What does the white debris in plastic water bottles come from?

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Offline thedoc

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Arto Toivonen asked the Naked Scientists:
I missed this one but I am told you were asked a question about the white flakes or debris we find in water stored in plastic bottles.

Apparently your answer was something about the deterioration or decomposition of the plastic?

I live on a rural farm and I store water in the freezer for use in the house and by the staff when they are out working in the intense African heat. I use plastic bottles which contained soft-drinks or juice. Comments are often made about the flakes/debris in the water. The water is pumped from a bore-hole to a 2,500 litre storage tank.

I have a number of questions in this regard:
1.    Why exactly does this debris appear in the water?
2.    Does this occur with only certain types of plastic?
3.    Is the water safe to drink? Or are there any "side-effects"?
4.    Does the freezing of the water further exacerbate this?
5.    Has the bore-hole water anything to do with this?

Then, I have some questions about the bore-hole water and the storage tank:
a)    Someone once told me that pouring a bit of bleach (sodium hypochlorite) down the borehole helps to "sanitise" the water.
        This sounds like nonsense to me. Surely the borehole pump extracts water from caverns in underground streams which implies moving water. And therefore no chemical poured down the borehole will have any effect!
        Am I correct?
b)    The storage tank is filled every day with fresh water.
        Is it necessary to clean the storage tank? Surely there must be some solids or debris from the borehole?
c)    How would one clean the storage tank?
        The tank is on a stand more than six metres high.
d)    Would it be sufficient to drain the tank and re-fill it a few times, thus sort of flushing it?

Your assistance would be greatly appreciated!!

Best Regards

What do you think?
« Last Edit: 09/04/2013 20:30:01 by _system »