Filtering N.O. floodwater?
September 3, 2005 11:03 AM   Subscribe

Would a consumer-grade water filter (e.g. a Brita pitcher) be sufficient to make the floodwater in New Orleans safe to drink?
posted by jjg to Health & Fitness (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Slate says it's safe to drink as is, at least compared to dehydration.
posted by cillit bang at 11:10 AM on September 3, 2005


Not even close. Brita specifically says that their filters can't remove bacterial agents from unsafe water. You need something far more stringent, like chemical treatment. The Brita is designed only for water that is microbially safe.
posted by Dipsomaniac at 11:12 AM on September 3, 2005


Best answer: You'd need something with a ceramic filter with a 0.2 micron pore size, at the least. Like a Katadyn Water Filter or similar.
posted by TwelveTwo at 11:34 AM on September 3, 2005


There's three problems with New Orleans water right now. The first is industrial and home toxins (i.e. fuels, household cleaning agents, chemicals leaching out of things that weren't designed to be submerged like PCBs from old flourescent lighting ballasts...) ... which the Brita activated charcoal filter may or may not remove. No testing has been conclusively done. The second problem is the silt and particulates, which will be removed by the brita... but after one or two fills of water, it's likely that the brita filter would be toast and need replacement. The third is the microbial and viral agents that thrive in water and situations like that. I.e. Cholera, typhoid, etc. Those will NOT be removed by the brita, but could be killed by treating the water with iodine.
posted by SpecialK at 11:36 AM on September 3, 2005


What's really needed are services like these.

I know for a fact that one vendor of such goods called the President and the Governors of LA and MS after the hurricane to remind them that they could be there in a day (and could provide a number of other emergency services) if it was so requested.
posted by mosch at 11:51 AM on September 3, 2005


Absolutely not. Forgetting all the bacteria, the flood water contains battery acid and all manner of chemical toxins dispersed into the liquid. Brita filters will not remove (much) of this.

Besides, and I don't know NOLA well, I assume much of the floodwater is going to be saltwater? That's not going to be good to drink even if it's clean(ish).
posted by wackybrit at 12:33 PM on September 3, 2005


Remembering something I read in a PJ O'rourke book (of all places) household bleach or iodine can be used (sparingly) to purify water. Mississippi State University, fittingly, has a guideline.

Remembering something else I read by Neal Stephenson, aquarium charcoal, if ground and heated, can be ingested to help the body defend itself against some toxic chemicals that may have been accidentally ingested. I don't know about that, though. Clearly, I get all of my health care advice from fictional or quasi-fictional literature. I'm surprised I'm alive.
posted by umberto at 12:39 PM on September 3, 2005


Lake Pontchartrain is a salt lake. On top of all the other problems, they need desalination.
posted by lambchop1 at 2:02 PM on September 3, 2005


yeah... looking at the pictures, i wonder why they call it "lake" pontchartrain. it seems more like a bay to me. its open to the ocean, right?
posted by joeblough at 4:28 PM on September 3, 2005


Brita filters are to make water taste better. They are not intended to remove any health hazards, AFAIK.
posted by winston at 7:41 PM on September 3, 2005


TwelveTwo has it. Something like the Katadyn he mentioned or (my favorite) the MSR MiniWorks. $80 on Amazon and will last forever if you clean the ceramic element. I have used these in the backcountry for years and they will remove microbial agents. From the site:

Removes bacteria, protozoa (including crypto and giardia), and particulate. Carbon core removes unpleasant tastes and odors caused by chemicals, such as iodine, chlorine, and pesticides.
posted by sophist at 9:11 PM on September 3, 2005


yeah... looking at the pictures, i wonder why they call it "lake" pontchartrain. it seems more like a bay to me. its open to the ocean, right?

It's an estuary.
posted by dhartung at 12:08 AM on September 4, 2005


LifeStraw is another consideration: http://www.engadget.com/entry/1234000890054889/
posted by IndigoRain at 10:06 AM on September 4, 2005


winston writes "Brita filters are to make water taste better. They are not intended to remove any health hazards, AFAIK."

That's not entirely true, they remove lead, for instance.
posted by OmieWise at 10:46 AM on September 4, 2005


IndigoRain, to my understanding, LifeStraw hasn't been mass-produced yet.
posted by WCityMike at 10:47 AM on September 4, 2005


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