Water Treatment Help

After spending nearly 2 days reading both from the newsgroups and on the web, I think I am more confused now then I was when I started. I will try to keep this post as coherent as possible.
I did a service call on evaporative cooler at a house that was on well water in Henderson, Colorado. The first thing I noticed, was the unit itself looked like a giant snowball. I scraped as much of the mineral deposits away as I could and got the unit started up. White powder filled the entire house, despite the door, which was nearby being opened wide. A couple of months later I had to return as the blower motor had ceased operating. A check of the date code suggested that it was not even a year old. I suspect it overheated to the lack of an air entering past the pads, because once again the pads were completely caked with nearly 2 inches of mineral deposits. At this point I was convinced that they had a hard water problem. I explain to them that they needed to get a water softener for not only this reason that other plumbing issues. Then they told me that theyhad been previously advised by both the previous owner, and also a water company that they had come in later to test the water (as a consequence of a foul odor in the water), that the water was very soft. Well, this went against everything I knew. I always thought that any precipitate out of water was necessarily minerals, and therefore constituted hard water. Now, I just had a conversation with them where they did have another water treatment company come out and check the situation. Again, they were told that their water was "too soft". They recommended a reverse osmosis system at a cost of nearly $9,000 and likely $1500 a year additional for maintenance. And again I was left scratching my head as I have not found anything on the web or in the newsgroups where I could verify that this deposit as anything that could come from soft water. Curious, I called another water company and explained to them what up to this point has been related to me. That gentleman seemed to be quite confident that what I was seeing was sulfur. He also said that even if they had installed a reverse osmosis system, they would still have to install some sort of system to pre-treat the water for the sulfur. In fact, he recommended a chloride cycle dealkylizer. That confuses me even more as I've always associated alkaline and alkalinity with hard water. I mean, am I wrong, if something is basic it is alkaline and hard, and if something is acid it is soft?
So, after all this rambling. I guess my first question would be, has anybody even heard of such a thing, that is, an evaporative cooler with heavy mineral build up that actually comes from soft water? Also, does anybody want to toss in their two cents on how to best (and that would include cost effectiveness) remedy this situation. Other information that may be helpful is the fact that they have a boiler (not steam) and a septic system. Any help would be appreciated. Thank you in advance.
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Scoot,
Sorry but I've no real idea what is causing your problem. Hard water is usually water that contains a lot of calcium. That's what water softeners remove, calcium. Enough testing has been done to eliminate calcium as the problem. Don't buy systems designed around guesswork. Take water samples (correctly collected) and these crystals to a chemist.
Dave M.
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Hardness is calcium and magnesium, which a softener removes and they also remove ferrous iron, manganese, lead, copper, radium etc.. All positive changed ions.
Scoot, this build up can be caused by a number of things that a softener does not remove. Like high TDS (total dissolved solids), sulfates, chlorides, sodium etc.. But not "sulfur". I think the guy probably said sulfate or sulfates and you heard "sulfur". Most of those things are negative charged ions and you would use an anion resin in a softener regenerated with softener salt to remove them. That can be expensive and the TDS will not be reduced or removed.
Water is either soft, meaning 0 gpg of hardness (in industry it is measured in ppm or mg/l and it takes 17.1 of them to make 1 gpg) or the water is hard, meaning there is 1 or more gpg of hardness in the water.
Alkalinity is not removed by a softener, nor is the pH changed by ion exchange softening. The TDS may be increased slightly depending on the amount of ion exchange that is done.
Gary Slusser Quality Water Associates
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