Cleaning/Disinfecting a 750 gallon water tank

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mjalowski
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Cleaning/Disinfecting a 750 gallon water tank

Post by mjalowski » Sun Jul 13, 2014 11:47 am

hello! last burn was the first one my camp had a big plastic water tank (750 gallons), and it's been in a storage space since last year. we're trying to figure out the best way to disinfect it before we refill it with potable water for this burn and i'm wondering if anyone has had experience with that and knows the best way to go.

let me know, and thanks!

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Re: Cleaning/Disinfecting a 750 gallon water tank

Post by Fan C » Sun Jul 13, 2014 12:55 pm

It's been 20 years since I've done that level of field sanitation, but I'd start with a good rince. Then a fill and treat with bleach (I don't recall the ratio off the top of my head), drain rinse again. Then when filled I'd also treat with bleach (please check the ratio, I know it's a very tiny amount) to keep it potable through the week.

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Re: Cleaning/Disinfecting a 750 gallon water tank

Post by ygmir » Sun Jul 13, 2014 1:08 pm

yeah a rinse minimally, unless you are able to get inside to scrub.

*I'm not a professional, so take advise accordingly*

my understanding is .5 oz of household bleach, will sterilize 30 gallons of "clear" water.
1 oz. for murky water.

So, if you have time and all, I'd scrub and or rinse the tank, drain, fill the tank, using a ratio of .1 oz bleach/gallon water, and let it sit a few days, drain, and seal. if you can't seal it, leave that water in until time for final fill.

I'd also say, for sterilization purposes, you can't really use too much bleach.
when you drain before filling, you can let it sit a couple hours to evap any left, and fill with clean water.
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Re: Cleaning/Disinfecting a 750 gallon water tank

Post by Monkeystyle » Sun Jul 13, 2014 1:16 pm

I've worked in food service for about 15 years now and i second fan c and ygmir on the bleach just dilute it. Give the inside a.good scrub if you can, if not then try to spray the inside with a good hose.
Then use the bleach mix. Then let it air dry! Open the tank and allow the bleach to evaporate. Do not rinse it out. After it air dries then you can rinse it if you like. But most health codes here in canada require sanitizers to air dry. Also bleach will neutralize into water after a day of being open to air.
Last edited by Monkeystyle on Sun Jul 13, 2014 1:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Cleaning/Disinfecting a 750 gallon water tank

Post by Monkeystyle » Sun Jul 13, 2014 1:21 pm

Again, I'm not a in the sanitation industry, but i am a chef of 15 years with food handlers certification in ontario, nova scotia, and manitoba ;-)

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Re: Cleaning/Disinfecting a 750 gallon water tank

Post by GreyCoyote » Sun Jul 13, 2014 1:29 pm

Pressure wash the inside of the container to remove any visible biofilm, then fill with 5 gallons of water. Add a tablespoon of potassium permanganate (observe std protocol and safety items for handling an oxidizer please). Dissolve. Put the lid on and rotate the container to coat the walls with this solution. Drain this purple solution into a bucket. Gently rinse the container and inspect closely. Anywhere you see a brownish cast on the walls is biofilm. Scrub these out. Dump the saved permanganate solution back in and repeat the coating process. Inspect, scrub, repeat.

When you have no more biofilm, add 1 gallon of bleach per 100 gallons of capacity, fill to the brim with fresh water, and let it stand overnight. If you have a clean airstone, toss it in and let it bubble to help move the solution around. The next morning, drain, rinse, and let air dry.

Just prior to taking this to TTITD, add a cup of sodium thiosulfate crystals to 5 gallons of water. Rinse the walls with this for a few minutes and drain. (this step kills any chlorine residual and odor). Rinse. Drain. Dry. Its ready for use.

This is a standard protocol sterilization and validation that is used in many industries that need to completely clean a polyethelyne or polyproplyene container prior to reuse. It is also used in food-grade transfer lines in milk-handling operations. All of the chemicals are available on-line. You dont need much either. All of thus stuff, with shipping should be under $30 and you will have a lot left over.

Be CAREFUL handling the permanganate as it is quite an effective oxidizer and is dusty. Gloves, dust mask, and a full-face shield should be used. Stay upwind of the bottle and wear old clothes. Never mix with a glycol or petroleum product, only with fresh water. The sodium thiosulfate however is pretty harmless, not caustic, and well-behaved. If you have a fish tank, keep it for use as an awesome dechlorinator (one gram per 25 gallons kills 4 ppm chlorine or chloramine. Overdosing at 100x is not harmful).

To dispose of the used permanganate solution you need to neutralize it. Put it in a bucket and slowly add a heaping tablespoon of sodium thiosulfate crystals with stirring. The purple solution will instantly turn brown-black. Let it stand for a few minutes and notice the clouds of brown floc forming. Its now become manganese dioxide and water (harmless and ecologically benign). Now add a pint of common hydrogen peroxide slowly with stirring. The brown/black solution will turn clear and can be dumped down the drain. It isnt harmful, caustic, and requires no special handling. (People with azaleas dump some on their plants to enhance the color).

