White, Milky Substance in Brine Tank

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WorldPeace

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My System Info
64k-56SXT-10
Brand AFWFilters
Capacity 64k
Resin 10% crosslink
Resin Tank Size 2.0 cubic ft
Brine Tank Size 18"x40" Round Brine Tank with Float and Air Check
Brine Fill Rate (BLFC) .5 GPM
DLFC 3.5 GPM
Injector #2
Service flow 10 GPM
Peak flow 15 GPM
Flow required for backwash 4 GPM
Water Hardness 27 GPG
4-Person Family
Municipal water
Diamond Crystal Pellets
Salt lb/cu ft 7.5

My brine tank recently got contaminated with some disgusting brown stuff in the brine tank similar to others have experienced. I don't know of sure but I'm guessing that I got a bad batch of salt (Diamond Crystal pellets). When I cleaned the controller, I noticed this white, milky substance coming out of the controller.

After cleaning the brine tank and then doing a manual regeneration after adding some bleach to the water, I noticed that the water after the brine draw wasn't clean. There was this white, milky substance that settled at the bottom of the brine tank. There was also this oily, white film on the top of the water. It was disgusting.

I did a 2nd regeneration after pouring Rheems water softener cleaner. The 2nd brine draw had less of this white substance. I am attaching a picture of this stage. (The brown stuff is actually the reflection of my basement beams so it has nothing to do with the water.)

I then performed a final 3rd manual regeration. The water was final clean.

However, this white milky, substance is disconcerting. It's apparently coming from the resin tank. I've scoured the internet and I noticed other experienced the same thing. But I found no answers to its resolution.

Does anyone know what it is?

Is this something I should be worried about?

(I feel disgusting because I cook with this water.)
 

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MaxBlack

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The brine water is of course rinsed-out of the resin after the slow draw, so if the milky stuff is coming from the Diamond Crystal pellets your house water should be OK. I imagine you could put some pellets into a clean bucket with clean water and observe if that's it.

As for cooking and drinking water, if your tap water doesn't appear clean well that's another matter isn't it. I would put in a point-of-use RO system and be done with it myself.
 

WorldPeace

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The brine water is of course rinsed-out of the resin after the slow draw, so if the milky stuff is coming from the Diamond Crystal pellets your house water should be OK. I imagine you could put some pellets into a clean bucket with clean water and observe if that's it.

As for cooking and drinking water, if your tap water doesn't appear clean well that's another matter isn't it. I would put in a point-of-use RO system and be done with it myself.

If it's coming from the Diamond Crystal pellets, what do you think it is?

NaCl dissolves completely into the water but this milky substance settled at the bottom of the brine tank. (There was also an oily, white film on the water surface.)
 

Bannerman

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When was the last time the brine tank was cleaned completely?

Diamond Crystal produce various versions of pellet salt. Some pellets could contain additives to prevent the pellets from becoming easily broken while being handled, whereas the versions for removing iron deposits contain a mild acid. Salt is rarely 100% pure so there will typically be some amount of debris that wont dissolve and so will remain in the tank, which is why cleaning and sanitizing the brine tank every 1-2 years is recommended.

Since you said the debris was brown, I suspect it entered in the incoming water. Perhaps there had been a water main break, thereby allowing mud and silt to enter the water main. Another possibility is ferric iron deposits were flushed off the walls of the pipes, which will often occur when there is higher than usual flow through the mains such as while a fire hydrant(s) is being utilized.


With regard to your current settings, although your 2 ft3 system will have had a total maximum hardness removal capacity of 64,000 grains when new, some capacity will be lost over time due to normal wear and resin bead fracturing. Even if no capacity is lost, 7.5 lbs of salt per ft3 (15 lbs total) is insufficient to regenerate 64K grains of usable capacity. To regenerate 64K grains capacity in 2 ft3 resin requires 40 lbs salt (efficiency: 64,000 / 40 = 1,600 gr/lb).

