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Monday, February 13, 2012

2/13/2012 - Things take a long time to do in Mexico

(note: if this comes out formatted goofy, it's because Blogo refused to believe that I was connected to the internet so I had to post via the Blogger interface which is klunky at best.)

My plan was to do a couple of bigger jobs while Lulu is in Iowa visiting her mother. We recently decided to overhaul our drinking water system to make it just a little safer. When we're drinking RO water from our watermaker, we have no worries but all too often we're drinking water from whatever dock we're tied up to. To my knowledge, we've never actually had any issues with drinking dock water so far. However, Lulu does often complain of her stomach just not feeling right so, who knows? We add the appropriate number of drops of Bacdyn, which is a solution of colloidal silver (aluminum water tanks are sensitive to chlorine so we don't use it) to our tank when we fill from the dock spigot and we run our water through a 5 micron paper filter on its way to the faucet but that just removes the particulates. We've recently been turned on to ceramic filters by some fellow cruisers here in Mazatlán.

The ceramic filters are supposed to provide the following benefits:
- Absolute filtration to 0.9 micron
- Reduces the following harmful bacteria by a rate better than 99.99%: e. coli, cholera, shigella, salmonella, klebsiella- Removes algae, rust, suspended solids (but so does our 5 micron unit)
- Reduces cryptosporidium by 99.999%
- Removes guinea worm (whew!)
- Reduces turbidity (I would hope so)

Our friends Dave and Marj set their ceramic filter up to filter dock water before it enters their tank. This really slowed down the tank filling process. Dave had to stop and clean the filter two or three times before the tank was full and even then, the flow rate was pretty darn slow. We bought a smaller unit than the one they got so I was set to spend the entire day filling our tank. However, as I got to thinking about the installation, it dawned on me. Why not move the 5 micron paper filter to the dock (upstream of the tank) and use the 0.9 micron ceramic filter just before our galley tap? That'd make much better sense for us. So, that installation was supposed to be today's project.

Well, I got off to a slow start today. Did my normal morning routine but then, just when I was about to do the breakfast dishes, Ruben the diver showed up to clean the bottom. Been trying to get hold of him for a couple of weeks now. I didn't really want to drain dirty dish water on him so I waited on the dishes. While waiting I did a bit of net surfing and one website led to another. Now Ruben's been gone for an hour and I'm just about ready to actually do the dishes at a little after 11:00.

The bottom cleaning went well. At first Ruben chided me for waiting so long, but, after he actually dove under the boat he said that the only bad place was along the waterline where the bottom paint has rubbed off. He said the rest looked pretty good and that we apparently have good paint (always good to hear since we're well into the second half of our second year on the same paint job). I asked him to come back a few days before we leave in March to hit it again. At $1/foot ($364 pesos), I have no problem doing it monthly if needed.

Once I finally got the dishes done and my butt in gear, I started in on the plumbing. The first snag I ran into had to do with the new ceramic filter. The filter we bought is not set up to use in-line like the one that Dave & Marj bought. This thing is set up to be a stand-alone drinking water filter. In a home, you would plumb it to your cold water line using the included shut-off valve. Then, when you wanted a drink of filtered water, you would open the valve while holding your glass under the spout that's on the top of the filter housing.

Well, I figured that I could maybe hook a hose up to the spout and hose-clamp it in place. Then I would have to adapt from this 1/4" hose to the 1/2" hose that feeds the pump. I didn't have the necessary parts on hand (what else is new) but I had a few. Armed with my list, I headed to Home Depot.

Although I had originally planned to have lunch at Yolanda's, I wasn't particularly hungry so I figured I'd skip it today. But, as I was headed up the ramp, Neil from s/v Sea Oak was on his way down and said, "Chicken and vegetable soup at Yolanda's. Pretty good." I took it as a sign and so, hungry or not, I headed over to Yolanda's. The soup was good although it was kind of hard to eat. My bowl had a couple chunks of breast meat as well as a wing and a drumstick. Trouble was, these pieces were not boned. So, here I am trying to extract the bones and the slimy skin off stewed chicken that's sitting in a bowl of soup. I managed and the soup did taste good although I would have substituted potatoes for the zucchini that was in it. Okay, let's be honest; it wasn't really all that good. It wasn't bad but I wouldn't bother getting it again. The agua de piña was really good, though. Spent time talking to Mike (s/v Narwhal) about Kindles and wifi access and digital craziness in general.

