Things Science Doesn’t Yet Know About Water

Surely we know everything there is to know about water?ice berg

Every living thing needs water to live — humans, who can go a month without food, die after just a week without some of it — and every living thing contains a bunch of it. Water makes up 75 percent of the average Butterball turkey or ponderosa pine tree, and more than 80 percent of a Hawiian pineapple or Colorado melon.

Water is really, really old. The same amount of water exists today on Earth as was around billions of years ago, and, because of nature’s “water cycle,” it’s the same water, moving perpetually from sea to clouds to rain to earth and back again. Ad infinitum.

Could the tears that run the makeup of an upset girlfriend be the same rain drops that once washed the back hair of Noah and his creatures during the deluge many millenia ago? Yes, entirely possible.

  • If every household in America has a faucet that drips every second, 928 million gallons of water will leak down our collective drains in a single day.
  • The average American uses about 160 gallons of water a day at a cost of 30 cents.

Beyond these inane statistics what else is left to know about water, H2O, Agua? Guess what, science still has yet to come up with explanations for several really basic things about water and it’s properties.

Water doesn’t behave like any other chemical, in fact water is probably the “most weird” substance on earth. Water can do magic and this magic is mainly possible because water is like a mermaid swimming by its own rules. It would likely wear a sexy swimsuit, if only we could get the creature to pose long enough to give up its secrets.

For example, a standard principle of matter is that most all liquids fill less volume when frozen into a solid. That’s because molecules move closer together becoming less active when cooled, which is why frozen liquids are hard. But water, unlike anything else, expands as it freezes. You’ll know if you’ve ever had a water pipe burst in your home during a winter cold snap or a Coke explode in your car’s cold trunk. This is why ice cubes float — unlike any other substance, the frozen version, ice, is lighter and less dense than the liquid version. Hey, Mr. Scientist, Why is this? “Heck if I know”, he replies.

Why is ice slippery? Brilliant Mr. Science doesn’t have an answer to that one either.

That’s not where water’s mysteries end, either. For some reason, hot water freezes faster than cold water. That is to say, if you take a glass of hot water and a glass of cold water and put them both in the freezer at precisely the same time, the hot water will turn to ice before the cold water does.

The fact that hot water freezes faster than cold has been known for many centuries.  The earliest reference to this phenomenon dates back to Aristotle in 300 B.C.  The phenomenon was later discussed in the medieval era, as European physicists struggled to come up with a theory of heat.  But by the 20th century the phenomenon was only known as common folklore, until it was reintroduced to the scientific community in 1969 by Mpemba, a Tanzanian high school pupil.  Since then, numerous experiments have confirmed the existence of the “Mpemba effect”, but have not settled on any single explanation.

Water can explode. (Without using explosives) Demonstrating this fact is seriously dangerous. This involves “superheating” water, by getting it way beyond the boiling point without having it actually bubble and boil. This is rather easy, since actual boiling, that is bubbles and steam escaping hot water, can only be achieved with a “seed” (or points, preferably sharp, where bubbles form and release energy). Normally, minerals in the water and imperfections on the surface of the container are more than enough for this boiling action to occur at 212 degrees F.

Distilled water that has been superheated in a polished glass cup, when the boiling process happens all at once, in a fraction of a second, explodes in a way that results in super scalding water flying everywhere. (Do we need to tell you that if you decide to try this at home, do it only with adult supervision and proper safety equipment? Do we really have to warn you? Of course, some rookie scientist will still attempt this while fully nude.)

Water can also be supercooled without freezing. Once a “seed” is introduced to water-cooled well below 32 degrees, it will immediately crystallize, the whole volume all at once. Once again, water surprises!

For those of us in the Restoration industry dealing with the effects of water every day, there is really not much about water that surprises us any longer. We know its effects when water sneaks up on our customers frequently, in nasty and often very expensive ways. Water flowing into our homes may be some “Act of God”, an accidental or negligent event. Water damage can result from water in the wrong place in any of its forms -liquid, vapor or solid. Add some Time to spilled Water and things really get interesting.

If your little experiment with water goes painfully awry, just pick up the phone and call 406 892-1717. Floodco’s water techs will be on the way!

