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Thread: iron in well water

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    DIY Junior Member mrtmills's Avatar
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    Default iron in well water

    Hi,

    I have a well drilled last year which is behaving strangely and I would be grateful is someone could offer their opinion on what might be happening. My main goal here is to figure whether I need to treat my well or the water coming in to the house - or maybe both.
    The well is 360' deep. After the pump was installed it was shocked and the water was good (tasted fine, clear etc) for about 3 weeks. At that point a little bit of irony taste appeared. As the days went on, the water became more metallic tasting and an irony/swampy smell became more pungent. The water started to get orange after is sat out for a while, so I know it is clear water iron. The water is hard and I suspect manganese in there too as my white dishes have little black stains. Anyway, I shocked it myself after that and got the same development, which always ends with me shocking again because the water quality becomes terrible. I have shocked the well 4 times in total and each time I get about 3 weeks of peace.
    Since this problem has started I have researched iron and well problems a lot. So the last time I shocked it I did a few experiments. Firstly, once the water started to get irony and once the orange iron began precipitating out of the water, I checked to see if the precipitate would settle to the bottom of the container. From about 3 weeks to 5 weeks post shock, the iron indeed settled to the bottom as a very fine dust which could not be shaken back into the water. The water, if decanted off the precipitate, was clear and tasted fine. However, after 5 weeks post shock the water has been getting worse and now the precipitated iron does not settle out, even after a few days. The water also does not taste fine after leaving it for a while like it did.
    All the people I have sought advice from have been very pushy about testing the water to find out what is going on. First off, I have to send my samples to the nearest city and it costs about $50/mineral to get a test done which cannot tell me if it this IRB, colloidal or whatever. Secondly, the iron level is constantly getting worse and until I see some behavioural consistency here I feel it a waste. Also, the people I seek advice from want to put a fancy device in my basement and clearly told me wells are not worth treating, the water is. One guy told me it was colloidal iron for sure, but a little investigation has told me that a) colloidal iron is rare b) colloidal iron is red water when it comes out and c) colloidal iron comes from shallow wells.

    Anyway, I am just trying to educate myself to death here so I can make the right decision. Any advice you offer is greatly appreciated.
    thank you

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    In the Trades Tom Sawyer's Avatar
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    Drilled wells often will change as the water bearing veins open up from pumping. Sometimes the water gets better and sometimes it gets worse. Lucky you. Like it or not you are going to have to get a water test done before you can make an intelligent decision as to how to treat the condition. Shocking the well repeatedly is never a good idea because the chlorine is not good for the pump and if you have a steel cased well will cause problems with that also. So.......have your water tested and get back to us.
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    Water systems designer, R&D ditttohead's Avatar
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    Totally concur, part of owning a well is regular extensive testing. I get well reports dozens of times a week for analysis and water treatment recommendations. If a dealer calls me and starts "describing the water" I stop them, and ask them to send me the water test. If they are unable to provide that, i will not help. This is for liability reasons and the fact that describing water as "swampy" is completely open to interpretation.

    If you own a well, get your water tested at least once a year. It is for you safety. We have some wells around here that have gone from great water 1 year, to high levels of uranium the next. Arsenic not detected, to 80 PPB, 8X the limit.

    Post your findings and a few very knowledgable guys on this sight will stear you in the right direction.

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    DIY Junior Member mrtmills's Avatar
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    Thanks for the replies, I will get the tests done, I am not afraid of that. I just want to make sure I don't end up treating the incoming water only to find that there are well treatment methods too. Can anyone offer suggestions on why my well clears for 3 weeks after a shock? So far nobody has had any ideas.
    thanks

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    That's all folks! Gary Slusser's Avatar
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    You can buy test kits online and do your own tests for less than $50. I suggest hardness, iron, pH, manganese if possible and a Coliert test for Coliform bacteria. You can also buy those test kits at most big box or hardware stores.

    The depth of the well has little to nothing to do with colloidal iron.

    Repeated shocking is a bad idea and cause the situation to get worse.

