A Puzzle - Iron and Yellow Colour in the Water

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After living for years in a city and taking clean water for granted, we recently moved into our first rural home and have been struggling with problems involving iron and yellow coloured water ever since we got here. It's esthetically very unpleasant and it stains our clothes.
Finding the source of the problem and a reasonably priced solution has been a real puzzle. We still haven't solved it.
We had a very comprehensive test done of the water in the shallow well (18 feet deep and 4 feet in diameter) before we moved into the house, as well as several times after we moved in. Everything appeared to be within the drinking water guidelines except for high iron and manganese levels. The PH and tannin-lignins readings were within the guidelines, but are of potential concern as well.
iron 0.5, 1.4 and 1.6 mg/L measurements (at various times) - guideline is 0.3 mg/L ph 6.62 tannins & Lignins 0.2 mg/L - guideline is 0.4 mg/L or less manganese 0.67 mg/L - guideline is 0.4 mg/L
There was an old Manganese Greensand filter in the basement when we arrived. We were told that this would get rid of the iron (which we presumed at the time was the cause of the yellow water). It was in bad condition, so we had a complete replacement installed for $1600 including installation (We kept and reused the empty tank from the old installation. Everything else was new) .
This didn't work. A new test showed there was as much iron as before and the water stayed just as yellow.
We ran the filter for several months in this situation until we were finally told that the cause of the problem was that manganese greensand filters need a ph of greater than 6.8. While some internet sites indicated that the filter would work at a lower ph than 6.6, the minimum figure of 6.8 was specified in the instruction manual for the filter.
After a couple of months we found a reliable soda ash (sodium carbonate) system which raised the ph to between 7.3 and 7.6 and had that installed for another $1000. including installation.
Unfortunately, the water stayed yellow and the iron level stayed high.
We had the manganese greensand filter tested several times to make sure there wasn't a malfunction. While we couldn't see inside the unit to make certain nothing had been improperly installed, everything seemed to be working according to the user's manual.
Hair pulling time.
After some research on the internet, I found some sites which referred to "Brown Algae" which can grow in the dark in nutrient-rich wells. Our well, for some reason, has a high coliform content (not fecal coliform though - which is below the measurable limit, and we have a UV filter to sterilize the water). Recently, I saw a small fibrous plant of some kind floating just below the surface of the well. Does that mean the yellow is caused by Brown Algae? Even if that's true, why won't the Manganese Greensand filter remove the iron? Does the algae (if it's there) somehow prevent the filter from working properly?
We then put high concentrations of household chlorine bleach in the well on three separate occasions to kill any algae or other growth.
That seemed to work each time when the water went clear for a day or so. Then the water returned to its normal disgusting yellow colour. The iron level remained high when we next measured it.
The supplier of our Manganese Greensand filter has now begun to suggest that our problem might be caused by Tannin Lignins. After some research on the internet, I found several websites which referred to "Heme Iron", which apparently is iron bound up in a complex with molecules from decayed vegetation. Apparently, this can cause a yellow colour, somewhat like the colour of weak tea.
The measured level of the tannin lignins in our water is below the drinking water guideline level. Does that mean that tannin lignins could not be the cause of the yellow water? Could even a small concentration of tannin lignins somehow prevent the Manganese Greensand filter from working to remove the iron?
Some other sites on the internet suggested that, over time, acidic water would eat away the Manganese Dioxide coating on the Manganese Greensand Filter media (i.e. on the Manganese Greensand "sand" filter media), thereby rendering it useless. Since we ran the filter for several months in water with a ph of 6.62 (slightly acidic), could that conceivably be the cause?
In summary, the yellow colour and high iron content in the water could potentially be due to a poorly installed Manganese Greensand filter, or the adverse affects of tannin lignins on the Manganese Greensand filter, or the adverse affects of brown algae on the filter, or the presence of Heme Iron, or the effects of slightly acidic water eating away the coating on the Greensand media.
More hair pulling time.
I'm tired of spending money on solutions that don't work.
Anyone have any ideas?
Peter
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wrote:

