Problem History & Questions About Iron Filter/Softener Setup

Discussion in 'Water Softener Forum, problems, installation and r' started by fullmoonguru, May 23, 2013.

  1. fullmoonguru

    fullmoonguru New Member

    Messages:
    11
    Location:
    North Carolina
    About 9 yrs. ago we moved into our current house & so began my education with well systems & water treatment. I've had various problems over the years & really want to get it right so thought I would ask some questions here.

    I found Budget Water USA & liked what they had so I got my water tested with these results:


    Hardness CACO-3 ~ 170 10Grains p/Gal.

    FE (Iron) ~ 2 PPM

    MN (manganese) < 0.05 PPM

    PH 7.4

    Hardness level indicates high calcium & magnesium, but it was not tested.


    Based on that they sold me a 7" terminox iron filter, 40,000 on demand water softener, and reverse osmosis for drinking water.

    I was still having problems with orange staining and a nasty smelling toilet so I called them back. I believe I stuck my finger in the water in the toilet tank & the stuff went away from my finger? Anyway, it indicated iron bacteria so I got a chem feeder. My water was also still harder than we wanted so I put bleach (for the iron) and soda ash (to raise the ph), and water in the chem. feeder every month. When the well pump runs, the chem. feeder runs and pumps a little of this mixture into the pipe.

    As long as I remember to check the chem. feeder & fill it when needed (I don't - such a PITA) everything is good EXCEPT - over time this stuff grows on the inside of the pipes and eventually clogs them up. It looks like orange dirt. The first time it happened I called BW & it turned out that I had my pressure tank after my filters. "That's media!", the support tech said. So I got the system configured right but it happened again, and again, and again... It also clogs the filter head up eventually. I just cleaned it (the filter head) for the second time & noticed that it now dribbles water all of the time out of the hose where the water goes when it's flushing.

    So, I called again and this tech told me that he thinks it's the soda ash is what is sticking to the pipes. So that's question 1. I recently installed a cycle stop valve and it's getting clogged with the same stuff. It's right off the pump so the chem feeder injects after that. So that would make it seem like it's actually not the soda ash. Except that the water stops when the pump shuts off & sits in the pipe so it could be migrating backwards. Seems unlikely but I'm totally guessing here.

    Question 2 is if I should buy the recommended acid neutralizer to fix the ph without having to add soda ash all the time, for the not insignificant sum of about $700?

    Question 3 is about the iron filter valve. Mine is old. About 9 yrs. It gets stuck in the flushing process. I can get a new control head and valve rebuild kit for $160, but for $240 I can get the new digital controller/valve that has a separate motor (cheaper to replace) and reduces flush time from about an hour down to 20 min. or something. Not sure what brand it is but they reference Fleck & Autotrol as brands they carry on their site.
    Last edited: May 23, 2013
  2. mialynette2003

    mialynette2003 Member

    Messages:
    738
    Location:
    Ocala, Florida
    Why are you raising the pH? You report it is a 7.4 which is above neutral. IMO raising the pH would not help. Do you have a retention tank for contact time? Where exactly is the injection point in the system? A picture would help. How many people are in the family. The iron filter may be too small based on water usage. The Terminox media is an oxidation/filtration media that tends to be heavy. Higher backwash flow rates are required to insure proper cleaning of the media.
  3. fullmoonguru

    fullmoonguru New Member

    Messages:
    11
    Location:
    North Carolina
    Good question. I made some notes when I was setting all of this up & it says ph should be from 7 to 7.5 & that below 7.2 could cause problems. But then after putting in the chem. feeder there's a note saying I want 7.7 - 7.8. I have vague memories of the BW tech telling me that.

    The water leaves the pump & goes immediately through the CSV, then two elbows and the injection is in the 2nd one. Then a small pressure tank & then through the iron filter, the softener, & into the house.

    I had a larger pressure tank before the CSV but there has been no noticeable difference in the orange pipe gunk or house water quality (good when I have remembered to keep the chem. feeder going).
  4. MagKarl

    MagKarl New Member

    Messages:
    37
    Location:
    Washington
    My first thought is with 2ppm iron and no retention/settling tank, that "dirt" you are seeing may be oxidized iron.

    I'm working on a chlorine injection system of my own but from what I understand, you need a retention tank after the injection point, and you have to purge the oxidized iron from the tank every few weeks. The tanks have a drain orifice for this purpose.
  5. fullmoonguru

    fullmoonguru New Member

    Messages:
    11
    Location:
    North Carolina
    Before I installed the CSV I had a fairly large pressure tank & I've noticed no difference in the symptoms between the two (though I wasn't flushing the tank regularly, but since the water goes into the bottom & comes back out of the bottom that doesn't make sense to me. Also it seems like I would see the staining in my toilet if the iron wasn't being taken care of.

    I really appreciate the input guys. I'm definitely in need here.
  6. fullmoonguru

    fullmoonguru New Member

    Messages:
    11
    Location:
    North Carolina
    Just realized I never answered one of mialynette's questions. There are 2 adults and one kid in our ~1,000 ft. cottage. Almost no lawn/garden watering. I don't think we use very much water.
  7. mialynette2003

    mialynette2003 Member

    Messages:
    738
    Location:
    Ocala, Florida
    My first thought is that you do not have enough contact time for the chlorine to oxidize the iron. IMO the pH is ok and besides, the addition of chlorine will raise the pH slightly. There is no need for the soda ash. Secondly, I think the Terminox is too small for the application.
  8. fullmoonguru

    fullmoonguru New Member

    Messages:
    11
    Location:
    North Carolina
    Interesting. How are the tanks sized? If the iron wasn't getting handled wouldn't it show in my house? Anyone have an opinion between the Fleck & Autotrol valves?
  9. MagKarl

    MagKarl New Member

    Messages:
    37
    Location:
    Washington
    Retention tank guideline is 20 minutes contact time. I bought a 120 gal tank, but don't have it all plumbed in yet.
  10. Mikey

    Mikey Aspiring Old Fart, EE, computer & networking geek

    Messages:
    2,714
    Location:
    Central Florida
    They're sized to provide adequate contact time, as MagKarl mentions. There's another option, what I call a "swirly tank" which has an internal baffling and mixing structure that claims to provide adequate contact in a much smaller tank. It's been discussed on this forum, and is sold at http://www.apwinc.com/retention_tank.html.

