Iron, Manganese ....Need a system

SamsaGregorMarch 2, 2013

I recently moved in to a newly constructed home only to find everything staining orange, the toilet water had an oily film and the water had a smell of sulfur. A glass of water would turn colors overnight to a cloudy rust color. I never drank the water. The one time I washed a white t-shirt it was stained yellowish orange.

I had the water tested. The results:

Chloride: 15 mg/l
Iron: 5.5 mg/l
Manganese: .326 mg/l
PH Units: 6.31
Hardness: 1.5 gpg
Turbidity: 25.4
Color 308

The local well drillers ballpark $4500 for a system. I dont know where I am going to find that money. I have sweated pipes before and am contemplating doing this myself. How complicated and what kind of system would I need?

Thank in advance.

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Local well drillers, unless they are unusual, know next to nothing about treating water.

What is the appearance of your water right after it comes out of the tap? Clear, cloudy, color, particulates?

The test you had done indicates turbidity and color - was testing done quickly on-site or was there are time delay? How was sampling done? Who did it? Was it placed in a sealed container?

We need to know alkalinity and TDS as they will affect treatment choices.

You pH is on the low side and may need to be adjusted to make iron removal more effective. Right now your water has little hardness. The easiest way to increase pH would also increase your water's hardness, making it more likely you would want to soften your water.

Call around to your local water treatment folks and get them to go take a look at your water. They should test the water and make a recommendation. Look in your yellow pages under water treatment or softening. If you know people in the are who treat their water, ask them who they use and if they are happy with the service.

The least expensive option may be a DIY install, but that feasible for everyone AND it leaves you with only yourself to blame if things don't work.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2013 at 8:37PM
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When the water comes out of the tap it is sometimes clear and sometimes tinged yellow. There are no particulates.

I took the sample myself. Ran the faucet for 5 minutes and took a sample in 2 containers the testing facility provided. They were both sealed. I took the sample at 1:15 and it was tested by the facility at 5:00.

I don't know the alkalinity. Is this something I can compute? The TDS registers at 072.

I have made a call to a local water treatment guy. Hopefully he gets back to me right away. I will flag down my neighbor and see what her situation is.

Thank you for all your help.

Another bit of info that may or may not matter. The well is 275 feet deep and it is solid bedrock around here. Neighbors are not close and there is nothing industrial for miles.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2013 at 4:31PM
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If water varies between clear and colored, then you have both ferric (particulate, albeit small enough to stay suspended). It may be that the ferric is a temporary problem that will clear up as the well is used more, but we can't count on that. It may also be that the ferric iron is caused by the low pH.

You can't calculate alkalinity with the analysis you have, but if TDS is only 72 (unless that 0 in front is a typo and it's actually 972?) then it can't be terribly high and won't cause problems with iron removal.

1) Softener: A softener with specialty resin is capable of removing dissolved iron, up to 7 ppm (mg/L) but asking a softener to remove iron at those upper limits is really pushing it so I would not recommend this method. In addition, a softener will become fouled with particulate iron, which you have at least sporadically. A softener is not a good option for you.

2) Oxidation/Filtration: An oxidizer such as ozone, air, or chlorine may be used to react with the iron and force it to become particulate iron that can then be removed via filtration. A typical setup would involve the oxidizing unit, a holding tank, then a media filter. This type of system works quite well, but takes some expertise in sizing - you would want a water treatment pro that you trust to help you with this option.

3) Oxidizing filtration media: This type of treatment consists of a sealed tank filled with one of several media. Water passes through and is oxidized and filtered by the media. These are relatively easy to operate and what I would recommend for the average homeowner. There are several different media that can be used:

a) manganese greensand: water runs through for treatment. The media must be regenerated with potassium permanganate. Care must be taken with dealing with potassium permanganate as it readily dies organic material, such as your skin, a purple-brown color. Some people are quite comfortable dealing with the chemical; others are not.

b) Synthetic greensand: This is essentially the same as option (a) but consists of a coating of greensand on a silica sand core so does not require as much backwash flow. Service flow rate is 2 - 5 gpm/sqft. Backwash flow rate is 12 gpm/sqft.

