We recently received an email from 'Dean', an active duty soldier stationed overseas, who asked,
"Last summer we had a water reservoir incident where fuel contaminated water was used to refill our reservoir. The Embassy had a temporary solution setup in our driveway to our home (temp water tanks) until they could determine the replacement options of the underground reservoir. A few weeks ago they decided to tile the inside of the reservoir as the answer/fix and let us start using the reservoir again.
We haven't started using it yet, but I am afraid that simply tiling the inside of the underground tank may not have been the best option. What if, eventually, the fuel that seeped into the walls of the old underground (concrete) reservoir begins to seep through the grout of the tiles they used to line the tank? I'm not sure if you could ever get the fuel out of that old concrete tank.
It has me wondering if I should explore the option of testing my water periodically? Our house has a durastill distiller (inside the home) that boils and distills the water prior to our consumption but someone told me that distilling the water would remove any bacteria but would not remove any residue from the fuel. I don't know about these things but am curious as to what you may think? I don't want to find out in 10-20 years that I have developed cancer and then it's too late!
Are there any home test I can do or somewhere I could mail a water sample? I am scheduled to be over here for about 2 more years so a periodic test would be great. I'm not sure how often I should test it (every 3 or 6 months?) but I am interested.
I use the distilled water for cooking/drinking but I used the water from the reservoir to wash dishes, shower, and brush teeth and do not want to be contaminated that way. Any help/advice you could offer is appreciated. I know the Embassy says it will be fine, but they are people and people make mistakes. I just want to be safe and sure....I have my Family over here."
Thank you, Dean, for what has got to be the longest email inquiry we have received thus far! We will attempt to answer your questions as best we can.
1) Regarding testing, no at-home water testing product we know of can detect trace amounts of gasoline or diesel fuel products, additives, etc. in drinking water. The water must get analyzed in a laboratory setting using expensive equipment. Usually we suggest people consider using the mail-in water testing services of a company like National Testing Laboratories for such testing. Given that you are stationed overseas, however, we suspect that option may not work out for you.
2) As for whether or not distillation removes gasoline and diesel fuel components, we contacted a manufacturer of distillation units and learned the following:
- Components of gasoline and diesel fuel products fall into a category known as Volatile Organic Contaminants (VOC's)
- Distillation units may remove some of the contaminants associated with gasoline and diesel fuel, but since those contaminants typically have boiling points lower than water's boiling point, it stands to reason that they would vaporize and wind up in the distillate (water produced via distillation).
NOTE: The manufacturer we contacted stated that some of the VOC's would exit through specially placed vents in their distillation apparatus, but they recommend using Activated Carbon Filters post-distillation to effectively get rid of VOC's.
- A wide range of VOC's may come out of fuel products and filter manufacturers suggest having a comprehensive test performed prior to purchasing a water filter because water sources heavily polluted with VOC's typically require custom tailored water treatment solutions.