Inside the Witch’s Cauldron: The Science of Dry Ice

It’s the season for all things spooky and scary! From witches and warlocks to jack o'lanterns and sweet treats, there’s so much wonder to behold during the Halloween season.

Looking for a fun activity to get in the festive spirit? With a few simple ingredients, you can make your very own witch’s cauldron for decoration. All you’ll need is some dry ice—and water, of course!

How can ice be dry?

At Aqua, we’re always fascinated (but never surprised) by water’s versatility and the ways that it can teach us new lessons about the world around us. Though there’s nothing spooky about water, it’s a key ingredient in a DIY witch’s cauldron that’s sure to wow trick or treaters.

 The other key ingredient is dry ice, which is exactly what it sounds like: ice without water. That may be hard to imagine, but it’s possible because of carbon dioxide.

Believe it or not, dry ice is colder than ice made with frozen water. Essentially, dry ice is carbon dioxide (with no moisture or air) that’s frozen at -109.3°F, while regular ice freezes at 32°F. So what happens if water and dry ice meet? Let’s just say things can get spooky.

When the dry ice meets water, it immediately undergoes sublimation, which means it changes from a solid to a gas without ever becoming a liquid. The best part of it all? Water is a catalyst that helps to create this phenomenon!

How to make a DIY witch's cauldron

First and foremost, you’ll need the main ingredient: dry ice. If you aren’t sure where to buy it, call your local grocery store to see if they carry it. If not, search online for a supplier near you.

 Next, look for a cauldron at a Halloween store, or use a large cooking pot from your kitchen. Even if it doesn’t look exactly like a witch’s cauldron, your bubbling potions will still look festive.

Fill the cauldron about halfway with hot water and a dash of dish soap, which will help to give you bubbles. Then, using tongs, place small chunks of dry ice into your soapy water mixture and watch as the kettle starts to gurgle and bubble. Remember to handle the dry ice with care—due to its negative temperature, touching it with bare hands can give you frostbite.

To keep the potion going, add more hot water when needed. Your neighbors and friends will surely be wowed by your crafty decor.

Whether you’re trying this craft out in your kitchen with the kids, in the classroom with students, or at a party with friends, we hope you enjoy watching this fascinating scientific reaction unfold.

Happy Halloween!

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Why fats, oils, and grease are a sewer pipe’s worst nightmare

Have you ever cooked up some bacon or boiled some chicken only to pour the leftover grease down the drain?

It seems so easy—and, let’s face it, very tempting—to dump those fats, oils and grease, aka FOG, into the sink and be done with it. But the truth of the matter is that all that FOG can cause serious havoc on your sewage system.

We talked to Joe Pearce, director of operations for Aqua North Carolina, to learn how and why fats, oils, and grease can cause damage to the pipes that take wastewater from your home.

Hot grease? More like cold, hard sludge

Here’s the deal: When you pour hot grease into your sink, it’s typically at a very high temperature, meaning the FOG flows down the drain in liquid form. 

What you might not realize, though, is that as that FOG cools off, it transforms into a solid substance that quickly clogs up the pipes in your home and downstream sewage systems.

That thick, sludgy FOG will continue to stick to the inside of your pipes and accumulate. In time, it could even block your entire drain and cause a serious backup in your home.  In the sewer system, it can cause a sanitary sewage overflow.

Meanwhile, because FOG is high in organic strength (and because anaerobic bacteria find it to be quite delicious), it begins to generate hydrogen sulfide gas. When this gas combines with water, it creates a powerful sulfuric acid that can corrode many types of piping and damage concrete and ductile iron.

Not all heroes wear capes

You might be wondering how you can be a hero and save your pipes from a clog-filled nightmare. The answer is easy: Don’t pour grease down the drain! That’s it—really.

Instead, make a point to pour FOG into empty food cans, then chuck those bad boys into the garbage. Wiping down frying pans with a paper towel to soak up the FOG before tossing it in the trash is a good trick, too.

What does Aqua do to help?

According to Pearce, infrastructure improvements are often required to fix problems created by grease damage in our sewer systems. One option is to use a type of pipe that’s less susceptible to hydrogen sulfide corrosion: plastic (PVC) pipes.

However, for a variety of reasons, that type of pipe isn’t always the best option for some of our sites. For sites that require the use of ductile iron pipe, ceramic-coated ductile iron pipe is a good alternative.

Bring on the holiday meals, please!

It’s important to talk about FOG during the holiday season since this time of year tends to come with a spike in sewage issues. All that additional cooking leads to additional grease that can quickly clog your pipes and overflow your sewage system the morning after a big holiday get together!

If you’re on your kitchen’s cleanup crew this holiday season, do yourself (and your drain) a favor by making sure all that FOG meets its fate in the trash instead of the sink.

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Water You Drinking for the Holidays?

We want to know: Water you drinking this holiday season?

The holidays are officially in full swing, and that means one thing: festivities.

It may feel like you’ve been planning your holiday dinners and parties for months now, but there’s still time to add a quick, festive and healthy beverage option to your menu! Instead of going above and beyond with extravagant food and beverages, keep things simpler, healthier and easier with these delicious flavored water recipes.

  • 12 cups of water
  • 2 apples
  • 3 mint sprigs
  • 1 piece of ginger

Cut apples into four to six slices, and slice the ginger into small shreds. Mix with the mint sprigs and add all to bottles or a pitcher of water. These flavors add a spicy touch and are great for digestion.

