We can be exposed to heavy metals via bioaccumulation in our food, and this process typically starts in aquatic environments with microorganisms. These pollutants can enter our food supply through agricultural crops that have been exposed to contaminated water and soil. Some people ingest heavy metals when they drink contaminated water, and that will be the focus of this article.
There are many effective water treatment systems that are capable of removing heavy metals. But, the best way to determine the concentrations of contaminants, including heavy metals, is to invest in laboratory water testing. A water testing kit will provide some basic information, but it won’t give you sufficient data to make truly informed decisions.
3 Heavy Water Treatment Systems
Let’s take a brief look at three water treatment systems that can remove heavy metals and many other contaminants:
1. Reverse Osmosis (RO)
A RO filter uses a semi-permeable membrane with tiny pores to remove any contaminants larger than 0.0001 micrometers. There may be pre- and post-treatment stages to remove sediment and chlorine that can damage the filter. RO efficiency for metal removal is 99.4% which is impressive, but there are some drawbacks. RO water treatment takes time, and the filtered water must be stored in a tank for later use. These systems also waste a large volume of water that can drive up the utility bill by around $50 per month. But, if you want high quality water that’s virtually free from all contaminants, RO filtration systems are hard to beat.
The ion-exchange process is best known as the method used in a water softener to remove high concentrations of dissolved minerals. But, this process is also effective at removing heavy metals, including lead, cadmium, chromium, mercury, copper, and nickel. The heavy metal ions are attracted to a resin media surface, and it’s exchanged for benign hydrogen ions. There are a couple of drawbacks to consider. First, this process requires regeneration and backwash, which can waste a large volume of water. Another problem is that this process cannot deal with high heavy metal solution concentrations.
3. Chemical Precipitation
This is a widely used heavy metal removal method in water treatment plants. The polluted water is mixed with a lime chemical solution that reacts with the metal ions. The heavy metals then precipitate into a solid form that can be filtered out easily. This is not a water treatment process that would be viable for a home. A concentrated sludge is created for later removal, and complex chemical dosing is required.
A great deal of water treatment takes place in water treatment plants with varying degrees of efficacy. Human error can be a problem, but heavy metals can also enter the water supply after the treated water leaves the plant. The water delivery infrastructure needs investment, and breaks in the water lines allow contaminants access to the water. There are advanced testing options for water and soil that are contaminated with heavy metals.
If you want to learn more about removing heavy metals and other contaminants from your drinking water, contact your local water treatment specialist today.
By EcoWater Systems.
EcoWater Systems of Nebraska is the largest water treatment company in the state and is a member of Water Quality Association.