Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Living with Private Well Water

If you are drawing water from a Private Well there many potential contaminates that affect your water quality besides bacteria. The bacterial issues like E coli and Coliform are the most important to address to ensure safe drinking water however there are also many secondary contaminates that are not necessarily harmful but are an inconvenience. These contaminates can cause stains and smells making life miserable. Following is a list of these contaminates and the signs of their presence:

• Iron – there are two different types of iron – Ferrous & ferric. Ferrous iron is clear water iron and ferric is red water iron. The presence of ferrous iron cannot be seen by looking at the water however it leaves reddish/brown stains. With ferric iron the water will appear red in color and leave stains. These secondary contaminates are not harmful to ingest. Following are a few things you experience when iron is present:

Iron can leave noticeable stains in your household.

- Having Iron in your water can cause reddish/brown stains in your tubs and toilets as well as affect your white laundry. Irrigating with water containing iron can cause staining to your sidewalks, walls, and fixtures.

• Sulfur – a clear indication of sulfur presence is a “rotten-egg” smell to the water. When dealing with Sulfur it is important to eliminate the possibility of Sulfur Bacteria. General Sulfur can be removed easily with Aeration or Filox media oxidation. Sulfur Bacteria is very resistant and requires continuous Chlorination. Following are a few signs of each:

- General Sulfur – the smell is the same on both the hot and cold water sides. The smell is slight and comes and goes from time to time.

- Sulfur Bacteria – The smell is more prominent on the hot water side. The smell is very strong all of the time. There is a black slimy film anywhere water sits for a long period of time for example the back of your toilet bowl. Sulfur bacteria can cause stomach problems for some people if ingested on a regular basis.

• pH – A neutral pH level is between 6.8 – 7.4

- LOW pH is considered acid water. Acid water can cause damage to pipes and appliances. If you have copper pipes you will see bluish/green stains in your tubes and toilets. Drinking acid water is not recommended on a continual basis.
- HIGH pH is considered alkaline water and there are no know harmful effects of alkaline water to date.

Hard water ruins appliances and leaves build-up.

• Hard Water – Hard water is an abundance of minerals including calcium, magnesium and can contain lime. The presence of hard water presents itself in the form of a off white hard scale build up on tubs, toilets, and other water fixtures throughout your home. This scale build up can

shorten the life of your water heaters, washing machines, dishwashers, faucets, pipes, and any other water carrying devise in your home.

• Tannins – These are astrigent, bitter plant polyphenol. The astringency from the tannins will cause a dry and puckery feeling in the mouth following the consumption. When Tannins are present in your water you will see a tea like color to the water and they leave yellowish stains in your tubs, toilets, and water fixtures.

The good news is you don’t have to live with these secondary contaminates because we have treatment options available for all of them. We have systems that are designed to treat several issues all in one application. Others may require more specific treatment however we can build a specialty application just for you. It is highly recommended that you have the water tested to determine what is present and know the level of each secondary contaminate. Having these results will ensure that you choose the correct treatment solution. Getting it right the first time saves money and frustration.

Here at PuriTeam we have knowledgeable Water Specialists available to assist you in choosing the best possible application for your specific needs. Fax or e-mail your test results for a personalized recommendation. We look forward to solving your water issues today!

Understanding how they are different and learning how to identify them will ensure proper treatment.

Hydrogen sulfide gas (H2S) can occur in wells anywhere in the United States, and gives the water a “rotten egg” taste and/or odor.
Sulfur-reducing bacteria Sulfur-reducing bacteria (SRBs) live in oxygen-deficient environments. They convert sulfide into sulfate, producing a dark slime that can clog plumbing. Hydrogen sulfide gas is foul-smelling and highly corrosive.

What causes hydrogen sulfide gas to form in groundwater?

Decay of organic matter such as vegetation, or chemical reactions with some sulfur-containing minerals in the soil and rock, may naturally create hydrogen sulfide in gas in groundwater. As groundwater moves through soil and rock formations containing minerals of sulfate, some of these minerals dissolve in the water. A unique group of bacteria, called “sulfur bacteria” or “sulfate-reducing bacteria” can change sulfate and other sulfur containing compounds, including natural organic materials, to hydrogen sulfide gas.

Are sulfur bacteria or hydrogen sulfide harmful?

Sulfur can leave a nasty odor in your household.

In most cases, the rotten egg smell does not relate to the sanitary quality of the water. However, in rare instances the gas may result from sewage or other pollution. It is a good idea to have the well tested for the standard sanitary tests including coliform bacteria and nitrate. Sulfur bacteria are not harmful, but hydrogen sulfide gas in the air can be hazardous at high levels. It is important to take steps to remove the gas from the water, or vent the gas to the atmosphere so that it will not collect in low-lying spaces, such as well pits, basements, or enclosed spaces, such as well houses. Only qualified people who have received special training and use proper safety procedures should enter a well pit or other enclosed space where hydrogen sulfide gas may be present.

Are there other problems associated with sulfur bacteria or hydrogen sulfide?