c) birm: This media acts as a catalyst to force oxidation of iron. While it does not need to be regenerated, it does need fairly high dissolved oxygen in the water. If your water does not have adequate dissolved oxygen (and it probably doesn't since it is well water), air injection would be necessary prior to the birm. Additionally, birm requires a minimum pH of 6.8 so yours would need to be remedied prior to iron removal. Service flow rate is 3.5 - 5.0 gpm per sqft. Backwash flow rate is 11 - 20 gpm, depending upon water temperatures and desired bed expansion.

d) pyrolox: an ore that oxidizes then filters the iron out. It does not need regeneration, but needs to be backwashed (to rinse out the iron) at a high rate. pH range is 6.5 - 9.0. Your water is on the lowest edge of the range. This type of filter works very well, but backwash is critical. Service flow rate is 5 gpm/sqft. Backwash is 25-30 gpm/sqft. Backwash daily.

e) Terminox: Similar to Pyrolox, but a proprietary formula . It does not require as much backwash flow rate and is more resistance to a low pH. The particulars are only available from the company that sells it. Backwash daily.

f) Filox: Also similar to Pyrolox. pH range 5.0 - 9.0. Backwash flow 12-15 gpm/sqft. Service flow 6 gpm/sqft. It must be backwashed daily.

How may people in your household? How many bathrooms? Do you have any high-water use fixtures, such as a multi-head shower or a jet tub? What is the maximum water flow you can achieve? This information will be necessary for proper sizing, to ensure you have adequate flow to your home and the ability to backwash media.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2013 at 6:09PM
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I really appreciate your help. All this information is incredibly helpful and giving me a better understanding.

There are 2 people in the household. At this point in construction there is only a 3/4 bath but upon completion there will be a half bath and full bath to the list. Completion could take years, however. There will not be any high water use fixtures.

Water flow is in question. When the well was drilled they said I had 3 gallons per minute. I never gave that number any thought but reading your explanations it seems quite relevant in choosing a medium.
Should I recalculate this after the pressure tank? Their figure was direct from drilling, before the holding tank was installed. Also, what is backwash flow rate?

    Bookmark   March 5, 2013 at 7:58PM
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3 gpm is the amount flow through your well. This is actually quite high. Many wells operate at 1/8 gpm. You also need to know how much "storage" you will have in your well casing. Then you have your pressure tank (bigger is usually better). Your actual flow, unless your have recently used a lot of water, will be higher than 3 gpm.

Backwash: When treatment media is in use, water is flowing down through it, leaving iron behind. Periodically, water flow needs to be reversed and the effluent sent to drain. This is called backwashing and it accomplishes several things. It removes the iron from the media bed. It removes any other debris from the bed. It also lifts and separates the media and allows it to resettle loosely. If not for backwash, the media would eventually become compacted, pressure drop would increase and/or the water would run through channels in the media bed rather than through the bed with good contact. With most iron removal media, the bed needs to be "fluffed" 20-40% in order to keep it operating properly. The flow rate of water necessary to "fluff" the bed sufficiently is determined by the size, size distribution, shape, and density of the particles, as well as water temperature. The denser the material, the higher the flow rate to lift it. The warmer your water, the higher the required flow rate.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2013 at 8:45PM
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The water guy came today and had slightly different readings. The readings he noted on the estimate are 4 gpg, Iron 14.4 ppm, ph 7.1 and Manganese at 0.2.
He says he has a rental softener he can sell me at 40% discount. He tells me it was used in a commercial application for a year. It is a watercare system and he wrote in model number C2F060 with a saltkeeper size of 400# and under the 'salt per regen.' is written 24#/8008.

I cant locate the model number anywhere to reference it and am unfamiliar with the other configurations.

Should I run? why the different readings and what is with these configurations?

    Bookmark   March 6, 2013 at 6:12PM
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If he is suggesting a softener for 14.4 ppm iron, then he is an imbecile. There is not a softener in the world that should be used for that level of iron.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2013 at 6:18PM
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Well, heres the latest. Culligan guy came by. His tests show iron at 4.2, pH at 7.3 and Manganese at .20. He is recommending a Medallist Plus iron filter. Says I shouldnt have to change the medium but every few years.

