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Old 04-17-2014, 08:34 AM   #1
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Question Well water in fresh water tank

My well water is not treated with bleach/chlorine at any point in the system. It is softened and has another treatment to remove high levels of iron. I will be using this to fill my fresh water tank.

Any idea if I need to add chlorine to the fresh water tank, in an amount safe for human consumption, to keep the water viable for 2 to 3 weeks between fills? Or, can the water in the tank go that long as long as it is sanitized between fills?

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Old 04-17-2014, 09:09 AM   #2
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Any idea if I need to add chlorine to the fresh water tank, in an amount safe for human consumption, to keep the water viable for 2 to 3 weeks between fills? Or, can the water in the tank go that long as long as it is sanitized between fills?
EPA primary drinking water standards limit the amount of chlorine in drinking water to be at or below 4 parts per million. Problem is, as long as the tank is vented, chlorine will evaporate out of the water in about 24 hours. So there is no way to end up with even 1 part per million two or three weeks later, unless you started with a dangerously high level.

Municipal water supplies add safe amounts of chlorine to kill microbes in the drinking water, but that's with the inherent assumption that the water will be consumed the same day it's treated, not weeks later.

If you want to be sure you're drinking safe water, first chlorine-treat your freshwater system as per the instructions in your owner's manual. Then filter the well water before it enters your tank, using a Granular Activated Carbon (GAC) filter on your inlet hose. Then filter the water again through another GAC filter when you dispense it from your faucet (such as a Britta faucet-mount filter if you don't have an under-sink model), to get rid of any organic contaminants that may have accumulated while the unit was stored.
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Old 04-17-2014, 09:22 AM   #3
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If you drink your well water while at home it must be safe enough for your family. So, are you asking how long the water would remain safe in the tank in your Airstream? If you water is high in sulfur then an odor could develop in a closed tank over time. I doubt that even this would make the water "unsafe".

I would follow protagonist's advice and filter the water going into the tank. If you are still not sure, purchase enough bottle water to see you through your trip. It sounds like you have a good opportunity for a meaningful experiment before you.
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Old 04-17-2014, 09:39 AM   #4
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We use our home well water to fill the tank before we leave home. But we never drink any water out of the Airstream tank, it's just for bathing, washing as needed. The idea of using a big plastic tank that is sitting year after year, being filled from various sources, and no way to actually clean it beyond liquid bleach is one I don't trust. We keep a few gallon water bottles handy for refilling and drinking as we travel.
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Old 04-17-2014, 10:50 AM   #5
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We fill our tank with untreated but filtered well water here. However, we have had the water tested, and it is very good with no contaminants. I do treat the tank annually with bleach, and then drain it. Our trailer is also equipped with a filter at the sink for drinking, and we do drink from that filter. Been doing it that way for many years, and no problems to date except it makes me older, fatter, and more contankerous.
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Old 04-17-2014, 11:04 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by WisePharm View Post
My well water is not treated with bleach/chlorine at any point in the system. It is softened and has another treatment to remove high levels of iron. I will be using this to fill my fresh water tank.

Any idea if I need to add chlorine to the fresh water tank, in an amount safe for human consumption, to keep the water viable for 2 to 3 weeks between fills? Or, can the water in the tank go that long as long as it is sanitized between fills?

Thanks!
When I first got my Airstream, I had well water. Like you, I filled using water from a tap connected past the particulate filter and water softener.

I chlorinated by adding 1 mL of household bleach per gallon of water. Vintage Trailer Supply sells a veterinary syringe (without a needle) for applying Vulkem that I found to be quite useful for measuring and adding the bleach. The moderate amount of chlorine protects against any contamination that might occur in open components of the system while filling.

I also add bleach when circumstances require hand carrying and loading of water while boondocking.

In recent days I've had a municipal water supply available. Since the water is already chlorinated by the city, I do not add more.
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Old 04-17-2014, 11:13 AM   #7
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EPA primary drinking water standards limit the amount of chlorine in drinking water to be at or below 4 parts per million. Problem is, as long as the tank is vented, chlorine will evaporate out of the water in about 24 hours. So there is no way to end up with even 1 part per million two or three weeks later, unless you started with a dangerously high level.
The rate at which the chlorine will dissipate depends on many variables, among them the form in which the chlorine is added, the temperature, whether sunlight passes through the water, and the pH. Moreover, the greatest risk of contamination is at the time of loading, when pathogens may be present on the faucet or hose.

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Municipal water supplies add safe amounts of chlorine to kill microbes in the drinking water, but that's with the inherent assumption that the water will be consumed the same day it's treated, not weeks later.
Municipal systems vary however the treatment plan for most of them presumes up to 7 days between chlorination and use. Houses at the end of unusually long or large-diameter water mains will get water at least this old.

