Wednesday, June 22, 2016


"I am beside myself with fear": The Flint water crisis, in residents' own words:
Posted by MSNBC on Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The water crisis in Flint, MI has finally reached the ears of the mainstream media, but it took six long years to get there.  There's no way to assess or fix all the damage that's been done over those six years.

Flint isn't the only city in trouble.  In fact, when NBC News took a look at the water quality of America's major cities in 2011, Flint didn't even make the top ten. Here is their list:

  1. Jacksonville, FL: With 23 different toxins, including high volumes of carcinogenic trihalomethanes, lead and arsenic, Jacksonville’s water appears to be anything but pure. In fact, during one test, trihalomethane levels were two times the EPA legal limit.
  1. San Diego, CA: The country’s eighth-largest city provides water to numerous residents. Unfortunately, 24/7 Wall St says that water contains at least 20 contaminants, including two chemicals that exceeded the EPA’s legal limit.
  1. North Las Vegas: Mostly fed by groundwater and the Colorado River, North Las Vegas’s water supply didn’t contain any chemicals exceeding legal limits. It did, however contain a total of 26 contaminants, including high levels of radioactive uranium.
  1. Omaha, NE: Fed by the Missouri and Platte Rivers, Omaha’s water supply contained at least four chemicals above legal amounts, including manganese, nitrate and nitrite, trihalomethanes and atrazine, a herbicide linked to human birth defects.
  1. Houston, TX: The fourth-largest U.S. city gets its water from Lake Houston, the San Jacinto Rivers and the Trinity River. Within this water, over 46 pollutants were detected, including radioactive alpha particles and haloacetic acids from disinfection byproducts.
  1. Reno, NV: In addition to arsenic and manganese, Reno’s water supply was found to contain eight chemicals at levels above EPA health guidelines, including tetrachloroethylene, an industrial solvent and dry cleaning chemical.
  1. Riverside County, CA: A 7,200-square-mile area located north of San Diego, Riverside County gets its water from the Bay Delta. Within that water, 13 chemicals were found that exceeded recommended health guidelines.
  1. Las Vegas, NV: Fed by the Colorado River, Las Vegas’ water supply contained 12 pollutants exceeding EPA health guidelines, including lead, arsenic, radium-228 and radium-226.
  1. Riverside, CA: In addition to the same problems facing county residents, Riverside city residents drink an unusually unhealthy water supply containing 15 chemicals that exceeded health guidelines, along with traces of uranium and bromoform.
  1. Pensacola, FL: Situated along the Gulf of Mexico on the Florida Panhandle, Pensacola ranks as having the worst water quality in the country, thanks to 45 total chemicals. Of these, 21 were found at unhealthy amounts, with the worst being lead, benzene, tetrachloroethylene, trichloroethylene, radium-228 and -228. Pensacola’s water was also found to contain chloroform and cyanide.

Humans are interesting life forms, we are 80% or more water. Deprive our body of water and the body can rapidly shut down and quickly perish. Generally, bottled water is sufficient for a short term emergency, but it's not very practical for long term emergencies. Storing a gallon per day per person for a three week emergency would be 21 gallons for one person or more than 100 gallons for a family of five. Sometimes it is more practical to have a method to make raw water drinkable or potable using filtration.

Water filtration

The purpose of filtering water is to remove impurities that could make someone sick including microorganisms and some pollutants. Microorganisms in water could include: protozoa
(which include parasites like Giaridia lamblia and Cryptosporidium), bacteria (E. coli, Vibrio cholerae, Campylobacter, and Salmonella) and viruses (hepatitis A and E, Norwalk virus,
rotavirus, poliovirus and echovirus). Microorganisms are filtered from water by size (pore size). 

Water pollutants including oils, fuels, herbicides, pesticides, and others are removed from
water using activated charcoal. Water filters can be made to filter microorganisms, filter pollutants, or both. Check carefully with the manufacturer.

Microbial filtration

Water filters basically allow water to pass through small holes or pores, while trapping impurities larger than pores. The pores of a filter must be small enough to prevent passage of any
dangerous microorganisms. Basically, smaller pores make for safer water. On the other hand, the smaller the pores, the more likely the filter gets clogged by soils

Types of water filters

The two most important elements when deciding what water filter to buy is the pore size and the durability of the filtering element. There are 3 types of water filter elements, ceramic, glass fiber, and hardblock carbon.
Ceramic elements: These filters are the most expensive because they have the smallest pore sizes, they are the most durable, and the most maintainable. They do not however
remove chemicals, poor tastes, odors, or pollutants unless they are combined with a charcoal filter.
Glass fiber or compressed surgical paper: These filters are mildly expensive and have medium durability but they are usually not cleanable. They do however have small pore
sizes that remove most microorganisms but they do not remove pollutants. These types of filters are good for camping and housing purposes but not good for long term use because
they are hard to clean and have build up of mold and mildew.
Hardblock carbon: These types of filters have the largest pore sizes of the 3 types but it is still effective. These filters are less expensive but are brittle and not cleanable. The
advantage of using this type of filter is that it is good at reducing chemical quantities, poor taste, odors and many pollutants. Hardblock carbon filters are usually not used on their own but are generally used as a second filter in home and portable water use.


