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Contaminated Drinking Water. Are You Prepared?

Posted Aug 24 2008 10:06pm

If you have been paying attention to the news, you may be aware that residents in Alamosa, Colorado cannot drink, bathe, or wash using their tap water because of contamination. Here is a link to one of the many articles regarding this situation... .

"The small town of Alamosa, Colo., has water everywhere, but not a drop to drink because salmonella bacteria contaminated its water system and now crews are flushing the city's waterways with chlorine to clean it out."


"State health officials became aware of the outbreak a week later, officials told The Associated Press. Nearly 250 people have complained of illness since the bacteria were discovered in the water supply and 72 of those cases so far have been confirmed as salmonella. On Tuesday the crews began flushing the system with chlorine.

Residents cannot drink the water until the last of the disinfecting chemical washes out of the water system, which could take a couple of weeks, according to the AP. They may be able to begin using the water for bathing within a few days."

Would you be prepared in an emergency such as this? Do you have a preparedness plan that includes an adequate water supply, should the outside help these Colorado residents are receiving not be available to you ?

Here is a guide to prepare your water storage.

Start to store water now while you have access to safe water supplies, before an emergency

• It is impossible to store a year supply of water. Authorities recommend a 2 week supply -- at least 14 gallons per person: 7 for drinking/cooking, 7 for other purposes such as personal hygiene, cleaning and laundering. I hot climates, during times of intense heat or increased physical activity people will consume more than this amount. You will also want to store more water if you are using any dehydrated or freeze-dried foods.

• Because of widespread pollution, water is often contaminated by microorganisms, bacteria, viruses and chemicals. Municipal water suppliers work to eliminate all of these contaminants making municipal water the safest and least expensive source of water to store (unless it is already contaminated as in the case in Colorado).


• SAFE water storage containers include:

55 Gallon, food grade plastic drums. NEW barrels are best for drinking water as they will not taint the water in any way and do not provide a residual food source for bacteria. Note: You will need a spigot to dispense the water and the white containers are the healthiest to purchase.

5 Gallon heavy duty plastic containers. Note: You will need a spigot to dispense the water.

5-6 Gallon Mylar water storage bags contained in cardboard boxes. Note: An advantage to these is that they stack well for storage

2 Liter plastic drink bottles with screw-on cap, cleaned. Note: They are about 3 pounds when filled with water.

Insulated container, such as a thermos or cooler.

• UNSAFE drinking water containers include:

Water beds...however, this water can be used for washing and sanitation purposes.

Bleach Bottles

Plastic Milk Containers - degrade too quickly

"Avoid using—

Store-bought water past the expiration or "use by" date on the container.

Containers that can't be sealed tightly.

Containers that can break, such as glass bottles.

Containers that have ever held any toxic substance.

Plastic milk bottles and cartons. They are difficult to clean and break down over time."

• Store containers away from petroleum, insecticides, and anything else with a strong odor. Store containers in a dark place where any leakage will not cause damage. If water is stored in a location where freezing is possible, be sure to allow enough space at the top of the container for water expansion. Note: Freezing and subsequent thawing can cause calcium carbonate to distill out of water forming a film on the surface. If your water has been properly stored and pre-treated, you can know that this film is harmless.

• PRETREATMENT: Even though you store safe city water, according to the EPA, it is still necessary to pretreat it. Add only unscented liquid chlorine bleach. It loses strength over time -- only use it if it is under one year old. Always let pretreated water stand for at least 30 minutes before using.

Water Treatment Link

"Choose from among the following treatment methods:

Boiling. Bring water to a rolling boil for 1 minute (3 to 5 minutes if you live in a high-altitude area).

Iodine. Household iodine from the medicine chest or first aid kit will purify water. The iodine should be 2 percent United States Pharmacopoeia (U.S.P.) strength. Add 20

drops per gallon of clear water and 40 drops per gallon of cloudy water. Mix water and iodine thoroughly by stirring or shaking them together in a container. Allow the water to stand for at least 30 minutes before using it.

Purification tablets. Available at any drug store. Follow directions on package.

Bleach. Liquid household bleach can also be used. It must contain hypochlorite, preferably 5.25 percent. Do not use scented bleaches; they are not safe for purification. Add the bleach according to table 1, and then stir to completely mix.

Table 1. Amounts of bleach to add to treat different amounts of clear and cloudy water. [note: see table above]


Amount of Water Clear Water Cloudy Water

2 liters 4 drops 1/8 teaspoon

1 gallon 1/8 teaspoon ¼ teaspoon

5 gallons ½ teaspoon 1 teaspoon

Let the water stand for 30 minutes. The water should have a slight chlorine odor. If it does not, add the same amount of bleach again and let the water stand for an additional 15 minutes.

Caution: If your stored water has come in contact with flood water, you must purify it and the container again before using it for drinking, cooking, brushing teeth, or dish washing."

• Pretreating water will make it safe for ONE YEAR. After ONE YEAR, the water should be ROTATED or CHANGED. After emptying (don't waste - use for watering plants), fill containers again with new water and new bleach.

" Ways to Make Outdoor Water Safer

Note: These instructions are not for treating water to be stored, only for emergencies when no other water is available.

Untreated water can make you very sick. Besides having a bad odor and taste, it can contain toxic chemicals, heavy metals and germs that cause such diseases as dysentery, typhoid and hepatitis. Before drinking outdoor water, using it in food preparation or for hygiene, make it safer to use by—

Straining it.

Pour the water through paper towels, a clean cloth, or a coffee filter to remove any suspended particles.

Boiling it.

In a large pot or kettle, bring water to a rolling boil for 1 full minute. Cool it and pour it back and forth between two clean containers to improve its taste before drinking it.

Chlorinating it.

Using household liquid bleach that contains 5.25 to 6.0 percent sodium hypochlorite (listed on the label) as its only active ingredient, add 16 drops (1/8 teaspoon) per gallon to water in a large pot or kettle. Stir and let stand for 30 minutes. If the water does not have a slight bleach odor, repeat the dosage and let stand another 15 minutes. If it still does not smell of chlorine, find another source of water and start over.

Distilling it.

Fill a pot halfway with water. Tie a cup to the handle on the pot's lid so that the cup will hang right-side-up inside the pot when the lid is upside-down without dangling into the water. Boil the water for 20 minutes. The water that drips from the lid into the cup is distilled.

None of these methods is perfect. The best solution is to use all of them. Boiling and chlorination will kill most microbes but will not remove other contaminants, such as heavy metals, salts and most other chemicals. Distillation will kill or remove most of any remaining contaminates."

• Stored water can taste flat after a while. Aerate it by pouring it back and forth between two containers for a few minutes. This puts air back into the water which greatly improves the taste. You may also use a whisk to add air to your water.

Note: Don't forget your pets in the water storage equation.


Emergency Food In A Nutshell, by Probert and Harness
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