Water purification question

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Water purification question

Postby LSR » Sat Nov 15, 2008 11:54 pm

If I keep this up, I'll have my own forum! ("LSR's New Guy Questions-try not to laugh") :?

Last year, before my tenure, the Troop had a Murphy's Law experience on a hiking trip. Both Hiker Pro's went out. They had iodine tablets, but a Scout got sick afterwards (I'm thinking it wasn't an allergy as a: he's still alive and b: the symptoms he told me about were not consistent with an allergic reaction.)

I think it prudent to have backup to the filters. Any suggestions? Iodine? Any other methods? It would be intended as a backup in case the filters went out/broke.

Do you think there is any teaching value to "SPL, those filters just broke. What do we do next?" on a trip?
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Re: Water purification question

Postby WVBeaver05 » Sun Nov 16, 2008 8:08 pm

Boil the water?

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Re: Water purification question

Postby FrankJ » Sun Nov 16, 2008 10:35 pm

I like polar pure for its simplicity, but probably not best for young scouts. Iodine or chlorine tablet also work well. You always want to carry a back up to a filter as you found out.
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Re: Water purification question

Postby SMTroop240 » Mon Nov 17, 2008 6:17 am

We use chlorine dioxide tablets as a back-up to microfilters, but their main drawback is the 4 hour waiting period for maximum effectiveness.

We also alway carry at least 2 microfilters, and usually 3 or 4 if we have more than 8 or 9 people on the trek.

Everyone starts out with at least 3 litres of water, and the PL's and SPL knows that it is my expectation that they actually check each scout before we leave the campsite or assembly area to make sure they have their water bottles, camelbacks full. We also make maximum advantage of developed water, on the rare occasions that we come across it, during a trek.

Boiling is also a good solution, and works well if the weather is cool, or you have stopped for an overnight. It isn't really that great if you are out on the trail in summer conditions, but it will keep you hydrated, even if it is a little "warm".
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Re: Water purification question

Postby Cowboy » Mon Nov 17, 2008 7:58 am

We went through this last year with the Troop. In the wilderness Survival MB you have to learn 3 different ways to purify water. We now make the boys take two different methods (mechanical purifier and chemical) some people are allergic to iodine, and in excessive amounts it can be lethal, so it is always best to test this first, but having each boy carry a couple of iodine tabs in his gear adds no significant weight, and can be a lifesaver.
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Re: Water purification question

Postby alex gregory » Mon Nov 17, 2008 4:58 pm

Boiling is OK if you have the time and resources. To kill giardia you have to bring the water to a hard rolling boil; assuming about 3 liters per person per day (maybe more maybe a little less) you are going to boil a lot of water and go through a lot of fuel (unless you don't care about minimizing fire impact like a good scout should).

Iodine tablets weigh nothing and are a great backup.

A bottle filter is also a great idea if you start with reasonably pure water.

The best advice is to clean and check your filter before you hit the trail. What are the odds of two filters breaking on the same trip? I suspect higher if the same patrol or quartermaster is responsible for cleaning and checking both kits before the next trip.
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Re: Water purification question

Postby Quailman » Mon Nov 17, 2008 7:14 pm

Cowboy wrote:...having each boy carry a couple of iodine tabs in his gear adds no significant weight, and can be a lifesaver.


There's some good information about iodine tablets (and other forms of water purification) here.

Iodine is light sensitive and must always be stored in a dark bottle. It works best if the water is over 68° F (21° C). Iodine has been shown to be more effect than chlorine-based treatments in inactivating Giardia cysts.


The iodine begins to break down after the dark bottle is opened, so use it relatively soon thereafter or discard. Scouts should not carry them trip after trip if not using and replenishing from a fresh supply.
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Re: Water purification question

Postby ThunderingWind » Mon Nov 17, 2008 8:28 pm

How far back in the woods are you?

Donate a nalgene or two to group.
Drill hole in bottom of bottles.
Make charcoal in LNT Fire hole.
Next morning - Assemble filter - neckerchief piece in bottom, charcoal, neckerchief, sand, neckerchief, very small pebbles and grass
Pour water through new filter.
Boil what comes out.

You will survive most back country experiences of less than 14 days. if it broke on day one, jsut go back to the trailhead and phone in.

If you are on a longer trip, use the personal satellite communication device and ask for one to be dropped at the next food pickup point.

