High iron level in well water

Discussion in 'Pumps and Tanks Well Forum & Blog' started by Roadtrash, Nov 2, 2008.

  1. Roadtrash

    Roadtrash New Member

    We have moved into a new house with a new well. The results of the water test showed a high iron level.

    Water from tap is clear...not red or rusty.

    iron level is 2.0 mg/l
    manganese is 0.03mg/l
    hardness is 84 mg/l
    pH is 7.49
    well is 440' deep and recovers @4gpm
    flow is 8 gpm

    I'd like to deal with the iron without softening if possible. I was thinking of a birm filter. The house has two adults and 2.5 baths....what size filter would be ok?

    how do I know if I need to aerate or not?

    Thanks for any help.....RT
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2008
  2. 99k

    99k Radon Contractor and Water Treatment

    Fairfield Co.,Connecticut
    In order for a birm filter to work, the Ph should be above 7 (you're good there) and have dissolved oxygen in the water (15% of the iron content) to function properly. Birm will not remove the manganese in your case.
    A softener would remove the iron and manganese and have less impact on your water pressure.
  3. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    You have more than enough hardness to cost you more water heater fuel/electric and recovery rate problems and to have scale build up in appliances along with causing you to use more cleanser, shampoo, premature fabric wear, fixture scaling and to use more clothes and dish washer detergents etc..

    So I would suggest a special softener to remove the hardness and the iron instead of an iron filter to remove only the iron. Assuming you don't like the feel of soft water, it takes 21 days to make or break a habit...

    That 8 gpm, how did you come up with that?

    Any submersible well pump should deliver more than that; including an 8 gpm if there was such a pump. And the 8 gpm isn't your peak demand gpm, that's what your filter or softener will have to be sized to treat. A homeowner usually can not come up with their peak demand gpm without buying and installing a logging water meter.

    You say new house and well, how long has the water been used?
  4. Roadtrash

    Roadtrash New Member

    ok....so it looks like I may be considering a softener now. I ruled out a softener because I don't like the feel, and it would be easier for me to plumb a birm filter. I have a PEX system with a manabloc manifold. Would the kitchen faucet need to re-plumbed so that we're not drinking and cooking with softened water?

    The 8 gpm....that was determined by following this procedure:

    The well has a 3/4 hp sub. pump.

    The water has been used for about four weeks now.

    If you need any more info, please let me know. Thanks for your help!
  5. leejosepho

    leejosepho DIY scratch-pad engineer

    My wife and I have non-softened water at the cold side of our kitchen faucet, and your cold line could easily be connected prior to a softener. Looking back, however, I should have added a separate cold spigot for drinking and such because the non-softened water really messes with the coffee brewer.
  6. 99k

    99k Radon Contractor and Water Treatment

    Fairfield Co.,Connecticut
    The code says you should not run the outside spigot or the cold side of the kitchen sink through the softener. I agree with the spigot(s) if it is practical, however, I disagree with the kitchen sink and most don't follow. The theory is that you may have high Blood Pressure and want to avoid sodium. The fact is the amount of salt in a glass of water is trivial compared to your average diet.
  7. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    A softener installs exactly the same as a filter. Many of my customers have PEX with the same manifold.

    No the kitchen cold doesn't have to be plumbed with hard water. You get 7.85 mg/l of added sodium per gpg of ion exchange; thats if you use softener salt and drink/ingest roughly a quart of your softened water. Only a few areas plumb hard water to the kitchen sink, they mistakenly think hard water is good for them and they don't want the added sodium because they think there is enough to harm them. You can't drink enough water to get a benefit from the minerals in it and usually you don't drink a quart of water per day and if you look at a loaf of white bread you'll see a slice has 120-160 mg of sodium, and in many cases people can drink their soft water and eat 1-2 slices less per day and actually reduce their sodium intake. Or you can use potassium chloride and then you get no added sodium.

    The info on that web site is not coming up with the pump rate of a well water system. They are coming up with the draw down gallons of the pressure tank and the run time of the pump. In both their examples they show the pump not being off the minimum time of 60 seconds between starts as all pump motor manufacturers call for for proper cooling of the motor.

    The correct way to find the pump rate of a well water system is to pull the pump drop pipe up out of the well and measure the flow rate there AT the average psi that the pressure switch is set for. I.E. 30/50 is an average of 40 lbs..

    If you think about their way, at best you are only getting the water flow gpm out the boiler drain on the pressure tank tee, and with the pump OFF, and the boiler drain is usually a 1/2" washer type stop valve.

    You have 1" to your manifold and many 1/2" homeruns to all fixtures and either 3/4" or 1" from the manifold to the water heater and back to the manifold. There's about four times more water in a 1" line than a 1/2" line; or a 1/2 valve.

    And, in addition to the backwash rate of a filter or softener in gpm and if they can backwash right, you need to know the peak demand gpm of your house as your family and number and type fixtures use water. A homeowner can't come up with that gpm without an expensive logging water meter. I do that for my prospective customer after asking then many questions.

