Friday, 10 January 2014

07:48 – There was a large chemical spill in West Virginia yesterday. The chemical in question is relatively benign even in concentrated form, but authorities have ordered the 200,000 residents of the nine affected counties not to use tap water for any purpose, including washing clothes. Presumably it’s still okay for them to flush their toilets. No word on how long the prohibition is likely to last.

Of course, panic buying started as soon as the announcement was made, with long lines forming at every convenience store, supermarket, and other vendor who sold bottled water. I suspect the store shelves emptied within a few minutes of the announcement. Events like this are one of the reasons we keep a lot of stored water on hand, at least one person-year’s worth. Call it 500 liters. Not that we’re likely to need that much for any one event, but I want to keep sufficient on hand to supply not just us but family, friends, and neighbors. A large percentage of that is still in the form of 2- and 3-liter soft drink bottles filled with tap water, but we’re gradually replacing that with cases of bottled water from Costco, about 150 liters so far.


29 thoughts on “Friday, 10 January 2014”

  1. 500 litres? That wouldn’t last me six months, even if I just used it for drinking. It’s summer here, and I guess I’m drinking 3-4 litres a day, sometimes more.

    I take it bottled water from Costco is so cheap that it’s not worth your time to bottle your own tap water? Can water be stored safely for long periods in plastic bottles?

  2. Back in the 40’s and 50’s, Civil Defense did some studies that concluded that one quart per day was sufficient for drinking even in warm weather (assuming not much exercise), so that’s what they stored in fall-out shelters. That is, a shelter rated for 100 people for two weeks would have 1,400 quarts of stored water.

    More recent recommendations are to store one gallon (3.79 liters) per person per day, but that’s sufficient to allow for drinking, cooking, and some washing. Overall, three liters per day per person is plenty, and 1.5 liters per day is sufficient under most circumstances for drinking/cooking. Also, water is plentiful around here, and it’s easy enough to purify by boiling (assuming no chemical contaminants).

    Yeah, I consider PET safe for long-term storage of water. The bottled water from Costco, like most consumables sold here in the US, has a “best-by” date, but the truth is that a ten-year-old (or hundred-year-old) PET bottle of water is perfectly safe to drink.

  3. Oh, yeah. Costco bottled water normally costs $0.09 per half-liter bottle, and $0.06 when it’s on sale.

    Also, you don’t have to boil water to kill microorganisms. Just leaving a PET bottle sitting in bright sunlight for a few hours kills bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protists as effectively as boiling it does. Even on an overcast day, there’s enough UV to kill things at about a log 6 level if you expose the bottle all day.

  4. Events like this are one of the reasons we keep a lot of stored water on hand

    I have 25,00 gallons sitting my back yard. Clean water from my pool. It has been chlorinated, filtered, PH balanced, alkalinity stabilized and all other manner of chemicals. I suspect that it probably is as good, or better than, tap water on many days. Should last me a few days.

    My son did a science project for high school where he measured the chlorine level and PH level of the water from the tap. We used a standard pool test kit which was accurate enough for his purposes. We found that on some days the water had zero chlorine, other days the chlorine exceed 10 parts per million (highest our test kit would register). The PH stayed fairly consistent. Yes, we ran the tap for several minutes to flush water from our lines.

    My pool on the other hand stays at about 1.5 to 2.0 parts per million all season. I super shock it in the fall before I cover it so I suspect the chlorine level may still be high although I don’t know. That would quickly dissipates when the pool water is exposed to air in the spring.

    The odd part is that the EPA and the city consider my pool water as hazardous waste. I am not allowed to discharge the water onto the ground but must instead pump to the sewer system. Yet the disgusting water that collects on the cover with all manner of organisms in the water is considered OK to discharge on the ground.

  5. The bottled water from Costco

    And speaking of Costco, I just picked up a small bluetooth speaker B.E.M. from Costco for $40.00. Price elsewhere is $69.00. Nice little speaker. Fairly good sound, rechargeable battery, line in and out to interface with other systems (1/8 in), and USB recharging.

    Showed some friends and have purchased six of them for my friends. Colors are limited to black, red or white. But a good deal anyway.

  6. Ray wrote:

    “I have 25,00 gallons sitting my back yard. Clean water from my pool.”

    I hereby confer upon you the Seymour Cray Award for Preparation for Doomsday, second class.