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If you want to be sure you're drinking safe water, first chlorine-treat your freshwater system as per the instructions in your owner's manual. Then filter the well water before it enters your tank, using a Granular Activated Carbon (GAC) filter on your inlet hose. Then filter the water again through another GAC filter when you dispense it from your faucet (such as a Britta faucet-mount filter if you don't have an under-sink model), to get rid of any organic contaminants that may have accumulated while the unit was stored.
There are many aspects of water safety and quality however none of these measures will deal with pathogens. Some filters (including the Moen filter on some late model Airstreams) are fine enough to remove giardia cysts and other large pathogens that are relatively resistant to chlorine, but no filter will remove bacteria.
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Old 04-17-2014, 11:17 AM   #8
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If you drink your well water while at home it must be safe enough for your family. So, are you asking how long the water would remain safe in the tank in your Airstream? If you water is high in sulfur then an odor could develop in a closed tank over time. I doubt that even this would make the water "unsafe".
The passage of time will not make water unsafe.

However, there is a very real possibility of contamination during loading.

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I would follow protagonist's advice and filter the water going into the tank. If you are still not sure, purchase enough bottle water to see you through your trip. It sounds like you have a good opportunity for a meaningful experiment before you.
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Originally Posted by dkottum View Post
We use our home well water to fill the tank before we leave home. But we never drink any water out of the Airstream tank, it's just for bathing, washing as needed. The idea of using a big plastic tank that is sitting year after year, being filled from various sources, and no way to actually clean it beyond liquid bleach is one I don't trust. We keep a few gallon water bottles handy for refilling and drinking as we travel.
The incidental consumption of water while showering, preparing foods eaten raw, or rinsing dishes is as much a risk as drinking.
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Old 04-17-2014, 11:26 AM   #9
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The passage of time will not make water unsafe.

However, there is a very real possibility of contamination during loading.





The incidental consumption of water while showering, preparing foods eaten raw, or rinsing dishes is as much a risk as drinking.
So, wouldn't this "possibility of contamination during loading" apply to all water sources. Everyone is therefore at risk and the threat is enhanced because even showing in it can produce the same results. Is that what you are saying? What is the solution here?
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Old 04-17-2014, 11:32 AM   #10
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So, wouldn't this "possibility of contamination during loading" apply to all water sources. Everyone is therefore at risk and the threat is enhanced because even showing in it can produce the same results. Is that what you are saying? What is the solution here?

Live inside a plastic bubble.
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Old 04-17-2014, 11:52 AM   #11
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Born and raised on a mixed farm that was served from a hand dug well approx. 30' deep. There was no treatment, filters, or other attempt to alter water quality in any way. The same hose that filled the barn milk cooler, watered the calf, and horse trough, and all other barn duties, was the same hose we washed and drank from while in and around the barn. Don't think it affected me other than the above mentioned, old, stiff, body contour drop, and less hair, syndrome.

We do use bottled water in the Clipper for drinking and do the fresh water tank sanitize when preparing for the travel season.

Dave
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Old 04-17-2014, 02:28 PM   #12
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Live inside a plastic bubble.
I'm with you! There is more "scary contamination" from the used sponge &/or dish rag sitting next to your trailer's kitchen sink!

Well water is good enough for us at home, so it's good enough for us in the trailer. Of course, we do the typical cleaning of the tank with bleach at the beginning of the season, but that's about it.

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Old 04-17-2014, 02:57 PM   #13
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So, wouldn't this "possibility of contamination during loading" apply to all water sources. Everyone is therefore at risk and the threat is enhanced because even showing in it can produce the same results. Is that what you are saying? What is the solution here?
No. The point was that using bottled water for drinking doesn't materially reduce the risk.

Municipal and other large sources are chlorinated, a process that has saved more lives than antibiotics. If in doubt, travel to the large 3rd world city of your choice.

Small private wells rely on the system being closed, that is, their being no opportunity for any pathogen-bearing contaminants (soil, airborne dust, insects) to enter the water supply before it is used. Done properly and on a small scale, it works.

When you load water into the tanks of an Airstream, the faucet that the hose is connected to, the hose(s), and the hose ends are susceptible to contamination with pathogens. If you use containers and a funnel then those add to the possibilities of contamination. If you're sure of the cleanliness of all these things, great. I am not always sure and adding a moderate amount of chlorine seems simple, inexpensive, and prudent.
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Old 04-17-2014, 03:45 PM   #14
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Contamination

...and as I drove in, I watched the neighbor's terrier use the water spigot as a substitute for the usual fireplug. (Bleach spray the threads, then run some water onto the ground before hooking up your white hose.)

I use bottled water to drink. Not because I'm afraid of germs but because there is high iron content in many campground wells. Bottled water makes better tasting coffee too. Being in a hot humid climate, I put substantial charge of bleach into my tank about 4-6 times a year (full timer). Found green algae growing in my water hose one time, and frequently get heavy iron deposits - so I just replace the hose 3-4 times a year.
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