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TOPIC: E-Coli contaminated water

E-Coli contaminated water 18 Sep 2017 22:29 #1

  • Madgreekx3
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Hello all...was just notified by my Marina that their well water has tested positive for E.-Coli bacteria. Since our fresh water tanks are filled via their taps, we're all a little concerned as to how long the water has been contaminated and unsure about the condition of the water in our tanks We don't use the tank water for drinking, but do wash dishes and hands with it.. I'm thinking that the only thing to do at this point besides ripping out the whole fresh water system and starting new, would be to disinfect with bleach and install an Ultra Violet filtering system. Any thoughts or suggestions would be appreciated.

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E-Coli contaminated water 18 Sep 2017 22:38 #2

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I'd talk to someone at your local health department. It will probably be lots of flushing with bleach as a solution, and probably a boat trip to a clean water source to do it.
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E-Coli contaminated water 18 Sep 2017 22:41 #3

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If you have not had an issue with health, just purge your water tanks through the system, fill with fresh water, add a slight amount of Clorox, just remember, it does not take much Clorox to do the job, then empty the tanks through the faucets and re-fill and purge again.
Just think, you have been drinking the water so far and what?
Have you ever drank water out of a mountain stream?
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E-Coli contaminated water 18 Sep 2017 22:55 #4

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From Peggy Hall who wrote the book on this.....

Sanitizing Your Water System

Always disinfect your boat’s potable water system at the start of each boating season and whenever water taste, odor or appearance becomes a concern. Before starting, ensure that the water heater is turned off at the electrical panel. Ice-makers should be turned on to allow the feed line to be disinfected. Remove any filter cartridges as well as any aerators at faucets. Flush the entire system with potable water and then drain it completely through every faucet.
Next, fill the entire system with a chlorine solution (approx. 1 ounce of common household bleach per gallon of tank capacity). Run the water from each faucet or outlet until you can smell bleach at each location. Leave the system pressurized with this bleach solution in it for at least 4 hours, but not more than 24 hours. Drain the entire system again, flush it thoroughly with potable water (fill and drain at least 2 times), and discard the first two buckets of ice generated by the ice-maker (if installed). Fill the tanks with potable water, clean the sediment filter installed to protect the pressure pump, and install new water filter/purifier cartridges as appropriate. Clean and reinstall the aerators at the faucets.
Water treatment systems (filters) can be used to remove taste and odor as well as sediment, rust, algae and other microscopic solids. Point-of-use (POU) systems treat water at a single faucet. Point-of-entry (POE) systems treat water as it’s drawn from storage tanks or enters the boat via a city water inlet. I recommend both.

Remember, algae and contaminates can thrive in the entire water system, not just the tanks. Other than aluminum tanks, which are not approved for drinking water storage, bleach in these concentrations (and durations) will not harm the tanks or plumbing.
Good luck and hope this helps,
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Northport NY

E-Coli contaminated water 19 Sep 2017 03:00 #5

  • TenMile
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We have a family cabin off the grid that has a water supply fed by a mountain stream. Occasional case of "beaver fever" due to contamination in the water.

A few years ago, we purchased a "LifeStraw Family" unit. It can purify 18,000L of water without the use of chemicals. It's not real fast, but can purify approximately 9L per hour -- it's a .02 Micron ultra filter. Unfortunately it can't desalinate water but does remove 99.99% of viruses, 99.999% bacteria and other nasties. The one we use has a hanging container that you fill and it gravity filters out clean drinking water that we store in a 1 gallon glass jug with a lid. Works great. They have a handful of other types for camping or individual use.

I do the bleach method noted above at the beginning of each season. I also have a Britta filter on the tap in the galley we use for drinking water. It removes the taste of the bleach from the sanitization.
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E-Coli contaminated water 19 Sep 2017 13:30 #6

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"fill the entire system with a chlorine solution (approx. 1 ounce of common household bleach per gallon of tank capacity)"

Are you sure about this? Seems to be an awful lot of bleach. For my 40 gallon tank I'd need 5 cups or almost a third of a gallon of bleach.
I use less than a cup when I sanitize my water tank in the spring and that is strong.
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E-Coli contaminated water 19 Sep 2017 14:04 #7

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You don't want that much chlorine in your system. You only use 1/2 oz to a gallon when sanitizing a surface (like a countertop in food prep). FEMA recommends only 1/4 teaspoon per gallon. No need to get carried away with it.
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E-Coli contaminated water 19 Sep 2017 15:07 #8

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ken51k wrote: "fill the entire system with a chlorine solution (approx. 1 ounce of common household bleach per gallon of tank capacity)"

Are you sure about this? Seems to be an awful lot of bleach. For my 40 gallon tank I'd need 5 cups or almost a third of a gallon of bleach.
I use less than a cup when I sanitize my water tank in the spring and that is strong.


Perhaps google and read Peggy Halls posts or book on the subject - then do as you think is best.

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E-Coli contaminated water 19 Sep 2017 15:17 #9

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SomeSailor wrote: You don't want that much chlorine in your system. You only use 1/2 oz to a gallon when sanitizing a surface (like a countertop in food prep). FEMA recommends only 1/4 teaspoon per gallon. No need to get carried away with it.


