In part 1, we learned that toxins other than mercury cannot be avoided entirely in the drinking water, as some are not removed by screens, activated carbon or silver water filters, or chlorine treatment. Some toxins are even made more toxic by boiling. Furthermore, some toxins cause physical symptoms of poisoning almost immediately. In particular, populations of cyanobacteria (a blue-green algae) may be dominated by a single species or be composed of a variety of species, some of which may not be toxic and some which have been deadly to animals. We learned about the locations, timing, and durations of cyanobacteria blooms, which occur all around the world, though in various conditions and times of the year.
Factors That Increase Cyanotoxin Production (The Biochemistry of Cyanotoxin)
To understand how to neutralize toxin production, it is necessary to study its biochemical makeup. Cyanobacteria are known to produce several bioactive compounds, including cyanotoxins.
Cyanotoxins fall into three broad groups of chemical structure: cyclic peptides, alkaloids, and lipopolysaccharides (LPS).
Cyclic Peptide Toxins (Cyanobacterial Toxins)
Globally, the most frequently found cyanobacterial toxins are the cyclic peptide toxins of the microcystin and nodularin family. They are water soluble and are unable to penetrate directly the lipid membranes of animal, plant, and bacterial cells. Therefore, to elicit their toxic effect, uptake into cells occurs through membrane transporters that otherwise carry essential biochemicals or nutrients. This restricts the target organ range in mammals largely to the liver.
Location, Light, Temperature, and pH
Mass occurrences of neurotoxic cyanobacteria have been reported from North America, Europe, and Australia, where they have caused animal poisonings. Cyanobacteria produce most toxins under conditions that are most favorable for their growth.
For example, different cyanobacterial species have different light requirements. All strains produce the most toxins when grown under their optimum light conditions. Strains and species also differ slightly in their optimum growth temperatures. The toxin content in most studies was highest at temperatures between 18°C and 25°C, whereas low (10°C) or very high temperatures (30°C) decreased toxin content. Temperature gradients caused a two- to three-fold difference in toxin content.
Studies to detect effects of pH on toxin production suggest that cells are more toxic when grown at high and low pH. Sometimes in high concentrations of phosphorus, hepatotoxic strains produced more toxins. Non-nitrogen fixing species, like Microcystis and Oscillatoria, produce more toxins under nitrogen-rich conditions.
Percolation through clay soils may provide some cyanotoxin removal, but this will depend greatly on the type of clay, surface charge, and cation concentration of the water. Microcystins, being cyclic peptides, are extremely stable and resistant to chemical hydrolysis or oxidation at near neutral pH. Microcystins and nodularin remain potent even after boiling. In spite of their chemical stability and resistance to eucaryotic and many bacterial peptidases, microcystins are susceptible to breakdown by aquatic bacteria found naturally in rivers and reservoirs. These degradative bacteria appear to be reasonably common and widespread. Once the biodegradation process commences, removal of microcystin can be more than 90 per cent complete within as little as two days. This may vary depending on the water body, initial microcystin concentration, and water temperature. Microcystins can be oxidized by ozone and other strong oxidizing agents, and degraded by intense ultra violet (UV) light. In full sunlight, microcystins undergo slow photochemical breakdown and isomerisation.
Searching for the Safest Water
If you are the typical water consumer, you do not have a sophisticated, technologically advanced testing laboratory with you all the time. So, I am going to make some suggestions in keeping with generally accepted practices that a person knowledgeable on the matter of water treatment would make to adapt to field conditions.
Avoid Danger or Mitigate Danger That Cannot Be Avoided
Your strategy is to avoid danger if you can, and to mitigate danger that cannot be avoided. Pick a time of year to be in the area before the known bloom season. Typically, the conditions that cause bloom are the same year after year in an area, and these are going to repeat their cycle in a predictable fashion. Local reports by residents of the area may also make suggestions, at least on what areas to avoid. If you arrive at an area and there is a lot of scum present on and just below the surface of the water, you are asking for trouble if even to expose your skin to the contaminated water. Do not breathe it either.
Avoid Where Dead Vegetation/Fish or Downstream from Fertilizer/Weed Control Contamination
Avoid obvious areas where there is a lot of dead and dying vegetative debris or fish and the presence of other material in and around the water shed from logging or farming operations. Also, avoid where water may be contaminated by fertilizers or weed control products. Directly downstream from obvious contamination is an obvious place to avoid.
Pick Where Water Flowing and Clear
Pick a better spot where the water is flowing and looks clear. Always use your micro screen and silver- or carbon-activated water filter for preparing water for drinking and cooking. Although some toxins will pass even through the filters, those you catch and remove before consuming are important to avoid.
Plan Water Needs Ahead of Time
Keep on hand a supply of water you know is safe for your first two days. If you can, plan your water needs a few days ahead of time by bringing enough water for drinking, cooking, washing, and laundry. For example, bring in three 5-gallon water bottles, each is intended for water storage for days 3, 4, 5, which you prepare the day of your arrival in advance of its need.
Treatment of Water
You’ll need a few materials. To treat water, you will need a long, plastic tube and attached finger pump for water movement between source and water bottle, which is preferably a clear, glass bottle. You’ll also need another, separate tube and attached finger pump to move water from the water bottle to that day’s use container.
Selecting Your Water Source and Properly Drawing the Water
You do have a few steps to treat the water. The first step involves selecting your water source. Draw the water you will need always from the best available source you can find. Draw it untreated from below the surface but above the bottom.
