Saturday, June 17, 2006

House Project: Back In The Tank!

Okay, I mentioned a few days ago that we had engaged in algae genocide using lots of bleach--and it worked. But then, during a very heavy rainstorm a couple of days later, the water suddenly turned brown! Huh? So I went up to the water tank, and I found myself wondering if the lid wasn't properly tightened on it, and perhaps some water had sneaked in under the lid.

This is worrisome, not only because the color is unappetizing, but also because cattle have grazed on this hillside in the last couple of years, and who knows what charming bacteria might be sneaking in with the color. So we decided it was time to make another expedition into the water tank.

In the meantime, I mentioned my concerns to the builder, who just casually mentioned, "You know, the gasket for the water tank lid is hanging in the garage." Sure enough, this is a big chunk of rubber tubing that is supposed to make a really tight seal. Why didn't the builder put in place six months ago? I wonder how much of our dirty water problem was related to this? One more reminder that our builder got a big chunk of money for doing a haphazard job--and dropping the ball on important stuff.

So, yesterday about noon, we started draining the water tank. I couldn't quite remember how we did it last time, but this time, I started draining the frost-free faucet (which is a direct gravity feed from the tank). When it stopped draining, I expected to just siphon the remaining water out of the tank with a garden hose, like we did last time.

We could not get the siphon going. After a lot of suffering, I concluded that the problem was that last time, we started the siphon with a full tank of water. So we refilled the water tank (which only took about 45 minutes to move hundreds of gallons from the well), and tried again! Success! The siphon, plus running all the faucets in the house, emptied it down to a few inches of muddy water at the bottom of the tank.

Down again I went into the tank, using a couple of buckets to get it empty enough for the shopvac to not be a modern analogy to emptying the ocean with a eyedropper. The shopvac did a decent job of pulling up mud and silt--and there was a lot of it. I'm glad to report that there was no algae, however.

Rather than use bleach in a spray bottle (several thoughtful readers thought that might be a bit too hazardous in a confined space), I used Clorox disinfectant wipes--and discovered that they weren't so useful. The last thing I needed was more liquid. Regular paper towels did a nice job of cleaning the tank to a smooth shiny white surface. Unlike algae, mud wipes up well.

After exiting the tank, we poured in two bottles of bleach (perhaps three gallons total), wiped down the lid and the gasket with bleach, and then refilled the tank.

There was still a bit of brown to the water for the first few hours, but it all seems to have worked its way out. Having the gasket in place when putting the lid back on the tank made quite a difference. I now have confidence that nothing is going to get back in around that lid.

I had mentioned to my builder that I was planning to write a book about this experience. "Just don't mention my name." I'm glad that he is aware that wouldn't want his name mentioned. I just wish it provoked him to do his job a bit better.

Last house project entry.

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