Water Treatment for Hardness with Gross Alpha, Radium, Uranium and Radon

Discussion in 'Water Softener Forum, Questions and Answers' started by gsmith22, May 2, 2019.

  1. gsmith22

    gsmith22 Active Member

    Joined:
    May 2, 2019
    Location:
    Central NJ
    Hoping the folks on here can guide me and/or critique my path forward to treating the water at my home. Title above gives some of the major issues.

    Background: I purchased a home in central NJ in May 2018; moved in Aug 2018. We are a family of four - two adults and two kids. Home was built in 1991 and has well water with septic system. It is my understanding that the well was bored early on in the construction and possibly up to several years prior. NJ has online records about well drilling and I have searched but come up empty thus far for my well. I know from paperwork provided with the sale that the well has a submersible 5gpm, 3/4hp pump - so relatively low flow although flow rate hasn't been an issue for us. As part of the sale, NJ requires the seller to have a well test performed for a variety of contaminants all of which came back as either not found or well below MCL set by state and/or federal guidelines. Plumbing runs from well head to big pressure tank in basement to 2.5x10 cartridge sediment filter to a Water Boss 700 softener that then feeds the house plumbing. I have found and am in the process of fixing a variety of plumbing issues (leaky valves, clogged/frozen valves, DIY/handyman rigs to various plumbing fixtures, etc.) that all lead me to believe the house originally didn't have a softener with the first one being added initially about 12 years ago. I say that because I found paperwork from the first Water Boss 700 install from 2010 and then another Water Boss 700 install in 2017. At the time of sale, prior owner was using Morton Rust Defense salt leading me to believe that possibly an iron concern was present. My own water testing indicates the early failure of the softener may be due to radium (see below).

    Current: While looking over the prior well testing paperwork recently, I realized they had done the testing from an internal tap - after the softener. This isn't how the test was supposed to be done by law but not alot I can do about that now. Looking to make sure everything was on the up and up, and knowing that some things weren't required to be tested as part of the sale, decided to have a comprehensive test done on the water. Results:

    Coliform: absent
    Iron: 0.065 mg/L
    manganese: 0.007 mg/L
    arsenic: 0.0026 mg/L
    nitrate: 0.424 mg/L as N
    Total Hardness 281 mg/L at CaCO3
    Gross Alpha 31.3 pCi/L
    Gross Alpha Final 40.9 pCi/L
    Radon 1626.4 pCi/L
    Organics/Pesticides/VOC: none detected

    Test didn't include pH but I can supplement later - pH from sale testing a year ago was 6.67. Not surprised about the hardness being high (MCL of 250) but was taken aback by the Gross Alpha (MCL of 15). Our county doesn't require that testing (nor the Radon) for a house sale so this was new data. My own reading indicates a few states in the northeast (not NJ) have Radon limits of 2000 or 4000 pCi/L. So we are just under the lowest limit but higher than I would like considering all sources of radiation.

    Following that testing, I had Uranium specifically tested and it came back as 12.6 pCi/L (or 0.0188 mg/L) with an Adjusted Gross Alpha of 29.1 pCi/L. So the Uranium just squeaks under the MCL of 0.02 mg/L and the Gross Alpha is still too high (MCL of 15). Again from reading, this basically means that Radium is making up the remainder of the gross alpha. I could test for Radium, but even if it happens to be below the MCL of 5 pCi/L, the gross alpha is still too high - guessing approximately half is coming from Radium and half from Uranium. So that leaves me with having to deal with hardness, radium, uranium, and a radon amount that is higher than I would like. I would really like to take care of all of these with a POE system and not have to worry about what I can drink from and what remains around the house from washing, dishes, etc. especially considering the multiple sources of alpha particles.

    From research, Ion exchange looks more feasible/promising than RO for a POE system especially considering I am on low flowing well and septic. Being in solution, none of these things would seem to me to be filterable. Radium seems to get removed from typical cation softener (water softener) since it is positively changed like Ca and Mg, but uranium gets removed with anion media since it is negatively charged. Radon at my levels can be removed with activated carbon (or alternatively aeration). I have read that anion exchange has to be fed with softened water so I am guessing the order is pressure tank to cation (water) softener (for Radium, Iron at my low level, Ca, and Mg) to anion exchange (for Uranium and probably whatever arsenic and nitrates are present) to activated carbon (for radon and general taste) to house. I fully intend to use ion exchange media that is of the NaCl form but I have read that anion exchange can lower pH (or is that for the HCL form only?). Does this mean I need to run the water through calcite media following the anion exchange to raise the pH (adding hardness even though I already removed hardness)? Does this setup seem feasible or is there some better way to accomplish removal of these contaminants?