Expose Water Full UV Sunlight
Expose your captured water to full UV sunlight for at least two days. During this time, the microorganisms will absorb much of the nitrogen and phosphorous that you cannot remove any other way. After two days, insert your other plastic tube below the water surface in the bottle, and draw off this water for screening and filtering by your usual means, including a sand or clay filter, fine screen, carbon activated and silver filter, and finally, maybe boiling. Leave what you do not use for more UV sunlight exposure.
If you draw more water for additional days, each time keep it in a separate glass bottle exposed to direct UV sunlight. Glass is better than plastic for your container.
Copper and/or Silver Added To Water Storage
Sometimes copper (pre-1982 Lincoln penny) and/or silver (pre-1965 Roosevelt dime) are added to the water storage containers. When used together, copper and silver ionization is suitable for producing safe drinking water.
Electrically charged copper ions (Cu2+) in the water are attracted to particles of opposite polarity, such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Positively charged copper ions form electrostatic compounds with negatively charged cell walls of the microorganisms. These compounds disturb cell wall permeability and cause nutrient uptake to fail. Copper ions penetrate the cell wall and create an entrance for silver ions (Ag+). The silver ions penetrate the core of the microorganism. Silver ions bond to various parts of the cell, such as the DNA and RNA, cellular proteins, and respiratory enzymes, causing life support systems in the cell to be immobilized. There is no more cellular growth or cell division, preventing bacteria from multiplying.
Copper-silver ionization has a larger residual effect than most other disinfectants including ultraviolet light (UV). Copper-silver is effective throughout the entire water system and does not depend on water temperature. Copper-silver is non-corrosive and does not affect pumps, shower heads, tanks, and taps.
Would More Effort/Money Improve the Quality of the Water?
Would a lot more effort and much more money improve the quality of the water after this effort? Probably not for the average water consumer. Water quality problems and recommended treatment systems have been extensively studied, but it is usually with large and expensive units as might be used on an ocean-going yacht.
A reverse osmosis (RO) unit can remove a variety of inorganic chemicals, such as nitrates, calcium, and magnesium, but this does not remove cyanotoxins or microbiologicals, such as viruses. Also RO does not remove radionuclides that produce radiation.
Continuous Deionization (CDI)
Another more sophisticated apparatus employs electrodeionization (EDI), also referred to as Continuous Electro Deionization (CEDI) and Continuous Deionization (CDI). CDI utilizes ion exchange resins, which are continuously regenerated by an electrical current. The major difficulty with this method, besides its cost and the fact that it is only about 65% effective, is that a membrane is required and has similar cost and maintenance problems as RO. There is no evidence that CDI can neutralize cyanotoxins, nor remove radiation. In summary, even with two of the most advanced and expensive methods (RO and CDI), there is no proof that they neutralize and remove the cyanotoxins. This reaffirms the U.S. EPA’s conclusion that cyanotoxins are not removed by conventional water treatment procedures.
The easy and cheap methods I have suggested here will actually give you pretty good water.
Awareness of the dangers from toxins in the environment and your steps to mitigate that danger can prepare your family to enjoy the survival experience with the assurance that you will have done everything you can to ensure safe drinking water. The toxins cannot be ignored. Some toxins can be avoided entirely by careful site selection and timing for your activities. Others can be mitigated by proper neutralization procedures for your drinking water and food preparation.
SurvivalBlog Writing Contest
This has been another entry for Round 79 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The nearly $11,000 worth of prizes for this round include:
- A $3000 gift certificate towards a Sol-Ark Solar Generator from Veteran owned Portable Solar LLC. The only EMP Hardened Solar Generator System available to the public.
- A Gunsite Academy Three Day Course Certificate. This can be used for any one, two, or three day course (a $1,095 value),
- A course certificate from onPoint Tactical for the prize winner’s choice of three-day civilian courses, excluding those restricted for military or government teams. Three day onPoint courses normally cost $795,
- DRD Tactical is providing a 5.56 NATO QD Billet upper. These have hammer forged, chrome-lined barrels and a hard case, to go with your own AR lower. It will allow any standard AR-type rifle to have a quick change barrel. This can be assembled in less than one minute without the use of any tools. It also provides a compact carry capability in a hard case or in 3-day pack (an $1,100 value),
- Two cases of Mountain House freeze-dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources (a $350 value),
- A $250 gift certificate good for any product from Sunflower Ammo,
- American Gunsmithing Institute (AGI) is providing a $300 certificate good towards any of their DVD training courses.
- A Model 175 Series Solar Generator provided by Quantum Harvest LLC (a $439 value),
- A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol and a SIRT AR-15/M4 Laser Training Bolt, courtesy of Next Level Training, which have a combined retail value of $589,
- A gift certificate for any two or three-day class from Max Velocity Tactical (a $600 value),
- A Three-Day Deluxe Emergency Kit from Emergency Essentials (a $190 value),
- RepackBox is providing a $300 gift certificate to their site, and
- Two 1,000-foot spools of full mil-spec U.S.-made 750 paracord (in-stock colors only) from www.TOUGHGRID.com (a $240 value).
- A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21 (a $275 value),
- A large handmade clothes drying rack, a washboard, and a Homesteading for Beginners DVD, all courtesy of The Homestead Store, with a combined value of $206,
- Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy (a $185 retail value),
- Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security, LLC,
- Mayflower Trading is donating a $200 gift certificate for homesteading appliances.
Round 79 ends on November 30th, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that there is a 1,500-word minimum, and that articles on practical “how to” skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.