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Thread: Iron staining, Sulfur smell, water options

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    DIY Junior Member astraelraen's Avatar
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    Default Iron staining, Sulfur smell, water options

    I posted this on another forum, but I decided to pose the question here too as I have read a few good articles from here.

    We have well water and had the Kinetico guy come out today to chat with us about our water. Culligan is coming out Wednesday to give us a proposal.

    Here are the stats given by Kinetico.
    5.5 gpg hardness
    141 TDS
    .5 ppm iron
    6.9 PH
    Sulfur is 1-2ppm (this was a guestimate based on smell, I don't believe he tested for sulfur?)
    We have a sulfur smell in the hot and cold water, but it is much worse in the hot water.
    There is no slime or buildup in the toilet reservoir, so he doesn't think there is a sulfur or iron bacteria problem.

    He suggested a 2030S with K5 RO system at the sink + 20" carbon filter to try to remove the sulfur odor. This was a little over 4k installed with labor/tax.

    We really don't care for softened water. We get iron staining over time and the sulfur smell has to go. Those are the two objectives we are looking for. I have traditionally chlorinated the well every 6 months or so and the smell is drastically reduced for a certain amount of time afterwards.

    Is there a better or cheaper solution to mainly removing the iron and sulfur?

    Are there sulfur and/or iron filters that do not soften the water and actually work?

    It seems to me that if you start softening your water you have to add RO, etc on top of it to get back to drinkable water. The K5's price was fairly ridiculous in my opinion.

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    DIYer, not in the trades LLigetfa's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by astraelraen View Post
    It seems to me that if you start softening your water you have to add RO, etc on top of it to get back to drinkable water. The K5's price was fairly ridiculous in my opinion.
    There is no truth to that myth.

    Iron filters don't soften water.

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    DIY Member bcpumpguy's Avatar
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    you need to find out what is actually making the water smell that way, could be manganese, h2s, sulfur. But if you don't want to soften the water a catalytic carbon might do well for you.

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    That's all folks! Gary Slusser's Avatar
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    Great choice in not going with Kinetico.

    A softener when needed costs less and prevents premature replacement of fixtures, water heaters and other water using appliances and clothes washed in hard water.

    Not all iron filters can remove H2S/sulfur, nor can all H2S filter type equipment remove iron.

    Shocking a well can create carcinogens.... eat metal well casing, ruin pumps and electrical cable... or cause hard to treat water quality problems.

    If shocking got rid of the odor, then that means the odor is caused by bacteria and.or naturally occurring H2S gas in the well water

    When you shock a well you must sanitize/disinfect the plumbing and fixtures in the house.

    You don't want to use carbon if there is any type of bacteria in the water.

    Manganese does not cause odor problems.

    Softening water adds 7.85 mg per liter (roughly a quart) of sodium per grain per gallon of compensated hardness removed.

    Without doing the math, in your case that probably would be less than the sodium in a slice of white bread. And much less than an 8 oz glass of milk, etc. etc..
    Last edited by Gary Slusser; 08-07-2012 at 10:01 AM.
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    DIY Junior Member Bobby Jordan's Avatar
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    It sounds like I need to have the water tested for iron and sulfur bacteria then to know for sure if there is a bacteriological problem?

    Another reason we are hesitant to go with a softener is that we have an "advanced" septic system that requires annual monitoring by the state. The company that installed our septic said that the manufacturer does not recommend water softeners. They stated that per the manufacturer it could eventually mess up the specific gravity of the water in the septic over time and cause problems. They also mentioned that excessive backwashing could cause problems with water flow in the septic unit (although I guess this could be an issue with any water filtration device.) The company did not say specifically that adding a softener would cause problems, but if our annual testing comes back out of specifications we would have to potentially remove any water filtration devices we have setup and/or switch to other solutions.

    I'm not completely against a water softener, but we aren't willing to buy a water softener if:
    a) it's not really going to fix the problem and
    b) we will still have to buy expensive RO systems, etc to make the water actually taste good again. The only experience we really have with softened water are most hotel systems and I'm not sure there is a single hotel I can remember thinking that the water tasted anywhere near good.

    What about MangOx, Terminox, Pyrolox, Filox type filters? They all seem like they are generally the same type of filter to an uneducated person like myself? From internet research these types of filters seem like they are the holy grail of iron/manganese/sulfur problems.

    Ideally, just going on my uneducated internet research, I think I would like a 10/20" sediment type filter, then a single unit to filter iron/whatever, then a carbon filter if necessary for smells?