Is Your Home Making You Ill?

mold picture in crawlspace

Floodco LLC is in the business of treating homes and buildings when they are a little bit under the weather or even needing advanced life support. This year we are dealing with a significant number of burst pipe floods, also fire and smoke damaged homes directly related to the extreme cold winter in Montana.

During any season, people suffering from allergies, asthma, sinus problems  suspect something in their home or workplace might be causing or aggravating their symptoms call us with questions about mold. If mold is identified in their home or work place, after correcting the problem, occupants report improvements in their health and quality of life, sometimes truly dramatic improvements.

This post is an attempt to clear up a few misperceptions people have about dealing with mold in the indoor environment. Some people think that removing mold involves simply killing it. Like sneaking up on the stuff before it hears you coming and then dispatching it, forever, with strong ‘box store’ chemicals recommended by the EPA. That is not really the way mold remediation is done.

Mold remediation isn’t about killing mold, it’s about removing it and the water causing the problem. Mostly it is also about cleaning to prevent the return of mold. Even if you “kill it,” dead mold is still allergenic and potentially toxic, according to the EPA. Leaving behind dead mold doesn’t solve the problem, even if it is covered with some encapsulating paint.

The governing authority of the mold remediation industry is IICRC. As described in the IICRC S520 Mold Remediation Standard, the purpose of mold remediation is to restore an affected property to a “normal” condition. Here’s what’s involved and you’ll see it’s really fairly uncomplicated.

  • First – The source of any water or moisture causing the mold to grow must be found and eliminated. There is no point in going further until this is done.               Fixing plumbing leaks or deficient ventilation is crucial.
  • Isolate the work area to contain any dust and spores disturbed during the cleaning and prevent workers spreading particulate into clean areas.
  • Remove affected materials that cannot be cleaned, such as sheetrock, insulation, carpet, carpet padding and other porous items.
  • Clean hard surfaces that can be cleaned such as wood, glass, metal, plastic, concrete, tile, etc., using HEPA vacuums and good, old-fashioned, elbow grease. Chemicals, including registered fungicides for cleaning and stain removing may be applied at this point.
  • Scrub the air with HEPA filters.
  • Verify that the work area no longer contains abnormal fungal material. Testing may be done to verify this microscopically.

Traditionally bleach products have been used to remove mold. The unfortunate thing about fungicides is that many of them are water-based, and the active ingredient evaporates relatively quickly. Bleach for example, is about 2% sodium hypochlorite and 98% water. When you use bleach for mold remediation, the sodium hypochlorite evaporates rapidly, leaving behind Water. Nice, you’ve just added water to a water problem. Spores will settle on dampened surfaces left behind, germinate and begin to feed on any dead mold not removed, and grow back again.

Caution is necessary with fungicide application inside homes. Not only are you adding an additional toxin to your home or workplace, you may also be stimulating the mold to produce more of the very thing most people should worry about when they have a mold problem: mycotoxins. Mycotoxins are the toxins some molds produce and release into their and your surroundings. There is strong evidence that chronic exposure to mycotoxins is a bad thing for humans. Research has also shown that mycotoxin production can actually be stimulated by certain fungicides.

There are a few circumstances when biocides are prudent and should be applied. If bacteria is a concern, such as after sewage spills, grey or black water floods, and in certain circumstance involving individuals with compromised immune systems. Most mold remediation jobs should minimize harsh chemicals as biological killing agents.

Finally, there’s an approach used by some contractors and homeowners which applies antimicrobial encapsulating paints to surfaces during remediation. This is an unnecessary and wasteful step. Most of the antimicrobial value of these paints dissipates in a matter of months, leaving behind nutrients to support or accelerate future fungal growth – if the right amount of moisture is again present. In all cases, the mold won’t return without moisture. So adding a coating isn’t necessary if the materials are thoroughly dried. If a food source is again moistened, mold will return no matter how much antimicrobial paint is applied to the food source.

In summary, there’s only one truly effective antifungal. It works effectively each and every time producing no adverse reactions. It never dissipates. It’s called DRY. As in, no water. The standard for drying of wood, for instance, is 10% or less.

In other words, keep all things in your indoor environment clean and dry, and you don’t need more harsh chemicals, and you won’t need to hire us. But if you should find yourself trying to figure out how to proceed when your home comes down with a ’mold infection’, we’re here to help. Call 406 892-1717.