    The best free test for IRB is to look in the toilet tank for a clear to black snotty slime at and below the water line. Flush the toilet and rub the palm of your hand at and below the water line as the water goes down. If slippery slimy, it's IRB. But so far you haven't shown any evidence of IRB and if you have it, it may not be responsible for the odor.
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    Water systems designer, R&D ditttohead's Avatar
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    Do you have any water test results at all you could share? pH, temperature, TDS, hardness, iron, manganese, nitrate, sulfate, conductivity, sodium, Chloride, potassium, arsenic, tannins, etc. Regionally, not every test has to be done, but the local water specialist should have a good idea of what tests need to be done. When the well was drilled, they should have done a thorough water test. This test is no longer valid, but it may offer some insight. You can do your own "basic" testing, but a real laboratory approved test should be done annually. Iron, hardness etc, are not the reason for annual testing, we are looking for trends in your water, and for dangerous contaminants that you cant buy a test kit for at the store. These labs usually have a million dollars worth of test equipment and can do a full battery of tests for you for only a couple hundred bucks. While the iron may be annoying, I would be more concerened about what else is in the water. Municipal water supplies require extensive testing daily, weekly, and monthly. The monthly tests are extremely extensive to ensure a safe water supply. For your own well, the cost would be prohibitive, and the worst that would happen is a few people may get ill, not an entire community. Annual laboratory testing is part of the cost of owning a well. You should keep the results for at least 5 years so trending can be done accurately. Years ago, we would drill a hole, pump the water, and do a couple of tests if the homeowner wanted them. This is unnacceptable today.

    Final note, no reputable company would consider selling or installing equipment on a well without proper testing. If a customer is willing to spend a couple thousand dollars on equipment, they will be willing to spend a couple hundred bucks on a proper water test to ensure that they are buying the right equipment to take care fo the real problem.

    I look forward to seeing your test results.

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    DIY Junior Member mrtmills's Avatar
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    You people sure know what you're talking about. Too bad none of you work around here. When the well was dug, he said they don't do water tests and that I am responsible. Naive I must have been. The tank is not slimy, just red precipitate in there. I would prefer not to have IRB, but a constant behaviour would be nice too, as then I could be sure that my test is accurate for more than a week. I am going to get a full analysis and I will post it here when completed. Thanks again for your caring replies.

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    That's all folks! Gary Slusser's Avatar
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    Very few states require a comprehensive water test on a new well but some do require Coliform bacteria and nitrates tests and some or most of those states require the driller to do it. IMO you really don't want the state involved.

    A red precipitate is (ferric) iron, not IRB. That can form from very little (ferrous/soluble) iron in the water. A water softener or iron filter should prevent that. The iron can come from the well water dissolving iron in the ground adding it to the water (naturally) or from galvanized (drop pipe or nipples or damaged glass lining in a galvanized pressure tank) or black iron pipe rusting. No one should use black iron pipe in a potable water system. And I see galvanized the same way.
    Gary Slusser Retired (= out of business)
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    Water systems designer, R&D ditttohead's Avatar
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    More and more states are requiring water testing for new wells, or any time the property changes ownership. I am not a big government fan but, this is way to dangerous to not be regulated. Just like building codes, the water test requirements are simply part of being a homeowner and it is genuinely for the health and safety of the homeowner and the occupants. I have heard every story as to why people do not test their well, it is almost always starts with "I have been drinking water from this well for 20 years..."

    Seriously, would you drink water from an unknown source? Breathing in the atomized water particles into your lung tissue during a shower is no different, actually, it is probably more dangerous.

    Twenty to thirty years ago the water treatment indusrty did not take a lot of these issues seriously, most companies were too busy trying to sell equipment at huge margins, running the salt at the highest levels so we could increwase our salt sales, and in general, we had very poor business practices with little regard for safety or the environment.

    Because of this, we have become one of the most regulated industries in the past 5 years. New low lead standards in all potable water contact products that has nearly eliminated brass form the majority of our components, or has nearly doubled the cost of machining, tooling etc... to meet these standards. Salt discharge bans in most commercial applications, and now it is hitting the residential market as well.