I always have a pump type, a gravity type and both iodine and chlorine tablets. I prefer to use the iodine and then chlorine if I have time in camp (over night - make fire guards work during their shifts to help stay awake). And my bottles and hydro bag all have filters built in.
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Re: Water purification question

Postby AquilaNegra2 » Tue Nov 18, 2008 3:24 am

I use grapefruit seed extract. 20 drops to a gallon; shake, let stand. A little bit of a bitter taste, but perfectly healthy. Only caveat is adults on heart meds shouldn't use it. Inexpensive, too. About $12 at the health food store for five years' worth :D. Best thing is that it's all natural.
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Re: Water purification question

Postby FieldSports » Tue Nov 18, 2008 11:37 am

I have never heard of grapefruit extract as a water purifier. Is there a study or article that you can post that shows that this really kills the bacteria, etc.?
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Re: Water purification question

Postby FrankJ » Tue Nov 18, 2008 11:48 am

The iodine begins to break down after the dark bottle is opened, so use it relatively soon thereafter or discard. Scouts should not carry them trip after trip if not using and replenishing from a fresh supply.



Iodine is an element. It only breaks down if you have a thermo nuclear reaction. :D I have a bottle of polarpure is older than the scouts in the troop. The tablets are compounds that might have a shelf life (read the directions.) Chlorine dioxide tablets do have a shelf life because they are always a compound. Once again follow the directions with whatever you use since they are all poisons.
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Re: Water purification question

Postby wagionvigil » Tue Nov 18, 2008 2:14 pm

FieldSports wrote:I have never heard of grapefruit extract as a water purifier. Is there a study or article that you can post that shows that this really kills the bacteria, etc.?


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Re: Water purification question

Postby Quailman » Tue Nov 18, 2008 2:53 pm

According to this wikipedia article and this other article, GSE's antimicrobial properties are due to the presence of synthetic benzalkonium chloride, benzethonium chloride, or the antibiotic triclosan. Laboratory-prepared GSE showed "no significant antimicrobial effect." It sounds like you're unknowingly taking the chlorine purification route.

It took a while to find that information, as a google search of "Grapefruit Seed Extract" and "water purification" led to lots and lots of sites devoted to selling GSE.

I'll stick with my Katadyn filter with iodine tablet back-up, thank you.

Oh, and FrankJ, it's not that the Iodine "breaks down", it's that exposure to humidity allows the iodine to react with water, reducing it's subsequent effectiveness.
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Re: Water purification question

Postby FrankJ » Tue Nov 18, 2008 3:15 pm

Oh, and FrankJ, it's not that the Iodine "breaks down", it's that exposure to humidity allows the iodine to react with water, reducing it's subsequent effectiveness.


That may be true with tablets. In Polarpure (the brown bottle), the iodine crystals are stored in water making an saturated solution. They will last until the crystals are gone.
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Re: Water purification question

Postby AquilaNegra2 » Tue Nov 18, 2008 10:35 pm

Don't use Wiki for research ;-). The study you cited shows up as flawed on several other sites (yes, all of them have agendas -- first rule, consider the source), and incorrect. We've used GSE for years with great positive effects.

Like the reports of Nalgene leaching chemicals, it's always buyer beware. In an emergency, I'd use anything. But for long-term, I'm more wary of the plastic.
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Re: Water purification question

Postby Quailman » Tue Nov 18, 2008 11:09 pm

I don't doubt that you've used it with positive effects. Here's a USDA study that concludes "This work has conclusively demonstrated that benzethonium chloride is present in commercial GSE samples. Higher amounts of benzethonium chloride were present in powder GSE samples than in liquid GSE samples, although we did not determine the exact concentration. This research confirms an earlier study (15) that found benzethonium chloride in commercial GSE samples."

That's a peer-reviewed study in the Journal of Agricultural Food Chemicals. Since they also site a study which states "However, only one of the six GSE samples tested did not contain any preservatives and this sample did not show any antimicrobial activity," I would conclude that you are in fact chlorinating your water with positive, beneficial results by adding the commercially available GSE to your water. Since the concentration of benzethonium chloride in the GSE is not consistent, I'll stick to products that are made for water purification.

Another reason I wouldn't allow scouts to purify water with GSE:

G2SS wrote:Treatment of Questionable Water
In addition to having a bad odor or taste, water from questionable sources may be contaminated by microorganisms, such as Giardia, that can cause a variety of diseases. All water of uncertain treatment should be treated before use. Don't take a chance on using water that you are not sure of. To treat water, follow these steps:

1. Filter the water to remove as many solids as possible.
2. Bring it to a rolling boil and boil it for a full minute.
3. Let it cool at least 30 minutes.
4. Add eight drops of liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of cool water. (Use common household bleach; 5.25 percent sodium hypochlorite should be the only active ingredient; there should not be any added soap or fragrances). Water must be cool or chlorine will dissipate and be rendered useless.
5. Let the water stand 30 minutes.
6. If it smells of chlorine, you can use it. If it does not smell of chlorine, add eight more drops of bleach and let it stand another 30 minutes. Smell it again. You can use it if it smells of chlorine. If it doesn't, discard it and find another water source.
7. The only accepted measurement of chlorine (or water treatment agents) is the drop. A drop is specifically measurable. Other measures such as "capful" or "scant teaspoon" are not uniformly measurable and should not be used.
In addition to common household bleach, several other types of chemical means to disinfect water are available, such as iodine tables, iodide crystals, and halazone tablets. All of these are acceptable, but some people have an allergic reaction to iodine products. Follow the instructions on the package for proper use.