Well, first I'd say that you have to realize that the drinking water guidelines are just a measure of whether the water is safe for human consumption. They don't mean you'll have clean, clear, mineral free water. Frankly, all throughout reading your tale of woe, the words "deep bored well" kept drifting through my mind.
I'm not too keen on shallow wells. The water doesn't receive enough natural filtration to suit me. Deep water usually (not always) means clean water. My water here comes from a 180 foot bored well. The water is clean, clear, and cold. There is also a shallow dug well on the property, and while it never lacks for water, the water is, well the best word is "icky". I wouldn't drink it even though the health department says it is safe.
Gary
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guidelines
They
throughout
through my

natural
water. My

clear, and

never lacks

drink it even though

Actually everything we pour on or bury in the ground, comes up later in water somewhere. That makes the earth more like a sponge than filter. And it's only been in the last 25 to 30 years that we finally realized that the ground only filters stones and such, not liquids etc.. Those things found in water that will harm us are all tasteless, colorless and odorless... You can't know if they are present without specific water analysis for them.
The deepest well I've worked on is 605' deep and was only two months old. One of the problems was coliform bacteria and the month old baby boy was sick. We also now know that bacteria is everywhere we look except in space. We can't live with certain types of bacteria, but we die without certain types too and all waters have some bacteria in varying amounts until it is treated. The best water man can make is deionized water and H2O (only) doesn't exist anywhere in nature. In many areas, they don't call 180+ deep, our average well here is about 150'.
Gary Quality Water Associates
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I very much appreciate your comments.
I've thought about having a deep well dug. Unfortunately, several of the deep wells dug in the area by my neighbours have produced water containing high levels of arsenic. There's no measurable arsenic in the shallow well that I currently have. While a new, deep well might not contain arsenic, it would still be a gamble.
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"Gary Coffman" < snipped-for-privacy@bellsouth.net> wrote in message
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the
containing
well
arsenic, it

consumption.
all
water.
clear,
never
drink it

While I rarely suggest a new well.... if you drilled one and got rid of the problems with the present very shallow well, you could treat the arsenic very affordably and easily and have a much easier time than you are currently. Some folks believe that 'city' water doesn't have the same type of problems, or that 'city' water isn't treated for various health related parameters, not true. Most water companies in the US are now using some wells as their water sources.
Gary Quality Water Associates
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Gary, First of all welcome to the group. Secondly please snip the preceding message instead of repeating it in its entirety
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Hi Mike,
I see you must be in rural.misc, otherwise you'd have been reading my posts in alt.home.repair and other groups since early 1997. Or you must be new here or I would have read your posts in my groups. So I'll welcome to you too.
Many people search for my posts, so I leave what I am replying to so they and others can learn without constantly going from one post to another. I find many posters asking for help or in understanding their water quality problems to be a bit limited in knowing what to ask or offer in regards to detail so how do you propose I answer what hasn't been asked if I snip what they have said? It also prevents me from having to go from one post to the previous posts or when I get e-mail including my reply. I get quite a bit of e-mail and it takes more time to reply if things are hacked up to the point where I have to familiarize myself with the person's problem by looking up newsgroup posts. So I'm sorry if my nonsnipped replies disturb you but it doesn't seem you're much interested in my replies so could you please skip over them.
Gary Quality Water Associates
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wrote:

Drilling a well is always a gamble. But you can be pretty sure you won't have large amounts of tannin/lignin in a deep well. Arsenic is treatable, and a little even makes your coat shiney. :-)
Gary
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snipped-for-privacy@bellsouth.net (Gary Coffman) wrote in wrote:

i have the opposite. my dug well is great & my 185' drilled well is high in iron and manganese & tastes nasty, even with a filter system :) i drink from the dug well & water the gardens with the drilled well. the sulpher/iron stink isn't so bad outdoors. lee
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between a time for learning and a time for play without seeing the vital
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i do annual tests. i have a 3 year old & livestock drinking that water. although no one around uses herbicides, it's part of the water test... which is really pretty inexpensive. lee
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between a time for learning and a time for play without seeing the vital
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snipped-for-privacy@shaw.ca (Peter Martin) writes:

What is your household plumbing like? Is the pipe old decayed iron pipe and the water heater set to 120 degrees or less and not tapped for sediment very often? What is the
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http://home.teleport.com/~larryc

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All the plumbing in the house after the Managanese Greensand Filter is copper pipe.

The solution feeder is installed between the pump in the well and the pressure tank which is located in a small concrete room immediately above the well. I was told by the manufacturer of the solution feeder that the time that the freshly pumped water spends in the pressure tank would be enough to do the trick and that a separate retention tank would not be necessary. When I measure the ph level in the water at the faucet inside the house, the ph level doesn't seem to fluctuate, so that until now my assumption has been the soda ash system is working properly.

iron?
To be honest, I hadn't thought about feeding chlorine into the water. Also I'm very much a neophyte with this entire subject, still trying to learn everything that I can find. If chlorine were added into the soda ash solution feeder, and then injected into the water being pumped from the well, presumably it would have to be extracted at a later stage before it reached the faucets in the house. Would that best be done with an activated charcoal filter?
While I understand that the chlorine would presumably kill iron bacteria, how would it help reduce the tannin and iron levels in the water?

