Berkey Black Water Filter Elements
Summary Copyright © November 1, 2013 by Robert Wayne Atkins, P.E.
Updated April 25, 2016.
All Rights Reserved.
For Fair Use and Educational Purposes Only.
In the year 2002 I purchased a Berkefeld Stainless Steel Water Container and four 9-inch Super Stersyl White Filter Elements. At that time I was pleased with the quality of the Berkefeld products I purchased.
On the other hand, I have never purchased a Berkey Black Water Filter Element so I am not qualified to offer customer feedback on the quality of the black filters.
However, I have received numerous emails from my readers asking for my advice about the black filters. After a little internet research I was able to find the following web site where you can read some customer feedback about these filters for yourself.
The following link is to an Amazon web page where you can purchase two Berkey Black Water Filters for $107:
On November 1, 2013 the above web page had a total of 69 customer feedback comments and approximately 58% of the comments about the Berkey Black Water Filters are positive.
However, approximately 42% of the customer comments are negative. I have selected and posted brief excerpts from nine of the negative comments below.
Actual Customer Feedback on the Berkey Black Water Filter Elements
January 13, 2012 - "After one month, the water started tasting funny. I looked inside and discovered that the Black Berkey filters were both coming apart and oozing some gelatinous material into the water compartment where the filters were. I have tried and tried to contact Berkey, but there phone number is just a voice recording. They have not answered my numerous emails. I contacted the distributor who is not at fault. He has been overwhelmed with similar complaints. ... Do your research. There is another company called AquaRain, which makes filters that fit the Berkey. They are made in the USA. Also, a company called Pro Pur also makes filters that will fit the Berkey units. Pro Pur filters, unlike Berkey, are NSF certified."
July 6, 2012 - "I have been a defender of the Black Berkey system for years. Not any more. ... I found that the now-infamous 'laboratory report' alleged to have been conducted at Louisiana State University was outright fraudulent. As other people have indicated, one can write the scientist named on the report, Professor Ralph J. Portier, Ph.D., and he will cheerfully confirm the report is not genuine. I did just that (and you can, too). ... I am now very sorry - and deeply embarrassed - to say that the Black Berkey output tests positive for Coliform bacteria. I performed the tests in the most hygienic and scientifically-sound manner possible in a home setting, and state confidently that no cross-contamination caused this positive test. The only explanation is the failure of the Black Berkey elements to perform their claimed 'self-sterilization.' I would suggest that anyone interested in getting into the Berkey water 'purification' system - DON'T."
January 10, 2013 - "I bought these along with the Travel Berkey a couple years ago, and first had a chance to use it when spending some time in Mongolia last year. At first they seemed to work well, and all was good. But after maybe 3 months of use, we noticed that the dripping water from the filters was faster than usual. This progressed until the normal drip-drip was really fast on one filter and almost coming down in a small steady stream in the other. Taking the filters out we discovered that the base was loose on both (REALLY loose on one of them), and after reinstalling the leakage was the same no matter how tight I screwed them on. ... So now it's probably no mystery where at least some of the occasional stomach and intestinal distress we experienced last spring came from. So yes, thank you makers of Black Berkey filters for letting us drink inadequately filtered Ulaanbaatar city water for probably close to two months. The one thing I'm thankful for is that I didn't end up using these filters outside the city where there's NO water treatment at all and where it could have been much more dangerous for us. For most things I can accept some possibility of defective merchandise, but for a product THIS CRITICAL to health you HAVE to have better product quality standards."
January 12, 2013 - "The filter units fall apart as others say. Sadly, that's not all that's wrong with these. The glue stops holding and they let through water unfiltered. This takes a while, for me it happens three to six months into use. The problem is you never know when this has happened short of running red food coloring through your unit with every fill. I've had this happen with every filter since 2009, so their claim that this was fixed sometime in 2011 isn't true. ... Let's talk about the cost effectiveness of this unit. I've been using the Royal Berkey system since mid 2009 and it's now Jan 2013. I've been through at least five filter sets, perhaps six or seven. Assuming just five that is an average life of two Black Berkey filters lasting eight months. We use almost exactly three gallons of filtered water per day. Doing the math shows that each filter lasts for approximately 360 gallons, not the 3,000 or 6,000 they claim. I filter well water that tested within nominal levels for the six things my relatively cheap ($40) home test kit tested. So understand we're not talking about filtering combined sewer overflow or nuclear rain. It's basic home accounting here, a product that lasts 10 to 15% of what the seller promises should have thrown up some red flags after my first filter change."
