Iron contamination is one of the most frequently occurring problems in well water. High iron content makes drinking water taste funny. Tea, coffee, and other beverages that need water tend to have a metallic taste, while food that is cooked may be discolored and give out a foul odor.
Iron in water is mainly detected by its bright reddish-orange color. However, depending on the type of iron contamination you have, the iron present in the water could as well be undetectable or be in the form tiny flakes that settle down in the bottom of your glass.
Even the tiniest amount of iron in the water could leave unbecoming stains and discoloration on the bathroom floor or the sinks. The iron in the water can lead to rusting of the metal pipes and could potentially lead to future plumbing issues.
Nonetheless, here are a few pointers that will help you with the best way to remove iron from well water and how you could detect the earliest signs of iron contamination.
- Know the signs of iron contamination
- Is iron in your water harmful?
- The different types of iron in well water
- How to remove iron from well water
- The bottom line
Know the signs of iron contamination
Iron is one of the most abundant elements found on the earth’s surface, and it is often seen to seep underground and pollute the fresh water into a corrupted source.
While iron may sometimes remain undetected, there are quite a few clues that could lead to probable iron contamination.
A foul odor and metallic taste
Water with high iron content is bound to taste metallic and might give off a funky smell. Tea, coffee, and any other drink made with this polluted water can potentially turn into an inky black mess.
Food, when prepared with an iron-rich water source, will lose its color and take a blackish undertone. It will also taste off.
Iron Bacteria in water
Bacterial iron in water is determined by the presence of a reddish-yellow slimy substance in the water that may collect in the sinks or the bathtub.
Iron Bacteria flourishes in well water that has a high iron concentration, and it may facilitate the growth of the bacteria, which may cause infections. The yellow slime will clog the sinks and pipes and give off a bad smell.
Dirty streaks on laundry and plumbing units
The smallest traces of iron in the water could leave reddish stains on the clothes. Dishes washed with the same water could also lead to their discoloration. Bathroom floors, sinks, and bathtubs, when exposed to such iron riddled water, can develop similar discoloration.
Is iron in your water harmful?
Iron has been certified by the EPA as a secondary contaminant. Secondary contaminants are contaminants that cause superficial problems like foul smell and discolorations.
Though it is one of the most common problems for well water users, there has been no such proof regarding adverse health issues by iron contamination.
Iron is an important constituent of a balanced diet and helps in red blood cell construction and helps transport oxygen through the blood. But if you are consuming high concentrations of iron, it can cause iron toxicity or hemochromatosis.
Hemochromatosis is a medical condition where the intestines are unable to absorb the required iron content. As a result, one will feel exhausted, disorientated, and weight loss. However, iron toxicity has nothing to do with the consumption of well water contaminated with iron. It is hereditary and completely unrelated to removing iron from well water.
The different types of iron in well water
Applying the right treatment procedure often depends on the type of iron present in the water. It is recommended that you seek out professional help if you are unable to determine the composition of the iron present or the best way to remove iron from well water.
- Ferrous: Water is clear but sustains a reddish-brown color on standing. Ferrous Iron is invisible and is called the ‘ clear-water iron.’ The iron has completely blended with the water, and once subjected to the atmospheric oxygen. It will oxidize and become a reddish-brown precipitate of ferric.
Ferrous iron mainly occurs in deep wells where there is little exposure to the sunlight or oxygen and hence is not oxidized.
- Ferric: Water is a reddish-brown color.Also known as ‘red-water iron.’ The reddish tinge is due to the partial dissolution of iron elements within the water and is the easiest to separate.
- Organic: Organic iron may appear yellowish or brownish. Sometimes it might also be colorless. Organic iron usually is found in shallow wells where the well water has most likely been affected by surface water.
- Bacterial iron: Bacterial iron is nothing but a bright red slime produced by iron bacteria that flourish in iron-rich water by consuming the iron present. Bacterial iron is not particularly harmful, but it can clog your plumbing fittings and create a foul smell.
It is caused due to unsanitary conditions and when your well is not properly looked after. It is quite hard to flush out and may form a breeding ground for other harmful bacteria.
How to remove iron from well water
For ferrous iron, water softeners or iron filters are one way that will help you in removing iron from well water. Water softeners are primarily used to get rid of minerals like sodium, manganese, and calcium that cause hard water through the ion exchange method.
In the ion exchange method, positively charged ions are attracted to the negatively charged resin anions and are then replaced with sodium, calcium, or a manganese ion.
If you have soft water, it is better to use an oxidizing filter to flush out the iron from the water. You would have to frequently wash out the iron from the softener resin because the iron may clog the system and render it useless. The cheapest way to remove iron from well water is to use Manganese greensand as a water softener to filter out ferrous iron.
Ferric iron could be treated in three different ways. An air injection iron filter for well water could be used, or the process of chemical oxidation could be employed by adding chlorine could be carried out to remove the iron particles.
An iron filter is the most common and cheapest way to remove iron from well water. Filters like the manganese greensand are extremely useful in removing iron precipitates. But it will have the tendency to get clogged often and will need periodic cleaning.
A sediment filter could be used to remove the iron precipitates, and it will prevent any kind of particulate matter from polluting your water source. Sediment filters are used to get rid of small amounts of ferric iron that has already precipitated but is not the best way to remove iron from well water if your water has traces of ferrous iron mixed in it too.
Organic iron can be quite the feat to remove. Water softeners and filter systems might not work in this case because the tannins present in the water will tend to hinder oxidation, so it is probably best to first use chemical oxidation and then filter out the residues.
An alternative to this problem is to use reverse osmosis- it is an easy and cheap solution when you are stuck with deciding how to remove iron from well water in the best way possible.
Removing iron bacteria is not easy, and it renders water softeners and iron filters useless. The best way to treat iron bacteria is by using the method of shock chlorination. It involves a shot of chlorine concentrate around 200 ppm into a well to thoroughly disinfect the water as well as the entire well itself.
The shocking treatment will force the bacteria to unbind itself from the iron particles, and then you can filter out the residue with a softener, iron filter, or an air injection filter for well water.
Iron in your water will not cause any fatal health issues, but it is best for you to remove whatever iron content you might have present. It will not only leave you with clean, fresh water but also, there will be no damage to your everyday household.
Iron in the bathwater can lead to the discoloration of your hair, skin, or teeth. Iron leads to hair fall and causes your hair to become rough and lifeless. Concentrated iron with prolonged can trigger skin problems like acne and rashes.
The iron will most likely clog your pipes leading to an even water pressure, which will then lead to damaged plumbing units. So timely removal and treatment of your well water are essential and most important in order to maintain a healthy household.