  • 2 oranges
  • 2–3 cups of fresh cranberries (frozen works, too)
  • 2–3 cups of ice cubes
  • 12 cups of water

Slice both oranges, rinse the cranberries, and place all of the fruit into a glass pitcher. From there, add water and ice. Let sit for about an hour for a fully infused, festive flavor!

  • 1 apple
  • 6–8 raspberries
  • 1 fresh sprig of rosemary
  • 12 cups of water

Cut the apple into four slices, rinse the raspberries, and give the rosemary a gentle rub to release its essential oils. Place the items together in a pitcher of water, and let sit at room temperature or chill overnight for a deeper flavor.

  • 1 pear
  • 6 cinnamon sticks
  • Fresh, grated ginger
  • 12 cups of water

Cut the pear into thin slices and combine with the cinnamon sticks and grated ginger in a pitcher of water. Let ingredients sit for an hour before serving.

 

No matter which of these recipes you choose to make for your holiday gatherings, you’ll be left feeling hydrated, healthy, and satisfied. Which of these fruit-infused holiday beverages sounds the best to you? Let us know on Facebook and Twitter!

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Decrease the grease with these easy tips

The holidays are quickly approaching, and in between traveling, cooking and decorating, you won’t want to worry about a clogged sink. That’s why Aqua is here to help you keep any and all grease monsters out of your home.

Follow these easy tips to prevent fat, oil and grease from blocking your drains and pipes.

Be informed

First, it’s important to know what types of food can cause clogged sinks. Here are some of the most common culprits:

● Butter

● Cooking oil

● Lard (shortening)

● Meats

● Greasy sauces

 

Consider the consequences

A clogged sink may not seem like a big inconvenience, because all it does is flood your sink—right? Wrong. Blocked pipes can cause serious damage to your home, community and wallet.

● Clogged pipes can become a health hazard by spreading bacteria that leads to various illnesses and unsanitary water.

● Clogged pipes can also cause an overflow of sewage, which is both gross and expensive. Sewage overflow can affect streets, yards and parks, and it can also lead to higher costs for local wastewater utilities.         

● Aside from all of that damage, clogged pipes can also pollute nearby groundwater, which harms both homes and the environment.

 

Practice smart cleaning habits

You don’t have to cut foods containing fat, oil and grease out of your diet to avoid issues, simply make these small adjustments to your cleaning habits in order to keep your sinks grease-free.

● Pour grease into a metal can rather than down the sink. It will change from liquid to semi-solid in form, and at that point, just toss the can into your trash bin.

● Keep strainers in your sink drains to catch small pieces of food and globs of grease. When you finish cooking and cleaning, empty the strainer into your trash bin.

● Don’t rely on a garbage disposal to keep your drain clog-free—they can’t keep grease out of your plumbing system.

● Throw away baby wipes, “flushable” wipes and other sanitary items that can get stuck in your pipes.

 

Invest in extra help for your business

Businesses often see higher traffic than private homes, which can mean more grease and bigger consequences. If you’re a business owner, consider installing vented grease traps that are designed to handle appropriate amounts of grease. Grease traps should be cleaned, maintained and serviced on a regular basis to ensure they work properly.

Don’t let fear of a clogged drain ruin your holiday fun. With these tips, you’ll be sure to kick out the grease monsters long before they can even make an appearance.

Keep checking back here for holiday water-smart tips from Aqua!

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Five Tips for Keeping Your Christmas Tree Fresh

 

Christmas is right around the corner and you may be getting ready to put up the perfect Christmas tree in your home, if you haven’t already. While taking care of a Christmas tree seems as though it should be a fairly simple task, keeping a tree hydrated and fresh through the holidays can become a challenge. That’s why we at Aqua are here to dispel a few Christmas tree hydration myths and answer your frequently asked questions. 

Q: Does my tree still need to be stored in water if I do not plan on installing it right away?

A: Absolutely! Whether or not you plan on putting your tree up immediately, a freshly-cut Christmas tree should be placed into a bucket of water as soon as possible. If the tree will not be installed until the following day immediately, make an effort to keep it stored in a cool, dry place.

Q: Will trimming down the bark around the base of my tree aid in water uptake?

A: Trimming the bark of a Christmas tree does not assist in water absorption. In fact, it may even be detrimental to the tree’s health. The bulk of a Christmas tree’s water uptake is done through its bark so shaving this precious material away is absolutely not recommended.

Q: How do I know exactly how much water my tree needs to stay fresh?
A: As a general rule, tree stands should provide one quart of water per inch of stem diameter. Make sure to supply a new tree with water on a daily basis, since freshly cut Christmas trees absorb the most water within their first week of installation. Keeping your tree properly hydrated will increase its longevity and help it stay looking lush.


Q: What is the proper cutting technique for trunk trimming? Are angular cuts more effective?

A: Contrary to popular belief, tactics such as making angular cuts or drilling holes into the trunk of a Christmas tree will not have any beneficial influence on water absorption. The most effective technique for proper water uptake is a traditional, straight cut through a tree’s stem, like slicing off a nice chunk of provolone cheese.

Q: How many inches should be trimmed from the stem of my tree to keep it healthy?

A: We recommend that ¼ to ½ of an inch be trimmed from the tree’s stem to prevent sapping, which may drastically disrupt water absorption. However, these numbers do not take into account trimming for ceiling space. At the end of the day, any cut will suffice as long as it is at least ¼ of an inch thick.

With proper care, a Christmas tree can stay fresh for up to four weeks. Keep the above hydration tips and tricks in mind during your Christmas tree installation and watering processes this holiday season to get the most life and beauty out of your tree.

 

Happy Holidays from all of us at Aqua!

 

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