December 13, 2011 - "I recently read that there is a defect in some of the black filters where it attaches to it's plastic base. I did the 'red dye test'. I poured water with red food color into the top. Berkey says the water should come out clear. I lifted the top up to see what was happening. Nothing was coming out of two of the filters, but pink, unfiltered water was pouring quickly out of the third. This means that we have been drinking unfiltered stream water since we bought the thing! I am SO ANGRY! This company has been aware that they have this problem since 2010, yet they continue to sell defective filters to unsuspecting consumers!"
January 14, 2012 - "I ordered the Berkey system to be used in West Africa. The tanks are nice looking but about 1/3 of the black berkey filters I ordered and installed end up coming unglued at the base rendering them useless. Save yourself some time and money - go with a different filter."
November 29, 2011 - "Why don't they have any Quality Assurance procedures put into place?
"Why don't they have their filters annually tested?
"Why don't they get an NSF (National Sanitation Foundation) certification?
"Why don't they have a Micron Rating for their filter ... Nominal or Absolute?"
October 8, 2013 - "The quality of these filters is not trustworthy. The black filters have a high fail rate but the company does not honor replacing defective filters. They will only "sell" you a replacement on a pro-rated basis. We buy filters in advance to have on hand when needed, so by the time we use them they are "old" according to purchase date, though not in used condition. The company does not follow good business practices. They sell defective filters, then will offer to give you new ones at a discounted price, instead of replacing the defective filters. With this company, you can't trust that the water you are drinking is pure with the high fail rate of the filters. And the distributor just parrots the same line as the company."
November 24, 2011 - "The problem is if you buy this product as part of your emergency preparedness program and store it on a shelf somewhere. It may fail when you finally use it at that point it's too late. Your water is not purified and you are way beyond the warranty replacement period. In my opinion you cannot rely on this product."
Since October of 2012 I have strongly cautioned my readers against investing in the Berkefeld Water Filter Elements.
As of October 2013 I have not changed my mind.
The negative comments from the above dissatisfied Berkefeld customers can be summarized as follows:
There are some internet websites, and some Berkefeld dealers, who recommend that you simply fix the problem yourself by reattaching the filter element to its base with some type of food grade adhesive. In my opinion, this is not an acceptable solution for the following reasons:
- At least one-third of the filters are defective. And there is no way to know which ones are defective until after they have been put into use.
- Approximately 42% of the Berkefeld customers have experienced a problem with a filter gradually coming loose from its base and allowing unfiltered water into the lower water compartment.
- Berkefeld has been aware of this problem since 2010 but they have not corrected this problem as of October 2013. However, they have assured their dealers and their customers that this problem was resolved in 2011 when they changed the type of glue they were using.
- Complaining directly to Berkefeld by phone or by email accomplishes nothing.
- The dealers who sell these filters are very much aware of this serious quality problem but they continue to sell Berkefeld filters to anyone who will buy them.
- The six month warranty begins on the date the filter was purchased.
- Berkefeld will not replace a defective filter but they will prorate a defective filter and sell you another filter that has the same quality defect. This generates a lot of repeat business for Berkefeld.
- Many of these filters are purchased in advance of their being needed, or they are purchased for use during a future emergency when a family will be depending on their water filter to remove harmful microorganisms from their water so they do not get sick (or die).
- The "Laboratory Report" on the performance of these filters was fabricated and its lack of authenticity can be verified by contacting the individual quoted in the report.
- There is no micron rating or performance information about these filters that can be verified.