    I am attempting to educate myself before moving forward. I don't have a problem with DIY but this seems a little more intricate than a typical water softener setup. I'm also concerned about my general impression of the water treatment business as a bunch of snake oil sales so if I do contract with someone, I would like to know what does/doesn't work before hand. I appreciate any help/guidance you can provide. If I go the DIY route, sizing the various media is a mystery to me. I have found various guidance on cation/water softener sizing but nothing specific to account for Radium along with calcium, magnesium, and low level iron.
     
  2. gsmith22

    gsmith22 Active Member

    Joined:
    May 2, 2019
    Location:
    Central NJ
    little surprised at the crickets. can anyone recommend a water treatment professional in the central NJ area that may have expertise to help? I came across Radata in Flanders. anyone have any experience with them?
     
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  4. Bannerman

    Bannerman Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2014
    Location:
    Ontario, Canada
    There are various forum members that may be better qualified to advise on your situation. Ditttohead is one such member, but he has been travelling these last few weeks for business and so may reply once he has opportunity.
     
  5. Reach4

    Reach4 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2013
    Location:
    IL
    No, but that seems like a long way from central NJ. They do specialize in radon testing and remediation, it seems. I don't get a positive vibe. I am not a pro. The geographic center of NJ, surprisingly, is located in Mercer County, 5 miles SE of Trenton. Freehold would seem central in a different sense.

    I think a backwashing GAC (granulated activated carbon) may help that radon and byproducts. I suggest you some searching on that. It may be that a catalytic carbon would do better. I don't know. Testing water for radon is not common.
     
  6. gsmith22

    gsmith22 Active Member

    Joined:
    May 2, 2019
    Location:
    Central NJ
    Thank you Bannerman and Reach4 for replying. I'll give the thread some time. As far as the radon goes, I'm actually least concerned about that. The radium, uranium, and their associated alpha radiation is most concerning. I just figured that it would be in my best interest to reduce all these sources of radiation while I'm at it. I think I am on the right track with the cation and anion exchange but I have found little guidance on the practical implementation of these multiple treatments for one system and I'm worried the complexity of these (with possibly the ph correction and carbon treatment too) may cause an unintended outcome I haven't thought of.
     
  7. ditttohead

    ditttohead Water systems designer, R&D

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2012
    Occupation:
    Water systems designer, R&D, Technical Director
    Location:
    Ontario California
    Your research is fair.

    While no definitive answers can be given as to your slightly complex water issue, you have come up with some possible solutions and the likely problems that can occur.

    If we go strictly by the book, anion resin should be fed with softened water when levels are above 5 GPG, but in many conditions we have seen acceptable life expectancy from levels as high as 15 GPG. Of course, follow the resin manufacturers recommendations (Insert disclaimer her)

    Anion resin designed for Uranium can negatively affect the pH and sometimes this can impart a bad taste to the water, or at least a different taste. Raising the pH may be a good idea prior to treatment but ow many tanks do you want to deal with? It is easy to fix most water problems but the cost and complexity can get out of control. Sometimes this is simply unavoidable.

    You can also do a staged system design. Simply buy a few items to start and then add more as you fine tune the water quality. This can add considerable time and effort compared to simply doing it all at once.

    My suggestion,

    Either a whole house Ro with a polyphosphate chemical injection system assuming you have pex or CPVC plumbing, if you have copper plumbing you may want to dose the polyphosphate at about 10 PPM rather than 5 ppm.

    Or Option # 2,
    backwashgin calcite tank
    Softener
    Uranium reduction anion system https://view.publitas.com/impact-water-products/2018-catalog-final/page/46-47
    Carbon backwashing tank.

    This should get your water to a decent level but if pH continues to be a problem then the addition of a polyphosphate filter or injection may be desirable.
    These are jus two ways of doing this system. There are many other variants but these tend to be the most popular and effective.

    And... sorry for taking so long to respond, I have been travelling for the past couple of weeks.
     
  8. gsmith22

    gsmith22 Active Member

    Joined:
    May 2, 2019
    Location:
    Central NJ
    first off, please don't apologize for taking longer than I anticipated for replying - beggers can't be choosers and all that.

