Product Review: Berkey Water Filtration System, Over 1 Year Later

The Royal Berkey system, silver and shiny, sitting on a white counter with aqua walls and wood cabinet background.
The Royal Berkey system, photo by Marie Cullis.

My family and I are still enjoying the benefits of our Berkey water filtration system. We purchased it a year and a half ago after reading the report of contaminants the Berkey removes. My local water has hexavalent chromium and total trihalomethanes (TTHMs), and Berkey filters remove those.

The cost was high and the setup took some doing, but overall, we really like Berkey-filtered water. We use it for drinking, cooking, and even the dog’s water. I can taste the difference between the water I drink at work (filtered by a Brita, which removes fewer contaminants) and the water I drink at home (with a Berkey).

I would like to have my water tested, both from my tap water and filtered Berkey water, and then compare the results. Unfortunately, water testing is expensive and sometimes cost-prohibitive. But someday I’ll have my water professionally tested. I’ve listed a couple of water testing companies under Additional Resources below.

Fortunately, some companies test water filtration systems regularly, like Water Filter Guru (waterfilterguru.com). Their mission is to help people find solutions for better water quality. They test many products and write honest reviews, and their site is quite helpful.

While they do not rate Berkey systems as one of the best on the market, I still really like our Berkey. However, there is some recent controversy with Berkey filters. I’ve also had at least one lingering question. I’ve often pondered, as has one of my readers, the reason behind the restriction on selling most Berkey products in California.

California Banned the sale of Berkey

In 2009, a California law, commonly called the ‘no-lead law’, went into effect. The law prevents the sale of most Berkey water filter products in California. Any water filtration system and replacement parts must be third-party certified by an ANSI/NSF-approved, independent company to confirm that it is ‘lead-free.’ Berkey Water systems claim to be lead-free but they have not been certified and don’t plan to get certified. But why not?

In a June 2022 email exchange with berkeyfilters.com, the now-defunct authorized dealer where I purchased my Berkey system, I asked why they didn’t pursue NSF certification. They responded that Berkey’s independent testing far exceeded the standards of NFS and tested for contaminants not included in the NSF standards.

“NSF certifications are…optional. In our opinion, NSF certifications are limited in their application with respect to our gravity-fed purification elements…The tests we have conducted are much more rigorous than those required by NSF for the certifications required. Our purifiers have been rigorously tested by third-party independent accredited labs far surpassing the [NSF 42 and 53] standards. For example, our systems have been tested for the removal of hundreds of contaminants including heavy metals, pesticides, herbicides, pharmaceuticals, pathogenic bacteria, and viruses.”1

 

In a blog post at waterfilterguru.com, they also asked why Berkey doesn’t just get certified so that they could sell to consumers in California. They wrote: “According to one Berkey distributor, as part of the regulations, manufacturers of water purification or filtration devices would have to reveal ‘proprietary information’ relating to their systems, including information about their manufacturing processes, sales and suppliers…We haven’t been able to find any credible information to back this claim up, nor have any Berkey distributors we’ve reached out to about this been forthcoming with their explanations.”2

Caucasian person holding a glass of water out in one hand. Glass is focused, person is blurred in background.
Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash.

Recent Filter Controversy

Berkey Water Systems and accessories have only been available for purchase through authorized dealers, not directly from New Millennium Concepts, Ltd., the manufacturer. I originally purchased my system through berkeyfilters.com, an authorized dealer. I planned to buy replacement filters from them once needed. But then in November 2023, the company announced they were going to stop being an authorized dealer after 25 years. This is because the EPA issued a stop-sale order to berkeyfilters.com:

“On December 27, 2022 we were issued an EPA stop sale order due to the products claiming to filter microorganisms. Despite our efforts to resolve the issues, the owner/maker of Berkey did not agree with the regulation. As a dealer of another brand’s product we had little to no control to rectify the problems at hand. This led to a prolonged period of several months where we were unable to sell products, resulting in the layoff of numerous skilled employees, and significant legal investments to secure the survival of our family-run business.”3

Berkeyfilters.com closed down in December 2023 and their team created the Boroux Foundation. In a video message, Boroux’s CEO indicated that their team had “severed all ties with the Berkey brand and their product line.” They are making the Boroux filter that works with many gravity water filter systems brands.4 Read more about the Boroux filters below.

