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How to Remove Sediment From Well & Spring Water

Well or spring water can be loaded with sediment, clogging valves, fixtures, and irrigation systems and ruining water heaters and appliances.

How to remove sediment depends on the type and amount of sediment.

Although sediment cartridge filters are widely available at hardware stores, these filters are often poorly sized or use the wrong type of filter for the type of sediment that is in the water. The result is often pressure drop, reduced flow rate, and frequent maintenance.

With the correct filter for the sediment present, there is little pressure drop, and maintenance is kept to a minimum.

There are five main types of sediment filters that are most useful for well and spring water:

Questions to Ask When Choosing a Sediment Filter:

  • What type of sediment do I have in my water system?
  • What is the flow rate in gallons per minute that I want to filter?
  • What is my line pressure in PSI?
  • Which type or combination of types of filtration should I use?
  • Do I have sub-micron sediment or turbidity that cannot be filtered out by standard filters and require ultra-filtration or flocculation combined with filtration?

Test Your Water

It might look like sediment by the time you see it in the toilet bowl or laundry, but often what we think of as sediment is actually dissolved metals such as iron or manganese that turn to a solid particle only after they have entered the household plumbing. A basic water analysis is always a good idea when determining which type of sediment filter is best for your needs.

A general mineral analysis will provide a list of the common minerals. Important items to test for include:

  • pH
  • Hardness (calcium carbonate)
  • Iron
  • Manganese
  • Total dissolved solids

Stains and Odors

If water is discolored or has a strong odor, you may also want to test for:

  • Iron Bacteria
  • Tannin
  • Hydrogen sulfide

Professional Analysis or Home Test Kit?

If you are trying to remove sediment or eliminate iron, manganese or odors, home test kits you can do yourself on site can work very well. The EPA recommends testing your water annually for coliform bacteria and nitrate.

To find a local lab, consult your county health department for recommendations.

The water sample should be drawn as close to the source as possible, before any filtration systems.

Perform a “Toilet Tank Inspection”

Unless your toilet tank is new or has recently been cleaned your toilet flush tank can be a wealth of useful water quality information! Simply lift the cover and look in.

Symptom Cause Solution
White scale on float Calcium hardness Water softener
White scale on float Total dissolved solids Reverse osmosis
Tank sides are white, but black, rust or sand is laying on the bottom Decaying galvanized pipes Replace pipes; correct corrosiveness of water
Sand, rust or sediment in well water Sediment and/or iron filter
Blue Stains Acidic (low pH) water Calcite neutralizer or soda ash feeder
Rust Stains Iron Iron filter (Birm, MangOX, Greensand, Pyrolox)
Furry, stringy red growths Iron (and/or other) bacteria Chlorination, aeration, ozone injection, hydrogen peroxide, followed by filtration
Furry, stringy gray or black growths Sulfur (or other) bacteria Chlorination, aeration, ozone injection, hydrogen peroxide, followed by filtration
Frothy, with bubbles Iron bacteria Chlorination, aeration, ozone injection, hydrogen peroxide, followed by filtration
Brown stains Iron And/or Manganese Iron filter that removes manganese (MangOX, Greensand, Pyrolox)
Black Stains Iron And/or Manganese Iron filter that removes manganese (MangOX, Greensand, Pyrolox)
Ferric Sulfide (black rust) Iron filter (Birm, MangOX, Greensand, Pyrolox)
Pink Stains Airborne bacteria Not water quality related; Clean with chlorine bleach
Water Heater “Sediment” Caused By
Blue or gray chips Decaying dip tube
Black or sandy sediment Decaying glass liner
Black, orange or gray flakes Decaying anode rod

It is recommended that you drain your water heater at least once per year. This is not only quick and easy to do, but this will also flush out sediment that may accumulate in the bottom and give you an idea of the sediment type and color, if any, are present.

Connect a garden hose to the bottom drain on your water heater and open the valve and run the water into a white 5-gallon bucket.

Check for Pipe Corrosion and Scale Build-up

Your pipes and/or water heater can introduce sediment into your water if they are corroding. Unless your home is new, it is important to check for pipe corrosion scale build-up in the piping. Fortunately, this is not difficult to do by using one of the following methods:

  • Check for signs of blue stains in fixtures, blue stains in toilet tanks, which can indicate copper corrosion, and/or test water for copper.
  • If you have galvanized iron pipe, look for signs of rust and rust-colored scale in the toilet flush tank.
  • If possible, inspect the exterior of pipes and valves, to see if you see any signs of pinhole leaks or corrosion by-products which can be crusty, bluish, white or salty looking or rusty. If you are having any plumbing work done on your house, inspect any sections of the pipes that have been cut to see if there is any scale build-up or signs of corrosion.
Flakes or Particles Cause Possible Remedy
Black flakes, grit The lining of water heater deteriorating Replace water heater
Black grit or particles Manganese Greensand filter or MangOX filter
Iron sulfide “black rust” Chlorination with iron filtration
Corrosion from lining of the galvanized pipe Replace galvanized pipe with copper or plastic pipe
Blue chips Water heater dip tube deteriorating Replace water heater
Blue or green flakes Copper-stained calcium particles from copper pipe corrosion Check pH of water and neutralize acid pH
Dirt color sediment Sediment from well water Sediment backwash filter, or cartridge type filter; ultrafiltration
Gray sand or grit Sand or dirt from well water Sediment backwash filter, or cartridge type filter
Water heater liner deteriorating Replace water heater
Red, yellow or orange beads Water softener resin from a broken water softener Repair or replace water softener
Rust, orange flakes Rust and iron from well water Sediment backwash filter, and/or iron filter
Iron bacteria Chlorination with iron filtration
Rust from corroded iron pipes Replace corroded iron pipes
Sand or grit Sand from well Sand separator or Spin-Down filter strainer
White or tan flakes Clay or calcium particles from well water Sediment filter
Calcium carbonate (water hardness) Water softener
White plastic chips Water heater dip tube deteriorating Replace water heater
Gray particles suspended in water Colloidal clay Ultrafiltration (UF) membrane

Sediment Filter System Types:

  • Mesh screen “spin-down” filter strainers: 100 to 500-micron range, remove sand and larger sediment
  • Micron cartridge filters: 0.5 to 100-micron range, remove fine sediment
  • Sediment backwash filters: filter down to 5 to 10-micron range and are self-cleaning. Often used in conjunction with 1 to 5-micron cartridge filters.
  • Ultrafiltration membranes (UF): filter down to less than 0.15 microns. Remove bacteria; very fine colloidal sediment.

Spin Down Filter Strainers

Spin down filters use screens of varying sizes to remove large sediment and grit from the water. A typical practical size for home water wells is either 60 (250 microns) or 100 (150 microns) mesh.

Mesh Size to Micron Chart

Sediment Backwash Filters

• Removes sediment and turbidity with no filter cartridges or maintenance
• Natural zeolite mineral filters water to 5-micron range
• Auto backwash & rinse keeps media clean
• Little or no pressure drop through the filter
• Rugged media lasts for years
• Lighter than sand but filters finer
• Lower backwash flow rate requirements than traditional sand filters

How to Remove Sediment with Three Stage Approach

Water first flows through filter strainer removing sand and large sediment and flakes. An optional auto-flush valve keeps filter mesh screen clean, or it can be manually flushed by opening the bottom flush valve.

Next, the water flows through automatic backwashing sediment backwash filter where most of the turbidity and sediment is removed down to 5 microns. Accumulated sediment is automatically flushed out to drain restoring water pressure.
After the sediment backwash filter the water is further filtered to 1 micron removing all particles over 1 micron.

Micron Cartridge Filters

Filter cartridges are widely used in home water systems and come in a variety of sizes and micron ratings. A micron rating of 50 microns, for example, means that approximately all particles 50 microns in size and up will be trapped by the filter.

how to remove sediment from well and spring water

Ultra-Filtration Membrane Systems

Some particles are less than 1 micron and cannot be removed by conventional micron filter cartridges. These sub-micron particles can cause water to be cloudy or discolored, or harbor bacteria.
An ultra-filtration or “UF” membrane system filters water down to less than 0.015 microns, effectively removing bacteria, cryptosporidium cysts, and very fine sediment and colloidal clay particles.
The result is crystal clear water with no bacteria or sediment.

UF Systems

• Remove all particles down to the 0.020 to 0.015 micron range.
• Remove turbidity, cysts, and bacteria
• Use Hollow-fiber membrane that is cleaned by simple backwashing
• Require normal line pressure to operate
• Retain natural minerals. Does not desalinate
• Pre-filter water to 1 to 5 microns before UF

Flocculation Aids

Some natural waters contain tannin, organic matter, color and/or superfine particles called colloids that cannot be practically removed filtration without first pre-treating it with a flocculent. After the non-toxic chemical is injected, it combines with these fine colloidal particles to form ‘floc’, which is a larger mass of these particles. The floc is then easily filtered out with auto backwashing sediment filters or cartridge filter systems.

Common Flocculants Include:
• Alum (aluminum sulfate)
• Ferrous sulfate
• Chitosan (from crustaceans)
• Alginates

Residential Well Water Flocculation and Filtration System

how to remove sediment

Sediment Removal CHEAT SHEET

how to remove sediment

  • Clean Water Systems & Stores, Inc., Water Treatment Equipment,Service & Supplies, Santa Cruz, CA
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