In this episode of the Clean Water Made Easy Podcast Episode I explain the basics of how to deal with iron manganese treatment in well water.
You will learn how to remove iron and manganese from your water, and why these metals are there in the first place. I share some easy to follow steps to finding out what type of iron you have if you have manganese as well. I also go over various best options to treat your well water and have clean great non-staining water throughout the house!
Iron Manganese Treatment Topics:
● Reasons for Iron and Manganese in your water
● Signs your water is contaminated with Iron and/or Manganese
● Types of Iron found in well water
● Iron Manganese Treatment Options
● Aeration versus Chlorination versus Ozone
Iron Manganese Transcript Episode 5:
You’re listening to the Clean Water Made Easy Podcast episode number 5.
Hello, thanks again for tuning in to the Clean Water Made Easy Podcast. It’s Gerry Bulfin again here. Water treatment contractor and WQA certified Master Water Specialist. Hope you’re having a great day while you are listening.
In this series of the podcast I’m giving useful, easy to follow tips and information all about well water, well water treatment systems and how to improve the quality of your well water. Today’s episode, we’re going to cover the basics on how to remove iron and manganese from well water.
Free Download of Guide
I have a popular guide, it’s called The Complete Guide To Iron Treatment, how to treat iron, manganese, at odor in well water. This is an easy to follow guide that has a handy checklist, useful information, I think it is about 40 pages long, I forgot. Anyway, it’s got a lot of really great stuff. It’s broken down in a very basic information, pictures and such. It’s a good thing to review. I’m offering if I have sold it in the past but I’m offering it free to listeners of this podcast and if you want to get your guide just text the word “ironfilter” all one word, to 44222 or you can go to the website cleanwaterstore.com/podcast and look for episode 5 and get it that way.
So items we’re going to cover today, well, we’re going to go over what type of iron do I have in my water, what is my well water chemistry, mostly nontechnical, basic cover of what’s involved with the water chemistry and what’s the source of the iron or odor, what’s the fluoride I have available in gallons per minute from my well pump or booster pump, in order to size an iron filter if I ended up needing one. And also we’ll cover the basic types of iron treatment systems out there, what’s available, and how they work.
With iron and manganese, the first step to learning how to remove iron or manganese or odor from the waters to understand a little bit about where iron comes from and the different types of iron found in well water. Iron itself is an element, it’s a very plentiful resource. It makes up at least 5% of the earth’s crust. That’s one reason it’s very common in groundwater. In well water, you generally find iron in the dissolved state. So, in other words, it’s clear.
The water looks clear, but it tastes terrible, full of iron but it’s clear. That’s when you first draw it, from the tap. So it hasn’t been exposed to air pretty much so it’s clear. That’s a very common,.. usually how you find it but sometimes it comes out of the ground rusty too but just depends on the situation. But the maximum level of iron recommended in water is 0.3 parts per million which is the same as 0.3 milligrams per liter.
So if you have 0.3 milligrams per liter or less, generally it’s not going to cause a big problem. Might annoy us a little bit here or there but it’s not a big problem but when it gets above .3, it’s .4 .6 one part or higher, then all of the sudden you’ve got problems with staining fixtures, staining laundry, it can stain your hair, it can stain all kinds of things. So basically, you want to try to reduce that iron to .3 or less.
Manganese is another metal that leaves stains, instead of rust stains like iron it leaves a brown or tea color stain. It also has a bitter taste some say it kind of runs of asphalt or petroleum type taste or smell but it’s very low levels of that can cause you problem. 0.005 milligrams per liter is maximum for that. So even if you have 0.1 of manganese that’s a lot of manganese, that’s twice the level of what’s recommended and you will see some staining.
The water may also have a metallic taste and offensive odor to it. With iron you can get water system pipe and fixture constricted or clogged appliances such as water heaters, dishwasher can be clogged with rust and sediment. Iron and manganese also gives water a disagreeable taste, like a metallic taste combining with tea or coffee it can produce a weird flavor.
So when you’re trying to figure out, okay I’m pretty sure I’ve got iron and manganese what do I do? Okay, so the first step you want to find out is, what form is it in? I mean, what type of iron do I have? How is it found in the water? What is my well water chemistry? You know we talked a little about that previous episode but basically in under water testing.
But you want to know a basic general mineral analysis of your water, you want to know what the pH is, you want to know how much iron, how much manganese, also you want to know what the source of the iron is. Now you think that that’s obviously the source is from the ground but not always. Sometimes the water coming around the ground will have no iron in it but maybe the water’s acidic, maybe it’s a little corrosive and you have some iron pipe. Even if you don’t have iron pipe in your house maybe you have an iron pipe nipple somewhere or maybe the pressure tank is corroding and it’s adding iron into the water.