    My point is simple, we need to self regulate. I would not drill a hole in the ground without the customer understanding that the water will be properly and thoroughly tested. I would not offer water treatment to a well system without a recent water test report, within at least the last 6 months. As long these industries ignore the obvious, we can expect government to continue to do it for us.

  10. #10
    That's all folks! Gary Slusser's Avatar
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    Yeah most water treatment dealers and their sales people are as bad as used car salesmen or ambulance chasing lawyers; it's all about the money but...

    I have lived on well water for a number of years and I have over 25 years in water treatment. The vast majority of my sales were on well water. I'm from PA and historically, until the 2000 census PA had the most wells in the country and then only TX surpassed PA.

    You sound like a city water guy (and you're in California, the land of regulations for everything!). I lived on city water too, and IMO it may be "safe" but it is terrible. And if you want to talk about polluting the environment, look into the problem with billions of drinking water bottles.

    IMO losing our freedom by getting the government into private well water quality should be seriously resisted. Especially after all we have learned about the misdeeds of industry previous to a few decades ago. And using scare tactics "this is way too dangerous"... to get people to give up their privacy and property ownership freedoms is flat wrong.

    The facts are that for most of rural America where wells are the norm, health related groundwater contamination caused by industry is a very rare thing. And I would have to see the frequency and seriousness of present private well water contamination before I'd go along with any new testing laws.

    BTW, the Lead and Copper rules for potable water are 20+ years old now.

    Rather than the government requiring the testing (such as NJ did years ago and the nightmare that caused), I would suggest the drillers be required to educate their private well customers about the possibility of contamination and mention comprehensive testing and get a signature to prove the customer was told.

    If we were really into "safety" and wanting to improve the quality of life for most of us, the government would prevent all the death and costly injuries caused by speeding in passenger vehicles by requiring the auto industry to put non adjustable speed limiters on vehicle engines and set them at like 40 mph; and also require everyone in a passenger vehicle to wear an approved helmet or at the very least, a 4 point safety harness and Hans (sp?) device. psssttt all this paragraph is a joke
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  11. #11
    Water systems designer, R&D ditttohead's Avatar
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    As I said, the first response isalways, " I have been drinking well water for... Regardless. I am not talking about industrial pollution. Natural issues are far more prevalent. Arsenic, common throughout the US is a naturally occuring mineral, fluoride, sulfate, tannins, etc... Some industrial and agricultural issues are common in certain areas of the country.

    The lead and copper rules I am referring to are not 20 years old. The standard of not more than 8% lead for brass components has been drastically changed for California and Vermont. We are required by AB1953 (see NSG 61 annex G for certification qualifications) to “revise the term ‘lead free,’ for purposes of manufacturing, industrial processing, and conveying or dispensing water for human consumption. We can not refer to the lead content of pipes and pipe fittings, plumbing fittings, and fixtures but we must refer to a weighted average of the lead content of the wetted surface area of the pipes, fittings, and fixtures. This may not exceed more than 0.25% by wieght. This went into affect in California on January 1st, 2010. Vermont followed shortly after, and now the US has adopted this standard. Not only does this legislation affect the labelling, it bans the sale of items that are not in compliance. Coatings and lead removal technologies are no longer accepted, the weighted average is based on "pre treatment" numbers. Sleeves are acceptable to eliminate the potential of water contact from the brass surface. BTW I am currently going through NSF certifications for our new faucet line.


    So no, this particular lead legislation has not been around for 20 years.

    My point is simple, and I am going to be real honest here. Anybody who digs a hole in the ground at a cost of $7000 and does not test their water for $200 to see if there water is safe is asking for serious problems. Anybody like Russian Roulette?

    I may live in California, but I only spend a a couple weeks a month here. 2 weeks a month I am travelling, doing training seminars, consulting on water systems, and working with OEM's in China, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Holland, Germany, etc... Every major company I work with has the same rules for wells, no real water test, no sale.

    And your idea about cars, I bet you wear a seat belt. The government also requires us to put our children in proper seats and restraints to protect them, is this government intrusion, or is it reasonable goverment?