    I admit, I'm probably looking for "too simple" of a solution to multiple water problems and I'm certainly open to being educated
    Last edited by Bobby Jordan; 08-07-2012 at 10:36 AM.

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    That's all folks! Gary Slusser's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bobby Jordan View Post
    It sounds like I need to have the water tested for iron and sulfur bacteria then to know for sure if there is a bacteriological problem?
    IRB creates a clear to black snotty slippery slime in toilets tanks from the water line down. that's unless you use some type toilet tank cleaner.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bobby Jordan View Post
    Another reason we are hesitant to go with a softener is that we have an "advanced" septic system that requires annual monitoring by the state. The company that installed our septic said that the manufacturer does not recommend water softeners. They stated that per the manufacturer it could eventually mess up the specific gravity of the water in the septic over time and cause problems. They also mentioned that excessive backwashing could cause problems with water flow in the septic unit (although I guess this could be an issue with any water filtration device.) The company did not say specifically that adding a softener would cause problems, but if our annual testing comes back out of specifications we would have to potentially remove any water filtration devices we have setup and/or switch to other solutions.
    You need to check with the manufacturer. If you have the type that chlorinates the water and sprays it on the ground, I've heard the manufacturer is afraid of the sprinkler heads clogging up with scale. That's a bit strange when they have no limit on how hard your water can be. hard water causes scale build up and especially where the velocity of the water is increased, like the hole in a sprinkler head. High TDS content does the same.

    As to the volume of water... they don't limit the type of tub, or how many gallons can be drained out of a tub or dish or clothes washers, which is a higher GPM than your softener will have. And that flow from a softener is flow controlled to usually like 1.5 gpm to say 5 gpm, and that would be a fairly large softener. Backwashed or regenerated filters have a higher gpm low rate.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bobby Jordan View Post
    I'm not completely against a water softener, but we aren't willing to buy a water softener if:
    a) it's not really going to fix the problem and
    b) we will still have to buy expensive RO systems, etc to make the water actually taste good again. The only experience we really have with softened water are most hotel systems and I'm not sure there is a single hotel I can remember thinking that the water tasted anywhere near good.
    Softeners don't remove bacteria or H2S. No filter removes hardness. So far you've not shown and need for an RO and removal of hardness, iron and any manganese usually improves the taste of the water. Hotels chlorinate their water, if you have to chlorinate yours, you will also be removing the chlorine.

    BTW, it is what is in water that gives it a good or bad taste and good water, it has no taste. So my suggestion is to get whatever equipment that is needed (you do need a softener) and use the water for a month and then see what you think of the taste and go from there.
    Gary Slusser Retired (= out of business)
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    DIY Junior Member Bobby Jordan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gary Slusser View Post
    IRB creates a clear to black snotty slippery slime in toilets tanks from the water line down. that's unless you use some type toilet tank cleaner.
    We have no "slime" or clumping in the toilet tank and do not have any chlorination or toilet tank cleaner that we use regularly in the toilet tank. The Kinetico rep did mention that the toilet tank water appeared to have an "oily" sheen or film to the top of the water that was broken and repelled if you touched the water, it does not have any noticeable odors. He indicated this could be some sort of a bacteriological problem, but he did not seem to provide a solution that would solve bacteria.

    Quote Originally Posted by Gary Slusser View Post
    You need to check with the manufacturer. If you have the type that chlorinates the water and sprays it on the ground, I've heard the manufacturer is afraid of the sprinkler heads clogging up with scale. That's a bit strange when they have no limit on how hard your water can be. hard water causes scale build up and especially where the velocity of the water is increased, like the hole in a sprinkler head. High TDS content does the same.

    As to the volume of water... they don't limit the type of tub, or how many gallons can be drained out of a tub or dish or clothes washers, which is a higher GPM than your softener will have. And that flow from a softener is flow controlled to usually like 1.5 gpm to say 5 gpm, and that would be a fairly large softener. Backwashed or regenerated filters have a higher gpm low rate.
    You are correct, they don't set a specific volume limit, it's more of a "hey, don't use too much" because you could overload the system. I'm not sure exactly how it works but its based on contact time so if you end up overloading the septic it will end up dumping the "untreated" or "not completely treated" stuff out of the tank.

    We will discuss a water softener again and potentially try that without an RO for now.

    I've seen plenty of information on the internet saying a water softener should never be used as an iron filter and vice versa. With .5ppm iron do you see us being able to use a water softener as an iron filter and water softener unit? The Kinetico rep seemed to think it was possible using "iron salt" or whatever he called it.

