trust Business Insider Intelligence for their competitive research needs. >> Inquire About Our Enterprise Memberships
  4. Current subscribers can read the report here.

The companies mentioned in the report are: CCEL, Adyen, Affirm, Afterpay, Amazon, American Express, Ant Financial, Apple, AribaPay, Authorize.Net, Bank of America, Barclays, Beem It, Billtrust, Braintree, Capital One, Cardtronics, Chase Paymentech, Citi, Discover, First Data, Flywire, Fraedom, Gemalto, GM, Google, Green Dot, Huifu, Hyundai, Ingenico, Jaguar, JPMorgan Chase, Klarna, Kroger, LianLian, Lydia, Macy’s, Mastercard, MICROS, MoneyGram, Monzo, NCR, Netflix, P97, PayPal, Paytm, Poynt, QuickBooks, Sainsbury’s, Samsung, Santander, Shell, Square, Starbucks, Stripe, Synchrony Financial, Target, TransferWise, TSYS, UnionPay, Venmo, Verifone, Visa, Vocalink, Walmart, WeChat/Tencent, Weebly, Wells Fargo, Western Union, Worldpay, WorldRemit, Xevo, Zelle, Zesty, and ZipRecruiter, among others

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Navy Advanced Arresting Gear for new carriers survives demanding test



  • The US Navy recently achieved a milestone in the development of the Advanced Arresting Gear for its new Ford-class aircraft carriers.
  • During a test at the Runway Arrested Landing Site in Lakehurst, New Jersey, a test team was able to recover aircraft 22 times in just over 26 minutes.
  • One of the Navy’s ambitions for Ford-class carriers is increasing lethality by achieving a higher sortie rate than Nimitz-class carriers by using electromagnetic catapults, advanced weapons elevators, and new arresting gear.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The US Navy recently achieved a milestone in the development of its advanced aircraft recovery capabilities for its new supercarriers, Naval Air Systems Command announced this week.

During a challenging test of the Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG) for the Navy’s new Ford-class aircraft carriers at the Runway Arrested Landing Site in Lakehurst, New Jersey, in late October, the Navy was able to pull off 22 aircraft recoveries in roughly 26 minutes.

The AAG, a General Atomics turbo-electric aircraft recovery system built as a more advanced alternative to the MK 7 hydraulic arresting gear used on the Navy’s Nimitz-class carriers, is part of a suite of new technology incorporated into the Ford-class carriers.

Like the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) and the Advanced Weapons Elevators (AWEs), the arresting gear has also had its share of problems during the development process.

Navy Gerald Ford aircraft carrier FA-18 Super Hornet landing

An F/A-18F Super Hornet performs an arrested landing aboard USS Gerald R. Ford, July 28, 2017.
US Navy/Mass Comm. Specialist 3rd Class Elizabeth A. Thompson

In August, the AAG was given a green light to recover all “props and jets,” according to the Aircraft Recovery Bulletin released that month. But now the Navy wants to make sure it can meet sortie-generation requirements.

During the recent two-day aircraft AAG tests, the Navy team evaluated ability of the AAG’s thermal management system to handle the heat produced by fast-paced flight operations, NAVAIR explained.

“This never-before accomplished test event was effectively executed with herculean efforts by a collaborative program office-fleet team,” Capt. Ken Sterbenz, Aircraft Launch and Recovery Equipment (PMA-251) program manager, said in a statement.

“This achievement represents a significant datapoint for AAG performance as experienced at our single engine land-based site. I’m highly confident with AAG going into CVN 78 Aircraft Compatibility Testing early next year where the full, three-engine recovery system configuration will be utilized.”

The recent testing involved five F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, 25 maintainers from Carrier Air Wing 8 (CVW 8), six pilots from Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 23 (VX 23), and two sailors from the USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), which is the first of a new class of carriers and the most advanced flat top in the Navy’s arsenal.

As of September, the AAG test program had completed more than 2,600 dead-load arrestments at the Jet Car Track Site and over 1,570 arrestments at the Runway Arrested Landing Site, NAVAIR revealed. The Ford has executed 747 sorties so far. Flight operations are expected to begin early next year.

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