I understand that the media used within the Berkey PF-2™ elements is activated alumina. Is that the same thing as aluminum?

Our PF-2 filters reduce fluoride and arsenic in your water using the media aluminum oxide (aka activated alumina). As a consumer, it’s important to know that pure aluminum and aluminum oxide have vastly different characteristics. Pure aluminum is water-soluble, it is highly reactive and it is associated with negative health effects. By contrast aluminum oxide is not water-soluble; it is inert, is very stable and is not associated with negative health effects. To learn more about aluminum oxide and separate fact from fiction, click here. To view independent lab results, click here.

How do I transport my Berkey system?

Prior to transporting or moving any Berkey® system, the Black Berkey® Purification Elements must first be removed. Failure to remove the elements from the system can result in broken stems. Place the elements in secure and water-tight packaging. The top and bottom of the stainless steel systems nest within each other for easy transport (remove spigot from the lower chamber).

Please note: Failure to remove the elements from the system can result in broken stems. This is not covered under the manufacturer’s warranty.

What is the most convenient method for filling up the upper chamber of my system with water?

Most people use a pitcher to pour water into the upper chamber; however, if you have a spray hose on your sink, using it to refill the system is a very convenient method.

How should I clean my stainless steel chambers?

Follow these two steps:

Wash lower chamber once per month with soapy dishwater.
In areas with hard water, calcium scale may build up on spigot and chambers after prolonged use. To remove, soak affected part(s) in vinegar or a 50-50% mix of vinegar and water for about 15 minutes. Wipe away calcium scale with a ScotchBrite pad or soft brush then wash with soapy dishwater and rinse.

I want to be extra safe. What can I do to disinfect the water before filtering it?

The Berkey water purification systems can efficiently purify raw untreated pond, lake and river water. However, always use the cleanest and clearest water possible. As an additional precaution, if using a source of water that you believe might contain extreme viral and bacteriological contamination, it is recommended by the CDC, EPA and other organizations that approximately sixteen drops of plain bleach (sodium hypochlorite) or iodine per gallon be added to treat the source water before purifying. This should kill minute pathogens such as viruses, within 30 minutes. The disinfectant will be removed from the treated water entirely with the Berkey system, including any odor or taste.

For more information about disinfecting water, please reference the following links. cdc.gov or  water.epa.gov.

How do I collect a water sample?

When testing a water sample, we recommend using this standard testing protocol.

What type of steel is used for the housing of Berkey® systems?

New Millennium Concepts, Ltd. uses only the highest quality, highly polished AISI 304 grade stainless steel, known for its high corrosion and heat-resistant properties, in our Berkey® Water systems. It is equivalent to high quality 18/8 stainless steel cookware.

When I boil or freeze water from my Berkey® system I see white floating things in the water. What is this?

This is an issue that mostly occurs with hard (heavily mineralized) water. The healthiest water has a higher PH level because it has less acidity. When the PH level of the purified water is raised, the acidity of the water goes down and the water is no longer able to hold as many minerals in solution.  When this happens the minerals begin to precipitate out over time and,  depending on the mineral composition,  they will either sink to the bottom or float to the top.  This process is known as flocculation and the precipitated minerals are usually referred to as “white floaters”.  The bottom line is that this is nothing to be concerned about. The white floaters are minerals that were already in your water; they are now simply visible whereas they were previously invisible due to their suspension in an ionic form.

The water in the upper chamber of my Berkey system does not drain all the way. Is this normal?

Yes, it is normal and not unusual for the last 1.3 cm. to 2.5 cm. of water to remain in the upper chamber. By design, the water must pass through very fine micropores within the elements in order to pass from the upper chamber to the lower. The lower the water level in the upper chamber, the lower the pressure available to force the water through the micropores. You may have noticed that the system purifies much faster when full than when half full. That’s because there is more water pressure. The only way to remedy this problem would be to enlarge the pores of the filter elements. This would, of course, reduce the efficiency of the Berkey purification system. During each cycle, the water left from the previous cycle mixes with the water from the current cycle and is then purified. There is no need to be concerned about excess water during normal use. Should you, however, discontinue using your filter for a period of time such as during a vacation, it would be best to empty both chambers before departing and leave them upside down to dry on the dish rack.

