Iron staining, Sulfur smell, water options

Discussion in 'Water Softener Forum, problems, installation and r' started by astraelraen, Aug 6, 2012.

  1. astraelraen

    astraelraen New Member

    I posted this on another forum, but I decided to pose the question here too as I have read a few good articles from here.

    We have well water and had the Kinetico guy come out today to chat with us about our water. Culligan is coming out Wednesday to give us a proposal.

    Here are the stats given by Kinetico.
    5.5 gpg hardness
    141 TDS
    .5 ppm iron
    6.9 PH
    Sulfur is 1-2ppm (this was a guestimate based on smell, I don't believe he tested for sulfur?)
    We have a sulfur smell in the hot and cold water, but it is much worse in the hot water.
    There is no slime or buildup in the toilet reservoir, so he doesn't think there is a sulfur or iron bacteria problem.

    He suggested a 2030S with K5 RO system at the sink + 20" carbon filter to try to remove the sulfur odor. This was a little over 4k installed with labor/tax.

    We really don't care for softened water. We get iron staining over time and the sulfur smell has to go. Those are the two objectives we are looking for. I have traditionally chlorinated the well every 6 months or so and the smell is drastically reduced for a certain amount of time afterwards.

    Is there a better or cheaper solution to mainly removing the iron and sulfur?

    Are there sulfur and/or iron filters that do not soften the water and actually work?

    It seems to me that if you start softening your water you have to add RO, etc on top of it to get back to drinkable water. The K5's price was fairly ridiculous in my opinion.
  2. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa DIYer, not in the trades

    NW Ontario, Canada
    There is no truth to that myth.

    Iron filters don't soften water.
  3. bcpumpguy

    bcpumpguy New Member

    Langley BC
    you need to find out what is actually making the water smell that way, could be manganese, h2s, sulfur. But if you don't want to soften the water a catalytic carbon might do well for you.
  4. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    Great choice in not going with Kinetico.

    A softener when needed costs less and prevents premature replacement of fixtures, water heaters and other water using appliances and clothes washed in hard water.

    Not all iron filters can remove H2S/sulfur, nor can all H2S filter type equipment remove iron.

    Shocking a well can create carcinogens.... eat metal well casing, ruin pumps and electrical cable... or cause hard to treat water quality problems.

    If shocking got rid of the odor, then that means the odor is caused by bacteria and.or naturally occurring H2S gas in the well water

    When you shock a well you must sanitize/disinfect the plumbing and fixtures in the house.

    You don't want to use carbon if there is any type of bacteria in the water.

    Manganese does not cause odor problems.

    Softening water adds 7.85 mg per liter (roughly a quart) of sodium per grain per gallon of compensated hardness removed.

    Without doing the math, in your case that probably would be less than the sodium in a slice of white bread. And much less than an 8 oz glass of milk, etc. etc..
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2012
  5. astraelraen

    astraelraen New Member

    It sounds like I need to have the water tested for iron and sulfur bacteria then to know for sure if there is a bacteriological problem?

    Another reason we are hesitant to go with a softener is that we have an "advanced" septic system that requires annual monitoring by the state. The company that installed our septic said that the manufacturer does not recommend water softeners. They stated that per the manufacturer it could eventually mess up the specific gravity of the water in the septic over time and cause problems. They also mentioned that excessive backwashing could cause problems with water flow in the septic unit (although I guess this could be an issue with any water filtration device.) The company did not say specifically that adding a softener would cause problems, but if our annual testing comes back out of specifications we would have to potentially remove any water filtration devices we have setup and/or switch to other solutions.

    I'm not completely against a water softener, but we aren't willing to buy a water softener if:
    a) it's not really going to fix the problem and
    b) we will still have to buy expensive RO systems, etc to make the water actually taste good again. The only experience we really have with softened water are most hotel systems and I'm not sure there is a single hotel I can remember thinking that the water tasted anywhere near good.

    What about MangOx, Terminox, Pyrolox, Filox type filters? They all seem like they are generally the same type of filter to an uneducated person like myself? From internet research these types of filters seem like they are the holy grail of iron/manganese/sulfur problems.

    Ideally, just going on my uneducated internet research, I think I would like a 10/20" sediment type filter, then a single unit to filter iron/whatever, then a carbon filter if necessary for smells?

    I admit, I'm probably looking for "too simple" of a solution to multiple water problems and I'm certainly open to being educated :)
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 7, 2012
  6. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    IRB creates a clear to black snotty slippery slime in toilets tanks from the water line down. that's unless you use some type toilet tank cleaner.