Yes. Sulfur bacteria will produce a black slimy film anywhere the water sits around for a long period of time and can promote the growth of other bacteria. This slimy film is most noticeable in your toilet tank; seeing a black slimy film in that area is a clear indication of a sulfur bacteria. The slime can clog wells, plumbing, and irrigation systems. Hydrogen sulfide gas in water can cause black stains on silverware and plumbing fixtures. It can also corrode pipes and other metal components of the water distribution system.

How can I find the source of a hydrogen sulfide problem, and what can I do to eliminate it?

The odor of hydrogen sulfide gas can be detected in water at a very low level. Smell the water coming out of the hot and cold water faucets. Determine which faucets have the odor. The “rotten egg” smell will often be more noticeable from the hot water because more of the gas is vaporized. Your sense of smell becomes dulled quickly, so the best time to check is after you have been away from your home for a while. You can also have the water tested for hydrogen sulfide, sulfate, sulfur bacteria, and iron bacteria at an environmental testing laboratory. Following are a few indicating factors of where the problem is originating from.

• If the smell is only from the hot water faucet the problem is likely to be in the water heater.

• If the smell is in both the hot and cold faucets, but only from the water treated by a water softener and not in the untreated water the problem is likely to be sulfur bacteria in the water softener.

• If the smell is strong when the water in both the hot and cold faucets is first turned on, and it diminishes or goes away after the water has run, or if the smell varies through time the problems is likely to be sulfur bacteria in the well or distribution system.

• If the smell is strong when the water in both the hot and cold faucets is first turned on and is more or less constant and persists with use the problem is likely to be hydrogen sulfide gas in the groundwater.

How is hydrogen sulfide gas produced in a hot water heater?

A water heater can provide an ideal environment for the conversion of sulfate to hydrogen sulfide gas. The water heater can produce hydrogen sulfide gas in two ways – creating a warm environment where sulfur bacteria can live, and sustaining a reaction between sulfate in the water and the water heater anode. A water heater usually contains a metal rod called an “anode,” which is installed to reduce corrosion of the water heater tank. The anode is usually made of magnesium metal, which can supply electrons that aid in the conversion of sulfate to hydrogen sulfide gas. The anode is 1/2 to 3/4 inches in diameter and 30 to 40 inches long.

What can I do about a problem in my hot water heater?

Unless you are very familiar with the operation and maintenance of the water heater, you should contact a water system professional, such as a plumber, to do the work. Following are a few things that can be done to address the issue with regard to your hot water heater:

• Replace or remove the magnesium anode. Many water heaters have a magnesium anode, which is attached to a plug located on top of the water heater. It can be removed by turning off the water, releasing the pressure from the water heater, and unscrewing the plug. Be sure to plug the hole. Removal of the anode, however, may significantly decrease the life of the water heater. You may want to consult with a reputable water heater dealer to determine if a replacement anode made of a different material, such as aluminum, can be installed. A replacement anode may provide corrosion protection without contributing to the production of hydrogen sulfide gas.

• Disinfect and flush the water heater with a chlorine bleach solution. Chlorination can kill sulfur bacteria, if done properly. If all bacteria are not destroyed by chlorination, the problem may return within a few weeks.
What if sulfur bacteria is present in my well?

Sulfur bacteria can be difficult to kill, but there are things you can do to eliminate it.

• Sulfur bacteria can be difficult to remove however not impossible. You will need to install a Chemical Feed System at the well. This system will include a large solution tank of which you will fill with a mixture of chlorine and water. In order to kill the sulfur bacteria you will need to run a 4 ppm solution at all times. It will utilize a chemical feed pump to inject the chlorine solution into the water supply line prior to your storage or holding tank. An excellent chemical feed system can be found at along with post carbon block filters to remove the chlorine solution ensuring your water is chlorine free once it enters the home.

What if hydrogen sulfide gas is present in my well and sulfur bacteria has been ruled out?

There are several options available for treatment of water containing hydrogen sulfide gas.

• Install an activated carbon block filter. This option is only effective for very low hydrogen sulfide levels, usually less than 1 milligram per liter (mg/L). The gas is trapped by the carbon filter. Since the carbon filter can remove substances in addition to hydrogen sulfide gas, it is difficult to predict its service life. Some large carbon filters have been known to last for years, while some small filters may last for only weeks or even days.

• Install an oxidizing filtration system, such as a “Catalox” media based filter. This option is effective for hydrogen sulfide levels up to about 10 mg/L. Catalox based systems are often used to treat iron problems in water as well so if you are dealing with iron and manganese along with the hydrogen sulfide this is an excellence treatment option for you. This type of treatment system is maintenance-free for an average of four years.

• Install an Aeration system. This option is effective for hydrogen sulfide only; no iron can be present to use this method unless you already have a backwashing iron removal system in place. This application consists of two pieces, the first piece will draw air into the line and the second piece will release the air and hydrogen sulfide gas into the environment. This is an effective and maintenance-free way to address your hydrogen sulfide issue.