Thank you for the advice. I will look into this subject.
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I live in a small town of about 20,000 and there is only a very limited amount of experience in this area. The nearest large city (Vancouver) is about 6 hours away by car. At the moment, I'm working through a local sales representative who, in turn, calls his water treatment dealer in the Vancouver. The water treatment dealer won't discuss the problem directly with me - only with the local sales representative. Apart from trying to learn as much as I can by researching the problem on my own, I'm sticking with the local sales representative because, at the moment, he is continuing to work with me at minimal cost to try to solve the problem of why the Manganese Greensand filter I purchased from him isn't removing the iron in the water.

That's the general approach I'm trying to take right now - i.e. trying to remove the iron and manganese. According to the tests I've had done, the only contaminants in the water which exceed the drinking water guidelines are iron (1.4 mg/L, guideline is 0.3)), manganese and coliform (not fecal coliform, which was found to be below the measurable limit). The level of manganese varies from 0.67 mg/L to 0.019 mg/L (results from two different laboratories). The level of tannins/lignins in the water (measured at 0.2 mg/L and 0.3 mg/L)are below the drinking water guidelines of 0.4 mg/L. My assumption is that the high coliform level is caused by nutrients in the water from decayed vegetation (leaves etc from the surrounding bush) and that the tannins-lignins are also a result of the decayed vegetation.
What I really don't understand is why the Manganese Greensand filter is not removing the iron. I'm suspicious that, either the tubing inside the filter was poorly installed (by the local dealer) so that the water coming in from the well is somehow bypassing the filter bed or, alternatively, that the coating on the Greensand itself was eaten away and rendered useless during the months that the filter was used in water with a ph of 6.6.
I wouldn't think that the low level of tannins-lignins in the water would prevent the Manganese Greensand filter from functioning properly, but then I've had very little experience in this regard.
This weekend, the local dealer removed the filter and will install it for a few days at his own home, in place of his own Manganese Greensand filter which he says is working properly. Reportedly, his water also has been tested and found to have iron and tannins in the water. I'm anxiously waiting to see what happens.

Finding someone with experience with tannins will be my next step if the water continues to remain yellow after the iron has been removed.

Thank you.
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limited
is
sales
directly
to
sticking
continuing
iron in

I suspect he is the dealer and he's talking to his distributor. Problem is he's charging you, and a little or a lot, you still have the problem and he should be making it right at no charge.

result
trying to

the
guidelines
fecal
level of

different
0.2
My
the
and
You have to give up this idea that reduction to the acceptable limits is your goal. Your goal is removal (zero), and if you don't remove the iron and tannin you will still have colored water and iron staining. Staining occurs with any amount of iron but usually you don't see it at less than .3 ppm because you clean the surface the stain is on. Rust buildup in the plumbing can add the levels of iron you have. Coliform is a group of bacteria. They live in the ground and when found in our food or water, indicate an environment conducive to their survival and the a high probability of other bacteria, both harmful and nonharmful to humans. Reducing type bacteria are a good possibility as to teh cause of the greensand not working. Along with the low pH you had.

is not

filter
from
the
during
See above.

would
then
for a

filter
been
That's dumb and a lot of work and effort for nothing IMO. His water is not your water and what's he going to do if it works at his house? I think he replaces the greensand at no charge and you start over.

another.
the
Gary Quality Water Associates
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Hi Peter, Just read about your water problems. Where are you (6 hours from Vancouver)? Where is your shallow well situated in terms of vegetation, runoff, etc? What is the casing made of? (if it's galvanized culvert, that may be the cause of the problem, or at least may contribute to it)? Total coliforms in shallow wells are a common phenomenom, not necessarily a health risk, but indicative of surface material and runoff getting into the well. It is hard to avoid having total coliforms in shallow wells. A drilled well is inherently safer but that may not solve your problem with coloured water. I haven't personally seen yellow water from high iron in water, so am wondering if it's something else. Is the water yellow in the well, or only after being exposed to air? Diagnosing a water problem from lab test results is a bit like a doctor diagnosing an unseen patient using only blood test results. One needs to see the whole patient to get a better idea of what is going on. I work as a public health inspector with many years experience in BC and have had a lot of involvement with private water systems. You are welcome to contact me for (free) advice if you like at snipped-for-privacy@netidea.com.
Regards,
Phil J.
wrote