You want to isolate, figure out. Okay what is the iron level in my well water and if it’s coming right out of the ground with iron in it then you know that’s the problem right there. And then what is the flow rate I have available in gallons per minute. We talked about that already in previous episode about what type of system you have or dictate, how many gallons per minute you have available. So you want to know do I have, what size system am I going to guess, going to be dependent on, how many gallons minute I have coming from my well. Bigger isn’t always better.
So getting back to the types of iron, there’s only four main types of iron, the most common conditions which iron is found in the well water. The most common one, soluble clear water iron, ferrous iron so called where it’s in a state where it’s dissolved. You have your insoluble oxidized iron then it looks like rust, red water iron they call it. So that is as type of ferric iron that’s been exposed to oxygen already and it’s turned into rust.
And then you have organic iron, where the iron is in a complex formed, it’s in a compound that is complex with different types of organic material like a humic acids, tannins, usually you get that from, it’s naturally occurring in groundwater but some from somewhere that came from somewhere. And then you have iron bacteria.
So go over those quickly, steps one by one, clear water iron, like we said, it’s water that when you pull it out of the ground it’s clear and then it turns to rust. Now this exposure to air can happen anywhere, anytime such as in your toilet, wash machine or bath. So determine the type iron, what we can do is fill a clean, white 5 gallon bucket.
The water’s crystal clear, you have primarily ferrous iron. For this type of system we want to use an oxidizing iron filter, we’ll talk about that a little bit later and such as the pro-OX or other manganese deoxidizer and filter to turn the dissolve iron to a rust form where it’s filtered out by the iron filter. And then it gets back washed out, and we’ll talk about that. But red water iron is the next one, known as ferric iron or rust, this iron has been exposed to some oxidation already it’s no longer dissolved in the water.
This again we’d use an oxidizing iron filter. If you have water coming from say a lake, or it’s coming from the storage tank where 100% of the iron was ferric iron which hardly never see that but if your, say you had a weird situation where filtering water from a lake, we’ve had that where groundwater is filling lakes, it’s full of rust and a lot of customers in Texas and other areas where there’s lake water without iron in it, it’s all oxidizing.
You could use a sand filter or some kind of mechanical filter that’s not a oxidizing iron filter such as the pro-OX or other kind of manganese deoxidizer and filters. So we’ll talk about that. Again this is all covered in the guide with pictures and charts too so you don’t have to necessarily remember this or take notes.
But next one is organic iron. Some waters contain high level of tannins which can enter the well water from the surface. Material such as organic leaves, grasses, and other plant materials cause these tannins, humic acids, and these organic compounds combine with the iron. For this, you need somewhere to break those bounds and so usually we use chlorine bleach, our peroxide or ozone gas with sufficient contact time and sometimes it’s really bad.
You need other water treatment chemicals too but this is what you can figure out based on testing how bad the organic iron is. But essentially with that, you usually you’re looking at chlorination system that’s the lowest cost way to go. You can use ozone too, much higher cost but there is a way to deal with the organic iron.
Then there’s iron bacteria. Iron bacteria is a general term used to describe various species of bacteria that use iron to live and grow. So these iron bacteria live and grow and die on the iron and create a slimy messes inside the pipes. And this stringy material you can often see it in the toilet tank, the flush tank.
If you have like a stringy material growing out from the sides of the flush tank then you know you’ve probably got iron bacteria. This one again, the best way to go is to use chlorine bleach and you can get a chlorinator and then run it through the iron filter and then run it through the carbon filter so you don’t have any chlorine residual in the home. That’s a good way to do it.
So that’s a quick summary but first step to do to figure out what you’ve got going on to do a water test. So water test important on which type iron filter to use and if your water is acidic or not. Test should include alkalinity, hardness, iron manganese pH, dissolved solids, and test for hydrosulfite as well.
If you have a rotten egg odor, the water has a tea color to it or yellowish clear color to it then we do a tannin test as well. And if the source of your water’s public water system and you’re experiencing iron related problems, say you’re on a community system but you’re getting rust, the first step is to contact the water utility, see what they recommend. But usually you can put an iron filter still right at the house because that water has been, usually been chlorinated first. So an iron filter works really well especially manganese deoxidizer and filter to remove the rust as it comes into the house.
