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240sx4u 03-06-2009 09:42 AM

Dealing with iron bacteria stricken water softener, advice?
Alright guys, I am back with another dilemma. I have iron bacteria it turns out, which has killed my water softener. It is no longer softening according to a hardness test done by a local vendor and that is also evidenced by a slight hue of iron that is staining my bathtub.

I spoke to a local well place and they are going to shock the well to tame the levels of iron bacteria.

What nobody has been able to tell me, is how in the heck do I keep this from happening again?

I have a few options, one is a softener rebuild (its old, not too crazy about this idea). Then I could get a new softener. I am kind of in a jam here, the hard water really screws up my skin so its pretty important to me to get it fixed as well as I can.

Thanks everyone!


lilh2o3 03-06-2009 07:45 PM

Shocking the well will help for a short time but the problem will probablly come back. If you have a galvanized tank or an aeration tank that could be the problem. If you dont have any sulfur (rotten egg odor) in your water you could switch to a diaphram tank, that would help alot. If you dont want to switch styles of tanks then try flushing the tank every month. As far as the softener I would replace it if it is old but just be warry that if the problem of the iron bacteria is not corrected the new softener will be fouled out in a short time. In Iowa we use Hydrogen Peroxide to treat Iron bacteria it works good. Chlorine will work but the smell is hard to get use to and it destroys everything.

jaros bros. 03-06-2009 09:09 PM

A friend had this problem. Have you gotten a test to make sure it is iron bacteria. If it is there two different methods that I know of. One is an automatic tablet dispenser that automatically releases tablets down into your well. You will then need to remove the chlorine out with a charcoal filter. You could also install an inline system which will include a large storage tank and then a charcoal filter as well.

240sx4u 03-06-2009 09:09 PM

The good news is, no stink. I do have a galvanized pressure tank.

I am aware that the bacteria can come back, but the house sat unoccupied for at least 6 months when it was in forclosure. I am just looking to tame it. I definitely don't want to have to replace softeners every year though...

Just not sure how to best handle it. Thanks so much for the advice!


240sx4u 03-06-2009 09:10 PM

Yes, it was tested to be iron bacteria. I had no idea it was present before they tested my water. The water softener company suggested the shock treatment.


jaros bros. 03-06-2009 10:05 PM

If that doesn't work you will have to spend about $1200 or so for the fixes I mentioned, maybe more. The tablet dropper just keeps on shocking the well water with the chlorine tablets.

Plumber101 03-07-2009 09:01 AM

What type of pump do you have?

Submeris or a jack pump

How old is the pump?

If it is a jack pump then your casing is more than likely a iron case. That in its self may be your problem.

240sx4u 03-07-2009 09:31 AM

First, let me tell you guys that I don't intend to come across as a know it all! I want to gather as much information as possible before I let the water companies come out and suggest solutions. I am willing to pay what it takes to fix this properly.

My current softener is 20yr old or so, and I have no idea how it lasted this long.

My pump is in the ground. My pressure tank is galvanized. I have been considering replacing it. I know a bladder tank isn't terribly expensive. My concern with the old tank was its proximity (back wall) to a lot of very expensive electronics gear I have been collecting over the years. My dad had one spring a leak and it peed everywhere!

I am just afraid that the companies coming in to give me advice/help are just going to sell me whatever is easiest for them and not necessarily sell me what is best for the situation.


Plumber101 03-07-2009 10:06 AM

I don't think anyone here thinks you are know it all..after all you are here:thumbsup:

First I wouldn't call Culligan or any water company out. I'm sure they have some knowledge about well systems but, I would look in the phone book or go to a local plumbing supply house and ask who does well service in the area. Then I would have a well man out.

A steel or fiberglass tank would be far better than that old galv tank..also they come in many sizes. The well man will be able to help you size and identify any problem you have and find the ones you don't know about.

Heck I'm a licensed plumber and I use a well man. One part is because I can pull the permit and he can't but he's been doing this type of work for 25 yrs. What a vast pool of knowledge.

