New guy. need help filtering iron. Screwed up my birm filter.

Discussion in 'Water Softener Forum, Questions and Answers' started by jrf, May 22, 2012.

  1. jrf

    jrf New Member

    May 22, 2012
    Ok, sorry for the long story but it may help.
    I live in an area where the water was ruined by strip mines about 30 years ago. last spring we drilled a well. Well has a great amount water at 45 feet. Almost 50 gallons per minute.
    But as we expected the water is pretty hard and the iron is crazy high. Something like 60 PPM.
    We contacted an acquaintance in the water treatment business who is very well regarded in those circles. He makes his living fixing all of the water ruined by strip mines in about four counties.
    We ask him to suggest a treatment but we tied his hands due to our attempting to go off grid. We did not want anything that took caustic chemicals to regenerate and we wanted something that did not rely on electricity.
    After testing and playing with a sample for about a week he came to the conclusion that the iron in our water was something "people refer to as clear water iron". The water is crystal clear and the iron will stay suspended in the water for 4 or 5 days before it even gets slightly cloudy.
    He suggested that a standard ion exchange water softener would remove about 90 percent of the iron and hardness without using an incredibly high amount of salt. he also suggested a birm filter would then remove the rest of the iron and make the water usable.
    So last fall using an **** rebuilt fleck 5600 econominder valve and used softener tanks I built a softener with 1.5 cubic feet of resin. Upon testing this did knock our iron down to about 7ppm. About a month ago I put together a birm filter from a used softener tank,1 cubic ft of birm media and an **** manual water softener valve. This has worked perfectly for about a month.
    I have been regenerating the softener about every 4 days and the birm filter about every 10 days. Monday I backwashed and rinsed the birm filter and my water has been horrible ever since. The bathtub is orange and a little bleach in a glass makes it look like iced tea.

    What did I screw up. It literally was perfect when I went to work in the morning. I came home and backwashed it and the water has been horrible.
    I have tried backwashing again rinsing more and regenerating the water softener twice.
  2. Tom Sawyer

    Tom Sawyer In the Trades

    Nov 29, 2010
    Something like 60 ppm iron or do you know how much iron and what the actual hardness is. In other words do you have credible water test results? And then how did you decide that a 1.5 cu/ft softener was the right size and for that matter how did you come up with the size for your birm filter? And, which is first in line, the birm filter or the softener?

    So what are the water conditions
    How many people in the house IE what is your average daily usage.
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  4. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa DIYer, not in the trades

    Feb 6, 2011
    NW Ontario, Canada
    A BIRM filter would normally go before the softener. It requires that the iron first be precipitated out. The last stage of the iron filter backwash is the forward rinse and pack, where the pack is very important. If you have any air trapped after the filter that can assist a reversal of flow, it will disturb the pack. Anything like an outside hose bib or sprinkler system before the filter can cause a reverse flow.

    A BIRM filter needs a lot more GPM to backwash than a softener.
  5. ditttohead

    ditttohead Water systems designer, R&D

    Jan 9, 2012
    Water systems designer, R&D, Technical Director
    Ontario California
    Tough one but lets start with Toms suggestion and get an actual water analyisis instead of a "something like, and about" as these are not numbers that can be calculated. Please consider paying for a real water test from a reputable lab. I hope that you are not drinking this water, and using a softener for iron removal above 1 ppm is not recommended. You say you do not want to rely on electricity, what do you use to pump the water from your well?
    Last edited: May 23, 2012
  6. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    Aug 31, 2004
    Wherever I park the motorhome.
    The Birm filter goes in front of/ahead of the softener so it takes all the iron out of the water it can before the water goes into the softener.

    If you actually have like 60 ppm of iron, you aren't going to get a softener to remove much of that, and especially with a 1.5 cuft softener using regular mesh resin. I've used SST-60 on up to 13 ppm a number of times, and up to 5 ppm regularly with regular mesh resin using a Turbulator and a resin cleaner on both types of resin. And you need a lot of salt to do that; 15 lbs/cuft.

    I suspect you have loaded up the Birm and the resin. If you can't backwash the Birm so it works, you need to replace it but, you do not have anywhere near enough of it in a 1.0 cuft filter. And the filter goes in ahead of the softener.

    For the softener, mix a 1/3 cup of Iron Out or Super IO in 2 gallons of water and pour that down into the water in the salt tank, not through the salt if possible. Then two hours later start a regeneration and when the valve gets into brine suction, after 10 minutes, unplug it for 30 minutes and then plug it in and let it finish the regeneration. No water use during the filter backwash or softener regeneration.

    If you are manually doing the regeneration (without electricity) you have to pay very close attention to the length of time you allow the various cycle positions to run. And I don't think that will work well for the long term. Same for the manual filter valve.
  7. Tom Sawyer

    Tom Sawyer In the Trades

    Nov 29, 2010
    I think that he may be able to clean the systems out also but I tend to agree with Gary that it is pretty doubtful that either system is large enough to handle the situation. You bought the stuff used online so perhaps if you can get it cleaned out you can re-sell it if it proves to be undersized. I would like to know what your power situation is also. Ar you running a generator or have you gone DC/batteries?
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