Physical Inspection and Water Testing
So the other thing to do is an inspection, to do a physical inspection and again, test your well water. We covered this in episode 4 and also in episode 2. And basically what you’re doing is you’re doing your toilet tank inspection, you’re checking for odors, you’re checking for pipe corrosion and buildup, and also you’re identifying your pipe size. It’s useful to know the size of your incoming pipe.
For instance say you want to install an iron filter for your home. You might want to get one three quarter, one inch, or maybe you have a large home with large diameter pipe and you might want to get a commercial iron filter. So it’s good to know what size pipe you have. It’s very easy to find that out.
Iron Manganese Treatment Systems
Okay so, what kind of system works the best? Well, for the most part, what we’re talking about are iron filters that oxidize the dissolved ferrous iron in the water and turn it into an insoluble particle. In other words, it’s clear, it’s in the water and now you’re going to oxidize it and turn it into a little particle that can get trapped in the iron filter media and then once a week or twice a week.
Depending on how much water you use, the iron filter will turn on and backwash that water out, clean the filter media and all the rust and sludgy stuff will get backwashed out to drain. Usually whole septic tank which doesn’t hurt it or you can put it in a separate drain field or run it into a pit or whatever. The backwash is a separate subject but it depends on your local codes. Most people do run it in a septic tank, doesn’t hurt in a bit. But some areas they don’t allow that. But anyway, that’s the basic concept.
You’ve got some kind of iron filter and it’s usually related to manganese dioxide which is a powerful oxidizer. It has become a favorite for iron removal. And these oxidizing iron filters are usually used with either some kind of aeration, potassium permanganate which is a powerful oxidizer. It’s a purple powder or granule and material or chlorine like bleach or ozone which is a gas to aid the filter medium oxidizing the iron.
Kinds and Brands of Iron Filters
Some brands, common brands are Filox, Pro-OX, Pyrolox, there’s different brands. We have itself pro-OX but they’re basically, the Pro-OX, Filox, and Pyrolox are basically pure, are relatively pure manganese dioxide. It’s not a coated media. So that’s, as compared to the another kind of manganese dioxide media which is Greensand and then there’s other type of brands Glock makes their Birm.
Basically what it is that it’s a type of filter media instead of being solid manganese dioxide. They take a thin coating of it and coat some less expensive media and also some lighter media. That’s the advantage of the coated ones is it that they’re lighter. So it takes less backwash water to backwash them. But generally we ask different water treatment people different things. But we found works best for our customers and mainly last the longest is the solid manganese dioxide media.
As long as it’s set up correctly, it’s backwashing correctly, it’s backwashing at the right flow rate, those generally work better. They’re more powerful than the coated ones. Instead of having 1% manganese oxide or 10% manganese oxide or 100% and the least is very porous. So not only, you don’t get just the outside of the grain like with the coated media you’re getting just the outside of the little grain is doing the deoxidizing. But with the Pro-OX the entire grain is creating a reaction so it’s very powerful.
With this translated, you get a higher flow rate with a much smaller filter. So it’s kind of a trade-off. You can get a smaller filter and you actually get better performance than a bigger coated. That’s what we found, people have different opinions. We sell both, some people still want Greensand or Birm or other coated ones. We have other coated media as well. But our best one, people most have is Pro-OX.
But anyway, so that’s the basic kinds. The basic concept is the same. You’ve got a manganese dioxide filter and you’ve got some aeration happening or chlorination or ozone ahead of it. And then that gives just a little bit of dissolved oxygen in the water or a little bit of oxidizing power so that the media works really well. Now the Pro-OX media, it actually can work, if the pH is between 7 and 8 and under certain conditions which is actually very common conditions, they’ll work without any kind of aeration.
They’ll just work on their own because there’s a tiny bit of dissolved oxygen in the water. So this catalytic reaction happens in the iron and manganese is removed. So they can work but generally they work better with a little bit air. So we used to use many years ago was an inline air injector to suck in air and so when the well pump turned on, this injector which have been actually would create a little pressure drop and suck in air and those work fine but the problem is the air injectors themselves, because all the water is running through them they can plugged up.
So the old and other brands too that used these terminator, there’s different brands that used these types the inline air injector they still work fine and they can be rebuilt if you happen to be to have an old one. But generally people try to get away from, there is some pressure drop through the air injector and you’ve got little more maintenance than the type.
The next type I’m talking about which is what we call an air charging type. So that means is that the backwash control valve which sits on top of the tank of your iron filter tank, that sucks in air when it backwashes or in the kind that we use that can suck in air and depending on the backwash. But since it what it’s doing is, it’s creating a head of air at the top of the tank. So the top of the filter tank, instead of being filled all the top of water, there’s about 12 to 16 inches or air and so there has oxygen in it of course.
