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Thread: Orange County mud

  1. #1
    DIY Junior Member beach004's Avatar
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    Question Orange County mud

    I have posted this problem, partially, on another Forum; but this group seems to be even more expert, so now I'd like to try again, since I have not gotten to the bottom of my well problems.

    The title is a weak pun; I live in Orange County NC, and my problem is orange "mud". I've got a good well, 125 feet, 85 feet of water in it, delivers 25 gpm; had the water analyzed several times, there's about nothing in it--very soft, pH ~6.5, 0.1 ppm iron at first, maybe 0.3ppm recently. Had a new pump put in five years ago, soon after I moved into this now-18-year old house.

    But about six months ago, I started getting discoloration in the water--very noticeable. Before that, there had been no trace of it. I hired a plumber who installed a Big Blue 10 inch filter. With a 30 micron filter, that helped a lot, but not enough; subsequently I went to a 1 micron pleated cellulose filter. Again, a big reduction; but the water, sometimes, is still hazy, and if allowed to stand will deposit a "scum" on the bottom of a glass. When I change filters, the housing contains a lot of orange "mud." So I installed a 0.5 micron String Wound PolyPropylene Filter; still the same problem. Interestingly, the hot water is not hazy at all.

    So I called out the company that installed the pump. The specialist looked at my used, orange, filter, took a running water sample directly from the pump head (1 ppm iron, he said), and told me I had lots of bacteria living down in my well (my analysis had said "no iron bacteria", but unfortunately the county took the sample on water downstream from my 30 micron filter. Also, I don't see any slime inside the house fittings at all; there's a red coating inside my toilet tanks, but it's not slimy, and it dissolves entirely in dilute HCl, as also does the material my filters are collecting; so I think it's rust. I used to be a chemist...) and prescribed a metering apparatus to sit atop the pump and inject a dissolved pellet of chlorine/bromine every morning at 2 AM, to kill the bacteria. He is so sure that this will do the job that he guarantees it--my money back. But that's the rub--it's a LOT of money; not sure I'm supposed to mention prices here; let's just say I bought a car in 1970 for less! Reading on your Forum this afternoon, I think I found it--the HaloVac system. Your contributors don't seem to be big fans of it.

    Before I spent that much, I decided to try shock chlorination; I don't think this was done when the new pump was installed five years ago. I've got about 125 gallons of water in the well I calculated, so I threw in three quarts of Clorox, and recirculated the water in the well for about 90 minutes; then I let it sit overnight, and let it run out into the woods the next morning. (At no point did I run the water through my house, since I don't think there's any iron bacteria in there--all I'm trying to do is remove the yellow color and the turbidity.) The water coming out was bright orange, then shaded over to very turbid yellow, then after about two hours and over 1000 gallons ( pump was putting out 12 gpm), it was nearly clear, and didn't smell of chlorine, so I turned it back into the house.

    The faint turbidity, but not the color, remains, a week later; the filter is still collecting orange material, but less of it by far than before. I got some iron strips, that show essentially no iron in the filtered water; but I also got a chlorine kit, and there was 1.5ppm chlorine in the house water until Friday! Now it's gone entirely, and I still don't see any iron by my home testing; that to my mind suggests that in fact there was iron bacteria in the water, and that once I got rid of them, the remaining iron is all the insoluble ferric form, rather than the ferrous (clear water iron) that iron bacteria make in their life cycle.

    Well! This is a terribly long first post, but I wanted to get all the facts I'm aware of out there; at this point, for the moment, my problem is that turbidity; if I could find some other filter that would go in my Big Blue casing that would remove the haze, I'd be content; then maybe I could shock the well annually or some such. Opinions differ as to how strong, how long, the treatment needs to be; I figure I had 200ppm in there for 12 hours. So! Suggestions? Please?!?!!
    Beach004

  2. #2
    Porky Cutter,MGWC Porky's Avatar
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    Most driller , pump installers and plumbers aren't water quality people. Have the water tested by a certified testing laboratory. Then take the results to a reputable water conditioning company and have them mak recommendations (in writing).

    To condition bad well water with water conditioning is usually a band-aid for the real problem. If possible it's always best to rectify the situation at the source. . . the well! If it's iron in the water it's usually treatable. . . if it's actually mud (clay) in the water, it could be a leak at the casing seal. A qualified driller with a downhole camera may be able to determine a leak at the casing seal. This is assuming you have a rock well and not a sand well. Since you are in centeral North Carolina I am assuming it's a rock well.
    Porky Cutter, MGWC
    (Master Ground Water Consultant)

  3. #3
    DIY Junior Member beach004's Avatar
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    Default Water analysis

    Thanks, Porky;
    I had the water analyzed in 2005, and again in January of this year, by the Health Dept. of NC. The analyses were almost identical: hardness = 23mg/L, alkalinity = 35mg/L, no bacteria; iron = <0.1ppm in 2011; pH 6.0. But this was on a sample that had been through a 30 micron filter; when the water specialist tested the water straight from the well, he said it was 1PPM iron. Since I shock chlorinated, I haven't been able with my test strips to get more than the merest trace of iron, and may be imagining that trace; I'm sending another sample later this week to get a more professional test.

