1:5:10:365 EcoTip Blog

November 18, 2008

:323 Bacteria in Water

Take the 1:5:10:365 challenge: Do one thing – for 5 to 10 minutes – 365 days a year to make our home and planet environment better.

1:5:10:323 EcoTip: The presence of E. coli in water is an indicator that sewage or animal wastes may be contaminating your water supply. Testing for E. coli and coliform bacteria is a simple screening test that can tell you if your well or water supply is contaminated with waste material.

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 Additional Information:

National testing laboratories provides a test kit for the presence or absence of E. coli and coliform bacteria with results two days after the samples are received by the laboratory.

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September 16, 2008

:260 Flood Contamination

Welcome to today’s 1:5:10:365 Tip for becoming a better steward for our home and planet environment.

1:5:10:260 EcoTip: When catastrophic disasters such as hurricanes Katrina and Ike hit – there are frequently not enough professional resources available to help. This means people need to become knowledgeable in safely and effectively managing their own recovery.

In my book Extreme Weather Hits Home: Protecting Your Buildings From Climate Change  I discuss ways to recognize potential problems and protect your home – but once disaster has struck information published by the Red Cross is a very good primer. 

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 Additional Information:

Suggested Review: :256, :257, :258, :259

This is the fifth in a series of EcoTips about protecting oneself when remodeling and working around buildings when participating in disaster recovery such as occurred with hurricane Katrina and is going on now with Ike. This information is timely since 2008 is the most active hurricane season since 2005 and many buildings are being damaged.

The Red Cross has posted an excellent booklet for flood recovery. It contains a lot of helpful information. You can view it at http://www.redcross.org/static/file_cont333_lang0_150.pdf

Here’s an excerpt about basements that get flooded:

If your basement is flooded, don’t be in too big a hurry to pump it out. Here’s why. Water in the ground outside your home is pushing hard against the outside of your basement walls. But the water inside your basement is pushing right back.

If you drain your basement too quickly, the pressure outside the walls will be greater than the pressure inside the walls—and that may make the walls and floor crack and collapse, causing serious damage. To avoid this situation, follow these steps when you pump the water out of your basement:

Never go into a basement with standing water in it unless you are sure the electricity is off.

After floodwaters are no longer on top of the ground, you can start pumping the water out of the basement. Do not use gasoline-powered pumps or generators indoors because gasoline engines create deadly carbon monoxide exhaust fumes. Pump the water level down two to three feet. Mark the level and wait overnight. Check the water level the next day. When the water stops going back up, pump down another two to three feet and wait overnight. Repeat steps 4 and 5 until all water is pumped out of the basement.

 

CDC and NIOSH also has lots of good information at http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/flood/  

 

 

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July 26, 2008

:208 Bacteria in Water Heater

Welcome to today’s 1:5:10:365 Tip for becoming a better steward for our home and planet environment.

1:5:10:208 EcoTip:If the rotten egg smell is coming from your hot water, it is likely your water heater is contaminated with bacteria that are producing the rotten egg – sulphur odor. This generally involves several considerations which with be covered in the 1:5:10:365 EcoTips for the next several days.

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 Additional Information:

Suggested Review: :203

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July 7, 2008

:189 Wash Your Vegies

Filed under: :189 Wash your Vegies — Tags: , , , , , , , , — John Banta @ 12:57 am

Welcome to today’s 1:5:10:365 Tip for becoming a better steward for our home and planet environment.

1:5:10:189 EcoTip: Washing your fruits and vegetables is a great way to reduce the risk of getting sick from contaminated produce. If you can’t wash them then peel or cook them.

The purpose of this blog is to provide tips for improving our living space. I never intended to get into a discussion of food, but I’m getting tired of the many recent media broadcasts that are dealing with fecal contamination of field grown produce where they don’t discuss simple methods of rendering contaminated foods safe.

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 Additional Information:

Of course there is an expectation that prepared foods will be safe. Reports of restaurants or other food service establishments serving contaminated foods is unacceptable. They should be taking the same steps for cleanliness as everyone else. But we must realize the foods that come from the farm will never be 100% safe. Sooner or later some bird is going to fly over a field somewhere and crap on my tomato. I want farmers to take as many precautions as possible, but there will always be accidental exposures to our food that will occur. We owe it to our families to be that last line of defense, So wash, peel or cook your fresh foods.