    Iron usually shows up as a stain in toilet tanks. Ferric iron will appear as an orangeish colored insoluble stain; if it feels slimy to the touch, it's probably an iron-bacterial problem, but treatment with chlorine will usually cure both aspects of iron contamination.

    Fleck and Autotrol seem to be well thought of by most of the pros on the forum; I have both and prefer Fleck myself, but my opinion is worth squat :).
  11. fullmoonguru

    fullmoonguru New Member

    Messages:
    11
    Location:
    North Carolina
    Thanks Mikey.

    So if my ph is good at around 7.3/7.4 I don't need the acid neutralizer right?
  12. fullmoonguru

    fullmoonguru New Member

    Messages:
    11
    Location:
    North Carolina
    Thanks Mikey.

    So if my ph is good at around 7.3/7.4 I don't need the acid neutralizer right?
  13. polychromeuganda

    polychromeuganda New Member

    Messages:
    11
    Location:
    Massachusetts
    Let me preface by saying I'm an interested technoid, not a water treatment guru...
    I'm sure about the calcium, that was the Ca in the CaCO3 170ppm 10gr/gal, I don't know why you expect magnesium, unless the CaCO3 test is non-specific and includes MnCO3. That would mean that your test showed a combined total of 170ppm CaCO3 equivalent CaCO3 and MnCO3 combined. USGS surveys indicate roughly equal Ca and Mn in several published water surveys in North Carolina, so it look like a reasonable notion. Since Ca and Mn are both removed by ion exchange media (traditional water softener media) this seems to be a detail that alter the problem.
    It isn't really a universal Eureka!, Ah Ha, slam dunk, etc. that you needed a terminox iron filter to handle 2ppm iron. I've had a minimum size softener handling 5ppm iron for a 4 bedroom 2000sq ft house and watering the garden in the brief New England summer for 35 years...
    I do believe you were decieved in that moment by an interesting, but pointless, demonstration of surface tension. When you insert your digit into any water vessel, your skin oil will float on the surface speading a little oil slick that repels everything else on the surface of the water. It says nothing about whether the orange (ferrous) iron oxide is there as a result of bacteria living in the well. If your well is a deep well with a submersible pump, its more likely the water is arriving clear from the wellhead before all the processing. Once the clear soluble iron (Ferric Oxide) is oxidized by injected chlorine, by media in the iron filter, or just by the water in the toilet closet absorbing atmospheric oxygen, then you get insoluble ferrous oxide that you can see and mechanically filter out. I expect the wellhead delivers clear iron, because otherwise there was no need to do anything other than mechanically filter it. If you have a "jet pump" above ground that circulates the well water and pulls a small fraction up by venturi action, it may aerate the well by circulating water with added oxygen that dissolved into the water at the surface down deep into the well, and cause clear soluble ferous iron oxide in the water that permeates into the well to oxidize into insoluble red ferrous oxide. If you don't have any kind of deep well becuase you have a shallow surface water well... you probably shouldn't be driinking from it.

    Ok, you're explicitly oxidizing and preciptating the iron out of solution. Neither of these is truly a sought-after flavor enhancement and as I think I mentioned, this could be part of an an unnecessarily complex solution.

    The precipitated iron oxide should be being filtered out, not clogging equipment downstream.

    Soda Ash (sodium carbonate) is unlikely to fall out of solution. When it dissolves the sodium and carbonate seperate and the carbonate group can to something else that forms scale.
    I tend to favor disconnecting everything except the water softener and seeing what that does for you.
    As I said, I tend to favor disconnecting everything except the water softener and seeing what that does for you. I think you'll use a little more salt and a lot less of everything else if you let the ion exchange media handle the 2ppm of iron. Its generaly accepted that you should set the softener to regenerate every (3-6) days at the most to keep the iron from fouling the media.
  14. fullmoonguru

    fullmoonguru New Member

    Messages:
    11
    Location:
    North Carolina
    Yes this was the line of my latest questioning; do I really need all this stuff? My neighbors just have a water softener. The tech said they would be going through tons of salt & their softener would die prematurely. He was adament.

    Actually I think I'm saying the wrong thing. I think it wasn't iron bacteria, but organic iron? Here's what I did. This is from their website:
    And then for the iron bacteria:
    I do have a shallow well (30 ft. or so) with a jet pump. Our drinking water is from the RO filter.




    The orange buildup in the pipe is between the pump and iron filter.

    I really appreciate the thorough answer, but where doesn this leave me with the orange stuff in the pipe? Bypassing my iron filter is not going to change that. Also, disconnecting my chem feeder will definitely bring the stinky orange toilet back. Been there before. Unless you're suggesting that my iron filter was actually causing that problem and by just going with the softener it would go away.

    I could try just not loading the soda ash & see if the buildup in the pipe stops, and if it's true that my ph of 7.3 is OK I don't need to buy the expensive acid neutralizer.
    Last edited: Jun 4, 2013
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