    "I remeber the good old days, when we would use the front windsheild as our seatbelt." The times have changed. Water testing 20 years ago would average $2000-$4000 for a battery of tests, and the results were not very accurate. With the advancements in electronic testing the cost has plummeted. I even carry a feild test system with me that uses photometric testing protocols, I can accurately test over 15 parameters in the field for under $20 in reagents. The kit with reagents is under $700.

    Considering the liability, and the available technology, I do not see any acceptable excuse for not testing a well.

  12. #12
    In the Trades Tom Sawyer's Avatar
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    I think we should just get rid of all government regulations and let people do whatever they want on their own property. You want to raise 300 or so hogs in a residential neighborhood.....go for it. You want to start your own metal plating business in the middle of a trailer park....god bless you. We don't need no stinkin permits LOL
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    That's all folks! Gary Slusser's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ditttohead View Post
    As I said, the first response isalways, " I have been drinking well water for... Regardless. I am not talking about industrial pollution. Natural issues are far more prevalent. Arsenic, common throughout the US is a naturally occuring mineral, fluoride, sulfate, tannins, etc... Some industrial and agricultural issues are common in certain areas of the country.
    As I said, show me proof of the current negative health problems in people on private well water and I may change my mind.

    Quote Originally Posted by ditttohead View Post
    The lead and copper rules I am referring to are not 20 years old. The standard of not more than 8% lead for brass components has been drastically changed for California and Vermont. We are required by AB1953 (see NSG 61 annex G for certification qualifications) to “revise the term ‘lead free,’ for purposes of manufacturing, industrial processing, and conveying or dispensing water for human consumption. We can not refer to the lead content of pipes and pipe fittings, plumbing fittings, and fixtures but we must refer to a weighted average of the lead content of the wetted surface area of the pipes, fittings, and fixtures. This may not exceed more than 0.25% by wieght. This went into affect in California on January 1st, 2010. Vermont followed shortly after, and now the US has adopted this standard. Not only does this legislation affect the labelling, it bans the sale of items that are not in compliance. Coatings and lead removal technologies are no longer accepted, the weighted average is based on "pre treatment" numbers. Sleeves are acceptable to eliminate the potential of water contact from the brass surface. BTW I am currently going through NSF certifications for our new faucet line.
    I didn't know that but I still say show me proof of current negative health effects in the popluation on private well water. BTW, the current shape that CA is in and what the governor etc. is doing about it, doesn't bring on any warm'n fuzzy feelings on my part.

    Quote Originally Posted by ditttohead View Post
    My point is simple, and I am going to be real honest here. Anybody who digs a hole in the ground at a cost of $7000 and does not test their water for $200 to see if there water is safe is asking for serious problems. Anybody like Russian Roulette?
    There's more of that scare tactic thing...

    Quote Originally Posted by ditttohead View Post
    I may live in California, but I only spend a a couple weeks a month here. 2 weeks a month I am travelling, doing training seminars, consulting on water systems, and working with OEM's in China, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Holland, Germany, etc... Every major company I work with has the same rules for wells, no real water test, no sale.
    I don't see what your world traveling and/or those other countries have to do with wells in the US.

    Quote Originally Posted by ditttohead View Post
    And your idea about cars, I bet you wear a seat belt. The government also requires us to put our children in proper seats and restraints to protect them, is this government intrusion, or is it reasonable goverment?
    "I'm from the government and here to help you" has us in the condition we are today. And if we don't stop the government intrusion, frankly I think we are going to end up as a third world country. BTW, I installed seat belts before the government required them. I did that based on common sense. I see little common sense in many government actions.

    Quote Originally Posted by ditttohead View Post
    "I remeber the good old days, when we would use the front windsheild as our seatbelt." The times have changed. Water testing 20 years ago would average $2000-$4000 for a battery of tests, and the results were not very accurate. With the advancements in electronic testing the cost has plummeted. I even carry a feild test system with me that uses photometric testing protocols, I can accurately test over 15 parameters in the field for under $20 in reagents. The kit with reagents is under $700.
    ummm.... back in the late 1980s I bought a very comprehensive water test by the case from a certified lab for like $20 each wholesale. They tested for 150-190 parameters; mostly health related. And yes I know of the Hack CO and other handheld electronic testers, they have been around for many years.

