Monday, 25 April 2016

09:58 – My apologies to Rain Stickland, whose name I misspelled yesterday as Strickland. That’s the way I read it, probably because when I was growing up in New Castle, PA there was a corner store called Strickland’s two blocks from our house. I just did a Google search for it, and turned up nothing whatsoever. It’s long gone, and there’s now a wig place where it used to sit at the corner of Mercer Street and Euclid Avenue, catty-cornered from George Washington Junior High School.

Her PA novel is, as far as I know, the first one I’ve read that was written by a prog. She’s into the whole climate change/animal rights/BLM/Occupy thing, and hopes Bern is elected president. She, like her main character, is obsessed with ferrets, and thinks it cute when they bite her. The author even runs an international ferret-rescue organization. Her main character is a 40-ish woman who is absolutely obsessed with sex, more so that the average teenager. Still, Stickland has obviously done her homework, and tosses in little snippets of useful information that are seldom found in other prepper fiction. For example, early in the book, she mentions storing sulfuric acid and chemistry lab equipment, both for making ether for anesthesia and for isolating insulin (because her character’s best friend is an insulin-dependent diabetic). The dialog is hokey at times, and usually sex-obsessed, but Stickland is a good story-teller who makes few spelling/grammatical errors other than an occasional misused apostrophe. All the more surprising, since Stickland herself never graduated from high school. Her first book is good enough that I’ll read the rest of the series.

Email from Jen. She has five bottles of generic chlorine bleach on the shelf, and wanted to know if I thought that was enough. The short answer is yes and no. Jen has a Sawyer PointZeroTwo microfilter for purifying water, which should be sufficient. She’s keeping the chlorine bleach as a backup method, and she’s run the math. The typical recommendation for water treatment is eight drops per gallon. There are 20 drops per milliliter. Her five gallons total just under 19,000 mL. Call it 380,000 drops, or enough to treat about 47,000 gallons.

But there are several problems with that scenario. First, chlorine bleach solution is unstable. It starts to degrade as soon as it’s bottled. Even in a sealed bottle, after a year it’s significantly weaker than the original 5.25%, and eventually it becomes useless. Second, purifying water with chlorination is an extremely complex issue. The amount of chlorine needed can easily range over a factor of five or more, depending on how contaminated the source water is, not just with microorganisms but with organic matter that the bleach reacts with. It’s not a matter of deciding how much chlorine to add to the source water; what’s important is residual chlorine, how much is left after the water has been sanitized. That should ideally be in the range of 1 to 2 PPM, but there’s no way to determine that short of testing the treated water. Third, chlorine is ineffective or only partially effective against some pathogenic microorganisms. In short, using chlorine bleach is better than nothing, but it’s not a magic bullet. My advice is to over-chlorinate to make sure the chlorine reaches a level sufficient to destroy most pathogens. The problem is that levels above about 4 PPM are increasingly toxic to humans. The answer to that is to chlorinate the hell out of suspect water and then allow it to sit long enough for the excess chlorine to dissipate into the air.

I suggested that Jen buy some high-concentration calcium hypochlorite powder and a pool test kit, ideally Taylor brand. The dry calcium hypochlorite is much, much more shelf-stable than bleach solution, and that six pounds of 73% DryTec pool shock is sufficient to make up about 15 gallons of stock bleach solution as needed. Even if Jen doesn’t use bleach for water treatment, it’ll come in handy for sanitation. The pool test kit will let her test for residual chlorine if she does use it for water treatment.

Incidentally, I’ve seen various comments about it being unsafe to use hypochlorite intended for pool treatment for treating drinking water. That’s completely bogus. Technical grade calcium hypochlorite is typically 60% to 78% calcium hypochlorite, with the remainder being mostly calcium chloride, calcium hydroxide (slaked lime) and similar chemicals that are harmless in small amounts. Remember, that six pounds of pool shock is being diluted in about 150,000 gallons of water, so the amount of non-hypochlorite chemicals added is something like 1 milligram per liter. Call it 1 PPM. There aren’t many chemical species that are harmful at 1 PPM, and none of them are found in pool shock.