How Important is Having Potable Water During an Emergency?

Star Advertiser uploaded an excellent article detailing the necessity of having clean water in the wake of natural disasters.  We definitely giving it a read to know the best ways to be prepared for a lack of clean water.

What is the TDS reading of the purified water?

A TDS meter does not register much of a change between the pre-filtered water and the post-filtered water. This is normal, and the answer has to do with what a TDS meter actually measures.  According to tdsmeter.com, “Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) are the total amount of mobile charged ions, including minerals, salts or metals dissolved in a given volume of water, expressed in units of mg per unit volume of water (mg/L), also referred to as parts per million (ppm). TDS is directly related to the purity of water and the quality of water purification systems and affects everything that consumes, lives in, or uses water, whether organic or inorganic, whether for better or for worse.”

This statement is both correct and incorrect.  It is correct in what a TDS measurement consists of, namely the “total amount of mobile charged ions, including minerals, salts or metals dissolved in a given volume of water”. It is incorrect in its conclusion that TDS is related to the purity of the water and the quality of the water purification system.  If the measure of a water purification system was how close it could make water to pure H2O, then maybe it would be correct. But, people need minerals to live. Thus, helpful minerals in your water are actually a good thing.  A quality water purification system should filter out things that are harmful to your body but leave in helpful things such as minerals. Black Berkey elements are designed to leave healthful and beneficial minerals in your water and to extract the unwanted heavy metals such as lead and mercury as well as sedimentary minerals such as iron oxide and aluminum.

So, when our customers use a TDS meter, what they find is that the reading both before and after the water has gone through the Black Berkey elements about the same.  And they are correct. The Black Berkey elements do not take out all of the beneficial minerals.  Thus, of the things that a TDS meter will actually detect, the Black Berkey elements will only remove the unwanted heavy metals such as lead and mercury as well as sedimentary minerals such as iron oxide and aluminum.  Therefore, your TDS reading will not change much unless you have a significant amount of heavy metals or sedimentary minerals in your water.

A TDS meter does not measure the amount of biological and chemical contaminants. The important thing is to not simply rely on a TDS meter for your measure of whether your water is good. You can have low TDS count water that has harmful bacteria in it. You can have high TDS count water that is perfectly safe (e.g. – pure, unpolluted ocean saltwater…albeit, you wouldn’t drink it, but that’s only because the mineral is salt). Thus, make sure you know what your TDS meter is actually telling you.

How should I store my Black Berkey® Purification Elements and how long is their shelf-life?

If you have used your elements:
The method of storage  depends upon the length of time that the Black Berkey® Purification Elements will not be used:

If the filters will not be used between 4 to 15 days and you want to avoid the re-priming process, remove the filters  from the system, place them into a sealable sandwich bag or container and place the filters in the refrigerator towards the front to ensure that they do not freeze. This will allow the filters to stay mostly saturated so that re-priming is not typically necessary. If for any reason the filters run slower than ususal, re-prime  them until the exterior wall of the filter begins to sweat beads of water for 10 seconds.

For long term storage, we recommend drying and sealing the filters. The key is to ensure they are bone-dry  before storing them long-term, to prevent any potential bacterial growth. One  option for drying your filters is to leave them on a window sill for one to three days and allow them to air-dry. We also offer a tool to assist in both priming and purging. This tool is called a Black Berkey Primer™. The benefit to purging the Black Berkey® Purification Elements is that they are dried very quickly. Once the filters are bone-dry, place them in a storage bag such as a large, seal-able sandwich bag. The elements are extremely powerful and can absorb odors and smoke from the air. By sealing them in a storage bag, they should not absorb any odors from the air. When you are ready to re-use your filters, clean them by scrubbing the outside with a Scotch-Brite® pad or stiff brush. Then re-prime the filters either manually or with the  Black Berkey Primer™ before putting them back in the system.

If you have never used your elements:
If the elements are unopened and in their original packaging, please ensure you do not store the elements in an area that also has strong smells to them, such as a laundry room or garage. The elements have carbon as one of their components so it is possible for them to absorb the odors of the room they are stored in. For example, if they are stored in a laundry room, it is possible for the media in the elements to pick up the odor of highly fragranced items such as powdered laundry soap.
** When storing the chambers of your Berkey® system, it is best to empty both chambers before storing them, because anytime water is still, it becomes stagnant and can produce bacteria. We recommend washing your Berkey® system with soapy water before leaving it to dry.