    Since the well has only been used 4 weeks, your iron content could change up or down a bit.

    Most people can not tell the difference between coffee made with soft or hard water. The best coffee is made with RO water.
  8. Roadtrash

    Roadtrash New Member

    If I can find out the gpm rating of the pump from the driller....would that help?

    And there is only a 3/4" supply from the tank tee to the manabloc. It is reduced from 1". I have 3/4" lines from the manifold to the water heater....which is heated by the boiler. I can easily replace the 3/4" copper with 1" if need be. I just don't have any PEX tools...yet.

  9. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    You don't need the size of the pump for this but it would be good for you to know in the future when you need to replace the pump.

    You don't have to replace the 3/4" but it would be nice having 1" to the manifold but it's not worth changing unless you have a large tub or shower.

    You probably can rent a PEX crimper from where you buy the tubing. Since the equipment goes inline before the manifold, use 1" sch 40 PVC.
  10. Scott R

    Scott R New Member

    Hopefully posting in this existing thread won't confuse things, but the title is applicable for me, so I figured that continuing the discussion in this thread might be better than starting a new thread.

    We just moved to a new house (the house is about 25 years old). It has a well and we were told that the water is high in iron and manganese. Here are the specific numbers:
    Odor: None
    Turbidity: 25
    Color: 40
    pH: 6.71
    Nitrite Nitrogen: < 0.001
    Nitrate Nitrogen: < 1.00
    Chloride: 15
    Hardness: 76
    Iron: 5.32
    Manganese: 0.26
    Sodium: 7.3
    Sulfate: 19.3

    When doing the water test, our friend (who installs various water treatment systems) ran the water for a while (I believe for the purpose of doing the radon in water test) and noticed water discoloration and sediment. We were told by others (including our realtor) that this was probably just because an excessive amount of water was being run through the system in a short timeframe, but that didn't jive with me because our last house had a well and we could run it for a long, long time with no discoloration ever appearing. Nevertheless, we really liked the house, so we bought it hoping that any issues could be resolved without spending too much money.

    The holding tank appears to be 19 years old (I believe it is a Well-X-Trol brand, which has a bladder). There is also a filter, and we're using a 5 micron filter in it.

    Most recently we've encountered a couple of problems:
    1) Our fairly new (about 2 years old) Bosch front-load (low water consumption?) clothes washer will beep mid-cycle and show an error message indicating that it's not getting enough water pressure. We unhooked the hoses and found a considerable amount of sediment clogging the metal screens/filters, which we cleaned out. It's quite possible that some/most of this was from our last house, which also had a well and had definite sediment issues (it had no cartridge filter or trap off of the well tank). Nevertheless, even after cleaning the metal screens out thoroughly, we still get the washer errors quite a bit.
    2) We're seeing visible discoloration in the sinks when we run the water, and staining in our toilets. The stains sometimes appear yellow or light brown, but at the worst are orange. We replaced our 5 micron filter the other day, and the existing one was very orange. Even after changing the filter, however, the water in the toilets are still looking discolored. I haven't noticed any odor, however (I've read that iron would likely produce a rotten-egg smell, but I haven't noticed any of that). I believe that the sinks are running cleaner, so I'm thinking that sediment build-up in the tanks behind the toilets may be contributing to them still looking dirty. However, our water expert friend indicated that the 5 micron filter really won't do a lot in terms of stopping iron.

    I should mention that my wife and I both work full-time, and it's common for us to run dishes and laundry during the weekend, rather than staggering it out through the week I know we probably should. Again, though, we did the same in our last house with a well and didn't have the problems we're having here.

    Right now my wife is panicking because we have a full house coming this Saturday for a family Thanksgiving meal, and a few guests staying with us overnight. She doesn't want the toilets to look gross or the showers to run dirty water. My hope is that we can get things under control a bit (short term) by watching our water consumption better this week (staggering laundry and dishes). I'm also planning on draining our tank today. Our home inspector suggested that the tank could have an excessive amount of iron buildup/crud at the bottom of the tank, and there may be some benefit to draining it, adding water to the tank, draining again, etc. to clear out the gunk. On that note, I'm also thinking that our toilets might be looking worse because of sediment (high in iron?) that's in the bottom of the holding tanks behind the toilets, and that once I've cleaned out the well tank, I should also shut off the water by the toilets and clean out the sediment there as well.

    Meanwhile, our friend is going to get back to us on pricing of a water treatment system, which he said would probably be in the neighborhood of about $2000. He also felt that our tank was very old and that it might make sense to replace it at the same time. The treatment system he was thinking might be best was a Birm filter in conjunction with what sounded to me like an aeration system.

    Based on all of the detail I've provided, what are your thoughts/suggestions? If you need additional detail, let me know.
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2008
  11. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    You have an iron problem and little hardness. Iron does not smell. Rotten egg odor is H2S (hydrogen sulfide gas). You can remove both with one piece of equipment.

