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
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
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
More hair pulling time.
I'm tired of spending money on solutions that don't work.
Anyone have any ideas?
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