To reduce salt consumption and wastage through improved efficiency, the usual recommendation will be to program regeneration to occur when 48,000 grains Capacity has been consumed as regeneration will then require only 16 lbs total salt (8 lbs/ft3), substantially increasing hardness reduction efficiency to 3,000 gr/lb.

For a further efficiency increase at the cost of lower soft water quality, the usable Capacity setting may be programed at 42,000 grains, which will require only 12 lbs total salt (6lbs/ft3 = 3,500 gr/lb) each cycle.


FYI: You said - "Flow required for backwash 4 GPM"

The DLFC (drain flow rate) flow restrictor, sets the BW flow rate at 3.5 GPM. Since the usual recommended BW rate for a 12" diameter softener tank is 3.1-3.9 GPM, the current 3.5 GPM DLFC button will be appropriate for your incoming water temperature.
 
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WorldPeace

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When was the last time the brine tank was cleaned completely?

I've only had my water softener for a year. And I didn't ever clean it since it was installed about 11 months ago. I don't know when the brine tank got contaminated since I had my teenage son refill the salt the last few times. (I would tell him to check the salt level and fill it if it was low.) I was lucky to do it the last time and noticed the brown flecks. (It really grosses me out.)

I did what MaxBlack and put a pellet into a cup of water to see if it came from that. Nothing happened although it doesn't necessarily rule it out. I had stored the salt bags in my garage for the last few months. And I'm wondering if somehow the salt bags got contaminated due to the moisture seeping from the cement floor. (I've noticed that some salt bags have tiny holes in them form transporting them.)

I just want to know the cause so I can prevent it from happening again and possibly sanitize the source. For example, if something is wrong with the resin beads, I'm wondering if I should replace them. I would hate to do that since they are 10% cross-linked and I paid a pretty penny for them.

I reached out to my local water dept. I'll see what they say.

With regard to your current settings, although your 2 ft3 system will have had a total maximum hardness removal capacity of 64,000 grains when new, some capacity will be lost over time due to normal wear and resin bead fracturing. Even if no capacity is lost, 7.5 lbs of salt per ft3 (15 lbs total) is insufficient to regenerate 64K grains of usable capacity.

You're right. I end up using a lot more salt. I probably go through at least 1-2 bags a month. I haven't really been counting so I'm not sure.

I have the C setting (capacity) currently set at 42 to save salt.

You said - "Flow required for backwash 4 GPM"

I'll get rid of that. I wrote that down about a year ago when I figured out all the numbers. I don't even remember what they mean now.
 

WorldPeace

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Another possibility is ferric iron deposits were flushed off the walls of the pipes, which will often occur when there is higher than usual flow through the mains such as while a fire hydrant(s) is being utilized.

I just got word back from my town's water department. A nearby firehouse (½ mile away) has been undergoing construction and been using a fire hydrant with their construction equipment.

There is no way to be certain but there is a good chance this might have been the cause rather than the salt. I guess with a sample size of 1, there is simply no way to know for certain.

I'm wondering if I should get a whole-house sediment filter and install it before the water softener. However, the fire hydrant has now been used continuously so I'm guessing the nasty stuff has all been flushed off the walls by now. Sediment filter might be overkill since I use municipal water. On the other hand, I don't want to ever get that nasty stuff. I still gag when thinking about it since I probably drank the water.
 

Bannerman

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if something is wrong with the resin beads, I'm wondering if I should replace them.
Unlike many newer Fleck Control valve models, the 5600 does not refill the brine tank with softened water, so the resin will not be the source of the debris. As the brine tank is filled with untreated hard water, that is why I right away suspected the city water supply.

wondering if I should get a whole-house sediment filter and install it before the water softener.
A filter before the softener is usually not necessary or recommended unless there is a visible debris problem on an ongoing basis.

Although softener resin is not the best filter medium, whatever debris that does periodically enter, will usually become trapped within the resin bed, and will be flushed out to drain during the next subsequent Backwash cycle.

I have the C setting (capacity) currently set at 42 to save salt.
As your OP said "Capacity 64k", I expect you only reprogrammed 42K either yesterday or today. Reducing the Capacity setting alone will not reduce salt consumption, but will instead increase consumption unless the Brine fill setting is also adjusted appropriately.

