First a volcano in Iceland erupts and causes us to cancel our trip to Paris. Painful as that experience was, it served to remind us that there’s no place like home. Now a broken water main makes the simple act of brushing ones teeth onerous enough that home isn’t looking too attractive anymore either.
When the water main that serves our area broke, the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA), started feeding us water from alternate sources; bodies of water that are not normally purified. The MWRA began to treat that water right away but it wasn’t enough to guarantee that some nasty germs didn’t sneak in. To be sure that the water was safe to consume, the Department of Health issued a ‘boil water’ order.
At first I wasn’t all that concerned. I don’t drink much water and I figured if I was thirsty Fresca would do the trick. It didn’t take long, however, for the magnitude of the problem to become apparent. We use clean water for a whole lot more than drinking, and even I would balk at brushing my teeth with Fresca.
So boil water we did. We boiled big pots of water and when they cooled we transferred the water to pitchers and boiled some more. We put pitchers of boiled water in the bathrooms so we could fill and re-fill glasses to brush our teeth and rinse our toothbrushes. We finessed the hand-washing problem with liquid hand sanitizer. But we couldn’t reach a consensus on how to handle dishes.
Modern-day dishwashers have a ‘sanitize cycle’ that goes up to 150 degrees. But don’t let the word sanitize fool you. You have to hit 170 degrees to actually kill some of the bacteria we’re fretting about. To paraphrase The Princess Bride, at 150 degrees your dishes would be “mostly clean.” The public health folks suggest you avoid the issue altogether and use disposable dishes and cutlery. Sadly, that doesn’t square with our desire to minimize the amount of garbage we contribute to the landfill.
For now, we’re using our dishes and putting them in the dishwasher. We’re not running the dishwasher, mind you, we’re just staging the dishes there while we wait for the MWRA to pronounce the water good to go. If we don’t do any cooking, and we eat dinner out, I think we can hold out for another couple of days. After that, if the water’s not clean, we’ll just have to move.