Do your Black Berkey® Purification Elements remove Glyphosate?

Glyphosate is a non-selective herbicide and pesticide. Glyphosate is primarily released into the environment via runoff water and predominately applied as a spray for agricultural purposes. This contaminant has recently become the topic of discussion because of its association with acute or chronic exposure leading to various potential health issues or concerns. The EPA has extensive information published about Glyphosate, particularly about it being in drinking water. Click here to view basic information about Glyphosate in drinking water. Black Berkey® Purification Elements will reduce Glyphosate in your water by greater than 75%, exceeding the laboratories reporting limits. Please click here to view our Organic Test Results. To purchase a set of Black Berkey® Purification Elements, please click here.

Additional resources for glyphosate can be found through the Environmental Working Group and the National Institutes for Health 

Do the Black Berkey® Purification Elements remove cyanobacteria associated with algae blooms?

Algae blooms are composed of floating colonies of cyanobacteria.
While New Millennium Concepts, Ltd. has not conducted specific testing for cyanobacteria, our expectation is that the reduction of cyanobacteria should occur because:
Cyanobacterial cells range in size from 0.5 micrometers to 40 micrometers.
A “micron” is an abbreviated term for “micrometer”, or a millionth of a meter (1/1,000,000 meters). This is about .00004 inches. For size comparison, a human red blood cell is about 5 microns across. A human hair is about 75 microns across (depending on the person).” *
Working down to a smaller scale… .5-40 microns would be 500-40,000 nanometers in size.
The Black Berkey® Purification Elements can reduce viruses down to the nanometer scale, in the tested range of 24-26 nanometers:
24-26 nanometers is .024 to .026 microns…in other words, much smaller than cyanobacterial cells found in algae blooms.
The fact that Black Berkey® purification elements have been tested to remove viruses to the nanometer range suggests that contaminants much larger in size, such as cyanobacteria, should also be removed. Nevertheless, since NMCL has no specific testing for cyanobacteria, we cannot make any specific claims for cyanobacterial reduction.
NMCL always recommends that you use the cleanest source of water available, whenever possible.
* http://www.bacteria-world.com/how-big-micron.htm

If NMCL’s recent test results show that the Black Berkey® Purification Elements reduce Fluoride, then why do I need the Berkey PF-2™ Post Filter Elements?

NMCL’s most recent laboratory testing indicates that the Black Berkey® Purification Elements will initially reduce Fluoride up to 99.9%. Typically, carbon-based elements that reduce Fluoride begin to lose that ability rather quickly. This may be the case with Black Berkey® Elements as their efficiency at removing Fluoride likely plays out long before the 3,000-gallon life of the element.
There are a number of filters on the market that utilize carbonized bone char (a media that NMCL purposely chooses not to use), and that make claims for Fluoride reduction, without informing their customers that the fluoride removing ability of the filters plays out quickly. The reason this occurs is because it takes a very large amount of media to remove small amounts of Fluoride. Therefore, there is not enough media in such filters to remove Fluoride effectively over the long term. For example, we have testing for a competitor’s 3-filter system that utilizes bone char for their Fluoride removal claims and, as one would expect, those elements become quickly exhausted. Testing shows that their efficiency declines from 100% removal to 81.4% removal after filtering a mere 45 gallons. This is equivalent to only 15 gallons per element required for them to experience a dramatic ~20% decline in efficiency.
This same effect likely occurs with Black Berkey® Elements after a few hundred gallons. For that reason NMCL developed a more durable and longer lasting solution for Fluoride reduction by creating the replaceable Berkey® PF-2™ Fluoride reduction elements. The media in a set of Berkey® PF-2™ elements can reliably remove Fluoride contaminants for up to 1,000 gallons, which is less than the 3,000 gallon life of the Black Berkey® Elements but again, that is why they were designed to be replaceable. This enables the users to reliably remove Fluoride contaminants from their water while taking full advantage of the 3,000 gallon life of their Black Berkey® Elements.
The Black Berkey® Purification Element’s job is to remove a wide variety of potential contaminants, while the Berkey® PF-2™ Post Filter’s job is to remove Fluoride contaminants that the Black Berkey® Purification Elements may begin to miss after extended use.
Actual capacity is dependent on the presence of other competing contaminants in the source water. High levels of arsenic and heavy metals may reduce the capacity and efficiency of these elements.