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Phil, since you haven't seen yellow water, or treated it, what free advice could you give him if you were looking down 'n round his well, especially without water analysis data? That would seem as if the doctor was treating the patient without a blood test.
Gary Quality Water Associates
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made
paved
foot
other
from that

other.
floor
the
plate
above
room.
plate
well
It
equipment
access
the
dead
in the

Some of

getting
am
or
way.
I
So Peter, I don't know where Phil is but we shouldn't wait any longer for him because he may never return! lol
IMO you need a hydrocarbons scan and total iron test. This sounds like colloidal iron to me although it could be tannin or lignin. Try this, get a screw cap gallon jug filling it with cold water and a cap full of non-scented regular 5.25% or 6 % concentrate household bleach until it overflows (no air) and shake it good, then sit it aside and watch it over a few hours for any change in the color, clarity or sediment to form on the bottom. Then let me know what happened if anything.
What type of pressure tank do you have?
Have you drained and flushed it lately?
Has this color been there since you first arrived and how long have you been there?
Gary Quality Water Associates
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I agree with the fellow who suggested adding a cap of bleach to a gallon of water and waiting to see if the yellow disappears and a precipitate forms. This would suggest to me that chlorination and filtration could work for you. I have seen a simple chlorine-pellet feeder and filtration system on a local well. The owner says it works well. Let me know if you want more details as to the make and installation.
A couple of other suggestions:
If you haven't already done so, call the local health unit and speak with a public health inspector (aka environmental health officer) who has local experience. He/she may be familiar with wells with similar problems in your area. Len Clarkson or Bob Weston both work the Coast-Garibaldi area and have years of experience (I am a PHI in the Kootenays, but soil and water conditions are different here).
Second suggestion:
Clean the sucker! I have found some local conditions where shallow wells that once produced clear, good-tasting water became foul over the years. Just dumping a jug of bleach in the well and pumping it out won't solve the problem. One has to physically enter the well and scrub the concrete casing with bleach. Believe me, I've done it! In the case of your well, it would be pretty claustrophobic. Also, be really careful with air supply. I have entered and cleaned wells (not as part of my public job, but for friends). I rented a "diaphragm pump" or a "semi-trash pump" and sucked the well out as I went down. At the bottom of the wells (ok, I've done exactly 2), was a buildup of a foot or two or organic sludge. Quite gross. I was standing on soft muck, which I scooped into a bucket and a helper pulled out with a rope. I finally got all the guck out and was down to clean sand and gravel. Then use a strong bleach solution to clean the casing from top to bottom, pumping all the time so you don't drown... By the way, there is a clean ladder involved, of course. You will probably find that the walls are covered with organic slime, but when you are finished, you will be down to clean, bare concrete. Both wells I did this on had an immediate return to clean water. I can't guarantee this will work for you, but a good well cleaning can only help. By the way, I repeat, be careful about entering this confined space. Because your well is not wide open at the top, you probably should also rent an air pump to supply fresh air into the well as you work. (I have cleaned a 3000-gallon water reservoir this way). I don't know how big or agile you are, but someone will need to fit through that 2x3 hole you describe! You need a small, wiry, dedicated, safety-onsciousl person. Contact me at snipped-for-privacy@netidea.com if you want to discuss. Phil J.

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That was me, but what I was looking for was to see if any oxidizer will work. That would say iron etc. is the cause of the discolored water rather than tannins.
Well mounted pellet droppers can cause problems in the well with the pump, casing, screen if any and casing etc.. So IMO, they should be used only when all other means of treatment in the building wouldn't.
Cleaning a well chemically and/or mechanically and then sanitizing it and the plumbing throughout the building and then treating the water after it enters the building is the best way to handle these types of problems without causing other problems.

Since you seem to be suggesting a direction away from water treament dealers.... In my experience the guvmint guys don't know equipment, or at least the latest improvements and application of it and they dont sell, service and repair it or have parts for it. So to get them involved when there's an industry specializing in water treatment equipment and its application does little more than add an entity that can not be sued or otherwise held responsible if their suggestions fail; regardless of the cost. And in many instances the advice is flawed due to suggesting equipment the industry is trying to get away from, such as manganese greensand filters regenerated with potassium permanganate and chlorine in any of it's 2 or 3 ways of being used in a residential application.
What does that gain the home owner really? Seriously, I'd like to hear the rational behind the suggestion.

Now that I can support.
Gary Quality Water Associates
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The major reason to do as Phil suggests is to get independent advice from someone who doesn't have a vested economic interest in selling you particular kinds of equipment or services. The PHIs also generally have a good local perspective on who *is* a reliable dealer or service person in their area.
A secondary reason is since you're paying these public health guys' salaries through your taxes anyway, you might as well get some benefit from it.
Gary
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