The EPA’s Ruling

It turns out that the EPA declared Berkey filters to be a pesticide and required warning labels as such on the filters. They then issued a stop-sale order to berkeyfilters.com, one of the largest Berkey-authorized dealers. According to another authorized dealer, bigberkeywaterfilters.com:

“At the end of 2022, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), without undertaking any administrative process, used its regulatory authority to classify the Berkey water filtration filters, a trusted leader in gravity-fed water filtration systems and one of the most popular water filters in the US, as pesticides under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) claiming that Black Berkey filtering elements contain silver and are a pesticide device since silver is antimicrobial. With this new Pesticide classification, Berkey products would be required to come with warning labels to this effect.

“It’s important to note that silver is not considered a pesticide under FIFRA, and has not been regulated by the EPA as such before this.”5

In August 2023, New Millennium Concepts filed a lawsuit against the EPA. They consider this “an abuse of the agency’s power in an attempt to put the company out of business.”6 In a statement from New Millennium Concepts, the company accused the EPA of overreaching and of “re-interpreting their rules for the express purpose of classifying Berkey® products alone as Pesticides. The EPA has not utilized this new re-interpretation to stop the sale of any other outdoor water filter, just Berkey® alone. We have been informed that the real issue is that because of COVID-19, the EPA does not like the fact that Berkey® filters are capable of removing viruses from your water.”7

How To Buy Filters

So, what now?

First, please know many counterfeit Berkey replacement filters are on the market. There is no guarantee that counterfeit filters will remove any contaminants. You can check New Millenium Concept’s website for how to identify counterfeits, which I’ve put a link to under Additional Resources. But the following are the choices if you already own a Berkey system.

Black Berkey Elements

Pair of Black Berkey filters with a blue and white background.

Black Berkey Elements filters have now become scarce. They were still available through other authorized dealers because the EPA issued a stop-sale order to only one dealer. The price went up to over $200 per pair, though. Now they are almost impossible to find.8 So what are the alternatives (other than purchasing a whole new system)?

Boroux Foundation Filters

2 Black Boroux filters against a cream colored background.

The Boroux Foundation filters are compatible with Berkey, among many other gravity-fed systems.9 They filter 12,000 gallons per pair, costing $140 per pair. If you calculate how much water you use, you’ll likely find that this means these filters will last years! 

While they test to NSF’s standards, they are not NSF certified. The company claims it wants to seek certification in the future. Their report lists all of the contaminants these filter, based on NSF guidelines. I’ve included links under Additional Resources so you can read their report and watch a video to understand it. They appear to remove everything that Black Berkey Elements filters removed.

I reached out to waterfilterguru.com since they test a ton of water filtration systems. Unfortunately, they have not yet tested Boroux Foundation filters but said it is on their to-do list. I hope they test them soon! I’ll share their results here if they do.

Super Sterasyl™ Ceramic Elements

Ceramic filters against a white and blue background. The fitlers are white with black tips, and they kind of resemble popsicles.

These ceramic filters were the original Berkey filters that dealers shipped with Berkey systems about 25 years ago, according to Jennie at bigberkeywaterfilters.com, an authorized Berkey dealer. She said that the Black Berkey Elements filters replaced the white ceramic filters. “We haven’t carried or sold them in about 10 years because they were the original technology and the black filters are the newest technology,” she wrote.10 However, this company has started carrying them since our email exchange in February 2024. This is likely because New Millenium Concepts is no longer manufacturing the Black Berkey Elements filters.