Water treatment companies can sell you small amounts of these chemicals locally if you prefer. Use them carefully and you will have no issues. Good luck.
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Re: Cleaning/Disinfecting a 750 gallon water tank

Post by unjonharley » Sun Jul 13, 2014 3:42 pm

CDC last on bleach.. For bleach to be effective it has to be on the surface for thirty minutes..
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Re: Cleaning/Disinfecting a 750 gallon water tank

Post by Popeye » Sun Jul 13, 2014 4:03 pm

Some of these tanks have a fairly small opening. Crawling inside with a bunch of chemicals might not be a good idea. Use a long handled brush or pressure washer. Safety third!
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Re: Cleaning/Disinfecting a 750 gallon water tank

Post by GreyCoyote » Sun Jul 13, 2014 4:37 pm

This is a small tank. Nobody can get inside. And a long-handled brush without a visual guide to show you where the icky stuff lives is pretty useless.

Please note that with the exception of common household bleach, none of these chemicals produce any vapors whatsoever. They are very safe in that regard. None are mutagenic, carcinogenic, etc. But they effectively kill bacteria and viruses.

There are reasons there are semi-complex sterilization protocols like this. That reason is food safety and public health. 750 gallons of contaminated water sitting in the desert sun for a week has a HUGE potential to make many people sick. The "meatball" protocols expoused by others may be better than nothing, but they do not address spore-forming organisms like cryptosporidium or those that have hydrophobic characteristics. The protocol I suggested addresses these issues and is directly tracable to peer reviewed standards used in industry. These protocols work. They are approved. And they have wide margins of safety in the hands of Joe Dimwit.

If I was ultimately responsible for a potable water source like this, I would consider this subject very carefully. All it takes is for one "internet expert" to decide the established protocols are "too dangerous" and then wing it because they think they know a better way. They DONT, and that way lies madness. When people get sick and the Nevada State Health folks have a public crisis on their hands, you and I will suffer for it in the long run.

FWIW, the Nevada health officials have been very accomodating when it comes to burning man. But that could change in a heartbeat.

TL;DR: If you are storing potable water in a hot desert, and that water will be either in contact with your body or used in food preparation, you owe it to your fellow burners to observe protocol. Anything less is just plain irresponsible.
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Re: Cleaning/Disinfecting a 750 gallon water tank

Post by Meat Hunter » Sun Jul 13, 2014 6:11 pm

GreyCoyote,

Now you have me thinking real hard about my personal water supply. The last think that I need is to do something stupid and that would me sick.

An old man being sick 2,000 miles away from home or somewhere on the side of the Interstate is not something that I relish looking forward to.

I purchased 8 new plastic 5 gal. containers which I had planned to bring along empty and fill as I got closer to the Playa.

I might be better served to leave my empty containers at home and purchase 8-5 gal. containers of drinking water from a Wal-Mart or other such store as I get closer to the Playa.
Specializing in Calibrating Windsocks -- Any where, Any Time, and Any elevation.

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Re: Cleaning/Disinfecting a 750 gallon water tank

Post by GreyCoyote » Sun Jul 13, 2014 6:36 pm

MH: If it's just you, then the game is a bit different. Personally, I have never had a problem storing water that came from a clean, potable source. If you want the honest truth, I have drank out of a horse trough or brook more times than I can count, and I have never, ever clorinated well water for my own use. If it's just me, I really don't take that much care. Humans tend to be robust creatures. But you can't *always* get away with this.

The problem comes when you start feeding this stuff to others. If someone is "gifting" a product that includes water, then they have a duty to make that water clean to at least the usual EPA and NSF minimum standards. Unfortunately, few seem to take this (or food safety!) seriously. Nobody seems to realize that John Q. Public may have a compromised immune system, that they may be geriatic or pediatric, and that personal resistance to bacterial or viral assault varies widely. What one person can laugh-off without any serious symptoms may well kill another person. So we have to cater to the lowest denomonator.

If I was just camping by myself, I'd do a scrub-and-bleach of my containers once and call it good. Maybe treat the water every couple of days to a 4 ppm residual with pool shock (oh dear, someone is gonna have puppies over that!) or chlorine dioxide just to be sure. But I wouldn't bother with the rest of it. If I got the trots, well... shame on me.

But the general public deserves better. When I'm doing something that could put them at risk, it's gotta be right. So I do the full Monty and will rest easy at night knowing that any tummy-aches out there are not a result of any negligence of mine. :mrgreen:
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Re: Cleaning/Disinfecting a 750 gallon water tank

Post by Meat Hunter » Sun Jul 13, 2014 7:03 pm

GreyCoyote

When one is feeding and watering a group of strangers & casual passers by, one has to maintain a very high standard indeed - they and their health are depending on you and no expense or labor should be spared.

Since my "camp" will consist I and I alone, your suggestion of a good Clorox (shame on me for using a brand name) rinse was what I was thinking of and what I shall do.

It was my original intention a few days before I departure, to do a high Clorox concentration wash, allow to air dry, seal the new plastic jugs until filling with potable water from an amenable motel down the road.

Thanks for your always timely and constructive counsel.


Question:
How should I treat the containers when I return home in preparation for storage for use next year?
Specializing in Calibrating Windsocks -- Any where, Any Time, and Any elevation.