    I do have a rock well, never had any turbidity or "mud" till last fall. I don't think what my filter is collecting is clay, because of the way it dissolves in HCl; makes me strongly lean toward ferric oxide, AKA rust. That argues for installing a chlorinator on the well itself, which would do two things: kill any iron bacteria that might be there, and precipitate any "clear water (ferrous) iron as ferric oxide. But reading on this Forum I find disquieting comments that chlorine will eat my casing and pump, over time. Plus, right now I'm still getting that turbidity, slight though it is--my wife won't let the granddaughter drink it...

    For now: tha- tha- that's all folks.
    Beach004

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    DIY Junior Member beach004's Avatar
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    Follow up. It's now been 2 1/2 weeks since I chlorinated, and as of yesterday, I really can't distinguish my tap water from bottled water. That would argue for the problem being iron bacteria; if it had just been ferrous iron in the well water, and my chlorination had oxidized it to ferric, it would have returned in at most a few days to its previous condition. So I guess just count my blessings, and hope it's a long time before the bacteria return, and I get back the turbidity. Anybody got a better idea?
    Beach004

  5. #5
    DIY Junior Member beach004's Avatar
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    I knew it was too good to last! My turbidity is back; but with an added mystery: It's only present in the kitchen, cold water tap! I'm using a 1 micron whole house filter (see above), and in the course of six weeks, my flow decreased to the point where I needed to change it; lots of orange "mud," as before, but I can live with that. But: why only one tap??? I can understand why the hot water side isn't turbid--there's a 40 gal. gas-heated tank for the turbidity-causing material to settle out in. But what can explain the kitchen cold tap having this noticeable haze in it, and the other cold water taps in the house, whether far away or (in the case of the utility room sink) only 20 feet or so away, being perfectly clear?

    I haven't been under the house to trace the lines--I'm 68 and the joys of crawling on my belly over the dirt and under the ducts have pretty much left me--but I guess I will, soon; I'm actually wondering if one solution might be to get a plumber to swap the two lines, utility sink and kitchen sink. It would please my wife...but I prefer to understand what's going on. Anyone have a notion?
    Thanks very much,
    Beach004
    Last edited by beach004; 06-30-2011 at 12:50 PM.

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    DIY Member gritres's Avatar
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    if it's only happening in one line then it's probably an issue with that line. maybe a low point in the line where some of the turbidity settled and partially solidified and now is being disturbed.

  7. #7
    General Engineering Contractor ballvalve's Avatar
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    Maybe you can use a water heater on the cold side as a settling tank. It works at the hot side. I have about the same situation in a rental.

  8. #8
    DIY Junior Member beach004's Avatar
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    Both responses are good ideas; a settling tank will be difficult because of the tight quarters in my crawl space, where all this except the hot water heater is located; and my garage doesn't allow room for a tank of any significant size, either. If it's sediment in the kitchen cold water line--and that makes sense, since at some times there's a lot, at other times barely a trace of haze--then worst case I guess that line could be replaced; it's white plastic, put in about three years ago when I got rid of all the copper, so I know it can be done, though not by me. Might have to try that.
    Thanks,
    Beach004

  9. #9
    DIY Member gritres's Avatar
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    it's probably PEX then. that stuff is super easy to work with, it's jsut a question of whether or not it's easy for you to get to. you could do it yourself

  10. #10
    DIY Junior Member beach004's Avatar
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    PEX it is; my acidic water was eating the copper, so I hired a plumber to replace it with PEX. I lack the required crimping tool; maybe I should make the investment and try this. I remember fifty plus years ago, soldering copper connections with my Dad when he added a bathroom on our house...this sure beats that.

  11. #11
    DIY Member gritres's Avatar
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    depending on how many connections you have to do it might be cheaper to use the sharkbite fittings for the pex rather than crimping them all. in my experience they're supremely reliable, just expensive.

  12. #12
    DIY Junior Member beach004's Avatar
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    I had never heard of Sharkbite; but a quick look at the Home Depot website suggests this would be ideal for the piddling project I propose--replacing one longish run of Pex. I'll go home soon and take a look at the situation and see if that can be confirmed. Thanks for the tip!

  13. #13
    DIY Junior Member beach004's Avatar
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    Default Hazy water mystery solved


    Well, that explains it. I finally went under the house and poked around. I had a whole house filter installed back in the fall--except it turns out, it isn't the whole house. As the line came in from the well, before it got to the filter, a branch was run to--you guessed it--just the kitchen sink...So I just need to either hire a plumber or do it myself, and run a line to the sink from downstream of the filter. Now I know!
    Thanks to all,
    Beach004

  14. #14
    General Engineering Contractor ballvalve's Avatar
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    Go to pex supply online and use the SS clamping pex system. you can actually close the clamps with end nippers or tile cutters if you can get the torque right. g-bay has the real ones for 30 bucks or less.

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