Iron problem, well chemistry changing?

Discussion in 'Water Softener Forum, problems, installation and r' started by Scott_J, Dec 4, 2011.

  1. Scott_J

    Scott_J New Member

    Messages:
    13
    Location:
    Croom, MD
    Hello,

    I am having an iron problem that seems to be worsening over time and I'm wondering if anyone can comment on how my well chemistry might be changing and/or other ideas as to what's going on. I've been in the house for 9 years with a standard kenmore water softener (rated to remove iron up to 4 ppm) and have never had any iron staining or other water problems until this summer. We started to notice yellow/reddish discoloration that would ebb and flow (sometimes clearing up completely) so I had the water tested in mid-July. Results were total iron at 0.76 ppm and everything else normal. I decided to replace the water softener on the assumption that it had become iron fouled (it was > 9 years old). That did not solve the problem and it has gotten really bad over the past month. I had another iron test done early November this time prior to the water softener, (Total Iron = 10.922 ppm, Iron-dissovled not detectable). I drained the holding tank and there was a large amount of very red water in the bottom along with some larger particles that would crumble when pinched. The well flow rate at the tank is still good (10 gpm) but the water from the well goes through periods of high turbidity and is not a constant color, sometimes fairly clear and sometimes reddish/orange. I had a guy out from Hague yesterday and they were a bit puzzled by the situation and are returning for more tests tomorrow. The tests they did showed:

    pre-softener
    Iron = 10 ppm (I think he said ferrous and he didn't give me a number for red iron because he didn't understand the results he was getting)
    TDS = 250
    PH 6.7
    Hardness = 12 gpg

    He also said it looked like there was iron bacteria based on slimy film in toilet tank.

    Thanks in advance for any advice!
  2. Akpsdvan

    Akpsdvan In the Trades

    Messages:
    1,494
    Location:
    Alaska
    Wells can change, some times in weeks other times over months.

    Any number of reasons for the change, more water use in the area by other new homes.
    There could have been an Earth Quake that has changed the ground formation some place that feeds your water table.
    There could have been a large run off or a lack of a run off that is now effecting your water table...

    Some thing to try for now to see how it works is to set the hardness setting to 53 or just above and cycle the system a few times back to back.
  3. Tom Sawyer

    Tom Sawyer In the Trades

    Messages:
    3,308
    Location:
    Maine
    Until you can get consistent water chemistry it is going to be difficult to make equipment selections or settings. You might want to take weekly iron and hardness tests for about a month and see if it settles down.
  4. Scott_J

    Scott_J New Member

    Messages:
    13
    Location:
    Croom, MD
    That's what I was thinking, right now it's a moving target and I don't want to invest in something that won't be appropriate for the long term. I'm just wondering why the sudden change? There was an unusual (for this area) Earthquake back in August at 5.8 near Richmond which shook this area but the problem started prior to that. Rainfall and water table levels are within normal seasonal averages. I'm worried that the well itself is somehow compromised and I'll need to have a new bore hole drilled.
  5. Akpsdvan

    Akpsdvan In the Trades

    Messages:
    1,494
    Location:
    Alaska
    With in normal seasonal averages for how long?

    As I like to ask...
    What is normal?

    I have had well drillers in my area tell of water tables that are like a bowl and others that are like a stream.. so while little may have changed within 5 miles of you, there could have been some changes 50 miles away that are having an effect on your well.

    Testing the untreated water more often is a very good idea and changing the settings on the system as needed would be a great idea.
  6. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    Drilling a new well has no guarantee of getting better water quality.

    IRB can cause this. I'd shock the well with FDA approved chlorine pellets at about a 1/2 lb per 100' of water in the well. And dissolve the pellets as best I could in 5 gal buckets before pouring them down the well. I would run a garden hose down the well for 30-45 minutes to get chlorine circulating throughout the column of water in the well and then shut off the hose and take it out of the well.

    Then by pass the softener and all filters or remove any cartridges and run chlorinated water to all cold water fixtures in the house (smelling a glass of water for chlorine at each) and flush each toilet. Then run hot water for 1-2 minutes to get chlorine in the water heater but not until it comes out the faucets.