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Re: Cleaning/Disinfecting a 750 gallon water tank

Post by unjonharley » Sun Jul 13, 2014 7:29 pm

I sell my water containers at garage sales and replace them..
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Re: Cleaning/Disinfecting a 750 gallon water tank

Post by LowePro » Mon Jul 14, 2014 12:39 am

And at the end of your burn, do a final diluted bleach/rinse and let it dry *completely* before capping it and putting into storage. Hoping you guys did this last time... oh my, if there was any water left in it last year and it's been sitting in storage for a year, it's going to be real nasty and hard to get sterilized. But starting with a dry, clean container it would be way easier.
When doing whatever sterilization/rinse method you decide, don't forget to open the hoses/valves and let the sterilizer solution thru them for several minutes too and dip/scrub any nozzles on the tank. Nasties live in the small nooks and crannies.

Test strips from the pool store would be a good resource to have on hand, keeping in mind that it takes a few hours at least for 750 gallons to mix and equalize to get an accurate reading on a test strip. That's a ton of water, (well, ~3 tons), just curious how big your camp is?
http://water.epa.gov/drink/contaminants ... ctants.cfm

http://rvbasics.com/techtips/sanitizing ... ystem.html

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Re: Cleaning/Disinfecting a 750 gallon water tank

Post by Mojojita » Mon Jul 14, 2014 12:50 am

GreyCoyote, thanks for such good info! I bring the same 5 gallon bottles year after year and store them outside during the year - making the ick factor pretty big. I have always used a soak with bleach before filling each year but I think I will step it up a bit after reading your post.
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Re: Cleaning/Disinfecting a 750 gallon water tank

Post by mjalowski » Mon Jul 14, 2014 2:05 pm

thanks everyone! yes, it is of the utmost importance to me that we properly disinfect. no one is trying to get sick out there!

asr9754 -- our camp is about 45 people

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Re: Cleaning/Disinfecting a 750 gallon water tank

Post by trilobyte » Mon Jul 14, 2014 2:15 pm

750 gallons does not sound small by a long shot - that's 13+ times larger than a 55 gallon drum. That's more than 4x what a big kiddie pool can hold, something like that should be big enough for human access and walking around in. Since something like that would be built for re-use, there'd have to be a way to wash and clean the insides. If someone in camp remembers where you got it, you could also check with the supplier.

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Re: Cleaning/Disinfecting a 750 gallon water tank

Post by GreyCoyote » Mon Jul 14, 2014 3:45 pm

trilobyte wrote:750 gallons does not sound small by a long shot - that's 13+ times larger than a 55 gallon drum. That's more than 4x what a big kiddie pool can hold, something like that should be big enough for human access and walking around in. Since something like that would be built for re-use, there'd have to be a way to wash and clean the insides. If someone in camp remembers where you got it, you could also check with the supplier.
All of these standard, agricultural-grade, NSF-rated potable water tanks are made the same way. Only two basic styles really: Pictures: http://www.tractorsupply.com/en/store/l ... k-1025-gal. Or another style: http://www.tractorsupply.com/en/store/s ... -67-in-dia I happen to have several, from 20 gals up, from various vendors. The big 'un is 1050 gallons. (Incidentally, while some may think that's a lot of water, thats just 25 head of cattle for 24 hours in the Texas sun.)

The universal top fill port is standardized across manufacturers: They are 11-1/2 inches across for the big 'uns, and 9-1/4 inches across for anything under 500 gals. All are ABS plastic and threaded. Notice I said "top fill" and not "hatch". These ports are way too small for anyone to get into by design.

Actual man-sized entry holes start somewhere around 2250 gallons in a poly tank. Even then, it's a special-order item. By the time you hit 5K gallons, a man-hatch is standard. A man-hatch requires the removal of several dozen bolts and a secondary vent to allow cross-flow from a pressurized air source while someone is working inside it. (These are called a "Shell hatch" locally, after the originator, Shell Corp).

Manufacturers are keen to size the vast majority in the 9 to 12 inch range because THEY WANT TO KEEP PEOPLE OUT. Every so often someone would decide it was important to crawl in there with a brush and "scrub it clean"... and they didn't come out. They ignored the owners booklet that says "READ THIS - Cleaning & Service Directions" and that first paragraph that says "DANGER - CONFINED SPACE - NO ENTRY - PELIGRO!". So now they make them all smaller than a man-size to prevent unauthorized entry and unhappy endings unless you order a big tank.

TL;DR: There is no reason to physically get inside of one of these tanks. You can fill, clean and even service all of the interior parts on them from the outside provided you know what you are doing. If you just have to get in there, then you likely filled it with something other than potable water, or failed to read the cleaning/storing instructions. Either way, the tank is unsuitable for potable use.
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Re: Cleaning/Disinfecting a 750 gallon water tank

Post by theCryptofishist » Fri Jul 18, 2014 9:25 pm

GreyCoyote wrote:(Incidentally, while some may think that's a lot of water, thats just 25 head of cattle for 24 hours in the Texas sun.)
Ah, Texas... Land of the Midnight Sun.
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