Most all of the upper Midwest, but especially the area novelist Fredrick Manfred named Sioux land, is an area of hard water.   We know a little bit of what we are talking about here as Emmett J. Culligan was our grandfather’s first cousin.

Like many others in our family, the “Culligan Man” spent time as an expectant father at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Sioux City, Iowa one January day in 1921.  Walking the halls, he found his way down in the boiler room, where he was perplexed about two large cylindrical tanks.  The boiler tender told him the tanks were used to “soften” the water to prevent scales in the boilers and make soap in the hospital laundry go furthers.

As the story goes, cousin Emmett was so interested in how St. Joe’s made soft water that the boiler man gave him a coffee can full of the “Zeolites,” the greenish black stuff that removed the hardness from water like magic.

It took Emmett another 15 years or so to put it all together, but as we all know, soft water systems installed by calling “Hey Culligan Man” became more common than not in hard water areas like those around Sioux land.

And now that could be solve a new problem.

Writing for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Sharon Durham reports that water hardness plays a role in removing bacteria from chicken skin.  She reports:


Reducing water hardness may increase its ability to remove bacteria from broiler chicken skin, according to Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists in Athens, Ga.  Water hardness varies in different geographical locations, but most water tested in the United States has some degree of hardness.

“Hard” water has higher concentrations of dissolved minerals, such as calcium and magnesium.  Water is softened by removing these minerals, either mechanically or chemically.

Microbiologist Arthur Hinton, Jr., and chemist Ronald Holser of the ARS Richard B. Russell Research Center in Athens conducted studies comparing the ability of very hard, moderately hard, and “soft” water to rinse away bacteria like Campylobacter,Staphylococcus and Pseudomonas from the skin of broiler chicken carcasses.

Very hard water was prepared by dissolving calcium chloride and magnesium chloride in distilled water, and moderately hard water was prepared by diluting one part very hard water with one part soft water.  Potassium citrate was used to reduce water hardness.

After five rinses in each water type, soft water removed up to 37 percent more bacteria from the chicken skin than did the other two water types.

Campylobacter bacteria are found in the intestinal tract of birds and can contaminate the bird’s carcass during processing. Staphylococcus is normally found on the skin of the birds, and Pseudomonas is a type of spoilage bacteria that can be found in processing water.

There is more at the ARS site.