MadSci Network: Environment/Ecology

Re: How does bleach effect pond water?

Date: Fri May 1 17:18:42 1998
Posted By: Bob Peeples, Chemical Engineer, Environmental Program Management, U S Postal Service
Area of science: Environment/Ecology
ID: 892957308.En

In a word; harshly. Bleach kills virtually everything, given the proper concentration and contact time. Bleach is a generic term for a family of oxidizing chemicals including: hypochlorites, perborates, peroxides, and oxalates. Most household bleaches are made from a 5%-6% solution sodium hypochlorite. It is an effective sterilant because of the broad spectrum of organisms that it kills. The fate of sodium hypochlorite in the environment is a rapid breakdown to table salt (NaCl), oxygen and water. That is good news for the long-term recovery of a contaminated pond, but five minutes of contact time at a 100:1 dilution is still plenty of time to do some real serious damage to the pondís microenvironment. Bleach also breaks down woody plant structures. It is used in wood pulping (paper making) to break down the binding lignin proteins and separate the wood into small fibers.

If you would like to reduce your dependence on laundry bleach, as a substitute you can add 1/2 cup of white vinegar, baking soda, or borax to your wash. The sun is pretty good for bleaching, too. If you dry laundry on a clothesline, you can reduce your chlorine bleach use as well as reduce your electric or electric/natural gas usage. In the summer, running the dryer also increases the load on your air conditioner.

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