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June 11, 2008

:163 PCB’s in Wells

Welcome to today’s 1:5:10:365 Tip for becoming a better steward for our home and planet.

1:5:10:163 EcoTip: Prior to 1973 many water wells with submersible pumps had PCBs in the lubrication fluid. A leaking pump will contaminate an entire water supply. If you have a pre-1980 submersible pump – it is now getting really old and is more likely to fail and leak oil into the water. PCB containing submersible pumps must be disposed as hazardous waste.

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 Additional Information:

Suggested Review:

If you have a well with a pre 1980 submersible pump the EPA provides information at: http://www.epa.gov/compliance/resources/publications/monitoring/tsca/manuals/pcbinspect/pcbinspectapph.pdf

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January 30, 2008

:030 Mercury Clean-up

mercury-cleanup.jpg

United Kingdom instructions for cleaning up broken CFLs

Suggested Review – :028, :029

Welcome to today’s 1:5:10:365 Tip for becoming a better steward for our home and planet.

1:5:10:030 Tip:  When fluorescent tubes break they release the hazardous heavy metal mercury. The above ten steps are the published recommendations in the United Kingdom. I would add to these ten steps EPAs recommendation to:  Open a window and leave the room for 15 minutes or more.

See you tomorrow

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Additional Information

EPA’s information on broken CFL clean-up can be found at: http://www.epa.gov/mercury/spills/index.htm#flourescent 

They have additional mercury clean-up information including for broken thermometers. They state:

What Never to Do with a Mercury Spill

  • Never use a vacuum cleaner to clean up mercury (but see the “What to Do if a Fluorescent Light Bulb Breaks” section below for more specific instructions about vacuuming broken fluorescent light bulbs). The vacuum will put mercury into the air and increase exposure. The vacuum appliance will be contaminated and have to be thrown away.
  • Never use a broom to clean up mercury. It will break the mercury into smaller droplets and spread them.
  • Never pour mercury down a drain. It may lodge in the plumbing and cause future problems during plumbing repairs. If discharged, it can cause pollution of the septic tank or sewage treatment plant.
  • Never wash mercury-contaminated items in a washing machine. Mercury may contaminate the machine and/or pollute sewage.
  • Never walk around if your shoes might be contaminated with mercury. Contaminated clothing can also spread mercury around.

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What to Do if a Fluorescent Light Bulb Breaks

USEPA states: Fluorescent light bulbs contain a very small amount of mercury sealed within the glass tubing. EPA recommends the following clean-up and disposal guidelines:

  1. Open a window and leave the room for 15 minutes or more.
  2. Carefully scoop up the fragments and powder with stiff paper or cardboard and place them in a sealed plastic bag.
    1. Use disposable rubber gloves, if available (i.e., do not use bare hands). Wipe the area clean with damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes and place them in the plastic bag.
    2. Do not use a vacuum or broom to clean up the broken bulb on hard surfaces.
  3. Place all cleanup materials in a second sealed plastic bag.
    1. Place the first bag in a second sealed plastic bag and put it in the outdoor trash container or in another outdoor protected area for the next normal trash disposal.
      Note: Some states prohibit such trash disposal and require that broken and unbroken lamps be taken to a local recycling center.
    2. Wash your hands after disposing of the bag.
  4. If a fluorescent bulb breaks on a rug or carpet:
    1. First, remove all materials you can without using a vacuum cleaner, following the steps above. Sticky tape (such as duct tape) can be used to pick up small pieces and powder.
    2. If vacuuming is needed after all visible materials are removed, vacuum the area where the bulb was broken, remove the vacuum bag (or empty and wipe the canister) and put the bag or vacuum debris in two sealed plastic bags in the outdoor trash or protected outdoor location for normal disposal.

[Note from John Banta: some sources are now stating the area of carpet that came in contact with the mercury should be cut out and thrown away. In any case vacuuming the area as suggested by EPA could release additional mercury vapors into the air of the home. It would be safer if the vacuum cleaner could be set outside or its exhaust directed to the outside where it would be diluted. Still none of this is very comforting.]

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