I also submitted the original lab tests to an online company who recommends a Calcite system and a Greensand system.

Culligan did not recommend a Calcite system I suspect because their pH tests came in considerably higher than the lab tests. This got me thinking, can the lab tests be inaccurate on the pH reading? Both people that actually came to my house had considerably higher readings than the lab. The first guy tested 7.1 and the second tested 7.3 compared to the labs 6.31. So I went and got the pool tester and ordered a cheap digital tester online. The pool testers (2 of them) are the kind where you put the drops in a measured amount of water and compare to the chart. They appear to come in closer to the 7 range than the 6 (attached photo). The digital tester came in at 7.0 after calibrating per instructions.

So now Im stuck with a dilemma. Do I go with the Culligan guy and hope his pH readings are accurate and I do not need the Calcite system. Or do I order the Calcite and Greensand system online and have someone local (or do it myself) install the system. The least expensive is the online but this comes without someone to blame as noted above.

The well drillers option is out of the question because of price. The guy who tried to sell me a water softener is out of the question because of trying to sell me a water softener. Culligan comes in around 2,000 installed for just the iron system. Online comes in at 1,200 for the pH system and the iron system but I would be responsible for installation.

Any further input would be greatly appreciated at this time.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2013 at 10:13AM
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Depending upon how the sample was store and handled, pH could have changed in the low-pH sample.

Culligan: The Medallist Plus appears to be a sediment and carbon filter, not an iron filter, but I could be mistaken. You will want to clarify with the rep - what type of media is used in the filter they are suggesting and how does it remove the iron? The Culligan HE Iron-Cleer is more appropriate.

Online company: Greensand - are you prepared to deal with the potassium permanganate regeneration?

pH: At this point, I would just continue to monitor for a while.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2013 at 11:01AM
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Culligan says the H.E. is $1500 more and not necessary because the aeration isnt needed being that there is no consistent odor (i may have missed a few things he was telling me). He says the Medallist Plus will work for my situation. They use Birm as the media on top of some underbedding.

He tells me the media will need to be changed every so often and he is willing to do it but that is costly and suggests I do it myself. He can sell me the Birm or I can get it just about anywhere.

I am leaning towards Culligan rather than dealing with ordering online, finding someone to install and working with permanganate. But if something sounds suspect, I will do it myself.

Culligan also has 100% satisfaction guarantee (for what that is worth).


    Bookmark   March 19, 2013 at 11:49AM
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You don't have to have odor in order to need aeration. You need significant dissolved oxygen in your water in order for birm to work. Since you have well water, it is not that likely you have enough. If he hasn't tested for dissolved oxygen, he has no way of knowing whether aeration is necessary or not. Sounds to me like he is typical Culligan guy - lots of sales training, nearly zero technical education.

This post was edited by aliceinwonderland_id on Tue, Mar 19, 13 at 12:37

    Bookmark   March 19, 2013 at 12:31PM
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Ok this is becoming daunting. I feel like Im dealing with used car salesman. After further researching Birm the Culligan guy is out. I agree with your assessment. So I went back to the online person I was dealing with and noticed their greensand system did not have a holding tank for the potassium permanganate. So I emailed them and their response was:
Our Greensand Plus filters use air vs potassium permanganate to re-oxidize the media. The control is already set up to do that. We even program it

Is this possible? It sounds suspect so now Im researching Terminox. Budgetwater wants to sell me an Iron Filter for the iron and manganese and a Chemical Feed pump system that will kill any bacteria and raise the pH. Im not sure if I need the feed pump since my pH is testing at 7.0 rather than the labs lower results. Also, I have not seen any bacteria indicators in the toilet but have not had any tests run.

Any thoughts on Terminox. Do you think Pyrolox of Filox would be better? Iam having a hard time understanding the backwash flow rate and why it matters.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2013 at 10:56AM
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Perhaps whomever emailed you was confused. There are systems that use aeration followed by filtration. Greensand, however, needs to be regenerated with either chlorine or pot-perm.