    You need to check with the manufacturer. If you have the type that chlorinates the water and sprays it on the ground, I've heard the manufacturer is afraid of the sprinkler heads clogging up with scale. That's a bit strange when they have no limit on how hard your water can be. hard water causes scale build up and especially where the velocity of the water is increased, like the hole in a sprinkler head. High TDS content does the same.

    As to the volume of water... they don't limit the type of tub, or how many gallons can be drained out of a tub or dish or clothes washers, which is a higher GPM than your softener will have. And that flow from a softener is flow controlled to usually like 1.5 gpm to say 5 gpm, and that would be a fairly large softener. Backwashed or regenerated filters have a higher gpm low rate.

    Softeners don't remove bacteria or H2S. No filter removes hardness. So far you've not shown and need for an RO and removal of hardness, iron and any manganese usually improves the taste of the water. Hotels chlorinate their water, if you have to chlorinate yours, you will also be removing the chlorine.

    BTW, it is what is in water that gives it a good or bad taste and good water, it has no taste. So my suggestion is to get whatever equipment that is needed (you do need a softener) and use the water for a month and then see what you think of the taste and go from there.
  7. astraelraen

    astraelraen New Member

    We have no "slime" or clumping in the toilet tank and do not have any chlorination or toilet tank cleaner that we use regularly in the toilet tank. The Kinetico rep did mention that the toilet tank water appeared to have an "oily" sheen or film to the top of the water that was broken and repelled if you touched the water, it does not have any noticeable odors. He indicated this could be some sort of a bacteriological problem, but he did not seem to provide a solution that would solve bacteria.

    You are correct, they don't set a specific volume limit, it's more of a "hey, don't use too much" because you could overload the system. I'm not sure exactly how it works but its based on contact time so if you end up overloading the septic it will end up dumping the "untreated" or "not completely treated" stuff out of the tank.

    We will discuss a water softener again and potentially try that without an RO for now.

    I've seen plenty of information on the internet saying a water softener should never be used as an iron filter and vice versa. With .5ppm iron do you see us being able to use a water softener as an iron filter and water softener unit? The Kinetico rep seemed to think it was possible using "iron salt" or whatever he called it.

    Assuming we don't have bacteria problems, could a 20" carbon filter after the softener potentially solve the sulfur smell? Or do we need a dedicated iron/sulfur filter, whether that be chlorination or some other method of filtration.
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 8, 2012
  8. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa DIYer, not in the trades

    NW Ontario, Canada
    That pretty much describes my untreated water but my water does also have a noticable odor when first exposed to air. The smell does dissipate quickly.

    My iron filter aerates the water with a micronizer and I find that clears up most of the odor. After it has gone through the iron filter there is no more odor. If I had my druthers, I would go with an iron filter that aerates with a compressor rather than a passive micronizer. I use a softener after the iron filter and a RO for drinking/cooking water.

    As for a load on a septic system, I don't discharge the backwash to the septic. Regulation will vary by location but here we are allowed to treat it like grey water so mine goes the same place as my sump water.
  9. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    The sheen is a sign of.... old guy memory here.... manganese reducing bacteria? Anyway, you treat it the same as any other reducing bacteria, you kill it with a disinfectant.

    You might want to have a Coliform bacteria test done.

    A softener may use up to 50 gallons of water per regeneration but... the water flow is controlled in gpm and it takes up to an hour and a half to put it all in the septic. That's much slower than a tub bath or the dish and clothes washers, The washers have a 1" drain line and the softener is about half that.

    Softeners don't filter ferrous iron, they ion exchange the positive charged iron ions the same as they do hardness (calcium and magnesium), manganese, copper etc.. And it works very well. Guys that don't support using a softener for iron removal sell iron filters, in addition to the softener. So what does tell you?

    A disposable cartridge filter is not a good choice, plus you need a disinfectant or to shock the well correctly periodically.

    Correctly is to add bleach to the well by mixing it in 5 gallon buckets of water at about a half gallon per 100' of water in the well. As you pour it down the well, you run a garden hose to rinse it down. When you get all the bleach added, then push the end of the hoise down the well with it running full bore until it will stay in the well on it's own.

    You leave it run for like 20 minutes and shut it off.

