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Bermuda College on Water Quality Control

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“From water truckers and utility plant operators to building managers and the average Bermuda home owner, the management of drinking water supplies affects the lives of Bermudian residents like few other countries in the world”. The fact that we have a unique roof-water catchment system means that water conservation is at the forefront of everything that we do. June 25 and 26 marked the first two-day summer workshop on the island designed to inform and engage participants on sustainable water quality control.

Unlike anywhere else, Bermudians hold most, if not all the power in their hands, which means that regular cleaning, disinfecting, trimming trees and other shrubbery play a ginormous part in maintaining a quality of water that would fall from the heavens. In recent years, there has been a decline in effort from residents to maintain this standard.

“Although there is a law put in place to clean the tanks, there is no enforcement to ensure that people are actually doing it”, says Jonathan Starling, Executive Director of Greenrock. “We are losing our water conservation best practices and more people need to make investments in water structures at the resident level”.

The Bermuda College course is designed to enhance the knowledge of water specialists and those working in the field, and aims to raise awareness and understanding of the different facets of water quality control and how they interplay among a broad spectrum of private, government and other sectors. Participants invested in water met at Bermuda College earlier this week to discuss myths and facts concerning Bermuda water quality as it pertains to public health.

For $425, businesses and individuals were able to learn about and discuss topics such as water contamination prevention; building practices/codes relating to roof design and rainwater harvesting; water quality measurement; drinking water treatment processes and procedures; introduction to international water quality standards; best practices in integrated water management; and introductory concepts of applied science (as pertaining to the maintenance of Bermuda´s unique water infrastructures).

“People should be cleaning their tanks every two years”. Starling also suggests that Bermuda should look at reducing the feral bird population. “Birds are defecating on the roofs and that slowly makes its way into the tank”. Cleaning water tanks and roofs regularly is a start.

The task can seem daunting, but empowerment starts with knowing your tank and how to take care of it. Firstly, know that you should be checking your tank once a month to make sure that waste there are no unpleasant smells, growths or dirt.

How do I clean my tank?

 Before cleaning, block the drain pipes so that nothing enters the tanks. Screen any vents or overflows to your tank with fine mesh wire to prevent insects from entering.

How often should I clean my water tank?

By law water tanks must be cleaned every six years to remove any accumulation of sludge, however, cleaning every two years is a preventative practice that should become a habit. If the smell of your water is unpleasant, it’s time to get down there and scrub. Dirt and decayed organic matter contained in the sludge can promote stagnation of the water and come out with foul smells.

How often should I disinfect my water tank?

Every 3 months, disinfect the tank supply using 2 – 4 ounces of regular unscented bleach for every 1000 gallons of water. To determine your tank’s capacity, in gallons, multiply the tank length x tank width x tank depth x 6.25.

How do I aerate my water?

Aerate the water if there has been very little turnover or it has a bad smell. You can do this by running your garden hose to the top of the roof and allowing the water to drain back into the tank. This procedure may require at least a few hours to complete for ample turnover. The water must first be chlorinated before starting the aeration process for maximum effectiveness on stagnant water.

Tip:  When purchasing water, it’s important to only buy enough to fill your tank to the halfway point. This will leave enough space for rainwater collection and avoid overflowing.

 What about my roof?

 Keep the roof clean and painted. You can rent eco-friendly power-washers from Bermuda Cleaning Ltd or any other rental shop. Eco-friendly products and hot water are key to disinfecting surfaces and eliminating stains with no adverse environmental effects. Before cleaning or painting your roof, make sure to block all drain pipes so that nothing enters the tank.

How do I clean my roof?

To clean the roof, power wash or use a wire brush to remove old paint and fungal growth. Before applying paint, wash the roof with a 50/50 solution of regular unscented household bleach and water and then apply an approved roof catchment paint. Do not remove the drain plugs until the paint has dried and until after the first rain shower. Trim any overhanging trees to prevent leaves from entering your tank. Use wire “pineapples” on gutter pipes to block the entry of leaves. They will require periodic cleaning to remove clogged debris.

Bermuda, unlike many places around the world, requires some special attention to maintain its reputation for water conservation – one of the many things for which Bermudians can be proud.  Institutions such as Bermuda College and Greenrock are sharing their knowledge to contribute to the conversation on sustainability. If you missed the first workshop, according to their Facebook page, the Bermuda College plans to run a second course in the Fall. For more information call 236-9000 or email [email protected]

This article was originally published in the June Edition of the RG Green Pages supplement.

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