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Old 12-28-2013, 02:54 PM   #1
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Iron bacteria??


I just moved into an older house on a well. The usual water test were done and nothing dangerous was found. For some reason iron wasn't one of the tests and it's pretty obvious from the staining in some fixtures that the water has an elevated iron content. Not a huge deal and we can filter it. I suspect some of it is from the 50 year old galvanized pipe between the well and the house, and the possibly 50 year old water heater.

There are no filters or other water treatments of any kind currently. The previous owners lived long and healthy lives here so I'm not concerned too much about health issues.

However, one of the toilets was not refilling very fast so I took the lid off and saw that the tank has a thin layer of very dark brown sludge. The sludge has a somewhat bubbled texture. The bottom of the tank has a very large amount of sludge/sediment. It is soft and wipes off fairly easily. There is no noticeable odor.

I suspect that this sludge has clogged up the toilet fixtures, resulting in the slow refill. The other two toilets in the house also have this stuff on the tank walls, but not as bad as this one.

Does this sound like iron bacteria? I not too familiar with the stuff, but I'm a bit concerned about what this could mean for the rest of my pipes. I know it can clog pipes and be a real PITA to get rid of. What I've read online makes me think I should be seeing a thicker layer on the walls of the tank and a more "feathery" texture.

On a side note, no one has occupied this house for the past year and it's entirely possible that this toilet has not been used by anyone for many years.

I attempted to post some pics from my phone. Hopefully they show up ok.
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Last edited by dftc; 12-28-2013 at 03:00 PM.
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Old 12-28-2013, 03:05 PM   #2
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Iron bacteria??


Sure hope you got this house real cheap.
Iron is not filtered out, it get's treated with a water softener.
Just change that antique flush valve with a new Fluid Master.
Steel pipes at some point always leak and they close upon the insides reducing flow and will need to be replaced at some point.
It also clogs up plumbing fixtures, stains.
That water heater should have been changed about 30 years ago before it fails.

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Old 12-28-2013, 03:30 PM   #3
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Iron bacteria??


I did get it cheap. The water heater is getting replaced next week (it still works fine, but it's older than I am so I don't trust it at all). I'm planning on digging up the galvanized pipe in the spring. Maybe sooner if we get a good streak of warm weather. The galvanized pipe in the well was replaced along with the pump and pressure tank before I bought it. The pipes in the house are copper. All the plumbing is easy to see and get at from the basement.

There are several ways to remove iron without a softener. My concern is the possible bacteria.
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Old 12-28-2013, 03:41 PM   #4
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Iron bacteria??


If you want to kill the bacteria your going to have to shock the well.
Just dump some bleach in the well.
Since when does iron cause or support bacteria?
Would love to hear your ideas on how to get rid of dissolved iron with no softener.
That stuff growing in your tank is just stagnate water and iron.
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Old 12-28-2013, 04:15 PM   #5
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Iron bacteria??


In case anyone else is wondering...

Quote:
Originally Posted by joecaption
... Since when does iron cause or support bacteria? ...
http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iron_bacteria

Quote:
Originally Posted by joecaption
Would love to hear your ideas on how to get rid of dissolved iron with no softener.
Water softeners work via ion exchange. They are cost effective options for low or moderate amounts of iron. Oxidation methods are used in situations where softeners are not appropriate. Oxidation can be accomplished using several methods including air injection, chemicals, and others. I'll leave you to google it.

Are there any well experts or water quality experts who want to chime in?
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Old 12-28-2013, 06:23 PM   #6
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Iron bacteria??


In industrial settings, use of manganese green sand to remove iron is common. There are several other alternatives, which are discussed at this link:

http://www.hillwater.com/resources/iron-removal.aspx

I have iron in my well water, and there are a number of iron loving bacteria that will feed on the iron in the water, and actually extract energy from the iron. I have these bacteria in my water, as I understand it they are harmless to humans, except that they form somewhat stringy masses in the toiler over time, which I remove using a brush. I have never shocked my well, nor have I attempted to kill the bacteria, as I see it they are not harming me, why should I bother getting rid of them.

If you eliminate the iron, then of course the iron loving bacteria will disappear also. Whether it makes sense to eliminate the iron depends on what damage the iron is doing to your plumbing, we have had iron in our water for over twenty years with no apparent damage, and the previous owners lived here 20 or more years similarly with few complaints.
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Old 01-01-2014, 07:22 PM   #7
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Iron bacteria??


Just to follow-up...

I had a filtration guy out to the house today. The black stuff is manganese. It has a tendency to coat the inside of fixtures like that. My water has a fairly high manganese content. I also have a lot of oxidized iron that may or may not be from the steel pipe between the well and the house.
The probable solution for both is going to be a greensand filter.

The filter guy also suggested a softener after the filter, but said it isn't necessary.

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