    Then using a wide mouth glass or jar to hang your nose on the rim of you smell deeply for chlorine at faucets after getting a strong smell of bleach. Start at the boiler drain valve at the pressure tank. Then run water to all cold water faucets starting at the kitchen sink, one at a time.

    When the cold is done at the kitchen sink, run the hot for a minute and shut it off.

    Do the bathroom sink cold and when done tun the cold at the tub on for 10 seconds and shut it off. Then flush the toilet on the way to the next bathroom doing the same until all the bathrooms are done. Then start the clothes washer on cold/cold and let it fill for a minute and stop it.

    Turn on each outside faucet for like 20 seconds one at a time and shut it off.

    BTW, no water use from the time you poured the bleach down the well until a couple hours later.

    Then every 15-20 minutes run the cold water at each inside faucet for 10-15 seconds and turn it off. You don't have to run the tubs and don't flush the toilets, inside cold faucets only. Repeat that process at least 6-8 times.

    When finished, run the hose at like half flow where chlorinated water won't kill/stain things and you can see/watch the water flow (from the house) and watch the flow doesn't decrease. If it does decrease the flow until it doesn't.

    You do not want to run the well/pump dry. After like an hour +/-, shut it off and run all cold water faucets in the house and flush toilets and put the clothes washer in Rinse for a minute and then Spin. Run the outside faucets for a minute.

    You may still have bleach in the water and you should protect your eyes and clothes until it is gone, that could be days and you can run the hose some if the bleach is real strong but always watch the flow so you don't run too much water.
  10. astraelraen

    astraelraen New Member

    The well is 2 years old. There were no coliforms when it was dug. I did an "at home" coliform test earlier this year which came back negative.

    I'm thinking about just having a lab do a coliform/iron bacteria/sulfur bacteria/whatever other bacteria test to get a concrete yes or no on bacteria issues.

    If there are no bacteria issues it seems like i could get away without a chlorinator, otherwise it seems like i will need one of those as well.

    Thanks for your suggestions Gary.
  11. F6Hawk

    F6Hawk New Member

    Gary, half a gallon of bleach per 100' of well? Are you SERIOUSLY giving out this advice on a public forum, with no other guidance? I sincerely hope no one pays you any attention, without doing some research themselves. Your advice does not take into account the diameter of a well, therefore no accounting for how many gallons of water, and of course no thought is given to PPM of bleach. How about you give some specific numbers before you cause an innocent viewer to damage something?

    The numbers you gave would be about right for a 6" well, but it would be shy of the 200 PPM mark typically used in sanitizing. 4.41 pints for a 100' deep 6" well would actually be closer to the mark.

    For anyone reading this who wants to sanitize their well, I suggest reading this: or other sources which set forth correct amounts of chlorine to use for disinfecting your well.
  12. Tom Sawyer

    Tom Sawyer In the Trades

    Every plumbing code has the PROPER method of chlorinating within their pages.
  13. astraelraen

    astraelraen New Member

    Per this website I should use about 2.25 gallons of bleach in my well to chlorinate it. I have traditionally used ~1 gallon. This could be part of the reason why I can never get rid of some of my problems, if in fact it is a bacteriological problem.

    Our well is 380 feet deep, 6" casing. That website says I have 559 gallons of water. I need about 18 pints, or 288 ounces of bleach. Which is right at 2.25 gallons.

    I may try that this weekend to see what the long term effect is, since in all my previous attempts to chlorinate the well I have either used a pool chlorine tab or 1 gallon of bleach.

    I turned my water heater up to 150F last night for 10 hours to see if it would remove the sulfur smell, from internet research, if it is bacteriological that should kill the bacteria and greatly reduce the smell? I let the hot water run for awhile this morning before my shower and I'm not sure the smell decreased at all. Is this further indication it may just be a sulfur gas problem rather than a bacteria problem?

    Thanks for all your help. I'm beginning to hate water!
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 9, 2012
  14. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa DIYer, not in the trades

    NW Ontario, Canada
    One method prescribed for recurring well bacteria, is to "overload" the well. It involves pumping about 500 gallons into a storage tank, then chlorinate both the water in the storage tank and the well before pumping it back into the well. The idea is that the bacteria may get established in the aquifer and simply chlorinating the water in the well will not reach far enough into the aquifer.

    Bacteria can also get established in the plastic supply lines in the home. The usual symptom of that is a strong smell when the tap is first turned on after not having used it for a while but then diminishes.
  15. mariner

    mariner New Member

    Hixon, BC
    I have just been reading this thread and thought I might make a comment.
    I too, am on a well which is 350 ft deep. The well was already installed when I bought this proerty seven years ago (older home about 1965'ish). I have both water filters and a water softener.

