Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Innumeracy Run Rampant

From Yahoo News:

BELLAIRE, Ohio - Thousands of residents of an eastern Ohio community were told to stop drinking tap water after workers at a chemical treatment plant accidentally added toxic hydrochloric acid to the water supply. No serious injuries were reported.

Forty pounds of the acid were added to Bellaire's water Sunday after a supplier shipped the wrong chemical and the filtration system crew mistook the containers for fluoride. The mistake was discovered Monday morning when workers noticed fluoride levels were lower than normal.

"Unfortunately, the drums are all the same size and the same color," water department superintendent Kirk Baker said

Customers were urged to avoid using tap water, and Bellaire High School dismissed classes early. The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency lifted a warning about 1 p.m. Monday.

The molecular weight of HCl is about 36.5 g/mol. 40 pounds is about 18kg which is about 500 moles. Diluted into a small 100,000 gallon reservoir or standpipe, that would give you an HCl concentration of about 0.005M. Assuming the water was otherwise completely pure and unbuffered, this would give you a pH in your drinking water of about 2.3. Might not taste great, but that is about the same pH as a cola drink.

Hint - the HCl isa lot less toxic than the fluoride.

Your nanny state at work. Get a life, people.

When in danger
Or in doubt,
Run in circles,
Scream and shout.