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Friday, September 10, 2010
Praxis: Treating drinking water with pool chlorine.
Doc set up his medical kit and supplies in the hallway, under a stairway to the roof. He placed things so he would have easy access to the wide variety ofr medicines, drugs, and supplies he had brought along. One item that surprised me was a five gallon plastic can of chlorine powder purchased from a pool supply store in northern Virginia. When I asked, Doc explained, "Chlorine is the best single thing to bring on any trip like this. We can use it to purify drinking water, keep the toilet and shower area sanitary, and put it on our feet after a shower to kill athlete's foot.""Can we really use swimming pool chlorine in our water?" I asked."Oh, yes," said Doc, smiling. "Many towns in the United States chlorinate their public water supply. But you need only a tiny amount in the bottle to purify the water." I learned later that Doc's idea of a "tiny amount" resulted in a mixture that was strong enough to chlorinate all the swimming pools in Northern Virginia for an entire summer. -- First In: An Insider's Account of How the CIA Spearheaded the War on Terror in Afghanistan by Gary C. Schroen, p. 89.
What is not well known is Calcium Hypochlorite is far better for chemically disinfecting water.
Old Way: Using Bleach to Disinfect Water
I cringe to think how many people have expired bleach in their disaster emergency kits that will be used for treating polluted water.
Those of us who have emergency preparedness stocks of survival food and survival gear often keep a gallon or two of unscented household bleach on hand for making safe drinking water in large quantities. Bleach is often the chemical of choice because it is commonly available and frequently mentioned when discussing the how-to’s of drinking water.
calcium hypochlorite - bleach
Typical fresh household chlorine bleach has about 5.35% chlorine content (be sure to read the label). To use household bleach for disinfecting water:
Add two drops of bleach per quart or liter of water.
Stir it well.
Let the mixture stand for a half hour before drinking.
If the water is cloudy with suspended particles:
First filter the water as best you can.
Double the amount of bleach you add to the water.
Why Using Bleach to Disinfect Contaminated Water is a Problem
A little known problem with long term storage of bleach in your disaster emergency supply cache is that it degrades over time. Consulting a Chlorox bleach representative produced this statement:
“We recommend storing our bleach at room temperatures. It can be stored for about 6 months at temperatures between 50 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. After this time, bleach will be begin to degrade at a rate of 20% each year until totally degraded to salt and water. Storing at temperatures much higher than 70 degrees Fahrenheit could cause the bleach to lose its effectiveness and degrade more rapidly. However, if you require 6% sodium hypochlorite, you should change your supply every 3 months.”
I cringe to think how many people have expired bleach in their disaster emergency kits that will be used for treating polluted water. Even what are considered reliable sources of information such as the EPA and the Federal Emergency Management Agency FEMA will show you how to use bleach to disinfect water but will leave out this exceedingly important piece of information.
This is why I created Survival Topics – to give you the real information you need to survive.
So if bleach is unreliable for long term storage in emergency preparedness kits then what other commonly available chemical methods of disinfecting water are there? As it turns out a better solution is easily available.
Use Calcium Hypochlorite for Disinfect Water
A 1-pound pag of calcium hypochlorite in granular form will treat up to 10,000 gallons of drinking water
Calcium hypochlorite is one of the best chemical disinfectants for water, better than household bleach by far. It destroys a variety of disease causing organisms including bacteria, yeast, fungus, spores, and viruses.
Calcium Hypochlorite is widely available for use as swimming pool chlorine tablets or white powder that is much more stable than chlorine. This is often known as “pool shock”.
How to Disinfect Water Using Calcium Hypochlorite
Using granular calcium hypochlorite to disinfect water is a two step process.
To make a stock of chlorine solution (do not drink this!) dissolve 1 heaping teaspoon (about one-quarter of an ounce) of high-test (78%) granular calcium hypochlorite for each two gallons (eight liters) of water.
To disinfect water add one part of the chlorine solution to 100 parts water to be treated.
Let the mixture sit for at least one-half hour before drinking.
Be sure to obtain the dry granular calcium hypochlorite since once it is made into a liquid solution it will begin to degrade and eventually become useless as a disinfecting agent. This also means you should make your treated drinking water in small batches, for example enough for a few weeks at a time at most.
Another plus for using calcium hypochlorite to disinfect water for emergency use is that a little goes a very long way. A 1-pound pag of calcium hypochlorite in granular form typically costs only a few $US dollars and can be obtained in any swimming pool supply section of your hardware store or online. This amount will treat up to 10,000 gallons of drinking water, which is enough for a family of four for some six or seven years at a gallon per day per person!
Calcium hypochlorite will store for a long period of time and remain effective as a chemical drinking water treatment. So get rid of the household bleach and buy a can of Calcium hypochlorite for your disaster emergency water disinfection needs. It lasts far longer and treats far more water than the traditional chlorine bleach water disinfection treatment.
Using pool chlorine to disinfect water from a cistern is an easy way to make safe drinking water. This is especially true if the cistern collects rain water because rain water is already fairly clean. The best form of pool chlorine for disinfecting drinking water is granulated calcium hypochlorite, a solid chemical. This form is optimal because it is easy to work with and spills are easy to clean up. Using a liquid form of pool chlorine is much more difficult and dangerous and is not advisable.
Difficulty: Moderately Easy
Things You'll Need:
Two capped containers
Granular calcium hypochlorite
Mix 1/8 oz. granular calcium hypochlorite per gallon of water in one of the containers. Calcium hypochlorite contains about 70 percent available chlorine by weight, making this mixture about a 500 mg/L chlorine solution. You will now have a stock chlorine solution for disinfecting drinking water.
Mix the stock chlorine solution with the water to be disinfected in a different container at a 1 to 100 ratio. This is about equal to 6.5 oz. of chlorine solution for every five gallons of water you are disinfecting.
Make the container safe to pour or drink from by loosening the cap enough to let a small amount of water out and turning the container upside down. Make sure the chlorinated water drips out and coats all of the threads or indentations on both the container and the cap. Let the water sit for at least 30 minutes before drinking.