    Do not allow any water use until you start running off the well continuously and then minimally due to the strength of the chlorine burning eyes and such. You can fill tubs for flushing toilets and go out to eat and without a shower or bath for a day or three. This will bleach fabrics/clothes.

    Then 30-60 minutes after shutting off the hose I would rinse the casing down very well with say 30 gallons of fresh water I previously stored at the well in buckets etc.. Chlorine corrodes steel casing real quick.

    Then every 30 minutes I would run off the chlorine for 5-10 minutes and repeat that as often as possible for as long as possible but at least do it 5-6 times. Then let it sit overnight and turn on the hose to run where chlorine and rust won't harm anything or dig the yard up and let it run continuous adjusting the hose flow so the pump doesn't run dry until the chlorine smell is gone.
  7. Scott_J

    Scott_J New Member

    Messages:
    13
    Location:
    Croom, MD
    Thanks for the replies guys. Does IRB produce Ferric iron? The water quality guy was out again today and the measurements are steady at 10 ppm Total (6 Ferric, 4 Ferrous). Their proposal is to install a very expensive all-in-one unit, sulfurstat for iron bacteria, filter material for ferric, and high efficiency resin for softening/ferrous iron. Looks like a cadillac (25 year warranty) but maybe overkill? I'm willing to try a chlorine shock if there is a chance it's all bacteria related. I'm also think just a standalone iron filter in conjunction with my current softener might do the trick, does anyone have any feedback on pyrolox or Iron curtain (Hellenbrand) iron filter units?
  8. Tom Sawyer

    Tom Sawyer In the Trades

    Messages:
    3,308
    Location:
    Maine
    What "all in one unit" are they proposing? I'm never a fan of anything that is all in one as it usually means that when one of the all things fails the entire unit becomes an expensive boat anchor.
  9. Akpsdvan

    Akpsdvan In the Trades

    Messages:
    1,494
    Location:
    Alaska
    With the iron at that level I my self would stay away from the Hague Water Max, while it is a good unit... that iron level has never been good for any Max's around here...
    Tried them and any thing over 4ppm iron was a killer to valve parts and the resin.

    As for the Hellenbrand iron curtain.. don't know much about them.
  10. Scott_J

    Scott_J New Member

    Messages:
    13
    Location:
    Croom, MD
    It's the Watermax as Akpsdvan mentioned. Engineering on it looks excellent but given the cost (>3K) and my iron level I'm hesitant. The unit is rated at 12ppm total iron which I'm getting close too.

    So a question about iron bacteria, if I understand the process the bacteria converts ferrous to ferric? So the reason I am seeing (visually) more iron now than in the past is that the ferric to ferrous ratio used to be much lower. If I shock the system and assuming it works, then I can expect the water to clear up but I will still be dealing with 10 ppm total iron (ferrous), is that correct?
  11. mialynette2003

    mialynette2003 Member

    Messages:
    746
    Location:
    Ocala, Florida
    Have you thought about using a chlorination system? I've used it for years with great results.
  12. Scott_J

    Scott_J New Member

    Messages:
    13
    Location:
    Croom, MD
    Yes and I realize that would be the best option if it turns out I have a bacteria problem along with the high iron levels. I guess the only other option in that case is periodic well shocks depending on how long it takes the critters to return. I just don't like the idea of constant chlorination, I know that's probably silly but for that reason it's at the bottom of my list.