Finally, I headed off to Home Depot.

I managed to find the first 2 pieces I needed right away: a 1/2" x close nipple and a 1/2"NPT x 1/2"hose adapter. No sweat. But then the fun began. I was basically trying to get from 1/4" hose to 1/2" hose. Normally that shouldn't be too hard except that they didn't have ANY fittings smaller than 1/2". None. Okay, time to get creative. I left the "plomeria" section and just started looking around. I figured that if I could find some 1/4" tubing, I might find appropriate fittings nearby. But I never found any tubing. Might have if I'd kept looking but I happened across a possible alternate answer during my search. There were a number of fittings for hooking up water to a refrigerator for ice-making and such. They consisted of stainless steel braid over some sort of rubber tubing with fittings on each end. Most of the fittings were for 1/2" pipe but a few were for something smaller. Most of the smaller ones were compression fittings but one was just a normal thread with an o-ring or at least it looked like a "normal" thread. I had noticed earlier that the nozzle on top of the filter housing was threaded in. If these threads happened to match those threads, I'd be home free. The other end was a female 1/2" NPT fitting to which I could screw a hose adapter. I bought the thing hoping it would work out and caught the bus home.

As these things normally go, the fittings would almost fit. Either the size would be slightly different or the thread would be slightly different or something. But this time... well let's just say things were LOOKING GOOD! It fit perfectly. Caramba!

Oh yeah, the o-ring got all shoved out of shape but I'm going to shitcan it anyway and just use teflon tape on the threads like were on the spout.

So, tomorrow I can get started on the actual installation. Hot damn! Let's see, there are two screws and a couple of plumbing fittings involved. Yep. Shouldn't take more than a couple of days to finish.


The Ceol Mors said...

Looking forward to seeing how your installation works out. Plumbing is on our check list...

Anonymous said...

Its very interesting write up from a retired water quality engineer.

Sometimes the water is fine but the delivery method introduces the bad stuff. Meaning miles of third world pipes, etc.

I always thought it's best to keep any bad stuff out of the tanks but I think in this case you are filtering the water from the tanks before drinking?

Your friends say they had to clean the filter a couple of times before the tanks were full. Mazatlan water is know for having allot of sediment in there water.

Just curious why you wouldn't try to keep the water you put in the tanks as clean and pure as possible?

Keep writing your blog as its very enjoyable reading


Steve and Lulu said...

The idea of keeping the water in one's tank as pristine as possible is certainly laudable. However, Lulu and I try not to be too anal about things. We lived for 25 years in a house with a well that we never once had tested for anything. We feel a little exposure to the bad stuff is good for the immune system in the long run. The only water sources we've ever used that might have been a bit suspect were at Marina Palmar in La Paz and her at La Isla in Mazatlán. In both cases, the source is municipal water so, other than a shot of disinfectant to replace any that may have been used up between the treatment plant and us, I figured we were safe enough. Never really considered filtering the water going into the tank and the filter between the tank and the faucet was largely for aesthetics. However, I've rethought that approach, not because anything bad has happened but rather because that approach might be why Lulu sometimes feels something less than excellent. Of course, it might be the street tacos, too.

Anyway, our new approach is to filter the water entering our tank through a 5 micron paper filter (the one we used to use just upstream of the faucet). To put things in perspective, a human hair measures from 17-181 microns in diameter, a red blood cell is 6-10 microns and a piece of printer paper is 100 microns thick so a 5 micron filter is not going to let much sediment get past it. Then, just before the faucet, we'll run this water through the new 0.9 micron ceramic filter just to make sure.

It'll be interesting to see what our paper filters look like after our first tank fill with dock water running through them. They certainly don't get very dirty in their present position between the tank and the faucet.

Good question.