Q Doesn?t deep lake water cooling have a negative effect on Lake Ontario?s already fragile ecosystem?
A Not everyone thinks Toronto's all that cool, but its deep lake water cooling system is actually pretty fly. I know, I know, you'd assume there's gotta be something ecologically wrong with sucking substantial quantities of water from the lake to air-condition downtown office towers, but you'll be happy to know we actually got this one right.
How? Well, for the past couple of years, Enwave Energy Corp. has been drawing icy water from three pipes 5 kilometres offshore. From 80 metres deep, they suck up water that's a chilly 4° and pipe it to the John Street Pumping Station. There, heat exchangers transfer some of that coldness over to Enwave's closed chilled-water supply loop.
Here's the clincher. The water drawn from the lake doesn't get spat back in at elevated temperatures like the controversial Cornell University system in Ithaca, New York. Ours just lets that water mosey along on its regular route through the pumping station for normal distribution to our taps, toilets and showers. Bottom line: "Enwave uses only the coldness from the lake water, not the actual water, to provide the alternative to conventional air-conditioning." Told you it was cool.
Every eco group I asked loves the project and wishes more buildings would switch from coal- and nuke-powered ACs to sustainable sources like this one. In fact, the carbon dioxide pollution it prevents is supposedly equivalent to taking 16,000 cars off the road. The fans and pumps that keep the cool air moving use only a fraction of the energy that would be used by regular AC. The city feels the system actually improves our water supply, since it involved building new intake pipes that are deeper than they used to be. Not a bad deal.
As it stands, Enwave keeps the TD Centre, Air Canada Centre, Metro Hall and several other buildings cool and fresh. And just last week, council gave the thumbs-up to putting $9 million toward expanding Deep Lake Water Cooling to City Hall, cop headquarters and Union Station. (Fingers crossed they find the money for that one.) If you work in any building in the downtown financial district, you need to start harassing higher-ups about making the switch. I mean, come on, you're just a few metres away from a cool, green and über-clean energy source. Why not use it?
Q What do you think of water that gets delivered in plastic bottles?
A To be honest, I think very bad things. Every time someone pours him- or herself a glass from one of those things, I picture hormone-disrupting bisphenol A leaching from the plastic bottle. And, no, I'm not hallucinating. Bisphenol A is a major ingredient in that clear, hard polycarbonate plastic used to make those nifty 5-gallon water bottles, baby bottles and more - and it leaches.
Trace amounts of bisphenol A in your water are no scoffable matter. Early exposure to low levels of this stuff in the womb has been tied to elevated breast and prostate cancer risks decades later. And that's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to negative research findings on this bad boy. Not very comforting considering that 95 per cent of us have this compound floating around in our bodies.
Plus, having a dirty diesel truck go door to door dropping off and picking up water bottles at people's homes is a high-carbon affair, especially since you have water coming out of your tap for free.
If you're not keen on city water because of the chlorine taste or whatnot, just get a filter. I covered filters in depth last summer, so you might want to type "Ecoholic water filters" into nowtoronto.com and check it out.
In a nutshell, the best systems that filter out the most chemicals, like distillers in particular and reverse osmosis to a lesser extent, cost an arm and a leg. Carbon filters take out bad tastes and smells at a much lower price. Carbon can also reduce some heavy metals, like mercury and lead, volatile organic compounds and some fluoride. Solid carbon filters remove more than granulated types like Britas.
Make sure your filter is certified by something like the National Sanitation Foundation, to guarantee that its claims aren't bogus. The NSF website (www.nsf.org) even tells you what each filter is certified to remove.
I know a lot of offices use those plastic bottle coolers to get water to their staff, but NOW has filters on the taps in each kitchen. There's no reason why that wouldn't work in any office with a kitchen.
If you're dead set on having a cooler of some sort, Nimbus Water Systems on Wilson sells bottleless water coolers with carbon filters for about $800 and reverse osmosis versions for $950. These systems keep a few gallons of chilled, filtered municipal water in their stainless steel reservoir. It does take energy to keep the water icy (for some reason Energy Star has only certified bottle-type coolers), but at least it's bisphenol-A-free. You can even rent one for $26/month at www.nimbuswatersystems.com - not a bad compromise for doctor's offices and the like.
And hey, don't forget to pack a reusuable water canister. (You can get stainless steel Kleen Kanteens at Sugar & Spice on Augusta or online at Quebec-based www.lifewithoutplastic.com, or snag a Sigg bottle lined without bisphenol A at major health stores like Big Carrot.) If you're drinking a litre of bottled water a day, it'll save you well over 700 bucks a year!