Iron In Water

Hello,
My sister bought a new home recently. Her well was tested before it was closed. It was found to have a Ph of 6.6, Hardness of 110ppm, Iron level of 0.88ppm. I do not remember the rest of the numbers. But the water comes out with a brownish color and cloudy. It stains the tub and toilet. Even replaced the hose to the rinser on the sink because it was clogged.
The problem is that they have a water softening system. It's either not working or it's not effective. The salt level never goes down, according to them they haven't added salt yet since they moved in because the level never dropped. I'm not sure how the system pulls salt from the salt tank. But it's never wet inside. The main tank for it is clearly running, it gets condensation on it from water running through it. They don't know if it was maintained well or not. But we're trying to figure out if it's even working right. If it needs to be replaced, or was never the right thing that the past owners installed in the first place. What could be wrong, what could they do to get rid of the rust color? Any help would be appreciated. I can try and supply any additional info if necessary.
Thanks, Bill V.
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formed. In humid areas (basement), if too much salt is added to the machine, the salt at the top of the pile will stick together and form a salt dome. The salt under that will dissolve but once that is gone the softener gets only water to cycle with and of course doesn't work. Try pouring very warm water on the top of the salt and use a broom stick to bust up the salt until it falls down into the tank. That being said, 110 ppm of hardness is pretty hard. I used to sell units for Sears and we had a city well in Chandler, AZ that gave out with 108 ppm. We weren't allowed to sell units in that area. It is possible to use a softener but you might have to put more than one softener in line to do the job. As for iron...a softener will handle some iron but usually not the type of iron that causes the rust stains in the tubs, sinks and around the fixtures. You may have to add an iron filter which is kind of like a softener in appearance but uses a different type of process to remove the iron. Check out the water shop at Sears.com for more info. (no longer affiliated with Sears in any way, shape or form) Did the previous owner provide a whole house warranty as a sales incentive to your Sister. If so might be, calling in a serviceman would be the way to go.
Tom G.
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Thanks guys,
We don't have the manual for the softener. We can't even find a model number anywhere. But, I went over to her house today to check it out. It appears water is flowing through the filer tank as condensation forms on the surface. I opened the salt tank and dug around. It appears that under the salt they put in it which was Morton's Rust Remover Pellens is a rock salt. Not sure what kind but it's the exact consistency of the salt you put in your driveway, all crushed up. It's pretty hard packed. I only had to dig down 4" to reach it and it appears to be solid down to the bottom of the salt tank so it's over half full of this stuff, I think it might be solid. So my first step will be to see if we can get that salt out of there.
There used to be a filter that was installed inline for sediment, since those things would clog about weekly with their water quality. It appeared to have been removed in favor of the water softener. I guess there's no point and doing anything else since obviously that salt isn't going to let that tank fill up.
Do you have to add water yourself to the salt tank or should it do it on it's own, there's only one line going to the salt tank.
Thanks, Bill V
Tom G wrote:

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Just to be clear: I was advocating a whole house filter - not a whole house warrantee. It sounds like a whole house filter is needed.
The other post about a filter AFTER the softner is also advised. I too had a "resin in all the pipes experience."
It was like thick blood coming out of all the faucets. Scared the kids to death.
I now have a filter after the softener. I also have a second regulator and run high pressure through the filters and softner and then re-regulate down to about 60 pounds. - Very nice and consistent flow.
I was able to clear the pipes by back flooding water some how... Perhaps through the kitchen sink and draining it out of the water heater. What a mess. I can't believe I was able to clear the pipes....
---------- Regarding the rust, I too tend to think it is "something else". We had a plumber do some work and later started to get rust in one tub. I was sure that he had used a piece of black pipe, but he was sure that he hadn't and had all sorts of things to blame it on.
I had the plumbing R&R'd about year later by someone else to install a shower . The rust was all caused by a 1 inch by 3/4 black pipe nipple. There rest of our house in copper or brass and there is much electrolytic action between those elements to the detriment of the iron.
Check you pipes.
----- sad news ----
I tend to think that at this point any effort you spend on this softener is a waste.
You used to have a filter, but it clogged SO MUCH that it was removed???? Where would that gunk have gone???? (into the ?softer???? YES!)
Get a coarse (25 TO 50 MICRONS) filter and leave it on. Get a big one. Change it as needed. Are you sure you are seeing IRON and not SAND????
You don't have a manual. You can't find a serial number. Can you find the brand to go to the web site? Is it a sears?
If you have some free time and If you do wish to continue... (and I advise again continuing except as an educational experience for you)....
The salt need not be removed. As I said, A hose from the hot water drain will make all the brine that you need. It will melt the rock salt just fine.
You can force recycles by moving the clock or digital timer. Some units have a "recycle now" button.
Often there is a "screen" in the softner siphon inlet. It is likely clogged base on the other data you provided.
You asked if you "have to add water" - Normally you do not. A float control and timer limit the amount of water added. BUT - since you don't know if you have brine, then you should fill salt tank until you see water flowing out the overflow drain from the salt brine tank. Then you will know you have water and brine. Fill from the top with hot water.
Then mark the height and see if water draws down when cycling. I doubt if it will. At that point you will need to clean the siphon inlet and screens.
--
You have referred to condensation twice.
You have referred to a "filler tank".
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philkryder wrote:

No, you missed the first post where I said they recently bought this house. This was the state of things at the time. They didn't do anything to it when they bought it. It's clear that the softener hasn't been working since they moved in. Her husband always insisted things were fine. It's worth a shot to see if it's fixable. The salt HAS to be removed. It would take a long time to get that salt out, it's like all formed into a single block and fills half the tank, you can't even dig through it. I don't see how water could get inside the tank at all. It's far faster to just get it out and ditch it. They have plenty of extra salt to refill it at least halfway. Then if it still doesn't work, they'll get someone in. We have no idea how long it's been left alone like this.

Whatever it is, it's coming from the well. The water, as I said, had been tested before they moved in stright from the well. It was very dark rusted colored then, somehow most of that is still getting removed.

It's either that or completely replacing it. There are some things we can do that would have to be done anyway before they call in a professional. What needs to be done could be of any severity. From just cleaning the brine tank, bringing someone in to look and fix it, to having to repace it with something that should've been installed in the first place.

The whole house filter that was removed was likely at the discression of the company that installed the softener. Why they decided that, we'll never know. It would be better to have left it in. The previous owners could have complained they didn't want to change the filter cartridge and demanded it. We can't change that choice they made at this time.

I'm pretty sure it's not sand. A lot of people get iron like this around this part of the state. My grandparent's had it, all they had was a whole house filter, which needed to be replaced almost weekly, two weeks was pushing it, three weeks, the water pressure would drop.

It's as if it was never branded at all, just a plain blue tank.

All that would happen is the water would sit on top of the salt. That salt is pretty solid and about two feet thick. They have a very moist basement so it looks like that all solidified into one large block.

Resin tank.

The only reason I said that was to show that water was definitely going into the resin tank.

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Again, to be clear I was advocating whole house filters - not warrantees -
The recommendation had nothing to do with how recently the house was purchased but rather the condition of the water as you reported it.
Have you figured out how to force a regeneration cycle? That will be needed whatever you do.

You seem to firmly believe that - but my experience is quite different. Add the hot water. I'm sure it will form brine and penetrate the salt. At worst, you will be where you are now. Just start running hot water on top of that salt.
Start the regen cycle. Watch for it siphoning.
If you are correct and the water just sits on top of the salt, then you can add water in through the brine well where the siphon line goes. That will put water BELOW the salt. Either way you can get water into the tank.
And then, you can watch to see if it is siphoned out during the regen cycle. I'm guessing it will not be siphoned.

the resin tank as it passes through the softner. That process is what exposes the water to the ionized resin. But that doesn't mean that brine water is being siphoned during the regen cycle. If the iron was so bad that it clogged the sink hose, then it very likely clogged the siphon jets and other small passages in the softener.
You can check for siphoning whether or not the the salt is in the tank. All you need to do is look into the brine well where the single line goes and see if the water is drawn down during the regen cycle.
Some other things. Have you checked the drain hose that is used during backflush and brining? kinks in that hose, or having it too high can reduce siphoning.
Have you checked that the unit is actually doing regen cycling?
Good luck! Phil
If you are fortunate and it does siphon, then the filter before the softener is still a wise choice. And, so is one after the softner.
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A couple of suggestions that you might consider. Step zero, get the manual for the softner. Read it. Understand the trouble shooting segments.
Next consider a "whole house" water filter before the softener. If you are getting solids that clog your sink strainer, then you should filter the inlet water to prevent clogging internal components in the softer.
Also, as someone mentioned, the softner isn't working. It must consume salt to work.
I use the outlet hose from my hot water heater to periodically put water into the softner. You can add a bunch of water and ensure that the salt melts. Be sure you have a drain for any overflow to run into. Using the heater drain hose gives you warm water and does the periodic drain of the water heater.
Then force the softner to start a cycle - read your manual on how to do that. Then watch to ensure that the water is drawn through the system. If it is working correctly, you should see water drawn down in the salt tank. You may need to shine a light into the brine well where the siphon hose goes.
If the water isn't drawn in, then you may have a plugged siphon unit or plugged inlets where the water enters. You manual may tell you how to clean them. If you are unlucky, then some of the internal seals may not be sealing. That would be a lot of work and parts to fix.
If you were "lucky" and the water is drawn down, then your problem may have been salt bridging. You can reduce the chances of that happening by only filling the salt tank half full AND by putting a piece of 1 inch PVC pipe about 3 feet long at an angle in the salt. The PVC will disrupt the lodging and bridging of the salt.
Somewhere in here, I would have the hardness tested to obtain a hardness in GRAINS reading. I've not heard of PPM for hardness. You need to know the hardness to use it to set the softner controls for hardness and gallons of water used to ensure that recycling occurs at the correct frequency.
Good luck! Phil
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difference...I just assumed GRAINS>
Tom G.
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A website I went to said you can divide the PPM reading for hardness by 17.1 to get the GPG number. So it'd be about 6.4GPG of hardness. But it's obviously the previous owners didn't take care of the system at all. I'm of mind that the salt in the salt tank is the original salt. The bags we have were in the basement already and it wasn't rock salt.
She just doesn't want to get anyone out here until she's sure something's wrong, which obviously there is. I'll ask her as was suggested about a whole house warranty.
philkryder wrote:

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If your test is accurate, you have very low iron so I would think your discoloration is coming from somewhere else. Unfortunately, I don't have any suggestions as to where. You might take another sample down to a pool supply place. They'll usually test for either free or very inexpensively and their tests are decently accurate. No point tackling something until you're certain of the problem. Cheers, cc
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James "Cubby" Culbertson wrote:

the unit generates brine for backflushing the resin, it floods the salt tank with water, lets it sit for several minutes, then draws the brine into the resin and lets it sit again for several minutes. Finally, the brine is flushed out of the resin with fresh water and the unit goes back in service.
My suggestion is to dig out almost all of the salt and go to a water softener service company to buy their Rust Inhibitor salt. The salt chunks are bigger and are much less susceptable to creating a bridge, or solid mass. This bridging problem is why most folks are advised to never have the salt tank more than half full.
Your water softener controller should have a setting on it for manual regeneration. Turn the dial to that setting and wait. If you do not detect water flowing into the brine tank within 15 minutes, then the control head is damaged and may need to be replaced.
I lost a control head once due to a nearby lightning spike that also produced an enormous spike in water pressure. The resin containment strainer at the bottom of the pipe extending down from the control head ruptured and resin went to every water faucet, toilet, washing machine, etc in the house. Control valves everywhere had to be replaced. I now have a post water softener filter installed to address this problem.
Talking to a water softener specialist can also make certain that the resin installed is correct for the water condition.
A whole house filter in front of the water softener helps extend the life of the resin as silt, mud, salt are trapped by the filter. Even city water has this problem and 6 months of service will get an INCREDIBLY ugly looking filter (10 micron).
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Robert Gammon wrote:

I would, but I'm just getting information for other people in this case. My sister knows less about this stuff than I do. I just never done anything with a water softener before. I'll see if she wants to test it again. The test I spoke of was in November. We would but there's no point in continuing until we try what we wanted to do. I'm not kidding when I say it's like someone put a big salt lick the exact size and shape of the brine tank in it. I don't see how even if it was working the water could get inside. If anything it saves the guy time when he comes to fix it. Personally I would tell them to get someone to come and figure out all the true problems and put in even better equipment. The water coming stright from the well was very brown colored. But I wasn't there so I don't know the severity. But it still looks more like this
http://static.flickr.com/27/99857025_c5aa167ec3_m.jpg than anything. Not quite that drastic but you can see the brown in it as it flows. If you drink more than a 5 or 6 oz of it without it having been run through a filter you get the runs.

This is the current plan I came up with just to start. No point in spending money on a house call when we know for sure the brine tank is screwed up anyhow. They put Morton's Rust Remover Pellens over the big block of rock salt back in November. Removing the salt is the first step because we have no idea what's under there. There could be a clog of salt where the water enter, the actual salt could be blocking where the water comes in.
The funny part is they said there were bags of Morton's System Saver next to the tank when they moved in. They were obviously never used.

I tried to do this just to figure it out, it wouldn't work. By that I mean the panel has instructions of how to set the regen cycle and start a regen cycle manually. You push a red button and turn it. The button pushes in but won't turn.

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I'm no expert but anything that's messing with your digestive tract demands a bit more attention, and quickly. You should at least get the water tested for coliforms. If the test is positive, then you'll need to go with some sort of disinfecting solution. You could install a chlorine injector and a carbon filter to then take the chlorine/sediment out so the water going into the house is chlorine free but clean. Unfortunately with water situations, you really can't give advice until you know all the facts and only testing will give those. I found this site to be somewhat helpful: www.pwgazette.com Ultimately they're selling stuff but I just finished dealing with them on my own well situation and found them to be pretty helpful (call, don't email...very slow to return email's). They'll test your water for free (I'd use their test to back up whatever other tests you get....they're out to make money at the end of the day). Anyway, good luck with it. It sounds like you have a few things going on and may have to attack it with a few different options. Cheers, cc
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How's it going?
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