    So I'm going to get the well tested for iron bacteria and if it's negative look for a solution that combines my current water softener with a mineral type (pyrolox or similar) filter. From reading other forum posts it appears that having the proper flow rate for a good backwash is key for these units to last so I'm looking at 1 cu.ft of material (9"x48" tank) with my flow rate of 8.5 gpm.
  13. mialynette2003

    mialynette2003 Member

    Messages:
    746
    Location:
    Ocala, Florida
    I've used Pyrolox and have had it foul out early (6-12 months). It's to heavy the add the iron on top of it. With chlorination followed by dechlorination is the best way I have seen for high iron problems. The iron loads up on the top of the carbon, carbon is light weight so flow is not an issue. A lot of the iron will settle out in the retention tank. What are your reservations about using chlorine? Have you looked into birm media?
  14. Scott_J

    Scott_J New Member

    Messages:
    13
    Location:
    Croom, MD
    I think instead of pyrolox I would go with filox which is supposed to be easier to clean and then have plenty of margin in the backwash. Birm requires permanganate right? I have an irrational fear of adding chemicals to the water supply. Actually, do you have a link to the type of chlorine system you are talking about?
  15. mialynette2003

    mialynette2003 Member

    Messages:
    746
    Location:
    Ocala, Florida
    Filox is a little lighter but still heavy as far as media's are concerned. Birm does not use anything to regen. It stand for Best Iron Removal Media. I thought you may have a fear. Think about it. How many times have you drank city water? That has chlorine in it. Besides, the carbon filter will remove the chlorine before you drink it. I don't have a link for a set up. No one company makes all the equipment used in this set up. The order of filtration would be well...chlorine injection....pressure tank......retention tank.......carbon filter.......water softener.
  16. Scott_J

    Scott_J New Member

    Messages:
    13
    Location:
    Croom, MD
    Ok, right, it's greensand that uses the permanganate. Filox looked to be the most efficient stuff out there without pre-oxidation although getting a handle on expected performance is not easy. I've seen numbers from 5-15 ppm iron removal capacity for these systems. Does anyone have any reliable, real-world numbers that I could expect for the various filter media (BIRM, MnO2) assuming the following parameters:

    no pre-oxidation
    Backwash 8.5 GPM
    pH 6.9
    TDS 250
    no sulfur
    no manganese
    no iron bacteria

    My softener can pick-up some clear water iron bleed-thru (4 ppm ?)
  17. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    Where does the 8.5 gpm come from?

    And how do you know you only need a 1.0 cuft? That will give you a SFR of about 4 gpm and a 1 bath house can exceed that very easily.

    You would be better off with a chlorination system but I don't like using the pressure tank as part of the retention. I don't like solution feeders either. A dry pellet chlorinator and a special mixing tank is the best choice.
  18. Tom Sawyer

    Tom Sawyer In the Trades

    Messages:
    3,308
    Location:
    Maine
    I will agree with that post.
  19. Scott_J

    Scott_J New Member

    Messages:
    13
    Location:
    Croom, MD
    I measured the time it takes to recharge my well tank (39 sec) and then the gallons delivered before the pump kicks in again (5.5). 5.5/39x60=8.46 Is that the correct method? The 1 cuft was based on backwash recommended flow rates for a 9" tank.
  20. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    The best way is with a device that actually measures gpm at the average pressure the system is run at by lifting the pump drop pipe up out of the ground and measuring there or, to know the static water level in the well, the gpm rating of the pump and the depth the pump is in the well and what ID the pipe is to the pressure tank and the size of the piping on the pressure tank and to the filter.

    Otherwise you run water into a bucket while refilling the pressure tank and actually measure the gpm you get realizing you are usually flowing through a 1/2 or 3/4" boiler drain valve on the pressure tank and maybe some 3/4" stuff on the pressure tank/plumbing.

    And again, a 1.0 cuft is more than likely much too small to provide the peak demand gpm the house requires; based on how you use water like a couple showers running at the same time or a shower and washing machine or dish washer or toilet flushes etc..

    The required gpm of the backwash is based on the cu ft volume and the type of mineral being used; not the size of the tank. The size of the tank is dictated by the cu ft volume and type of mineral/media being used. The size of the tank then dictates the control valve that can be used.

    When the filter is in backwash there is little flow resistance in the plumbing to the control valve, unlike when refilling the tank as you did and using time. The captive air pressure in the pressure tank and possibly smaller ID pipe than the 1" you should use all the way to the filter control valve. That air pressure and possibly smaller ID pipe reduction reduces flow.
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