    Your disposable cartridge filter should be removed unless a glass of water shows visible discoloration or dirt immediately as you draw it. Going discolored after drawing it is the iron converting to ferric iron (rust) as you watch.

    You need to practice water conservation. You may have a change going on in the well especially if you are in a drought situation.

    I wouldn't suggest aeration of any type.

    Is there any slimy snotty stuff at or under the water line in the toilet tanks? Any oily film on the water? Is the dirt in the bottom of the tanks fluffy and wavy like seaweed sways in ocean waves in the water if you lightly stir it up after flushing the toilet?

    Are you wanting to be dependent on a local dealer for sales, installation and service or an independent DIYer and install it yourself or hire a plumber to install it, and do your own repair when needed?
  12. Scott R

    Scott R New Member

    Gary, I spent the whole day reading up on these things today and I don't think I have bacteria. I'm not seeing sliminess or what you've described. Correct me if I'm wrong, but it sounds like from what I've read that the odor is also a characteristic of having bacteria, and there also does not appear to be any odor issues.

    It's hard for me to say whether the discoloration is immediate or after it hits the air. When I watch it flow from the tap of most of my sinks, it *seems* to be pretty clear, but if I put the stopper down in my sink, the color seems discolored as it collects. What is the timeframe for the air to cause ferrous to turn ferric? If it's longer than "immediate" than it seems like I've got ferric right from the tap. What I'm not certain of is whether it's like this all the time or if it's happening periodically (we've only been in the house a month, so not a lot of time to gauge a pattern here).

    I'm not capable of doing installations by myself, as I'm more of a tech geek with not much practical home-repair experience. But I'm probably going to be working out a barter of sorts with my friend (he wants a website). Unfortunately, time and "trial and error" doesn't seem to be an option. My wife wants the problem corrected immediately (because of the family Thanksgiving dinner) and my friend already rearranged his schedule (and called in a favor from someone else to help him) so that he can come out tomorrow and install an iron filtration system (venturi nozzle pre-tank and Birm filter post-tank). He's also planning on replacing the tank itself. Based on the additional research I did today, I told him I was a bit concerned that my pH might be lower than recommended (certainly for adequate Manganese removal), so I think he's planning on doing something to increase the pH level a bit.

    My fear is in misdiagnosing the problem and spending a lot of money on something that won't end up fixing it. Here's some updated info...

    - I drained the tank as best as I could tell. There didn't appear to be any waterlogging issues with the tank (it was pretty light to tip from the start). I drained it completely, followed by turning on/off the breaker switch for 4 seconds at a time, so as to try to drain any sediment out of the bottom of the tank. I did this about 20 times. But I didn't think to actually pull the water into a white bucket to see if it was getting any clearer. So later I repeated the excercise and during the 4-second drains, I drained it directly into a bucket. Every time it was very orange/brown. I did this several times and then gave up, thinking that I might be making the situation worse.

    - I took two water samples directly into two clear glasses; one from my kitchen sink, the other from my refrigerator (which has a built-in filtration system). The water from my sink was cloudy and yellow. The one from my fridge was crystal clear. I left the cloudy water to sit for several hours and it never seemed to change (there might have been *some* fine particles settling, but it didn't seem like it, as overall the water seemed just as cloudy as when I first poured it).

    One hope I have is that even if we're not diagnosing the problem perfectly, hopefully the fact that the fridge's filtration system cleans the water nicely will bode well for the Birm filter doing the same.

    Lastly, I checked with my wife, and she says I'm wrong about her/our water consumption. She says that she *has* been conscious of water usage and has tried not to run the dishes and clothing on the same days, or to run more than one laundry per day.
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2008
  13. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    You have a lot of iron for air injection and as a dealer, I wouldn't use it. I would use my inline pellet chlorinator system followed by a backwashed filter with a special carbon. With chlorine you can adjust it much more so than an air injector and it kills all bacteria where air can add to bacteria numbers. An air injection system will start to block the pluming just past the injector with rust and that reduces water flow through the pipe and to the filter and if it doesn't backwash correctly, it causes the birm to fail.
  14. 99k

    99k Radon Contractor and Water Treatment

    Fairfield Co.,Connecticut
    Always make sure you know your radon in water levels before installing carbon filtration ... high levels of radon can turn the carbon bed into low level radioactive waste ...
  15. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    Only if you have an awful lot of radon and run many more thousands to hundreds of thousands of gallons of water through the filter than the average residential filter will treat.

    And then, the only problem is the carbon becomes hazardous waste when you dispose of it. It does not become a health hazard because of the filter becoming radioactive. BTW, radon is not the only thing found in water that will make the carbon hazardous waste; such as hydrocarbon based products.

    I don't know if you want to continue telling people their residential carbon filters are becoming radioactive without some serious supporting data.

    Do you know that softening resin removes radium? Have you ever heard or seen anyone claiming that softeners become radioactive?
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