    Quote Originally Posted by ditttohead View Post
    Considering the liability, and the available technology, I do not see any acceptable excuse for not testing a well.
    Rather than "excuse", I see it as freedom to make a private/personal decision.
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    CAUTION, as of Nov 12 2013 all YouTube videos showing how to rebuild a Clack valve have an error in them that can cause damage.

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    Water systems designer, R&D ditttohead's Avatar
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    Good to know that none of my points had any validity.

    Your snide remarks about how I am from California so how could I know about water elsewhere...

    FYI, I am not some dumb guy who read some info on the internet about water treatment and decided to voice my opinion. I bring 25 years of extensive knowledge to this board. I have current certifications, licenses, and have worked with equipment througout the world. Comprehensive water testing is not taken lightly anywhere I have been but here. And only in single family applications. Once the water supply is going to go to more than a few houses, most states consider it a small municipal well that does fall under stringent water quality testing. I guess the logic is that the worst that will happen is only a few people will get ill, get cancer, etc. Your knowledge is consdierable and appreciated, but when someone disagrees with you, you go on the attack. Maybe you have been retired too long and have been unable to keep up with current regulations and studies showing long term affects caused by contaminantes in our drinking water. The Arsenic issue is a simple example. Notice the map, it shows the naturally occurring Arsenic in ground water in the US. Arsenic is easy and inexpensive to remove from water, and until recently, it was unable to be tested to levels below 50PPB. Now we can easily test to the 1 ppb range and lower. The MCL was lowered in 2001 to 10 ppb due to the known negative affects that low levels of arsenic can have on the human body and the advances in water testing that made it easy to test below 50 PPB. Prior to then, the negative health affects were known, the testing technology had not been readily available. The MCL will likely be revised shortly to 5 PPB. Modern medias and techniques have made these numbers esily attainable.
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    So the best I can tell, you would go to a house that has a well, and because you didnt get a rash on your tongue when you tasted the water, it is safe for long term consumption? The well a few miles from here has been in use for 20 years, and the homeowners are fine so... The data is in about naturally occuring and man made pollution in the ground water supplies. Why would you risk it?

    I ask again, with todays readily available technologies would you even consider going to a house that has a new well, doing a few basic tests, hardness, iron, tds, pH, and then install some basic equipment and tell the customer their water is now safe for drinking or bathing? Bathing includes showering which atomizes the water molecules and are then breathed into the lungs.

    I will answer the question for myself. Yes, I used to do that, 20 years ago. I would not even consider it today. Have you considered the liability of not doing proper and certified testing?

    Check out the newest World maps of Fluoride and arsenic in ground water if you want to see how prevalent this issue is. The US looks great compared to Africa and parts of Europe.

    Gary, dont take things personally. I have been reading through the posts that have not been deleted, your ideas are for the most part excellent, your knowledge extensive, and you advice is top notch. It is obvious that you have been doing this for a long time. It is also apparent that you have been out of the field for a few years. Like electronics, the water field changes daily. I travel the world in an effort to remain at the top of my field, to continue to grow my knowledge of the industry, and to work with manufacturers on solutions for the future of our business. The new low lead requirements has caused the company I work for to design an entirely new product line based on these laws. They are not just for California, the EU, Canada, and now the entire US has adopted these rules, not to be a nanny state, but because the verdict is in, lead is not good for the human body, even in extremely low levels.

    A side note, I got a test result in last week with the water guys request for equipment.

    The test results showed Bromide and iron along with a host of other trace contaminantes all within acceptable specs. This dealer regularly used ozone as part of the treamtent process and requested a quote on a large O3 system, along with various other pieces of equipment. Bromide and 03... had he not done the proper test, the bromide would not have been detected, and we would have created bromate and/or bromoform, which have extremerly low MCL levels. What would his liability have been?

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    In the Trades Tom Sawyer's Avatar
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    The northeast is notorious for high levels of arsenic. Not testing would be tantamount to criminal negligence
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