    He moved from Minneapolis in the early Sixties to the backwoods of Wisconsin so if the Cold War turned hot he’d have a chance to survive. The house he built in Chippewa Falls was structurally very tough and had a swimming pool in the basement that could supply potable water.

  7. I have 25,00 gallons sitting my back yard

    I assume that you mean 25,000 gallons. I have 35,000 gallons in my pool but I would hesitate to drink it due to all the chlorine. That is a good way to get rid of your intestinal fauna.

    I store 6 to 10 cases of thirty-five 0.5 L bottles on my back patio. Gives me that good redneck feeling and helps me to keep from being too uppity. My son does not like the setting sunlight on the bottles though. He thinks that will cause the PET to degrade quicker.

  8. I would hesitate to drink it due to all the chlorine

    The chlorine level in my pool is 1.5 to 2.0 parts per million. The city is sometimes many more than that level. I would not worry too much about killing any intestinal bacteria if that level is considered safe for city water.

  9. I am getting ready to convert my pool to salt water. The salt content will be 3,000 to 4,000 ppm (ocean water is 35,000 ppm). At this level, one cannot taste the salt but I wonder if it is safe to drink in large quantities.

  10. I can’t seem to find much on the actual severity of the spill. It appears most of the chaos is being caused by the state of emergency, not the spill. Are we surprised? (to be honest I don’t know much about the chemical 4-Methylcyclohexane Methanol)

  11. IIRC it’s a flocculant. It’s an oily/greasy material that floats on water and binds to coal dust and other particulates. ISTR that this chemical was one of the culprits in the grossly overblown Love Canal thing.

    I doubt it has any significant toxicity in the very low dilutions that would occur after it passes through the water plant. I suspect they’re being so careful because they suspect this spill will be largely harmless to people, but they just don’t know for sure.

  12. At this level, one cannot taste the salt but I wonder if it is safe to drink in large quantities.

    I would suspect that if you cannot taste the salt you can drink the water to your hearts content.

  13. Ray, I was wondering what you’d think of this item:

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B006E0QAFY

    It uses a 7W Cree LED and is rated at 300 lumens. Presumably that rating is with a lithium 14500 cell, but it also takes regular AA alkalines, rechargeables, etc. Even with just a 1.5W AA alkaline, it’s extremely bright, blinding to look at directly.

  14. Ray, I was wondering what you’d think of this item:

    There is no way that is a true 7W Cree LED. Not for that price. Unless the LEDs are rejects that someone scavenged from a dumpster.

    With two AA batteries, about 3 volts, that would be pulling 2 amperes from the batteries and that is difficult to do with alkaline. Even with the 14500 at 3.7 volts you are still close to 2 amperes. Without adequate heat sinking that kind of current through an LED will quickly destroy the LED.

    With all that being said, for $3.95, buy a half dozen, maybe 10 and give to your friends, and be happy. If one fails, or you lose one, no big deal. For that price there is little to disappoint.

  15. how come you’re converting your pool to salt water?

    It is easier maintenance. There is an electrode system within the pumping and filter system that breaks the salt down producing free chlorine.

    That chlorine smell you sometimes get is because there is too much combined chlorine and not enough free chlorine. A well maintained pool will not smell of chlorine. Nor will the eyes burn. The burning of the eyes is from an incorrect PH. The solution to get rid of combined chlorine is to dump huge amounts of unstabilized chlorine which dissipates within a few hours.

    The salt system can monitor the chlorine level and adjust the amount of free chlorine that is produced. It is really a nice system and a good way to maintain the chlorine level. And from my perspective the water actually feels better if you can quantify such (may be my imagination). I have wanted to convert my pool to salt but the cost is too high for my needs.

  16. There is no way that is a true 7W Cree LED. Not for that price. Unless the LEDs are rejects that someone scavenged from a dumpster.

    With two AA batteries, about 3 volts, that would be pulling 2 amperes from the batteries and that is difficult to do with alkaline. Even with the 14500 at 3.7 volts you are still close to 2 amperes. Without adequate heat sinking that kind of current through an LED will quickly destroy the LED.

    With all that being said, for $3.95, buy a half dozen, maybe 10 and give to your friends, and be happy. If one fails, or you lose one, no big deal. For that price there is little to disappoint.