When filtering water with soils (sediment) present clogs are frequent. Flow can be improved in a clogged filter by backflushing or cleaning the surface of a ceramic filter to remove the sediment or soils. Alternatively purchase a filter that provides a prefilter.  A prefilter is designed to catch larger soils and remove them before they can clog the filter.  Pre filtering your water can help extend the life of the primary filter.  Several folded layers of cheesecloth make a good prefilter that you can reuse many times.

Personal water filter for your Grab & Go bag

There are small, personal-sized water filters that would be a great addition to your Grab & Go bag.   After some trial and error, we use the Sawyer Mini with a Platypus pouch.  I started with the straw-type filters but I found that it was too hard to suck the water through the filter (even after following all the directions including priming it and cleaning it between sips) especially for children,  The Sawyer attaches to a water pouch.  You fill the pouch with the (dirty) water (I filter it quickly through a coffee filter first to remove large particles) then gently squeeze the (now clean) water into a cup or water bottle.  If you want to just suck it through the filter you can do that too.  The filter comes with a 16 oz water pouch which is easy to use and seems pretty sturdy.  I have a  70 oz. Platypus pouch that I can use to carry larger amounts of water to filter later.  It can be hard to know when you'll come to the next water source, so I have a Platy pouch in each Grab & Go bag, each pouch carries 2 liters of water.  Keep in mind that the platy pouch will carry contaminated water, don't put clean water in it.  The platy pouches roll up very small, so if you want to be able to carry a large amount of clean water, get extra bags and mark them so you don't cross-contaminate your water (or yourself by accidentally drinking out of the wrong bag).  Here are links to the Sawyer mini and the Platypus pouch.  You'll waste a lot less water if you use a funnel to fill the pouch, this one is perfect because it collapses so it doesn't take up much room in your Grab & Go bag.  The cone-shaped coffee filters fit inside the funnel so you can prefilter your water before you run it through the filter.  


Water Purification Tablets

My only exposure to water purification tablets was hearing people who had used them talk about how awful they made water taste.   Originally, the tablets were made with iodine which is effective for killing a good number of protozoa and pathogens.  They don't work well in cold water and leave a terrible after taste (which can be allieviated with effervescent vitamin C tablets once the iodine has done its work).  Iodine tablets are very effective for removing radioactivity from water, though, so it may be worth having some on hand just for that reason.

Newer water purification tablets use a chlorine compound that cleans the water just as well as iodine but doesn't leave the taste.  The tablets can be used in conjumction with a water filter as an added layer of protection.  If you purchase water purifying tablets, be sure to get ones that are individually packaged because once they are opened, they lose their potency in about three days.  These are the tablets I have in our Grab & Go bags:

With any water purification tablet, the warmer the water, the better it works.  The typical treatment is to drop the tablet into the water and wait 30 minutes for it to do its work.  For cysts, though, the processing time extends to 4 hours. It's important to use the water quickly, within 40 hours of  purifying it, so that any pathogens that might have been missed don't have a chance to reproduce.  The process I use for water I don't trust  is to prefilter the water through a coffee filter as I collect it, heat it, purify it with the tablet then put it in my clean water Platy pouch and filter it through the Sawyer Mini as I squeeze it into a cup or water bottle.  Keep in mind that neither the water purification tablets nor the filter will eliminate chemical pollutants.  You need a top of the line system like the Berkey to do that.

Having access to safe drinking water is a life or death matter.  According to, a child dies every 90 seconds from a water-related disease.

I used to think I needed to have a water purifier "Just in Case" of an emergency that left my tap water unsafe to drink, but after doing some research, I can see that I need a water purifier every day.

  After looking at all the options, I purchased a Berkey water filtration system (I actually got two so I have a backup).  It had the most credible history and test results for removing a broad range of contaminants including fluoride and arsenic.  Here's a video that shows how effective it is.

I have the Big Berkey system which produces 2.5 gal of water per day, you may need less.  I have the stainless steel one and like it very much, but the clear one (the Berkey Light) would be handy for knowing how much water is left.

The Berkey was also very reasonably priced.  My system, including a set of filters was less than $300. Compared to what I was spending on bottled water, this will pay for itself in about six months.  The replacement filters cost $137 for a set and based on my use so far, I estimate I'll have to replace the filters once every two years.  Even if it's every year, that's not bad.  I got three extra sets of filters.  I want to have ten on hand, so I've earmarked some of my rainy day fund to get one set per month until I do.  I found both the Berkey and the filters on Amazon and got free shipping, just click on the pictures below and it will take you there.



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  2. If the water damage occurs in the winters or the cold season, the heat should be left on. If the water damage occurs during the summers, try and use an air conditioner. However, make sure that your electrical systems are not damaged with water.
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  3. Clean water is the most important thing to have in life. I just dont think everyone really understand and appreciate it before something bad happens. Im so sad to read your list of towns who got really bad water. I hope with the new President Trump is going to fix this.

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