    My cold water smells yet my hot water does not smell. The hoses to the washing machine show a marked difference - the hot water hose inlet is clean and stain free. The cold water hose inlet has rust stains and the water smells.

    I am thinking that in my situation has the water temperature affecting the outcome.

    My system has two water filters - 5 micron before the water softener and 1 micron filter after the softener. The water tastes great and there is no staining of the laundry.

    Of the two bathrooms I have, one toilet has mineral deposits inside the bowl (only five years old) and the other toilet has none and is over twenty years old. I think the toilet bowl staining has something to do with the porcelain glazed surface, other wise both toilet bowls should have the mineral staining/deposits.

    I know this doesn't directly relate to the original post, but there are similarities and therefore, should be of interest.


  16. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    Yes I should have mentioned that was for a 6" well. But I did give specific "guidance" but I didn't say that if the smell of bleach at the boiler drain wasn't all that strong to add more bleach to the well; I thought that would be understood....

    Ya see the difference between you'n me, I have shocked hundreds of wells and had many more people do it them selves per my instructions, and this is not the first time I;'ve posted them online, but I doubt you have shocked many wells.

    I did this under DEP, VHA and FHA oversight for Coliform and E-coli bacteria remediation for both private and commercial wells.

    BTW, if you want to play around following what a university says about PPM, lol I wish you would and get back telling us how well you did. You know they don't go out and shock any wells, they simply reformat and reprint what someone in the government has said right?

    Do they mention anything about a minimum PPM of FREE chlorine or just total chlorine? I'm thinking you don't know the importance of that slight but serious difference. I can tell you from years of actually shocking wells for customers that a shotgun approach is much better than Olympic target rifle accuracy at a 1000 meters.

    And last but not least, how much water was in the 6" well that you used to be able to know the PPM and number of pints for this reply? I ask because you question me about the depth of the well. What I said was a half gallon per 100' of WATER IN THE WELL so I did mention the volume of water.

    I guess you think the whole well is full of water and it's all usable? It's not because all the water below the pump inlet is unusable. And bleach being heavier than water sinks to the bottom of the well. Do the college or government guys mention that or using the garden hose? The last I looked they didn't.
  17. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    Unless you told them your static water level, that's how far down to the surface of the water in your well, they or no one else can tell you how much water is in your 6" well (1.47 gal/ft of water); unless they incorrectly assume it is full of water. Your usable water is from the static water level to the pump inlet. But... my experience in shocking 6" wells (and your ongoing problem) says you need more than the gallon you've been using.

    Good idea and, yes, bacteria would be killed at 140f or higher if exposed to it for an hour or so. H2S would not be affected. An actual measurement of the temp of the water is the only way to know if you get to 140f or higher.
  18. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    That's called surging a well and surging will work in rock bore wells but not very well in a screened sand and gravel well. Surging doesn't use a pump to add the water to the well, you use a bailer on a derrick/hoist truck or air lift using a very high output air compressor with a line to the bottom of the well. Both lift a/the column of water and suddenly drop it back into the well. Pumping the water into the well isn't going to force much water out of the well very quickly or far.

    A puff of odor at first water use after it has not been used for hours is usually due to odor producing gas in the water rising in the plumbing system to the highest points overtime.
  19. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    Rust stains say the softener isn't removing all the iron. That may be due to the prefilter you have in front of it reducing the flow to the softener. That and the other disposable cartridge will not remove iron, just particles. Remove the cartridge in the prefilter and replace the one after the softener with a carbon/GAC cartridge and see if the odor doesn't go away. If it does you probably have H2S.

    I'd leave the prefilter cartridge out. I'd also run some Iron Out or Super IO through the softener.
  20. astraelraen

    astraelraen New Member

    I have contacted a few online resellers and all of them have told me I need to add chlorine injection. I'm still skeptical of chlorine.

    Could a properly sized water softener and a properly sized backwashing carbon filter (not a disposable) potentially solve my problems? Wouldn't the water softener remove the small amount of iron and the carbon filter remove the H2S gas, if it is gas?

    Worst case scenario I see is that this doesn't solve the problem, then I probably have to add a chlorinator at that point anyway? But if I go the softener/carbon filter route and it works, I might save $1000 not having to add chlorine injection/a holding tank.
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 9, 2012
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