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Peninsula Emergency Preparedness Coalition
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Gig Harbor, WA - USA

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Frequently Asked Questions About PEP-C Water Barrels

Q: What was in these barrels? Are they ok for storing water? A: The barrels are food-grade poly; they previously had food products in them, such as Coke syrup, soy sauce, vinegar, pickles...We recommend cleaning them thoroughly prior to use.

Q: What do I use to preserve, or sanitize, the water? A: Click here to review our water purification instructions. It is vitally important that you use only plain, unscented liquid chlorine bleach with 5.25% to 6% Sodium Hypochlorite as the only active ingredient. And because chlorine bleach loses one third of its potency per year, be sure to mark your bottles with a date and rotate them with your other emergency supplies. If you want to use up old stock, be sure to use proportionally more bleach to purify your water.

Q: How much bleach should I use? A: If you get pre-chlorinated water from a municipal system, you may not need to add unscented liquid chlorine bleach to your water for storage. If you do not get your water from a municpal system, you should chlorinate it for storage. At PEP-C, we recommend the following amounts:
  • For 1 quart of water, add 2 drops unscented liquid chlorine bleach (4 drops if water is cloudy)
  • For 1 gallon of water, add 8 drops unscented liquid chlorine bleach (16 drops if water is cloudy)
  • For 5 gallons of water, add 40 drops unscented liquid chlorine bleach, or about 1/2 teaspoon (80 drops, or 1 teaspoon, if water is cloudy)
  • For 15 gallons of water, add 120 drops unscented liquid chlorine bleach, or about 1 1/4 teaspoons (2 1/2 teaspoons if water is cloudy)
  • For 55 gallons of water, add 4 1/2 teaspoons unscented liquid chlorine bleach (3 tablespoons if water is cloudy)
Q: How long does it last then? Forever? A: Although many believe sanitized water in sealed containers will last a long time, FEMA recommends changing the water every six months. Empty your water barrel(s), re-clean them as you did when you first purchased your barrel(s), fill with fresh water and add sanitizer. A good way to calendar this is to do it when daylight savings time changes:
Change your clocks, change your batteries, change your water, rotate your food.

Q: Do I need to add Iodine to the water? A: Chlorine bleach will kill most bacteria and many viruses but is not effective against cysts and protozoa such as giardia and cryptosporidium. Boiling your water for 10 minutes is the best method for killing these microorganisms. If you are sure of your water source and confident that no cysts are present, you can just use the unscented liquid chlorine bleach.
Pregnant and nursing women should not use Iodine, nor should those with thyroid or liver disease.

Q: How do I get the water out of the barrel? A: You can use a bung wrench to unscrew the bung (the round plug in the lid of the barrel) or wrap the handles of a pair of pliers around the bung and turn it. Or you can siphon the water out with a clean tube or hose.
Simple, inexpensive pumps, or kerosene siphons, are available in most hardware stores or emergency preparedness catalogs. Ace Hardware carries them for about $3. If you can't find a pump long enough to reach the bottom of your water barrel, attach a length of clear tubing to the end of the siphon.
If you choose to install a faucet in the knock-out plug (as shown in the photo above), Ace Hardware carries them for about $5 and you'll find them in the water heater section.
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