Solve iron problems in your well wate by Bob Buchanan, Agricultural Water Specialist, Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development, Leduc

It's important to thoroughly assess iron problems in your well water before jumping to conclusions about its severity or how you can solve the problem.

Iron problems in rural well water can range from minor nuisances to serious problems depending on how much mineral iron and/or iron bacteria are present, Solutions can range from a $10 to $20 shock chlorination treatment to a $1,000 to $4,000 water treatment system.

With thousand dollar solutions to ten dollar problems, start with the ten dollar solution first. By taking your time to make a decision, chances are your water quality problems will be solved.

The first step in diagnosing an iron problem is to determine how much of the problem is caused by an accumulation of iron bacteria in the well and how much is caused by either dissolved or particulate iron in the water.

Start with a few simple visual observations:

If iron bacteria are present, there will be a buildup of rusty colored slime in the toilet water tank.

Another typical symptom of iron bacteria problems is a gradual increase in taste, odor and staining problems over time. Iron bacteria can also buildup on the pump screen or well casing and inside water pipelines, and gradually begin to plug them.

If mineral iron is the main problem then a hard rusty colored deposit will accumulate on everything in the toilet water tank.

If your well has an iron bacteria problem, your first step is to thoroughly shock chlorinate the well and water system.

The treatment is very easy to do yourself. Put a strong solution of chlorine bleach plus water down the well.

This chlorine solution is generally left in the well and water distribution system overnight--or up to a couple of days--and then pumped from the well and discarded.

Generally shock chlorination treatments of a well once or twice per year will make a dramatic improvement in well water quality. Detailed information on how to shock chlorinate your well can be obtained from a water specialist.

However, if your well has been thoroughly shock chlorinated with little or no reduction in rust staining, then iron bacteria are not a significant problem. Instead, either dissolved or particle mineral iron are the problem, and water treatment equipment will be required to improve your water quality.

Do chemical analysis before buying treatment equipment

Before you purchase water treatment equipment, have an independent laboratory do a thorough chemical analysis of your well water.

The analysis will help identify any other substances that might require removal. It's also very important to know the pH and tannin levels of water as they could complicate iron removal.

This analysis will help you select the most appropriate water treatment system for your well water. But, before you start looking at systems, you might want to get some recommendations from an independent water quality specialist.

After getting those recommendations, invite several water treatment companies to your home and ask them for their recommendations on water treatment systems to solve your iron problem. Don't be surprised if you receive several different recommendations from these companies.

If you're confused, keep asking questions of the companies or of an independent specialist until you feel comfortable making a decision.

Before you make a decision, compare the costs, the warranty on the equipment and the company's reputation as well as any traveling and service costs.

Don't be fooled by companies that say they sell the best equipment and their equipment never breaks down. All water treatment systems will require maintenance after several years.

Often water wells have a combination of mineral iron and iron bacteria. In these situations a combination of water treatment equipment and shock chlorination treatments may be required.

For more information, contact the author at County Building, 4301 50 St, Leduc AB T9E 7H3.

Siphoning a chlorine solution down a well.

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