- An independent home test on the safety of one of these filters revealed that the filter allowed Coliform Bacteria to pass through the filter.
- An independent home test on ten of these filters revealed that the average life of a filter is approximately 360 gallons before it has to be replaced. This is not even close to the 3,000 gallons as advertised by Berkefeld.
Based on the above I offer the following two recommendations:
- The black filters may not be 100% defective. Only some of them may be defective and you cannot determine which ones are defective until after you have actually started using the filter to filter water. When you notice that one of the filters is allowing too much water to pass through it then you will know that specific filter is defective and that it needs to be discarded or repaired. The major problem with this approach is that you may have been drinking some unfiltered water before you noticed that the defective filter was letting too much water through it.
- If you attempt to fix the filter yourself then you have no way to know whether or not your repair has 100% repaired the defective filter. Your repair may still allow a small quantity of unfiltered water to pass between the filter and its base. Therefore you may still be consuming some contaminated water.
- If you believe that it is your responsibility to fix a water filter that has a known manufacturing defect then you are agreeing with Berkefeld and all of their dealers who believe that it is okay to sell defective water filters to their customers.
- Even if you are 100% successful in repairing the defective glue problem, you will still own a water filter that may allow Coliform Bacteria to pass through the upper part of the filter. Do you really want to be drinking contaminated water?
I fully realize the two above recommendations will not be accepted by many people for the following three reasons:
- Do not use a Berkey water filter element to filter water.
- If you have a Berkefeld Stainless Steel Water Container then purchase some AquaRain replacement water filter elements to use in that unit. The AquaRain replacement water filter elements have a documented pore size of 0.3 microns ("absolute" or maximum pore size) and each AquaRain filter will process between 2,500 to 10,000 gallons of water depending on the quality of the incoming water.
The above websites normally receive advertising fees or commissions from the sale of Berkefeld products and this influences what they can say about the Berkefeld products.
- A lot of very reputable companies sell Berkefeld products.
- A lot of highly respected internet websites accept advertisements from dealers who sell Berkefeld products.
- Several very popular survival websites highly praise the Berkefeld products.
My website is not supported by any type of advertising fees or commissions from any company or organization so my website can be objective about the products reviewed on my website.
You are an adult and you may purchase or not purchase any product you wish.
However, I strongly recommend that you do not purchase any type of Berkefeld Water Filter Element. Your life and the lives of your loved ones are too precious to risk on a product that has a history of product defects that could be life-threatening.
Update on April 25, 2016
Today I checked the Amazon customer feedback page referenced at the top of this article and I found the following relatively recent posts from unhappy people who had purchased the black filters made by Berkey.
April 5, 2016 - I really like the concept of the Berkey System and if it worked as advertised, it would be a great investment for your family's health. We bought our Berkey in January of 2015. Since then, the black elements have failed the red food coloring test every 6 months and we have had to pay return shipping every time, only to have the replacements fail. Most recently, the wingnut is spinning on one of the elements and it won't tighten and hold a seal. Unfiltered water was just flowing through. Again, we have to pay the shipping back. In January we bought a set on Amazon, hoping we could return them to Amazon if they didn't work, but they waited until just after the 30 day warranty to fail. The elements are rated for filtering 3,000 each and we have not had one last past 6 months or about 850 gallons (and it probably would have failed sooner if I had tested it sooner). I am concerned with the poor quality, the repeated failure to live up to the specifications, and having to pay the shipping back again and again.
March 6, 2016 - I bought this as a second replacement to the first two that came with the Berkey stainless steel set. About two month's later my water started to get cloudy. We have well water and it has silt. The first filters did well but the second set from Berkey wasn't doing well. I tested each filter and found one of them was faulty. I read other reviews and feel I need to try another brand. These are costly if they only last two months.
January 28, 2016 - They send rubber plugs to plug two holes that smell so terrible and make the water taste bad. They acknowledge this is a common complaint, but do nothing to fix the issue. I bought two units. I am also a physician and have recommended the product countless times. VERY VERY VERY DISAPPOINTED IN THIS PRODUCT SUPPORT.
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