When the water flows into the tank it flows to the top and it gets exposed to the air. And that just little bit of exposure is all it takes to have enough dissolved oxygen for the catalytic media to really work great. So the air charging type is one we recommend the most. It’s least maintenance.
There is maintenance to them, you’ve got to, there’s some maintenance to the air injector that’s sucking in the air. So every year or so, you have to replace or clean some parts in the control valve but they’re pretty easy to take a part, it doesn’t take much time. It’s very quick and that can be, that’s has a lower maintenance by the lowest maintenance type out there and so, as supposed to the air injection type or other kinds.
So if you’ve got just iron or iron with a little bit of manganese, low manganese say .2 or less, then the standard air charging filter will work fine. If you have a problem where you have iron, manganese and sulfur odor, their charging type will still work fine but once you get over a certain level if you have really severe hydrosulfide. It’s very high say over 5 parts per million is say 6 8 10 parts per million if it’s really strong or really terrible, then you’re better off, you can still use the air charge type but you’re better off chlorinating ahead of it.
You could use ozone too but ozone cause inordinate amount and more expensive than because you’re injecting a gas into the water it’s quite a bit more expensive. You can’t use it very well in the air charger type so the ozone gas is very corrosive. It works great. We’ve used ozone, we have a lot of customer’s ozone, we’ve used it for many years. But the simplest system we found for most residential applications for homeowners is a chlorinator. Chlorinators are easy to deal with. You’re just adding chlorine and bleach to it so it’s low cost.
Ozone System and Chlorinator
The equipment upfront is much lower cost than the ozone system. You’re getting disinfection, killing the iron bacteria if you have any iron, and oxidize the odor, and it’s cheap to remove. So in other words you can inject the chlorine, run it through the iron filter, the water coming out is clean.
It might have a little bit of chlorine residual left in it. That point you can put on a, have a carbon filter so the water in your house is not only clean and disinfected but there’s no chlorine residual. So that’s one option to go especially if you have iron bacteria or you have high levels of manganese or hydro sulfide present. We recommend chlorine injection or ozone injection.
The last kind is another type of air system that’s very effective is air compressor system. So you’re actually using a blower, an air pump, to pump in air. So that you have a separate tank, you have 2 tanks and the first tank is just dedicated to the air and every time the well pump turns on or could be set up on a timer but so often set up so when the well pump turns on the air compressor turns on and puts in fresh air, blast the first tank with air. So when the water’s flowing into that tank it gets a higher level of air then the on air charger tank.
That works good if you absolutely don’t want any chlorine and you want to use it for higher levels of hydrosulfide or manganese. But generally, the chlorination works better. The problem with the air compressor systems is that you’re putting a lot of air into the water even though it’s gassing off too.
You can end up getting, when you first draw the water in a glass, the water may appear white because it got so much air in it but then it quickly leaves the water. But that generally it would be dissipated by the time it gets in the house. But that can be one slight issue most people don’t mind it but that’s something like a disadvantage of the air compressor type but we do have a lot of customers using the air compressor types that works really well. But generally this single, standalone iron filter with an air charging type or it keeps ahead air in it is the best way to go.
The other thing to look at to keep in mind is the pH of the water. If your water is acidic, if it’s less than say 6.8 for sure then you want to neutralize the pH before it gets to the iron filter. We also have tanks where there’s some calcite which is a natural mineral to neutralize and raise the pH and get rid of the acid water.
That can go in the same tank with the iron filter media but since there’s only a small amount in it you end up having to add calcite more frequently. So it’s better to get a separate standalone tank if you can do it. Then you only in once a year, that’s it. You got to unscrew the plug on top and pour more, fill it up back up to the two thirds level with calcite.
So there’s pH to think about as well. These all comes out on the general mineral analysis. And also who’s ever doing your water test like I know when we do it, we’ll explain what the different parameters are like, how the pH and iron and manganese levels affect what decision you make on what type of system to get.
Okay, well that covers the basic overview of iron and manganese treatment. And next week, our next episode, we’re going to talk about how to eliminate odors from well water. I hope you found this information helpful and it’s covered in a lot more in-depth with pictures and things in our guide, how to treat iron, manganese, odors in well water and if you want to get your guide, again just text the word “ironfilter” all one word to 44222 or you can go to the cleanwaterstore.com/podcast website and look for episode 5 and find it in there.
Well, hope you enjoyed it and thanks again for listening.
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