Why Florida’s Covid Surge Is Screwing The Water Supply (Hint: Oxygen)
On Wednesday, the Water use in Tampa Bay Office has partnered an even more surprising effect of the out-of-control Covid surge in Florida: It didn’t deliver enough liquid oxygen to treat its water. More than 17,000 Covid patients — who need more oxygen to stay alive — now hospitalized statewide, and not enough oxygen on the tour.
Even with the many vaccines available, the pandemic is much worse than in Florida. The state is averaging 20,000 cases and more than 200 died one day, putting an incredible hospital system on it. It’s over half the total population of Florida is entirely vaccinated.
“What we do know is that the lack of liquid oxygen is due to the lack of a driver and the need for available supplies to be transferred to local hospitals due to the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Brandon Moore, spokesman at Tampa Bay Water. (Requests for comment sent to Matheson Tri-Gas, their oxygen supplier, were not immediately returned.) It was a week after the Orlando mayor asked residents to limit water use for the same reason.
Adding water problems to the growing list of consequences of a pandemic that is now primarily hospitalizing what has not yet been changed. That means less space and resources for non-Covid patients showing up in the ER, and now less oxygen for the systems that provide clean water to Floridians.
But why do you need more oxygen in your H?2O? Tampa Bay Water trucks with liquid oxygen, where it is converted to gas, and then adds an electric current to convert it to ozone. It is used in two different facilities for two different purposes, according to Moore: In a surface water treatment plant, ozone kills nasties like bacteria and viruses, and different plants break down the hydrogen sulfide, a naturally occurring gas that smells like rotten eggs.
The equipment requires a whole lot of liquid oxygen – seven to nine tanker truckloads of it a week, between the two facilities – both to disinfect the water and make sure it doesn’t come out of the taps that smell like holy hell. . “Liquid ozone oxygen is the strongest – if not the most powerful – disinfectant in the water industry,” Moore said.
Tampa Bay Water’s liquid oxygen supply has been reduced by nearly half, according to Moore. So they transfer the oxygen they get to the treatment plant to adequately disinfect the water, because they can’t change that process. However, they can replace sodium hypochlorite, also known as bleach, for plant ozone that removes hydrogen sulfide. But because of the crunch, the utility has asked customers to cut water use, such as watering lawns and washing cars. “In this scenario, if there is less water needed for the demand there is less water to treat,” Moore said. However, he added, “it is very important for residents to know that drinking water quality will remain safe.”
At the same time, it is very important that Covid patients get the extra oxygen they need. Covid-19 brutally affects the lungs, blocking the transfer of oxygen from the air to the bloodstream, which is needed to keep the heart, brain, and other vital organs functioning. The target oxygen saturation for the blood is more than 92 percent – take below 90 percent and you start to feel shortness of breath. (At the hospital, they measure this by inserting a device called a pulse oximeter into the patient’s finger, which turns on the light bulbs so they don’t measure the oxygen in their blood.) If the saturation falls below 90 percent, doctors should put Covid-19 patients on oxygen supplement, advises the Centers for Disease Prevention.