    Assuming we don't have bacteria problems, could a 20" carbon filter after the softener potentially solve the sulfur smell? Or do we need a dedicated iron/sulfur filter, whether that be chlorination or some other method of filtration.
    Last edited by Bobby Jordan; 08-08-2012 at 10:44 AM.

  8. #8
    DIY Junior Member bill marsh's Avatar
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    You dont need a water softener. Just for informational purposes if you softened water on 5.5 gpg it would add under 50 ml of sodium per quart of water. A cup on milk contains 120 ml og sodium. There are many aeration systems on the market that will solve your iron and sulfur problem. Most ofthese systems require an alkalinity of 100 so have the alkalinity tested by a lab and check the specs. of the equipment. Why should a guess be made at the amount of sulfur? There are simple test kits which most water treatment specialists carry. PS That price is absurd. Plus they did not listen to your concerns.
    Quote Originally Posted by astraelraen View Post
    I posted this on another forum, but I decided to pose the question here too as I have read a few good articles from here.

    We have well water and had the Kinetico guy come out today to chat with us about our water. Culligan is coming out Wednesday to give us a proposal.

    Here are the stats given by Kinetico.
    5.5 gpg hardness
    141 TDS
    .5 ppm iron
    6.9 PH
    Sulfur is 1-2ppm (this was a guestimate based on smell, I don't believe he tested for sulfur?)
    We have a sulfur smell in the hot and cold water, but it is much worse in the hot water.
    There is no slime or buildup in the toilet reservoir, so he doesn't think there is a sulfur or iron bacteria problem.

    He suggested a 2030S with K5 RO system at the sink + 20" carbon filter to try to remove the sulfur odor. This was a little over 4k installed with labor/tax.

    We really don't care for softened water. We get iron staining over time and the sulfur smell has to go. Those are the two objectives we are looking for. I have traditionally chlorinated the well every 6 months or so and the smell is drastically reduced for a certain amount of time afterwards.

    Is there a better or cheaper solution to mainly removing the iron and sulfur?

    Are there sulfur and/or iron filters that do not soften the water and actually work?

    It seems to me that if you start softening your water you have to add RO, etc on top of it to get back to drinkable water. The K5's price was fairly ridiculous in my opinion.

  9. #9
    Aspiring Old Fart, EE, computer & networking geek Mikey's Avatar
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    I'll add my $.02 as a completely unprofessional DIYer who's had lots of water problems similar to yours. All appear to be solved now, but I travelled a bumpy road to get here -- most bumps self-induced.

    Our well (200' deep, 84' of 4" casing, pump inlet at 60', 17' static water level) was drilled 8/24/2000. To me, the well water looked OK, but tasted and smelled bad, so I had a treatment system installed by a local old-timer whose only testing was done by feel, taste, and smell. I'm a recovering engineer, so I do some more scientific testing; over the years, test results have been pretty consistent: Hardness - 8gpg, Iron - 0.9 mg/L, pH - 7.5. A very fancy gas chromatography test run by a co-worker showed manganese sulfides, possibly as a result of bacterial action, and negligible hydrogen sulfides. Periodic Hach tests for H2S, IRB, SRB, SLYM have all been negative. Periodic Health Department tests are all negative.

    My local old-timer is a chlorine fan, so he recommended chlorine injection followed by a carbon filter and a softener. He hooked 'er all up, told me to dump a jug of Clorox in the chlorine tank and refill it when it got to 1/4 full, keep the salt level up in the brine tank, flush the contact tank periodically, and replace the carbon when the water in the house started to taste of chlorine. I've fine-tuned things a bit in that I monitor the residual chlorine and fiddle with the injector setting now and then, but all in all, it's a pretty easy system to maintain. I've learned that if you let the chlorine tank run dry you're in a world of hurt, and if you run out of salt we do see a difference in the shower and laundry; we like soft water. We've never smelled chlorine in the house, so our carbon filter is apparently doing a great job. In the house, the water feels, looks, and tastes great. For some reason, there's still some iron staining in the toilet tanks over the very long term, so I'm adding an iron filter.