I think the difference here is that FEMA recommendation assumes you're drinking the water. The other is a flushing arrangement where the entire system is cleaned out and flushed. Its more like a system shock and kill along with a flush.

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E-Coli contaminated water 19 Sep 2017 15:37 #10

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SomeSailor wrote: You don't want that much chlorine in your system. You only use 1/2 oz to a gallon when sanitizing a surface (like a countertop in food prep). FEMA recommends only 1/4 teaspoon per gallon. No need to get carried away with it.


With boats I have typically followed Peggy Halls recommendations on water and waste systems over the past 30 years with great results. I have her book around somewhere and it was a good read and a real good guide when I was just starting out boating way back when. I am sure that there are other methods that will work as well.

Not sure what the sanitizing rules are where you might be located but here in NY there are a number of rules on sanitizing , here are a couple of them:
- hard surfaced in 'clean' areas / 0.666 oz of bleach (typical) per gallon
- hard and partially porous areas that could be 'dirty' / 2.0 oz of bleach per gallon.

Since the OP was speaking about a sealed tank area with multiple hose lines and corners that was/is contaminated with E-coli I would assume the 'dirty' mixture would apply to him.

We have been mandated to mix at these strengths each day over the past 16 years at a number of our locations - our locations are inspected and monitored by a number of State agencies typically more than 4X each year.

Hoppe this helps

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E-Coli contaminated water 19 Sep 2017 16:11 #11

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I just read through Peggy's updated edition, page 58, that deals with the potable water system. It appears that there are no or few edits from what Smitty477 advised in post #3. Fwiw, her book is well worth the cost.

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E-Coli contaminated water 19 Sep 2017 17:16 #12

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You need to be careful at those levels (2oz per gallon) as you run the risk of damaging stainless tanks and fittings. I 300 gallons of potable water and there is no way I'm gonna pour 4.66 gallons of chlorine bleach into my tanks.

FEMA says 2 drops to a gallon. If you're "sanitizing" that's different than "treating" potable water for daily use..

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E-Coli contaminated water 19 Sep 2017 17:29 #13

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SomeSailor wrote: You need to be careful at those levels (2oz per gallon) as you run the risk of damaging stainless tanks and fittings. I 300 gallons of potable water and there is no way I'm gonna pour 4.66 gallons of chlorine bleach into my tanks.

FEMA says 2 drops to a gallon. If you're "sanitizing" that's different than "treating" potable water for daily use..


Yes - our kitchen sinks show the affects of the higher bleach content.
And yes again - our staff that works with the solutions are trained and tested as part of the regulations.
This thread was started about treating an existing tank and system with E-coli.

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E-Coli contaminated water 19 Sep 2017 18:09 #14

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Thanks all for the feed back. Peggy's advice of 1 oz. of bleach per gallon seems like a lot, but that may be what it takes to decontaminate the system. That would be almost 4.5 cups for my 35 gallon holding tank.

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E-Coli contaminated water 19 Sep 2017 18:23 #15

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Madgreekx3 wrote: Thanks all for the feed back. Peggy's advice of 1 oz. of bleach per gallon seems like a lot, but that may be what it takes to decontaminate the system. That would be almost 4.5 cups for my 35 gallon holding tank.


Whatever you do lease note Peggy's thoughts on turning off the water heater, filling all the lines with treated water, and then the holding time of 4-24 hours.
Good luck and happy boating

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E-Coli contaminated water 20 Sep 2017 00:52 #16

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I understand the minimum 4 hrs sit time for the bleach to do its work, but why the maximum 24 hrs? Does the bleach lose effectiveness or does it eat into the water system or ??
Not an issue on my end, just interested.

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E-Coli contaminated water 20 Sep 2017 01:03 #17

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If you put that heavy a concentration in, 24 hours will give it enough time to eat your pump seals and inerds. :)

Seriously though, if you're just concerned with the potability of the water in your marina, simply treating flushing it and treating it (FEMA recommendation) will let you use the water for anything you want.

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E-Coli contaminated water 20 Sep 2017 12:58 #18

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B95054 wrote: I understand the minimum 4 hrs sit time for the bleach to do its work, but why the maximum 24 hrs? Does the bleach lose effectiveness or does it eat into the water system or ??
Not an issue on my end, just interested.


Bleach will not lose much effectiveness at all in closed system - in an open system un-stabilized chlorine will dissipate quite rapidly.
We mostly use the bleach solutions in common hand spray bottles and they last about 1-1/2 years or so - we have 30+ bottles in use every day.
We have also used much stronger bleach solutions in typical 1-2 gallon bug sprayers that you get at the home depot stores.
They last for months of use assuming they have no metal parts.
So for the most part metals are what will be affected by the non dissipating bleach in a closed system.
Things like water tanks that are metal , or the small screens (aerators) on the ends of your galley water fixture will be most affected if not rinsed after sanitizing.
Since we pull all the water fixture aerators at winterization and typically sanitize the boats water systems prior to the new years use we just leave them out until after sanitization.

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