We met up about 3 yrs ago when my well was doing the same thing as yours..except I had a jack pump and metal casing. Drilled new well, new pump, new pressure tank and lines...MUCH BETTER

Just my $.02

240sx4u 03-07-2009 10:49 AM

I think today Ill go next door and ask him if he has had any trouble with iron bacteria. Ill bet he is oblivious to it though. His well is very close to mine, within 50'.

Thanks guys. I do know a local well company, or two rather, that may be able to help.


Plumber101 03-07-2009 11:45 AM

Two wells close to each other can have completely concerns.

Many factors

Well depth
Well casing
Well pump
Well piping
Pressure tank design
Underground rock/dirt/layer formation

So you neighbor may or may not have any of the concerns you have.

My well is 270 feet deep and water table is 170 ft. Go a 1/4 mile in any direction from my well and well are 120-135 deep.

Iron in the water may come from the well but what I have seen is that if you are getting discoloration it more than likely your system.
Now, you can get the rotten egg smell Hydrogen Sulfate and you and your neighbor can both have and will come from the water. Really easy to treat.
If the well man or water guy says to install a clorine pellet drop..DON'T
Pellets sometimes do not dissolve all the way and can build up around the pump which will make it a mother F*%$$$ to pull down the road. Yea it takes several years to make this formation around the pump but, if the pump and system are sizer correctly it will be several years before service is needed.

Back to subject. All you have to do is go to Wal-Mart or any place and get 5% bleach and pour it down the well. Basically you are shocking the well and about 1 gl will do the trick.

240sx4u 03-07-2009 11:57 AM

Alright, well that gives me a place to start. I suppose shocking it myself wouldn't hurt. I was quoted 400ish to have it shocked and tested by a local well company.

I don't like the idea of adding a tablet dropper either. The opinion of my local well guy was to try shocking it myself to see if I could control it, then shock it with bleach every 6-8 months to keep everything in good order. My other concern is introducing a ton of bleach/chlorine to my septic. Surely that can't be too good for it.

Now, is there any hope for my softener I currently have? I see media is available online to replace it. Not sure if this is worthwhile, or if mine can be backflushed and cleaned out.

Thanks everyone, this is very helpful.


Plumber101 03-07-2009 12:20 PM

How to shock a well

Remove the top cover on the well.

Depending on the well pit or pit less adapter either way I add bleach this way. I have an old section garden hose about 10' in length attached to a funnel. I put the hose down the well so that the bleach doesn't get on the pit adapter. I then pour 1 gl of bleach 5%. In your case I probably do 2 or 3 gl since this well hasn't been clorinated in sometime. LET THE WELL SET FOR 12-24 hrs or try to take short shower and try to consume less water to allow the bleach to work. After 24 hrs turn on an outside hydrant and let it run until you can barely smell the bleach.

If you are in the shower and there is a strong bleach smell then you need to flush out more. A large amount of bleach ordors in the shower can cause lungs to get a burn-NOT GOOD

As i said use the outside hydrant/garden hose connection to flush system. This way it won't go down into the septic tank. I always recommend to flush a box of rid-x to help stablize the bacteria in the septic

Where do you live?
Do you know the hardness of your water? Maybe you don't need a softner

On my well I have soft water. Dakota aquifer. I have the water come into the house go through a sediment filter than a large carbon filter (for taste) and then into a UV for bacteria.

For water to drink we use an RO system

240sx4u 03-07-2009 12:50 PM

I live in south central WI, near Madison. and when I had soft water I had no spots on dishes etc.. from the dishwasher. Everything comes out noticeably spotty. The water treatment guys told me that the water was hard, but didn't say how hard because I didn't let the petcock drain for long enough before I pulled my sample.

I actually have 5 gallons of bleach, because I had to bleach the concrete in the basement when we moved in due to pet odors. Ill follow your advice one of these weekends. Ill go ahead and shock it then leave town for the weekend to let it sit.

Thanks for your input. Ill shock it myself and have it retested then go from there.


Plumber101 03-07-2009 01:03 PM

DO you know the depth of your well?

After you shock your well be prepared to let it run for close to 12 hrs to flush the system.
I will turn on the hose over night about 1/2 way open

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