Comparison of Berkey® Purification to Reverse Osmosis and Distillation

Healthfulness of Reverse Osmosis and Distillation
Based on current research, most health experts are no longer recommending drinking Reverse Osmosis or Distilled water on a long-term basis because these methods strip out all of the beneficial minerals from the water, making the water an acidic “hypotonic” solution. A chemist will tell you that when a hypotonic (de-mineralized) solution comes into contact with a “hypertonic” (mineralized) solution, the minerals within the hypertonic solution will transfer out of hypertonic solution and into the hypotonic solution until equilibrium is achieved. What this simply means is that when one drinks hypotonic water, the minerals in the blood and lymphatic system, which are hypertonic, transfer into the hypotonic Reverse Osmosis or Distilled water that is consumed and the minerals are flushed out of the body upon urination. In an effort to re-mineralize, the blood and lymphatic systems then begin to scavenge for minerals from other parts of the body, such as bones and other organs, and this process repeats itself every time de-mineralized hypotonic water is re-consumed. Several studies suggest that people who drink de-mineralized water (hypotonic) over a long period of time tend to be more prone to degenerative diseases such as osteoporosis. Berkey® Purification systems do not remove all of the beneficial minerals from the water, but they do extract harmful heavy metals such as lead and mercury as well as sedimentary minerals such as iron oxide. Therefore, the TDS reading will not typically change much unless there are a lot of heavy metals or sedimentary minerals within the source water.
Pathological Removal Capability of a Reverse Osmosis System
Reverse Osmosis does not remove pathogenic bacteria and that is why it is often necessary to add an additional UV light to the system. However, the UV sometimes does not kill all the bacteria because any turbidity in the water can create shaded spots, preventing some bacteria from being exposed. Typically, the UV is installed before the bladder tank; however it is in the bladder tank that bacteria usually colonize. Therefore, if the bladder tank is not sterilized on a regular basis, it becomes a source for bacteriological contamination that is never exposed to UV. Additionally, the carcasses of the dead bacteria remain within the drinking water with a Reverse Osmosis system, whereas they are removed by the Black Berkey® Purification elements.
Tankless Reverse Osmosis Systems
While some newer tankless Reverse Osmosis systems have overcome the issue of bacteria colonizing in the bladder tank, these systems have their own set of inherent issues, including:
TDS Creep:  without a flush tank, the initial water coming out can taste horrid, due to increased TDS in the water.
High Failure Rate:  some tankless models have already been removed from the market, due to numerous issues, including high rates of failure.
Noise: depending on the specific model and features, some units are extremely noisy to operate.
Excessive Water Waste:  this is a problem with both standard and tankless Reverse Osmosis systems.
Cost: with multiple membranes being used, the overall cost per gallon, can be even more expensive than older style Reverse Osmosis systems.
Reverse Osmosis systems typically are the most expensive due to the cost of the system and the additional expense to have the system plumbed in. Next in cost would be a Distillation unit. A Berkey® system will typically be the least expensive of the three. With respect to cost per gallon of water, calculated upon the cost per gallon for replacement filters and energy costs, Distillation systems and Reverse Osmosis systems that are properly maintained typically cost between 35-65 cents per gallon. A Berkey® system typically costs about 1.8 cents per gallon.
Reverse Osmosis systems can have up to four filter elements, with each needing to be changed at differing intervals from four months up to two years. This requires that the water pressure be shut off and part or all of the system be disassembled for maintenance. Additionally, the bladder tank should be washed with a chlorine solution at six-month intervals to kill any colonizing bacteria. Distillation systems need to be soaked and cleaned with vinegar solution to remove the scale, typically after each gallon or two. All Berkey® systems are easy to disassemble and clean. Typically the lower chamber should be washed in ordinary dishwater once per month.
Supporting Research