Watered Down

There’s a major water problem in our house right now. The choices seem to be: we die of dehydration, or my husband dies of a stroke. Talk about your rock and a wet place! How did we get here?

We’ve had filtration issues almost from the start. There was an under-the-sink reverse osmosis system here when we moved in. It looked like it had been installed in the 50’s, but it was functional. We drank the water from it blissfully, relieved and thrilled that at least one appliance in the house seemed to function well. Then it broke. Mike tried to fix it — he’s handy under a sink — but was unable to. Apparently he was able to discern, though, that it had been installed incorrectly. It had never filtered anything at all. Except for maybe some stale air.

For a time after that we had no filter. It didn’t seem like a big deal. We drank bottled water for a while, but the carrying nearly killed me. Plus I hate using all that plastic. Then I bought a Brita, in spite of Mike’s repeated and scornful assertions that all it would do is make the water “taste good.” That’s something, I figured. Then one day, I spent a half an hour doing research and found out just how bad Los Angeles tap water is. It was a real eye-opener. And mouth-closer, at least as far as our tap water was concerned. L.A water is so toxic that we were fooling ourselves to think that a Brita would come close to cleaning it up adequately.

I began really harping on Mike for a new under-the-counter system. A good one, at that.

But it took a while to get. For one thing, we were, as always, teetering on the edge of brokeness. Good systems are pricey. But the bigger obstacle was, simply, time. Mike needed time to do the research. Time to measure the space. Time to read up on our options. Then time to place the order, to ship it, to do the installation. Bear in mind, Mike works ten hours a day on a light week. Six-day-weeks are far from unknown to him. I myself know nothing about plumbing, filtration, or anything which involves tubes and wrenches. Mike was going to have to take care of it. When he found a second to spare. Which was going to take a while.

But finally, he did it. For my birthday. He bought a system. Hosannah! And it wasn’t just any system. He swore it was better than any other out there.

“Great!” I said. “What drinking water web site did you find it on?”

“None. I got it at a Reef Supply Store.”

“A — ?” I cocked my head uncertainly.

“Reef Supply. Just trust me. It’s the best one you can get.” This last was said in a tone that did not invite more discussion.

I raised an eyebrow. Probably an entire side of my face. But I trusted Mike’s judgement, too. If he got the system at what was essentially a coral and barnacle shop there must have been a good reason. Totally unfathomable to me, but good nonetheless. He seemed very certain about it. The filter went in.

Forgive the pun, but there was something, well, fishy about it from the start. The water tasted awful. Like it had been spiked with polyurethane, mixed, then sprinkled with Barkeeper’s Friend. Even Mike couldn’t bear the taste. At first we concluded it was “off-gassing.” The rubber tubes were new. They must be leaching that flavor into the water. It would pass. I tried running water until the entire tank emptied. I tried this a few times. I waited, and tried again, hoping the repugnant flavor would go away. It didn’t. Remembering what Mike had said about Britas making water taste better, I decided to start running the filtered water through the Brita. And that worked.

So that’s what we started to do. Filter to Brita, Brita to glass. It was weird, but it did the trick. Mike developed a theory that the system was removing more minerals from the water than regular ones do. This was making it taste terrible. The Brita put some of them back in. This made it good again. Never mind that Britas are not known for such a feature. They are not mineral-put-back-inners. There was magical thinking at work, here, OK? That, and me wanting to keep the peace. Whatever the problem was, the Brita was fixing it. We could go on with our lives. Everyone was happy.

But then a couple of weeks ago I noticed a green algae growing on the base of the Brita. Really green. And plentiful. The pitcher looked like the bottom of a Minnesota lake. All it lacked was minnows and some tadpoles. Disgusted, I emptied, scoured and refilled it. A couple of days later, the algae had reappeared. I developed a new theory. Minerals must kill sea plants. The first filter was taking minerals out. The Brita was not putting them back in. Algae was growing on the Brita. Harmless algae. Harmless result-of-reef-supply-shop-filter-algae. Magical thinking, your name is me!

Still, I worried. With all of this “generation” occurring on the pitcher, God only knew what kind of algae was growing in our guts. Suddenly I felt green. And fuzzy. I wanted to vomit. I wanted to scrub my intestines down the way I’d scrubbed out that pitcher. MJ’s too. And Mike’s. We were algae farms! We were moss! Swamp Things!!!

We went back to drinking tap. Through the Brita. There have been no more algae outbreaks. All the algae is dead. The water tastes fine. Certainly, we are being loaded with arsenic, Radium 228, and something called trihalomethanes. But at least ocean creatures cannot live in our bodies. Nothing can. Except for maybe a cockroach, and we’re not eating those. Yet.

Now, how does all of this get us to the stroke I mentioned at the beginning of this piece? Because right now Mike is working fourteen hour days, and often weekends as well. He is exhausted. We barely see him. He hardly has time to put gas in his car, let alone take the filtration system apart, figure out what has gone wrong, order new parts, and rebuild it. I do not want to bug him about it. I don’t want him to die.

But I also don’t want to drink any clear fluid being generated in our kitchen.

So for now Myra-Jean is getting juice, and whatever bottled water I can carry from the store. Mike can drink water at his job, where the filtration system — I might add — is superlative.

And me? I just dream of a day off. For Mike, that is. Until then I’ll stick to tea.

2 thoughts on “Watered Down

  1. Pingback: To Done, Garden 6/14 « thumbstumbler

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