The Super Sterasyl Ceramic filters filter less than the Black Berkey Elements filters. While Berkey is not completely clear on what the Super Sterasyl filters actually filter, they do include in their FAQs that Black Berkey Elements filters reduce everything the Super Sterasy Ceramic Elements will plus “reduce trihalomethanes, inorganic minerals, heavy metals, pharmaceuticals, pesticides, VOCs, petroleum products, perfluorinated chemicals, rust, silt, sediment, radiologicals and more.” This tells me that the Super Sterasyl Ceramic filters do not filter out nearly as much as the regular filters. These filters cost between $70 and $100, and last for 535 gallons or six months per filter.11

Other Water Filtration Systems

Clear glass water bottle with cork top with charcoal floating in it, next to a small glass of water on a gray table, with white background.
Photo by Callum Shaw on Unsplash.

I still love my Berkey! While I can personally recommend Berkey filtration systems, it isn’t free of controversy. Many other brands of gravity-fed water filtration systems exist. Each person must base their decision on the contaminants they most want removed from their water. Second, choose a system that is tested and well-reviewed. Third, consider the cost and how much time you’ll need to spend caring for the system.

The important thing is that you find out what’s in your water, and then try to find a product that removes those contaminants.

Many zero-wasters use charcoal in water pitchers to remove contaminants. I haven’t tried this, but I’d be interested in trying it and testing the water before and after. This is a low-cost and zero-plastic waste solution.

I hope this helps! Check out my other articles about Water Contamination and filtration systems. Thank you for reading, please share and subscribe!

 

 

Additional Resources:

Water testing:

ETR Laboratories, Water and Environmental Testing.

Article, “How to Test Water Quality at Home: Our Top 3 Recommend Methods,” waterfilterguru.com, updated March 17, 2024.

Tap Score, Certified laboratory water testing for home and business.

National Testing Laboratories, CityCheck Deluxe for testing municipal water.

Counterfeit Berkey filters:

Article, “Buyer Beware,” New Millenium Concepts/Berkey Water Systems.

Boroux:

Report, Boroux Foundation Substance Reduction Test Report, January 25, 2024. Check Boroux Foundation’s website for the latest report.

Video, “How to Read the Boroux foundation. Filters Test Results Report,” youtube, December 8, 2023.

 

Footnotes:

  1. Email exchange with berkeyfilters.com and Marie Cullis, June 20, 2022.
  2. Blog post, “Why are Berkey Water Filters Banned in California?” by Brian Campbell, waterfilterguru.com, updated December 5, 2023.
  3. Blog post, “How We Got Here,” boroux.com, February 9, 2024.
  4. Video, Message from the CEO of BOROUX,” youtube.com, January 23, 2024.
  5. Blog post, “Is the Rumor That the Manufacturer of Berkey Water Filters is Going Out of Business and Closing its Doors True?” by Dan DeBaun, bigberkeywaterfilters.com, December 20, 2023.
  6. Blog post, “Is the Rumor That the Manufacturer of Berkey Water Filters is Going Out of Business and Closing its Doors True?” by Dan DeBaun, bigberkeywaterfilters.com, December 20, 2023.
  7. Blog post, Despite the Rumors, Berkey® Water Systems is Not Going Out of Business,” berkeywater.com, December 19, 2023.
  8. I contacted bigberkeywaterfilters.com to find out why they were still selling the Black Berkey filters, as I did not see a pesticide warning label on their site. They emailed: “There was only one Berkey dealer that was issued a stop sale so that didn’t affect the manufacturer or their other dealers. We have them in stock because…we have always tried to plan ahead to have plenty of stock available for as long as possible. Some of the other dealers have gone out of business, some of them haven’t placed an order with the manufacturer, and there are some that have just fallen off and no longer man their websites like before.” Email exchange with bigberkeywaterfilters.com and Marie Cullis, February 19, 2024. However, they are now out of stock with them.
  9. Page, BOROUX foundation.™ black filters,” boroux.com, April 7,  2024.
  10. Email exchange with bigberkeywaterfilters.com and Marie Cullis, February 19, 2024.
  11. Page, FAQs, berkeywater.com, accessed February 17, 2024.

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