- Apr 25, 2018 at 2:31 am #3532121
Ben RBPL Member
The White Ranch Park (near Golden, CO) Sourdough Springs walk-in campground provides water to put out campfires, but declares it “non-potable” and “not for human consumption”. It is stored in a tank, photo below from a YouTube video. They tell you to pack in your drinking water to camp. When I asked about it on the phone, they couldn’t tell me the source of the water, and the only reason given for it being non-potable was “something about the container its stored in”. I can’t tell if they are just being overly cautious or if the water is indeed hazardous.
Think this water would be safe to drink after treatment with Sawyer filter and/or Steripen?
Thanks!Apr 25, 2018 at 3:18 am #3532128
Lori PBPL Member
@lori999Locale: Central Valley
If “something about the container its stored in” means chemicals leached into the water, no, neither of those will make it safe to drink. Filters don’t remove chemicals – not all of them anyway, and you’ve no idea if the ones that might be there are removed by activated charcoal which is sometimes a part of a backpacking filter. 100% positive that a Steripen does nothing at all for chemicals.Apr 25, 2018 at 7:46 am #3532156
David ThomasBPL Member
@davidinkenaiLocale: North Woods. Far North.
Activated carbon removes a lot of chemicals, especially covalent ones (hydrocarbons). Examples of compounds that are removed with high efficiency with carbon: benzene, decane, oil-based pesticides, the components of diesel fuel.
Ionic compounds, including all salts, are so soluble in water and lack hydrocarbon structures that will bond to the carbon, therefore they will adsorb weakly if at all onto carbon. Examples include sodium chloride (salt), sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) each of which is quite safe, but also sodium arsenite, a gram of which could kill you.
Other compounds like alcohols are in between. Small, simple alcohols (methanol, ethanol) don’t adsorb much at all, but as the hydrocarbon chain gets longer, they adsorb more efficiently.
And, yes, I’m using “adsorb” because it all takes place on the surface of the activated carbon, not absorbed into the bulk of the carbon. The carbon is usually a charcoal derived from coal, almond or coconut shells.
So, if you’d die of dehydration otherwise, obviously drink it. If you treat it with a filter, chlorine, or UV, you’ve rendered it safe from an infectious disease perspective, only. Activated carbon would remove some but not all chemicals dissolved in the water. A majority, I’d say, but not the vast majority of toxic chemicals.
You could grab a sample and run a few hundred dollars of tests but that would leave a lot of unknowns (because you don’t what to look for). A few thousand dollars and you could be pretty sure.
A cheap DIY test would be the home version of a “wet test” in which the lab puts trout fingerlings (they’re more sensitive than the carp family) in the sample water and compare their survival to another population in known clean water*. 19-cent goldfish are cheaper and more readily available and would tell you if the stuff was more acutely toxic.
* for protocol reasons, they can’t reuse the trout fingerlings after a wet test, so the last one I had done, I asked for the fish that survived and kept them on my desk at work for a few months.Apr 25, 2018 at 11:22 pm #3532238
Ben H.BPL Member
@bzhayesLocale: So. California
*My guess* is they don’t clean the container and are concerned the water is a bacteria cesspool. That suggests a filter would work well. **My concern** is that they do do something to it prevent the tank from filling up with bacteria and algae. I’m thinking pool chemicals on steroids… that is something I would not want to drink even after filtering (with or without activated carbon). Have you ever smelled the water?Apr 26, 2018 at 5:14 pm #3532337
Ben RBPL Member
Thanks all for the responses.
Ben H. – I had the same thoughts on bacteria in the container, and that’s why I thought just treating it might be OK. But your concern on the park treating it with chemicals is valid and one I hadn’t thought of, thanks.
I guess I’ll be packing in my water – sigh. The map also shows a stream nearby, and a spring fed horse trough, but the park staff cautioned me that runoff from snow melt may not yet be enough for either to be flowing, and didn’t have any certain or up to date info.Apr 27, 2018 at 12:32 am #3532417
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