Saturday, July 14, 2018

Still Life with Robin: Water in Old Bottles

by Peggy Robin

Wasn’t yesterday fun! Were you in a Boil Water Alert Area Home? I think that’s what they should have called it: BWAAH! My house was BWAAH until the revised map was posted later that afternoon, putting Cleveland Park and many other neighborhoods to the north of CP in the clear.

I thought I was well prepared. There’s a closet in the basement we’ve kept stocked with emergency supplies, including flashlights, glowsticks, slow-burning candles, and some large jugs of bottled water, plus a case of smaller bottles. So I put a big pot of water on the boil, and then went down to the basement to bring up one of the jugs and perhaps a smaller bottle or two, to have some water available for immediate use, until the pot had boiled and then cooled down. But as soon as I brought up the stored water, I noticed the expiration date -- it was 2007. Does water expire? When I googled that one, here’s what I found []:

Water bottles all have expiration dates. You’ve probably seen them — little black dotted numbers marking when you should toss your water because it’s “gone bad.” Wait… Here’s where we get confused. How can water go bad? It can’t. Water, like oxygen or steel or any other naturally occurring substance, is simply a chemical compound; it’s ageless. However, humans have taken to storing natural-occurring water in plastic, artificial, flimsy containers, and the bottles can go bad. The plastic compounds can break down over time and leak into your water….. Plus, plastic isn't impermeable. Algae or bacteria —not the good kind — seep in and grow inside your bottled water if you leave it for too long. This can still happen even if the bottle is closed. So if you’ve waited long enough, once you finally open up that “purified” water you’re also likely opening up a bacteria-ridden breeding ground for harmful organisms.

So much for that eleven-year-old water! But no problem; it was just a matter of replacing the stock – and high time, too. But I couldn’t run to the grocery store right away. I had an appointment in Herndon, VA, so would have to pick up the water on the way home. It was well past noon by the time I was leaving Herndon. It’s a very typical bedroom community – at least out  where I was. All around me, just single family homes on big lots. I did not pass by a single store before I was back on I-66. And that meant I was back in DC before I found a convenient place to stop off at a Giant. And by the time I did (no surprise!) the shelves had all been emptied.

Still, I gave it a shot, and corralled a nice store clerk and asked if there were any boxes of water in the back. He went to look and returned in a minute with the last four bottles of a brand of bottled water I’d never seen before – Eternal. I took all four of the one-liter bottles. By the time I got home and had checked in at to see the status of the alert, my neighborhood was out of the BWAA. So I brought those four bottles down to the basement emergency supply closet to put them away. In the process, I discovered a few things about this brand: 1. It comes in a bottle that’s flat on one side, so that it’s made to be stored on its side in a space-saving, non-rolling stack; 2. The bottle is made from BPA-free material; and 3. It does not have an expiration date anywhere on the bottle, so I’m assuming that means if I store it in the closet and there’s no water emergency again for another 11 years…..I’m good!

Still Life with Robin is published on the Cleveland Park Listserv and on All Life Is Local on Saturdays.

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