    A few words about chlorine: There's an anti-chlorine bias on the part of some water treatment experts, but every time my wife sees a horse take a leak in the field across the street, she LOVES our chlorine system. I find it easy to manage, with one exception: there's a 120-gallon steel contact tank -- big, poorly designed for draining precipitated iron and other sludge, and showing evidence of nascent rust. I wash it out with a pressure-washer once every couple of years, which is a major PITA. One vendor offers a tall skinny Polyglas retention tank with a bottom-drain blowout and a fancy mixing device in it, claiming it's as effective as the big bulky steel tank. Might be worth a try (http://www.terrylove.com/forums/show...od-stuff-or-BS). I noticed that my system was set up in the order: pump->pressure tank->chlorine injector->contact tank, with the injector controlled by the pump switch - a common arrangement. However, this means there could be zero flow past the injector much of the time, when the pump is running but there's no demand in the house. I'm going to rearrange things so the order is: pump->injector-> contact tank->pressure tank to ensure the full flow from the pump is passing the injector. This order is recommended by several on-line vendors and the manufacturer of my pressure tank. For unrelated reasons, I'm going to use a flow switch instead of the pump switch to control the chlorine injector pump.

    A few words about Clorox: Many people have given me flak about not using "special" chlorine. They claim that Clorox has benzene and other impurities in it, loses effectiveness over time, and is "illegal" to use in potable water. However, according to the Water Quality Association, it is approved under NSF/ANSI 60 International Standard for Drinking Water Additives (http://www.wqa.org/goldseal/detail.c...panyID=1031933), which is good enough for me. It's cheap, available everywhere, and if you adjust the concentration so as to require refilling the chlorine tank once a month or so, there's negligible loss of effectiveness over time.

    After a while I noticed a sulfury smell in the hot water. I replaced the 30-year old electric water heater, which was really disgusting inside, but the smell returned after a while. A little Googling told me that a) it's a bacterial thing, b) it's related to the sacrificial anode in the tank, and c) it can be aggravated by using softened water. This led me to periodically adding hydrogen peroxide to the water heater tank, which worked OK, but got old pretty quickly. I moved on to replacing the anode with a special no-stink anode, which also worked. It requires inspection and possibly replacing (they're called "sacrificial" anodes for a reason) every few years, so I will probably replace it with a powered anode (hopefully solar powered) when the time comes. I now use a solar water heater, and the water temperature in the tank is usually over 160 unless we have an extended cloudy period. This should, by itself, kill any bacteria in the tank, so a fancy anode may no longer be needed.

    All backwash effluent goes to a drywell, so there's no impact on the septic system.

    Now, of course, they're threatening to run city water down our street, and state law requires us to hook up if it's available. City water is legal, but tastes awful, so my investment in my current system won't be money wasted.

    Finally, a word about Kinetico. A neighbor a few doors down has one and swears by it. He also swears at his water, which stinks to high heaven and stains his toilets badly. In fairness to Kinetico I think the smell is the same water heater problem I had. I've never tested his pre- and post-treatment water, so can't say if the Kinetico system is softening and removing iron as intended, but for the money he's paying it sure ought to be. All in all, I wouldn't have one.

  10. #10
    That's all folks! Gary Slusser's Avatar
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    Your old galvanized/steel tank is probably adding iron to your water as it rusts inside. I've never seen iron cause a ring in a toilet bowl, it causes an orange/brownish/tan coating the the whole bowl from the water line down.

    Replacing that tank with the mixing/retention tank would cure that.

    If you were dosing the correct strength and volume of chlorine and had the proper retention time, you wouldn't have bacteria using the anode rod in the water heater to create an odor or... iron getting past the carbon filter and through the softener to the toilets. I doubt the softener is allowing that, an iron test on the softened water would show if it is.

    I think you are over thinking this. And you sure don't need an iron filter. BTW, if you wipe the ring off the toilet bowl, that is a lot less expense than buying equipment.

    You don't need to install the injector ahead of the pressure tank and if you do that, and the injector blocks upyou can cause serious problems for a pump and, assuming the pressure switch is on the pressure tank and it is in the house, if a submersible pump, plumbing problems in the well or underground to the house.

    pssssst you could tell the wife that usually urine is bacteria free and that the stuff from the other point of exit of mammals that contains bacteria. And that it being on the ground is highly unlikely to contaminate your well water.

    I have to ask, why is the "pump inlet" at 60' in a 200' well?
    Gary Slusser Retired (= out of business)
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    Aspiring Old Fart, EE, computer & networking geek Mikey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gary Slusser View Post
    I doubt the softener is allowing that, an iron test on the softened water would show if it is.
    Iron test shows 0.0 in the house, but there sure is some there. The drainboard by the sink also shows a reddish tint after a week or so.