    It’s actually worse than that. It runs on one AA alkaline, not two. As I said, I’m pretty sure it’s not providing anywhere near 300 lumens on a single AA alkaline, but it is indeed very bright. My guess is maybe 70 lumens. From the comments on Amazon, it appears that battery life with one AA alkaline is maybe an hour and a half, give or take.

    I ordered four of them from Amazon for $16 total, including shipping direct from Singapore. They took more than a month to arrive. I’m satisfied with their construction quality and brightness. Only time will tell about the switches, but they “feel” solid.

    Two or three years ago, I bought a ten-pack of Brinkman 6-LED, 3-AAA flashlights at Home Depot or Lowes for $10, including the batteries. They’ve held up very well, especially given that they cost $1 each. I just compared the beam of one of those Brinkmans with this new light. Colorwise, the Brinkmans are very cool white, with a blue cast. The new ones are much closer to neutral white, and much, much brighter. I’m guessing maybe 10 times as bright.

  17. Lynn, how come you’re converting your pool to salt water?

    It is easier on your skin. I am having skin problems and getting worse over time.

    The weekly maintenance is less but the long term maintenance is higher. I have a waterfall from the hot tub to the pool and I have been told that that the salt will deposit out on the bricks and have to be removed with acid periodically.

  18. I guess I’m kinda glad I didn’t get a place with a pool. My sister was stridently against the idea, citing the cost and maintenance issues. Several of her kids/kids in law wanted me to get one so they could come around and use it.

  19. I do not have a salt problem, but my cardiologist maintains that no one should consume more than 5gm sodium per day. I really do not know much about sodium intake, but I seldom add salt to anything, and a quick check of an average day’s meals, indicates I consume about 3gm per day. I do not drink milk, but it is pretty high in sodium if one drinks much of it.

  20. The rules about salt are like the rules about anything else in the diet: Based on simplistic old studies and a lot of wishful thinking that life is simple. Most of these rules were invented decades ago, and hardly anyone has questioned them since.

    While probably no one needs much salt, more recent studies show that sodium does not necessarily cause high blood pressure, or does so only some of the time in some people. That’s not to say you ought to eat it by the spoonful – it’s just that the truth is a lot more nuanced that those old rules would imply.

  21. Here’s a simple rule of thumb, based on 3 million years of evolution. If it tastes good, it’s probably good for you; if it tastes bad, it probably isn’t.

    Physicians and “nutritionists” are not scientists, and they have no more clue what’s good or bad for you than anyone else does. They simply don’t have the data to establish correlation, let alone causation, and they’re never going to get it. It’s unethical even to try. The last time anyone did any controlled studies on human diet was during WWII, and the Allies hanged the doctors involved.

    My advice to anyone is to eat what tastes good to you and ignore the medical “authorities”, particularly government ones. Butter is good for you, as is coffee, chocolate, salt, etc.

  22. But… but… if people take your advice and just use a bit of sense when eating, you’ll put millions of nutritionists, holistic health experts, and life coaches out of work. What’s your next trick, suggesting that the “get in bikini shape in three weeks” diets on the covers of women’s magazines don’t work? You monster! Just think of the damage you’re doing to the economy.

  23. Butter is good for you

    If you can handle lactose. My lactose intolerance is gradually getting worse. Started with milk rejection and is moving to butter and cheese now.

  24. “If it tastes good, it’s probably good for you; if it tastes bad, it probably isn’t. ”

    I deduce from this that celery is very very bad for me… 🙂

  25. I use the Fenix E21 flashlight for walking. Two AA batteries that last for 8 hours on high. Lots and lots of light. Was $35 when I bought ten of them for Christmas presents. I guess that they are sold out for now since the price has jumped to $51.
    http://www.amazon.com/Fenix-E21-154-Lumens-Flashlight/dp/B0041NE8TG/

    I see that flashlight is rated at 154 lumens with two AA cells, which I suspect is pretty accurate. My $4 “300 lumen” model uses one AA cell. As I said, I guessed it actually puts out 70 lumens, which looks like a reasonable estimate based on yours. The only hint I have about battery life is that one reviewer estimated 1. 5 hours. It could be considerably more.

    Still, all told, I think I prefer having a dozen of the $4 models to having one E21.

  26. I need that 154 lumens whilest walking at night. See floater in right eye with 20/400 vision. And I like the longer handle and time of life of batteries.

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