Terminox, Pyrolox, Filox are all similar. The real difference is backwash required.

Why does backwash flow rate matter?
As water flows through your iron filter, particulate iron builds up in the media bed. Periodically, those particles need to be removed from the bed. If they are not removed, the bed plugs and becomes useless. Removal is accomplished by reversing the flow through the media bed so that the water goes from the bottom to the top. In order to get a good rinse, the individual pieces that make up the bed need to be lifted and separated so that the iron oxide sitting in the bed can flow between and then out the top. The media is heavy. A certain amount of flow is necessary to lift the heavy particles and expand the bed adequately. The heavier the media, the more flow is required to lift it. This is why each type of media requires a different backwash flow rate.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2013 at 1:19PM
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The intenet salesman for greensand explaind further:
Using air to re-oxidize the media is not a new idea. Basically we use a water softener control and then put a one-way check valve on the brine line so that we can draw air into the media (which then rinses it out) with nothing coming back out of this line. Simple yet effective.
Greensand Plus is a synthetic material that works like Greensand only is lighter (requiring less backwash flow) and more versatile when it comes to the use of oxygen vs potassium permanganate
In the start up of the system, we recommend that you run an initial charge of chlorine directly into the media after you fill the tank. This is done initially only and perhaps occasionally for down the road service reasons.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2013 at 1:11PM
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The system he describes is not using air to re-oxidize the greensand - it is using chlorine for that purpose. It is attempting to use air to oxidize the iron/manganese and the greensand as a polisher/filter.

What company are you dealing with? The "control" method he explained is half-assed at best. It offers very little contact time and very little control over how much air enters the system. Manganese oxidation with air is VERY SLOW when pH is below 9.5.

Make sure you get a performance guarantee, in writing.

This post was edited by aliceinwonderland_id on Thu, Mar 21, 13 at 14:58

    Bookmark   March 21, 2013 at 1:29PM
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I have been communicating with affordablewater. The guy has been incredibly helpful and comes across as quite knowledgeable. No sales pressure. If this system doesnt seem to be regenerating the greensand, cant I just remove the greensand and dump in some Terminox. I really dont want to deal with potassium permanganate.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2013 at 3:10PM
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No, you can't. Backwash requirements as well as media volume requirements are different for Terminox vs Greensand.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2013 at 3:56PM
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What did you end up going with? How is it working? I'm in a similar situation and have a hard time deciding since everyone has different opinions on what will work best on my water :-/


    Bookmark   January 5, 2014 at 10:26PM
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HiccaBurp - From what you posted earlier, your situation is not remotely similar to the OP. Your water analysis and # of people are entirely different.

    Bookmark   January 6, 2014 at 10:25AM
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At the previous water system I worked at which was groundwater with a lot of iron and manganese, we used aeration on the raw water coming from the wells, then shot with a bit of potassium permanganate, chlorine for disinfection then through pressure filters that were backwashed every other day.

Potassium permanganate will turn the water pink if you overdose it.

    Bookmark   January 13, 2014 at 12:07AM
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Just wondering what system was installed and how it worked out, as I am in a very similar situation and wondering what to do.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2014 at 2:02PM
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I have an iron problem in my water for years- finally deciding to take care of it got it tested- showed 2PPM and PH of 6.4- looking at easywater iron shield and budgetwater terminox- would be getting an acid neutralizer to raise PH- would appreciate any recent feedback on customer experiences with either of these 2 companies, specifically regarding their iron filters product.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2014 at 1:31PM
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I have no knowledge of those companies or their systems but acids lower pH, bases (like calcium, caustic soda, etc.) raise it.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2014 at 2:39PM
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Terminox is a great media when used within correct operating parameters. There are other similar medias out available that will do the same thing, but Terminox has a lower density so is often more practical for well water.

The EasyWater company is very low on technical knowhow. I would avoid them like the plague.

Any reputable water treatment company can properly size and install an iron removal system for your. Having local vendors out for a look is a good idea. Having someone local to call can be invaluable if 1) you are new to water treatment and 2) they have the knowledge to help.

In future, start a new thread so that your information doesn't get muddied with someone else's.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2014 at 3:32PM
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