    Quote Originally Posted by Gary Slusser View Post
    I think you are over thinking this. And you sure don't need an iron filter. BTW, if you wipe the ring off the toilet bowl, that is a lot less expense than buying equipment.
    I always overthink things. Only now, I don't get paid for it . I've accumulated all the parts for an iron filter, so WTH. And there's no ring on the toilet bowls -- just the redish stain in the tank.


    Quote Originally Posted by Gary Slusser View Post
    You don't need to install the injector ahead of the pressure tank and if you do that, and the injector blocks upyou can cause serious problems for a pump and, assuming the pressure switch is on the pressure tank and it is in the house, if a submersible pump, plumbing problems in the well or underground to the house.
    I overthought that quite a bit. Everything is within 15' of the pump. I think I can rig an overpressure switch in the line to detect blockages, shut things down, and raise an alarm in the security system.

    Quote Originally Posted by Gary Slusser View Post
    I have to ask, why is the "pump inlet" at 60' in a 200' well?
    I guess you'd have to ask the well driller. I certainly didn't know any better back in '00, so I just went with what he did. It's a jet pump, but if/when it dies I'll consider switching to a submersible.

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    In the Trades Tom Sawyer's Avatar
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    Is the jet at the pump or in the well?
    [B]No, plumbing ain't rocket science. Unlike rocket science, plumbing requires a license[B]

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    That's all folks! Gary Slusser's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mikey View Post
    Iron test shows 0.0 in the house, but there sure is some there. The drainboard by the sink also shows a reddish tint after a week or so. And there's no ring on the toilet bowls -- just the redish stain in the tank.
    If it is pink/reddish, it is an airborne bacteria that gets into open water in a house, like pet water dishes etc.., not iron.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mikey View Post
    Everything is within 15' of the pump. I think I can rig an overpressure switch in the line to detect blockages, shut things down, and raise an alarm in the security system.

    I guess you'd have to ask the well driller. I certainly didn't know any better back in '00, so I just went with what he did. It's a jet pump, but if/when it dies I'll consider switching to a submersible.
    If it is a single line (shallow well) jet pump, they can't suck water over about 25'. If it's a two line (deep well) jet pump they have a jet body down in the well and are good for up to 150'+. Those measurements are at sea level. So now you have the 200- 60' = 140' plus whatever distance above the 60', from 60 up to at least 25', that you don't draw water down below that; of stagnant water, in FL.
    Gary Slusser Retired (= out of business)
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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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    DIYer, not in the trades LLigetfa's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mikey View Post
    A few words about chlorine: There's an anti-chlorine bias on the part of some water treatment experts, but every time my wife sees a horse take a leak in the field across the street, she LOVES our chlorine system.
    Unless you have a really shallow well, I doubt that horse piss ends up in your drinking water. Mind you, folks have changed their thinking WRT deep wells since Walkerton. As long as there are hacks and DIY'ers poking holes in the ground, it is always a possibility.

    I don't use chlorine. My untreated water smells from the manganese and iron. It does not smell like rotten eggs. When my water treatment system is working right, after aeration and iron filtering, it smells considerably less. After softening, I can no longer detect the odor. After RO filtering, it is also tasteless.

    When my treatment system is not working right, I detect a distinct smell of iron in the shower, like what you smell when you have a bloody nose. The manganese I only ever smell on the raw water. I don't advocate using just a softener to remove iron.

    I grew up as a country boy and never could tolerate the smell of chlorine with city water. Still can't. I have on a couple of occasions noticed a sulfur smell on two of my fixtures. One was the sprayer in the kitchen sink that very seldom gets used. The other was the cold tap at the lavatory. Both were caused by bacteria that got established in the plastic supply lines. A little bit of chlorine soak of the plastic supply lines solved it and chlorine shocking of the system kept it from ever returning. I set the temperature higher on the HWT so it cannot harbor bacteria.

  15. #15
    DIY Senior Member mialynette2003's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mikey View Post
    I noticed that my system was set up in the order: pump->pressure tank->chlorine injector->contact tank, with the injector controlled by the pump switch - a common arrangement. However, this means there could be zero flow past the injector much of the time, when the pump is running but there's no demand in the house. I'm going to rearrange things so the order is: pump->injector-> contact tank->pressure tank to ensure the full flow from the pump is passing the injector. This order is recommended by several on-line vendors and the manufacturer of my pressure tank. For unrelated reasons, I'm going to use a flow switch instead of the pump switch to control the chlorine injector pump.
    Why have chlorine go through the pressure tank? The chlorine will reduce the life of the P/T. To me, your set up now is good except for the lack of a flow switch. Add it to the outbound side of the retention tank and be done with it.

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