    I had initially ruled out an RO system because of the low flow well and septic system (and scared of cost/maintenance). pumping (at least) twice as much water than can be consumed and sending the extra out into our 28 year old septic system (although it seems well functioning) didn't seem like a robust plan. Plus, i think I would already need a softener to feed the RO so I am part of the way there with option 2. So that led me to the ion exchange...

    for ion exchange, i was concerned about low pH after the anion system, and figured I would need the calcite tank after the anion. But your order has it before the anion system. Are you saying my pH without treatment (~6.67) is too low regardless? I do have light blue-green staining on one of my fiberglass shower stalls currently suggesting my copper piping is being eaten/feedwater pH is too low. Do I have both the order and purpose correct:

    1. Calcite tank to get pH of feedwater correct first
    2. Softener to remove radium+hardness (a portion of which I just added ironically)
    3. Anion system fed by neutral pH and softened water to remove uranium
    4. carbon tank to remove low level of radon and correct any taste issue from the anion system.

    With this in place, then evaluate if the pH is too low after the anion system and if so, fix with polyphosphate (stage 3a)? What is the reasoning behind the polyphosphate vs another calcite tank. don't want to make the water hard again?

    My gut says to do this all at once rather than piecemeal although I could see leaving out 3a polyshpospate initially just to see what happens with the anion system.

    Does impact water sell direct or have local distributors? If not, is there anyone locally that distributes?
     
  9. ditttohead

    ditttohead Water systems designer, R&D

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2012
    Occupation:
    Water systems designer, R&D, Technical Director
    Location:
    Ontario California
    The calcite is used to raise the pH prior to treatment since we really don't want to add a bunch of hardness back into our clean water.

    The polyphosphate adds a protective layer to the plumbing and is a poor mans pH control. It doent really control pH, it simply reduces erosion of the copper plumbing that is caused by pH.

    Polyphosphate injection is much cheaper than other injection chemicals and easier to work with sine it does not tend to precipitate out in the chemical tank thus requiring a mixing system. It usually works... 90+% of the time. Copper testing should continue for several months after the equipment is installed.
     
  10. gsmith22

    gsmith22 Active Member

    Joined:
    May 2, 2019
    Location:
    Central NJ
    okay, thank you for that. One last question, if the pH out of the anion system is below 6.5 (EPA SMCL) and the polyphosphate doesn't correct pH, is my only option another calcite tank to fix the pH (which will add some hardness back)? Does it matter if the polyphosphate is stage 3a or 4a (per my numbering in post 6 above)?
     
  11. Reach4

    Reach4 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2013
    Location:
    IL
    Polyphosphate does not actually reduce the pH, but it does protect the copper plumbing. If you can have plastic pipe and fixtures, then the lower pH does not hurt the plumbing.
     
  12. gsmith22

    gsmith22 Active Member

    Joined:
    May 2, 2019
    Location:
    Central NJ
    understood, which is why I was asking how to fix the pH if it is too low after the anion system knowing that polyphosphate won't do that (although it would have other benefits like protecting the copper piping). All my installed piping is copper and I don't intend to rip it out. It was my impression that drinking low pH water (below 6.5) has a health concern since the EPA includes a secondary limit for it.
     
  13. Reach4

    Reach4 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2013
    Location:
    IL
    https://www.epa.gov/dwstandardsregu...uidance-nuisance-chemicals#what-are-secondary says
    In addition, EPA has established National Secondary Drinking Water Regulations (NSDWRs) that set non-mandatory water quality standards for 15 contaminants. EPA does not enforce these "secondary maximum contaminant levels" (SMCLs). They are established as guidelines to assist public water systems in managing their drinking water for aesthetic considerations, such as taste, color, and odor. These contaminants are not considered to present a risk to human health at the SMCL.​
    Iron has a secondary MCL of 0.3 ppm... Water with 3.0 ppm iron is not harmful to drink, but it has taste and fixture-staining problems. I know that many promote alkaline water for drinking. So I am not making a health claim... just pointing out what I think the SMCLs are intended for.
     
  14. gsmith22

    gsmith22 Active Member

    Joined:
    May 2, 2019
    Location:
    Central NJ
    okay fair enough - SMCLs promote taste, color, odor, etc. It may burn on the way down but it won't have a lasting health effect :)
     
  15. Reach4

    Reach4 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2013
    Location:
    IL
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