Salt lb/cu ft 7.5
To clarify, the SXT controller does not utilize a lbs per cubic foot setting, but the appropriate total salt amount will need to be manually calculated to determine the appropriate BF setting.

To regenerate 42K grains capacity will require 12 lbs salt. Each gallon of water entering the brine tank will dissolve 3 lbs salt, so 4 gallons will be needed.

As your softener is equipped with a 0.5 GPM BLFC, the appropriate BF setting should then be 8-minutes.

I had my teenage son refill the salt the last few times.
Instead of needing to so frequently check and add salt, suggest filling the brine tank to the top with salt, and only refill once the top of the remaining salt becomes covered with liquid. With more efficient programming, depending on the raw hardness amount, and the quantity of soft water your family usually consumes, toping up the brine tank might become only a 2X per year procedure.
 
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Bannerman

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As too little salt had been utilized while the capacity setting was 64K, then the resin's total capacity will have been exhausted prior to each regeneration during those 11 months. Although you now plan to top up the resin's capacity when no more than 42K grains capacity has been depleted, the remaining 22,00 grains (64,000 - 42,000) of additional capacity that will not normally be depleted or restored, will now need to be restored. Regenerating all 64K will reduce the amount of hardness that will pass through the resin (hardness leakage), thereby improving soft water quality.

As stated prior, restoring all 64K grains capacity will require a 1X regeneration with 40 lbs salt. Alternately, 2 or more lower salt dose regenerations could be performed back-to-back. Even when less than a total of 40 lbs salt is utilized, the additional depleted capacity that is regenerated, will be beneficial.

While you said you performed 3 Regen cycles, it is not clear if each contained sufficient salt prior. If so, were the 2 subsequent cycles, each performed directly following the initial cycle, with at least 1 hr in-between each to allow sufficient salt to dissolve to obtain full strength brine prior to each regen?

How long ago did that occur?
 
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WorldPeace

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While you said you performed 3 Regen cycles, it is not clear if each contained sufficient salt prior. If so, were the 2 subsequent cycles, each performed directly following the initial cycle, with at least 1 hr in-between each to allow sufficient salt to dissolve to obtain full strength brine prior to each regen?

How long ago did that occur?

I performed the 3 manual regenerations with just clean water. The purpose was to clean out that gross, milky, white substance. It's interesting that you mentioned that during the brine draw, water comes from the water supply, not the resin tank. That milky white substance slowly disappeared after the manual regenerations so I assumed it was coming from the resin tank.

After the 1st regeneration, the white substance completely covered the entire bottom of the brine tank. When I cleaned the Fleck control head by disconnecting the tubing, I noticed the white milky substance coming out of the control head.

After the 2nd regeneration, there was enough white substance to settle around the edges of the tank (as you can see in the previous picture).

After the 3rd regeneration, the white substance was gone.

I guess the white substance was inside the Fleck control valve? I don't think it was inside my home's piping because I would have seen probably noticed the oily film coming out of my faucets. My family was also using a lot of water between each regeneration. Or maybe it really was in my home piping the entire time and it took a lot of water to clean it out? It's all a mystery…

I'll do another manual regeneration with brine water as you suggest. Admittedly, the water doesn't seem as soft as before this fiasco.

These are my Fleck settings. I had my Brine Fill set at 10 minutes but I don't mind setting it lower to 8.
C 42
H 31
RS RC
RC 240
SF 5
DO 28
RT 2:00
BW 7
BD 60
RR 6
BF 10

With more efficient programming, depending on the raw hardness amount, and the quantity of soft water your family usually consumes, toping up the brine tank might become only a 2X per year procedure.

Would it still be possible to refill the brine tank with salt only twice a year even if you're performing a regeneration at least every 28 days? (I don't know how often my water softener automatically regenerates, and I'm assuming that every time a regeneration is performed, a lot of salt is used.) I remember reading that it's necessary to perform a regeneration at least once a month or else the resin beads can get damaged? I forget the reasoning behind this.
 
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