In March, a devastating storm ravaged the Midwest. It washed away homes, roads, and businesses. It stranded families, pets, and livestock. And it will take years to rebuild.
Now, in April, we’re seeing massive flooding in Texas, resulting in high water rescues, 3 confirmed deaths, derailed trains, submerged cars, and lots of ruined property.
Not all of the damage is visible though. Even after the flood waters recede, the damage done to healthy drinking water supplies lingers.
Problems with Water after Flooding
If you live in the Midwestern states, you are very aware of the recent, and in some cases on-going, flooding that has been affecting this area. This raises a lot of questions for people who haven’t taken too much time to think about their drinking water before.
What contaminants are likely to be in the flood water?
In addition to the contaminants that are usually found in tap water, there will be greatly increased dirt and clay. There will also be greater amounts of organic contaminants from the earth’s surface, such as oil, gasoline and other solvents, insecticides, herbicides, etc.
The biggest concern will be the huge increase in bacteria, protozoa, viruses, and other biological contaminants from overflowing sewage and water treatment plants…even dead animals of all kinds! In no way are any kind of filters an option here!
We already have confirmation that raw sewage from Omaha is rushing into the river, affecting drinking water downstream in places like St. Joseph and Kansas City, Missouri. The rise in turbidity is also complicating municipal efforts to protect the public.
This raw sewage greatly increases the chance of spreading things like e. Coli and Coliform bacteria. The Minnesota Department of Health has a comprehensive website for “Well Management and the Bacterial Safety of Well Water,” and on it, they address how waterborne disease can be transmitted. Here is what the Minnesota Department of Health says on the topic…
“All major waterborne diseases are spread the same way – by drinking water that has become contaminated by infected human or animal fecal wastes. (The same diseases are also directly transmitted “hand to mouth” when good sanitary practices, like hand washing, are not followed.) It often takes only a small number of disease organisms to make someone sick. Contaminated drinking water can look, smell, and taste fine”.
Unfortunately, the presence of e. Coli or Coliform bacteria is not obvious to the naked eye. You could place two glasses of water, one of which has bacteria and the other with no bacteria, on the counter-top and not be able to detect any difference.
How should we treat our water?
The usual advice to boil the water will apply to some degree here but before doing that the water should at least be clarified before boiling it. If it is not clear, this can usually be accomplished by allowing any sediment to settle and then carefully decanting the water through a fine mesh cloth such as a white tea towel. The clarified water can then be boiled for twenty minutes. This will kill any bacteria or viruses that may be present in the water in question. The act of boiling the water will also drive out any dissolved gases or liquids with boiling points below the boiling point of water.
For anyone lucky enough to own or have access to a water distiller, the previous steps are not necessary as the water distiller will automatically accomplish all these steps for you! Distillation actually accomplishes even more! It will capture the steam that is produced from the boiling and cool it in to pure distilled water…the purest kind of water.
If the distiller being used is a manually filled distiller, it is very important that the user not over-fill the boiling chamber. In some cases, it may be necessary to drop the water a bit in order to not get the splashing of un-distilled water or foaming over into the condensing coil. This will normally not be advised unless the feed water has unusually high dissolved solid in it.
If the water distiller being used is an automatically filled distiller, splash over should not be a problem, but in rare instances, if excess phosphates are present in the feed water, foaming over can occur. In this case a pre-filter may be necessary. An activated carbon filter should be all that is recommended.
The recent flooding certainly recalls the words in the poem written by Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1798. I am referring to the Rime of the Ancient Mariner:
Water, water everywhere, and all the boards did shrink;
Water, water everywhere, Nor any drop to drink.
Most folks probably do not remember the next verse of this poem, but in many cases around this area it too is fitting:
And very deep did rot-Oh Christ! That ever this should be.
Yea, slimy things did crawl with legs, upon the slimy sea.
I will stop with this very graphic tidbit from this long poem but it does describe some of the terrible conditions that folks in the affected areas are experiencing. Be safe, and protect yourself and your family. Make sure your water is fit to drink! It should be more than technically “safe” to drink, it should be healthy drinking water!
To your good health with pure, distilled water.
By Eldon C. Muehling AKA Dr. Water