To treat cold water you must lengthen the contact (sitting) time depending on the water temperature to destroy Giardia that may be present. Very cold water may take as long as four times the normal contact time.

Several types of water treatment filters are available at camp stores. The Boy Scouts of America recommends that if you use a water filter, you also chemically treat and/or boil the water and carry extra filter cartridges and spare parts. Among the best water filters are PUR, MSR, Katadyn, First Need, and Sweet Water.


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Re: Water purification question

Postby fritz1255 » Thu Dec 18, 2008 9:14 am

Another question related to the original topic: Is filtration good enough to remove harmful bacteria? I have an MSR filter, and have never gotten sick from water that I have filtered through it, but odds are that you won't get sick from drinking untreated water at least 95% of the time anyways. I have heard some people claim that they both filter and chemically treat, which seems like overkill - why carry along a heavy filter on a backpacking trip if you are just going to add iodine anyways?
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Re: Water purification question

Postby ThunderingWind » Thu Dec 18, 2008 11:31 am

Quailman wrote:Another reason I wouldn't allow scouts to purify water with GSE:

G2SS wrote:Treatment of Questionable Water
In addition to having a bad odor or taste, water from questionable sources may be contaminated by microorganisms, such as Giardia, that can cause a variety of diseases. All water of uncertain treatment should be treated before use. Don't take a chance on using water that you are not sure of. To treat water, follow these steps:

1. Filter the water to remove as many solids as possible.
2. Bring it to a rolling boil and boil it for a full minute.
3. Let it cool at least 30 minutes.
4. Add eight drops of liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of cool water. (Use common household bleach; 5.25 percent sodium hypochlorite should be the only active ingredient; there should not be any added soap or fragrances). Water must be cool or chlorine will dissipate and be rendered useless.
5. Let the water stand 30 minutes.
6. If it smells of chlorine, you can use it. If it does not smell of chlorine, add eight more drops of bleach and let it stand another 30 minutes. Smell it again. You can use it if it smells of chlorine. If it doesn't, discard it and find another water source.
7. The only accepted measurement of chlorine (or water treatment agents) is the drop. A drop is specifically measurable. Other measures such as "capful" or "scant teaspoon" are not uniformly measurable and should not be used.
In addition to common household bleach, several other types of chemical means to disinfect water are available, such as iodine tables, iodide crystals, and halazone tablets. All of these are acceptable, but some people have an allergic reaction to iodine products. Follow the instructions on the package for proper use.

To treat cold water you must lengthen the contact (sitting) time depending on the water temperature to destroy Giardia that may be present. Very cold water may take as long as four times the normal contact time.

Several types of water treatment filters are available at camp stores. The Boy Scouts of America recommends that if you use a water filter, you also chemically treat and/or boil the water and carry extra filter cartridges and spare parts. Among the best water filters are PUR, MSR, Katadyn, First Need, and Sweet Water.


You're not following the Guide to Safe Scouting.

Interesting.

So, why do we even bother teaching our Scouts about other methods if this is the only G2SS approved methode? Why do they not require this method at Philmont or Northern Tier?
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Re: Water purification question

Postby ThunderingWind » Thu Dec 18, 2008 11:36 am

fritz1255 wrote:I have heard some people claim that they both filter and chemically treat, which seems like overkill - why carry along a heavy filter on a backpacking trip if you are just going to add iodine anyways?
I am one of those depending on where I am at. If I am down stream of cattle by less than 100 miles, I will filter and chemically treat. I am up in elevation then I just filter by various filters.

If am base camping, I will always filter and treat and filter again. I have one of those gravity systems that work great for hanging on a tree, filling with water and let it work while I do other camp things like shelter improvement and fire.
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Re: Water purification question

Postby Quailman » Thu Dec 18, 2008 11:48 am

ThunderingWind wrote:I am one of those depending on where I am at. If I am down stream of cattle by less than 100 miles, I will filter and chemically treat. I am up in elevation then I just filter by various filters.


You do realize, don't you, that grazing rights to nearly every acre of public land are leased to ranchers. I've seen sheep straddling the Continental Divide in the Rio Grande National Forest. And if there aren't livestock there are probably elk or bighorn sheep, though cattle are probably the grossest in terms of fouling the water. People take horses a lot of places too.
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